June 25, 2020
Despite of more than 90,000 COVID-19 cases in the region, ASEAN has yet to take any action to halt the virus spread, or act to prevent the suppression of freedoms that should be universally enjoyed. Furthermore, ASEAN’s principle of non-interference remains an insurmountable obstacle blocking efforts to effectively address human rights violations, even in instances of major crises like the pandemic.
Civic space and human rights situation in Southeast Asia have been significantly deteriorated due to the pandemic. Strict security and digital surveillance measures imposed by ASEAN member states have creates a chilling effect for right to expressing opinion and organizing assembly – for human rights defenders, communities, academician, among others. National security decree (and bill) have been introduced by states under the pretext of COVID-19, labelling any activity that might harm reputation of the Head of the States and its officials as defamation and associated to terrorism.
As the 36th ASEAN Summit will be conducted by the end of June, there is a need for civil society and related stakeholders to revisit on ASEAN’s achievement on human rights, assess the condition, and to convey demand to the intergovernmental organization and its member states to fulfill the commitment that has been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ASEAN Community Virtual Summit is a platform lead and created by the ASEAN CSOs to raise community voice in parallel with the ASEAN summit. One of the modalities to be conducted is to build solidarity among diplomatic missions for ASEAN to jointly push for the realisation of promotion and protection of human rights in the region.