Can Asean deal with international crimes?
Asean countries might consider individually extending their jurisdiction to cover international crimes such as genocide within the region.
Can Asean really develop a strategy or strategies on accountability in relation to such crimes? The obvious impediments include the "Asean's non-interference in internal affairs" argument and consensus-based decision-making which are often invoked by less liberal sectors in the region, steeped in a sense of exceptionalism. Yet, the shocking violations in Rakhine state and other regions of Myanmar are a blight on the history of Southeast Asia which demand justice and action against impunity.
In essence, accountability is about the framework of responsibility, the groundwork against impunity and the homework of remedies. It may pertain to responsibility on the part of the state, individuals and or groups. It is not only about criminal responsibility but also about civil liability. In a less legal sense, it concerns a gamut of leverages to hold those responsible for human rights violations to account, which may include political and social pressures, especially with a robust civil society and media, such as through societal exposure and recrimination. It has also a historical and psychological edge pertaining to the call for transparent documentation of historical events and the ventilation of grievances through a cathartic truth-seeking avenue.
Professor of law at Chulalongkorn University
Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn teaches at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. He has helped the UN in a variety of positions and is currently a member of a UN Human Rights Commission of Inquiry. This article is derived from his speech at the recent Conference on Asean Traversing 2015: Challenges of Development, Democratisation, Human Rights and Peace, organised by Mahidol University, Bangkok.