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Human Rights in ASEAN  

Randy W. Nandyatama

While showing slow and weak progress, Southeast Asia has demonstrated a unique human rights institutionalization process. More Southeast Asian countries have adopted international human rights standards than before and even endorsed the establishment of a regional human rights body within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) mechanism. This certainly creates a new demand for understanding the process. Many scholars have provided various questions, debates, and analytical assessments of human rights in Southeast Asia. This article investigates the political dynamics in the region and reviews the scholarly literature that tries to understand the process. Most of the scholarly work on human rights in ASEAN touch upon two important issues, namely the Asian value debate on human rights and the paradox of human rights institutionalization in the region. The two issues demonstrate the lingering paradox—progressive and conservative elements of Southeast Asian culture and politics—in promoting and providing human rights protection. The paradox can be best understood through a more critical perspective in appreciating the human rights context in the region and sensing much more complex and diverse political actors engaging with the process.


Human Rights in East Asia  

Ñusta Carranza Ko

East Asia is a region that has been the focus of discussions about economic development, democratization, nuclear proliferation, technological innovations, and health-related issues. Due to its historical past of colonization (including countries that have been colonizers and those that have been colonized), interstate and regional wars, involvement in world wars, and authoritarian governance, it is also a region that has experienced human rights violations, human rights advancements, and human rights–related policy developments. Thus, the study of East Asia and human rights encompasses colonial, Cold War, post–Cold War, and the post September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks periods of history. Based on the vast amount of scholarship on human rights in the region, a spectrum of approaches should be used to study human rights that (a) examines case-specific human rights violations which focus on vulnerable populations in society; (b) theorizes and questions the essence of human rights and its value systems; and (c) explores developments in human rights–related policy that involve transitional justice processes of truth-seeking, reparations, and criminal accountability regarding past human rights crimes. Examination of historic violations of women’s rights and children’s rights in the case of comfort women who were sexually enslaved by Japan’s Imperial Army during the Asia-Pacific War centers the victims and their experiences. A focus on minority rights leads to the consideration of issues of human trafficking of women and girls in Mongolia and North Korea, social and ethnic minority groups’ concerns in Japan and South Korea, and the plight of Uyghur people in China. The Asian (Confucian) values debate leads to consideration of why human rights have been questioned, why they may be considered as impositions, and which approaches can be taken to re-examine human rights with regard to this region. Finally, the discussion of transitional justice as it relates to East Asian states provides a much needed recognition of the importance of the region for innovating transitional justice policies.