Visiting Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) senior officials and ministers in Bohol tackled human rights issues in the region particularly Trafficking in Persons (TIP) cases which are reportedly rife in the Philippines, Cambodia and Malaysia.
Around 200 delegates for the 25th ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) annual meeting held at the Henann Resort in Panglao acknowledged TIP as a prevailing issue in the 10-nation bloc particularly among developing countries.
The ASEAN leaders on Monday gathered to craft measures against TIP cases and moved to boost the information campaign on human trafficking as part of a crackdown on the crime which has grown rampant.
Mohammad Shufaat of Malaysia shared stories on the plight of human trafficking victims particularly children citing instances wherein parents themselves sell their children’s organs.
For her part, Shoklin Chhorn of Cambodia discussed the difficult condition of women who have become part of the sex trade through human trafficking.
The AICHR’s annual meeting, the fourth ASEAN conference conducted in Bohol in 2017 alone, was held on November 26 to 27 and was chaired by the Philippine’s representative to the intergovernmental body, Leo Herrera-Lim.
Earlier, calls for leaders to grow AICHR’s relevance in human rights protection emerged amid growing concerns of human rights violations in the region.
The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, for instance, urged leaders to strengthen the mandate of the AICHR in addressing human rights violations prior to the ASEAN Summit in Manila last April.
In a previous interview with Sunday Star, Edmund Bon Tai Soon, a Malaysian representative to the AICHR, expressed belief that the commission will improve its relevance to the citizenry.
“The representatives are appointed by the governments but they are supposed to act in the best interests of the ASEAN region in terms of human rights. So of course the stakeholders will be the people of ASEAN,” Bon told the Sunday Star.
Bon pointed out that an ASEAN court could emerge as an offshoot of the AICHR.
He noted that similar mechanisms in other regions including Africa and America, like the AICHR, started as intergovernmental commissions as well.
“It took 20 years for the Inter-American Court to come about. As well as the African Court. The European Court was slightly faster – it took about six years.”
“Asean is taking baby steps. I’m very sure we’ll be looking at a court in the near future,” he said. (ad)