Brunei inks deals with Asean dialogue partners
By Azaraimy HH in Hua Hin, Thailand

Brunei Darussalam's Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Pehin Orang Kaya Perkerma Dewa Dato Seri Setia Lim Jock Seng, held a bilateral meeting with Malaysian Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim yesterday at the five-star Dusit Thani Hua Hin Hotel in Petchaburi Province.

Foreign, trade and economic ministers from the regional bloc arrived at Hua Hin ahead of the 14th Asean Summit formal opening to hold various meetings.

Earlier, Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng met with foreign ministers from the regional bloc for an informal council meeting and signed various economic documents with Asean dialogue partners.

During the meeting, Asean member countries were praised for their intention to create a regional human right body but no detail mechanism on its creation was made public.

Mr Panitan Watanayagorn, the spokesperson for Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, told the media that the prime minister will be delivering a speech regarding the formation of the regional human right body during the formal opening ceremony of the 14th Asean Summit today.

Some members of the media here, however, remain doubtful over how effective the Asean human right body would be. Others, meanwhile, said that it was "much too early to tell" how successful the body would be.

Pehin Lim Jock Seng and other Asean foreign ministers had a meeting with the High Level Panel (HLP) on Asean Human Rights Body (AHRB) yesterday. The Weekend Bulletin learnt that the first draft of the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the HLP was among the key issues discussed during the meeting.

The 10-member Asean group has kick-started the process of creating a human rights body with the setting up of a high-level panel that will hammer out the entity's scope in the coming months. It is expected that the AHRB will be set up in the coming months. Thailand hopes it will be realised during the term of its Asean Chairmanship.

The AHRB is a part of ongoing regional efforts to help realise a truly people-centred Asean Community by 2015.

It is hoped that AHRB will help to promote and protect human rights and help shape and raise human rights standards in Asean according to the regional context and act as a channel for constructive cooperation on the issue of human rights for Asean member states.

Also during the meeting with the HLP, the Asean Foreign Ministers discussed and exchanged views on wide-ranging issues, including the planning and funding of the AHRB.

On funding, the group's foreign ministers agreed to task the HLP to look into the possibility of setting up a separate fund to support its activities by mobilising funds from Asean member states as well as external sources.

The HLP took note and promised to consider seriously the results of the discussion and will incorporate them into a revised draft of the Terms of Reference for AHRB that the HLP will later present and seek approval at the 42nd Asean Ministerial meeting to be held this July in Thailand.

The formal opening ceremony of the 14th Asean Summit is set to take place at the Royal Dusit Grand Hall of Dusit Thani Hua Hin Hotel today (Feb 28). - Borneo Bulletin (28th Feb 2009)