Singapore PM Calls for Speedy Ratification of ASEAN Charter

Singapore on Wednesday called for speedy ratification of an ASEAN charter, which requires the bloc to uphold ideals of democracy and human rights and to make legally binding commitments.

In a speech to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) parliamentarians, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the charter is an important part of the process for ASEAN to establish a single market and manufacturing base by 2015.

"The charter has already been ratified by seven member countries and we look forward to its eventual and expeditious ratification by all members," Lee said in a speech to the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA).

Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Vietnam have already ratified the document, which commits members to "strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms."

The three other ASEAN states -- Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand -- have yet to ratify the document.

Chai Chidchob, president of Thailand's National Assembly and speaker of the House of Representatives, said he expects the Thai parliament to ratify the charter by September.

"There's no problem," he said.

Indonesia's parliamentary speaker Agung Laksono said he was hopeful his country's legislature will ratify by December but said the charter needs thorough scrutiny.

ASEAN's target is for all 10 members to ratify by the end of the year, when leaders hold their annual summit in Bangkok.

The charter aims to give ASEAN a legal framework and sets out principles and rules for members while transforming the 41-year-old bloc into a legal entity, a move that will give it greater clout in international negotiations.

The charter resulted from a long and controversial drafting process that saw some of the strong recommendations from ASEAN elder statesmen watered down or dropped, including provisions on sanctions and expulsion.

Source: AFP

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