Prachatai has obtained a copy, marked ‘Confidential', of the draft ASEAN Charter which we present here.
This document, which has been in the drafting process for 2 years, is supposedly for the benefit of the citizens of all ASEAN countries. Yet public participation in drafting the charter has been virtually zero and the plan is for the document to remain secret until it is signed into force by all member countries at the ASEAN summit in Singapore on 20 November.
The draft charter has been submitted today to the National Legislative Assembly, in accordance with Article 190 of the 2007 Constitution which requires that all foreign treaties receive parliamentary approval. It is highly unusual for a parliament in a democracy to deliberate on a document that is a secret to its own people.
The draft charter is the work primarily of a high-level task force, compromising one representative from each ASEAN member state. The draft was reviewed by an eminent persons group, which sought very limited input at a meeting in Manila in March. At this meeting, representatives of the media and civil society were expected to comment on a draft which they had not been shown. A summary in Thai was leaked early in October by unattributed sources in the Thai government.
Attempts by civil society in other ASEAN countries (and members such as Lao and Burma allow no civil society) to obtain copies of the draft charter and to initiate public debate have been met with an almost impregnable wall of secrecy.
Draft of ASEAN Charter (Click to download : 6 MB of pdf file)