Southeast Asia National Human Rights Institutions: Extending ASEAN Norms

Today, six national human rights institutions (NHRIs) have been established in the region in the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Timor Leste, and Myanmar. These NHRIs have evolved in order to face the regional developments, and formalised a network named the Southeast Asia NHRIs Forum (SEANF) in 2009. Yet, the question arises on whether these government-sponsored NHRIs could have significant roles in human rights protection in the region. Sovereignty and non-interference principles are trademarks of the ASEAN regional approach. Southeast Asia is known as a region with complex human rights record. The establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission (AICHR) in 2010 is considered a milestone for an association that is rooted in the principle of non-interference in domestic affairs of neighbouring states. NHRIs, most often characterized as a bridge between international norms and local implementation, are in principle constructed to assure the state’s compliance with its international legal obligations. The position of NHRIs is a peculiar one. Although these NHRIs are established by the government, but at the same time, they are the “watchdog” on the government. They also serve as the bridge between the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the state. The key challenge for these NHRIs is how to maintain their unique role by securing their independence and at the same time, utilise their “advantages” in enhancing the human rights promotion and protection in the region.

Researcher: Khoo Ying Hooi


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Country/Region: Southeast Asia

Topic: NHRIs