Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 September 2011
Despite any latent misgivings Southeast Asia may have against international human rights, as seen in Chapter 2, we find that human rights have nevertheless made significant inroads into the regional consciousness. This is especially so if we scrutinise the internal structure of the states and recognise the long way they have come from their initial taste of human rights in the decolonisation process, which was subsequently stymied by authoritarian leadership. Of course, serious impediment to the institutionalisation of human rights still remains at both the domestic and regional levels. Endemic corruption, lack of resources and funding, poor civil infrastructure, and human resource training, together with low public awareness and lack of knowledge of how to use the human rights mechanism, are among the major obstacles to human rights empowerment. Nonetheless, there are positive signs that the states are taking human rights more seriously. This is not merely limited to their readiness to discuss the exact operational parameters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). Perhaps in an even more profound and substantive way, there is evidence that governments are slowly permitting the implicit and explicit application of human rights within the domestic sphere through bodies such as civil society organisations, national human rights institutions (NHRIs), and the courts.
Given that AICHR would severely lack strength unless coupled with a concomitant resolve to improve domestic human rights standards, this chapter will therefore analyse how the five Southeast Asian states of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand have dealt with human rights.