Research Grants

Southeast Asia National Human Rights Institutions: Extending ASEAN Norms

University of MalayaLength of
2 years (1 July 2015 – 30 June
2017)Research objectives1. To explore key
normative and conceptual struggles surrounding Southeast Asia NHRIs’
engagement in human rights.2. To explain how these NHRIs could bridge the
domestic to international systems of human rights protection regardless of
their contrasting political regimes.3. To investigate the extent to which
these NHRIs could influence the form and operations in contributing to human
rights protection in the region.Significance of research
(relevance to SHAPE SEA objectives and research)
During the
early process of drafting up an ASEAN Charter, ASEAN human rights body, there
has been reluctancy to include a human rights body. After numerous
discussions, the ASEAN leaders finally came to an agreement to establish a
human rights body, however, the phrase of NHRIs has excluded. Rather, the
phrase civil society organizations and other stakeholders are used in the
text. Having said this, the debate on human rights has always been about the
ASEAN states and the NGOs with limited emphasis on the roles of the NHRIs.
Today, the Southeast Asia region has a total of six NHRIs in Indonesia,
Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Timor Leste and Myanmar. In the mean
time, some on-going discussions on the possibility to establish NHRI
especially in Cambodia and Vietnam are now underway. Having said that, there
is possibility for the number of NHRIs in the Southeast Asia to grow in the
near future.Moreover, with the formalization of the SEANF in 2009, it has
shown the commitment of these NHRIs to advance their human rights work
collectively at the regional level to be in line with the ASEAN Charter.
Through the platform of SEANF, the human rights advocacy is now taking
another turn to transboundary approach. What’s more, these NHRIs are also
active members in the APF and ICC. This is especially important in view of
the existence of AICHR. What this has shown is that there is no doubt the
sphere human rights discourse has been expanded and it poses even more
relevant question to the roles and functions of the NHRIs and its unique
space between state and society.With the dominant principle of
non-interference in the ASEAN, regional human rights issues such as human
trafficking and migrant workers present challenges on how the Southeast Asia
NHRIs could perform its role within the confined environment of ASEAN norms.
In the mean time, the question also arises on how these Southeast Asia NHRIs
could work closer with the AICHR. This is where the roles and functions of
the NHRIs become important as its unique role between state and society
should be enhanced and recognized.Personal
Dr. Ying HooiYing Hooi is Senior Lecturer at the Department of International
and Strategic Studies, University of Malaya. Formerly a board member of the
Amnesty International Malaysia, Ying Hooi is the Deputy Editor of Malaysian
Journal of International Relations and sits in the editorial board of
Suvannabhumi: Multi-disciplinary Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. A
columnist with an online news portal, The Malaysian Insider, she is also the
author of “Seeds of Dissent”, a compilation of her commentaries on
academic freedom, human rights, protests and political change in Malaysia.

About the author