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Is There a Place for Minorities' and Indigenous Peoples' Rights within ASEAN?: Asian Values, ASEAN Values and the Protection of Southeast Asian Minorities and Indigenous Peoples

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Southeast Asia is one of the most culturally diverse regions in the world. Nevertheless, unlike minorities and indigenous peoples in Western states, minorities and indigenous peoples in Asia have never received much attention from politicians or legal scholars. The level of minority protection varies from state to state, but can, in general, be called insufficient. At the regional level, for instance, within the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), there are no mechanisms devoted specifically to the protection of minorities and indigenous peoples. In December 2008, the ASEAN Charter entered into force. In July 2009 the Terms of Reference (ToR) for the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights were adopted. Both the Charter and the ToR refer to human rights and to cultural diversity, but omit to refer explicitly to minorities or indigenous peoples. In this article, the extent to which this reticence with regard to the protection of minorities and indigenous peoples is dictated by the concept of Asian values and ASEAN values is explored. Further, it is analysed how, instead, ASEAN seeks to accommodate the enormous cultural diversity of this region of the world within its system. Finally, the tenability of ASEAN's policy towards minorities and indigenous peoples in the light of, on the one hand, the requirements of international legal instruments concerning the protection of minorities and indigenous peoples and, on the other hand, the policies of the national states that are members of ASEAN is determined.

Affiliations: 1: Senior researcher, Center for Transboundary Legal Development, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands; 2: PhD Student, Center for Transboundary Legal Development, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands


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