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Kausikan

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Asia's Different Standard Author(s): Bilahari Kausikan Reviewed work(s): Source: Foreign Policy, No. 92 (Autumn, 1993), pp. 24-41 Published by: Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, LLC Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1149143 . Accessed: 26/01/2012 05:56
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ASIA'S DIFFERENT STANDARD by BilahariKausikan

East and SoutheastAsia must respond to a new phenomenon: Humanrightshavebecome a legitimateissue in interstate relations. How a treatsits citizensis no longera matter country for its own exclusive determination. Otherscan claim a concern.There is and do legitimately an emerging global culture of human rights, and a body of international law on human has gradually developed,codifiedin the rights the UnitedNationsCharter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights,and other international instruments.The United States and many countriesincreasingly huEuropean emphasize man rightsin their foreignpolicies.Of course, humanrightsare not, and are not likelyto beissuein international relations. come, a primary Their promotionby all countries always will be selective,even cynical,and concernfor human othernarightswill alwaysbe balanced against tionalinterests. the Nevertheless, Westernemphasison humanrightswill affectthe tone and texture of post-Cold War international relations. In response, East and SoutheastAsia are theirown humanrightsstandards. reexamining Of the noncommunist statesin the region,only South Korea, and the Philippinesare Japan, Covenanton partiesto both the International Civil and PoliticalRightsandthe International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Seoul and Manila have also accepted the Optional Protocol to the International Covenanton Civil and PoliticalRights.Tokyo has partially to adoptedthe Westernapproach human rights. But there is a more general of humanrights acceptance manyinternational

is KAUSIKAN the directorof the East Asian BILAHARI and Pacific bureauof the Ministry of ForeignAffairs of are Singapore. The views expressed personaland do not thoseof the ministry. represent 24.

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norms,even amongstatesthat havenot acceded to the two covenantsor are accusedby the West of humanrightsabuses. The human rights situationin the region, of whethermeasured the standard civil and by or by social,cultural,and ecopoliticalrights overthe last nomic rights,has improved greatly 20 years. As countriesin the region become more prosperous,secure, and self-confident, they are moving beyond a purely defensive to attitudeto a more active approach human All the countriesof the regionare party rights. to the U.N. Charter.None has rejectedthe to There are references UniversalDeclaration. of human rights in the constitutions many of like the countriesin the region.Countries China, Indonesia,and even Burmahave not just of brushedasideWesterncriticism theirhuman rights recordsbut have tried to respondserithat ously, assertingor trying to demonstrate humanrights they too adhereto international norms. They tend to interpret rather than reject such norms when there are disagreements. They discusshumanrightswith Western delegations.They have releasedpolitical for has and prisoners; Indonesia, instance, even of held commissions inquiryon allegedabuses and punishedsome officialsfoundguilty. continue.But it is Abusesandinconsistencies too simplistic dismiss to whathasbeenachieved as mere gesturesintendedto appease Western critics. Such inclinationsmay well be an element in the overallcalculation interests. of And a role. But Western pressureundeniably plays in themselves, self-interestand pressureare insufficientand condescendingly ethnocentric do lessthanjustice Westernexplanations. They to the states concerned,most of which have in their own traditions whichthe rulershavea to govern in a way consonantwith the duty even if thereis humandignityof theirsubjects, no clear conceptof "rights"as has evolvedin the West. Chinatoday,for all its imperfections, is a vast improvement over the China of the CulturalRevolution. too hasthe situation in So Taiwan, South Korea, and the Associationof Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) improved. Western critics who deny the improvements lose credibility. 25.

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As countriesin East andSoutheast Asiaposition themselvesmore in the international human rightsmainstream, aretryingto stake they out distinctive positionsin line with their own cultures, histories, and special circumstances. Like all states,East and Southeast Asiancountries still subordinatehuman rights to other vital nationalinterests,such as the territorial nature integrityof the stateor the fundamental of their politicalsystems. Moreover,the movement towardgreateremphasis humanrights on is not even. But in that respectthe regionis no fromthe West. Suchimperfections different are realities;it does not adinescapablepolitical vance humanrightsto ignorethe realprogress in that has occurred the nameof a pristine, but ideal. unattainable, The diversityof culturaltraditions, political will and structures, levelsof development make it difficult,if not impossible, definea single to distinctiveand coherenthumanrights regime that can encompass vast regionfromJapan the to Burma, with its Confucianist,Buddhist, Islamic,andHindu traditions. Nonetheless,the movementtowardsuch a goal is likelyto continue. What is clear is that there is a general discontentthroughout regionwith a purely the Western interpretation humanrights.The of furtherdevelopment humanrightstherewill of be shapedprimarily internaldevelopments, by but pressurewill continue to come from the United Statesand Europe. HumanRights a Tool as Human rights did not evolve in a vacuum. Duringthe Cold War, the Westernpromotion of humanrightswasshapedby anddeployed as an ideological instrumentof the East-West struggle. The post-Cold War human rights dialogue between the West and Asia will be influenced the powerstructure dynamics and by of a more regionalized world, built around the United States, Europe, and Asia, which is replacing Cold War alliances and superpower competition. Trade and security will, as always, be foremost on the international agenda, and human rights will not be an issue of the first order. But human rights touch upon extraordinarily delicate matters of culture and values. 26.

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And humanrights issues are likely to become more prominent. the factoraffecting prominence An additional of humanrightsis that Western governments in need no longer be constrained their efforts valuesfor fearof to advancetheir fundamental drivingcountriesinto Moscow'sarms.Even if or find Westernforeignministries it imprudent difficultto shake off ingrainedhabitsof caufromWesternpubtion, therewill be pressure lics, humanrights nongovernmental organizaand tions (NGOs) otherinterestgroups,andthe It news mediato take an activeapproach. will to be more difficultfor Westerngovernments to ignore find politically compellingarguments in humanrightsviolations,particularly an age when modern communication technologies to allow imagesand information travelalmost the around world.Evenwithout instantaneously popularpressure,some Western governments to mayfind it usefulfor otherreasons selectively inject a greaterhumanrightscomponentin their relationswith East and SoutheastAsia. New governments may, for example,trumpet themselves humanrightsin orderto distinguish Clintonadminisfromtheirpredecessors--early trationrhetoricbeing a case in point. recedes threatto theirsurvival As the external in the post-ColdWar world,the United States andEuropeareturningto dealwith urgentand difficult domestic problems.The West will to have less time, attention,and resources devote to the rest of the world. Yet the United States and severalEuropeanCommunity (EC) as countriesstill regardthemselves globalpowof ers. It would requirea painfulredefinition their identitiesif they did not seek a voice in the affairsof an economically dynamicregion like East and SoutheastAsia. They may be tempted, at least on occasion,to employ the rhetoric of human rights as a substitutefor policies that would require an inconvenient or of commitment resources attention. Talking abouthumanrightsis an easy,cheap,andpopthe ular way to exerciseinfluenceor maintain illusionof involvement. Meanwhile, relations among the United States,Europe,andAsiamay lead the West to of use humanrightsas an instrument economic 27.

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As and competition. American European apprehensions about their competitiveness rise, the West is emphasizing valueslike opennessand andrelating themto broader equalopportunity issuesof freedomanddemocracy. comJapan's mitment to such valuesis already being questioned and its cultural traitscriticized deviaas tions from allegedly"universal" norms. The in Frenchprimeminister accused has foreigners Asia with "differentvalues" of undermining France'sprosperity. The lengthening catalogue of rights and freedoms in internationalhuman rights law now encompassessuch mattersas pay, work of conditions,tradeunions,standard living,rest andleisure,welfare socialsecurity, and women's andchildren's andthe environment. The rights, and temptation to link economic pressures concernswith humanrightswill certainly if rise economic strainsincrease.That is not to say in that the West is insincere its commitment to humanrights.But policymotivations rarely are simple; and it is difficultto believe that economic considerations not to some degree do influenceWestern attitudes towardsuch issues the prisonlaborcomponent Chinese of as, say, child laborin Thailand, someof the or exports, AFL-CIO complaints against Malaysianlabor practices. President Bill Clinton's declared intentionto pressfor humanrightsin Chinain return for continuingto grant most-favorednationtradingstatusto Beijingmakesthe linkage explicit. But effortsto promotehumanrightsin Asia must also reckonwith the altereddistribution of power in the post-ColdWar world.Power, especiallyeconomic power, has been diffused. For the last two decades,most of East and Southeast Asiahasexperienced strongeconomic growth and will probablykeep growingfaster than other regions well into the next century. Not just Japan, but increasingly also the newly industrialized economies (NIEs), near NIEs like Thailand and Malaysia, and sub-regions such as southern China are considerable forces in the global economy. The economic success of East and Southeast Asia is the central strategic fact of the 1990s. Across the Pacific, power adjustments are already underway. 28.

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Of course,the economicgrowthhasnot been even. The United States and Europeare still for majormarkets almostall EastandSoutheast Asian countries, many of whom remain aid over East and But recipients. Westernleverage SoutheastAsia has been greatlyreduced.The countriesin the regionarereacting accordingly. Indonesia's when responseto the Netherlands the Hague pressedhumanrightsafterthe November 1991 Dili incidentin East Timor was to rejectDutch aid anddissolvethe Inter-GovThe ernmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI). World Bankagreedto form a new group,exIn cludingthe Netherlands. July 1992,Portugal vetoed a new ASEAN-EC because of agreement East Timor. The move was unfortunate, but for For hardlya disaster ASEAN. most East and life Southeast Asiancountries, withoutWestern aid would be more uncomfortable--but life would go on. It wouldnot causethe crisisthat withdrawal or curtailment of Western aid would cause in Africa, CentralAmerica,and And aidis not just manySouthAsiancountries. a favorthe West bestowson its less-fortunate it to brethren; is a policytool deployed advance the West's interests. East and SoutheastAsia are now significant actorsin the world economy.There is far less and scope for conditionality sanctionsto force compliancewith humanrights.The region is an expandingmarket for the West. Global productionnetworkingmakes the region an important source of intermediategoods for Western industry. is also becominga source It of capital.What hurtsEast and Southeast Asia will alsopainthe West. And the growinginterwithinthe regionandamongAsia, dependence and Americawill make it difficultto Europe, without singleout anyone countryfor sanction China and Hong Kong being hurtingothers, only the most obvious example. That may on explainthe compromise EastTimor worked out duringthe October1992ASEAN-EC ministerial meeting. The majority EC countries of agreed to regard East Timor as a bilateral problem between Portugaland Indonesiaand conductbusinessas usualwith ASEAN. The United States is the only remaining of superpower capable exercising globalleader29.

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ship. Many Europeancountriesmay well take theircues fromhow the Clintonadministration implements its human rights policies. The United States will be a major influence on in humanrightsdebates the U.N., International MonetaryFund,World Bank,and other internationalforums.Sincemost EastandSoutheast Asian countriesregarda continuedU.S. presit ence in Asia as desirable, is not entirelyunreasonable the Clintonadministration ask for to that its own interestin promoting humanrights and democracy takeninto accountin some be But how it does so is critical. way. For the first time since the Universal Declaration was adopted in 1948, countries not thoroughly steeped in the Judeo-Christian and natural law traditions are in the first rank. A zealousbut inexperienced administranew tion may try to distinguish itself by takingup humanrights where the Carteradministration left off more than a decadeago, but the problem extendsacrossthe political Demspectrum. ocratsand Republicans sharethe basicvaluesof a common Americanpolitical culture.Presidents RonaldReaganandGeorgeBushdid not reject Jimmy Carter's emphasis on human rights.They merelyobjectedto its focus.Reagan and Bush did not dismantlethe human created by rights legislationand bureaucracy Carter.They builtupon it andfocusedit more on the anticommunist struggle.That battle is over and the trend,already evidentunderReaand Bush in the attendant strains between gan the United Statesand manyAsiancountries, is from rightsas relatively defined away precisely in international law, towardthe promotionof haziernotionsof "freedom" "democracy." and The humanrightsapparatus now even more is open to manipulation competinglegislative, by executive,judicial,media,and specialinterests devotedto such transcendent American values. The operation of the American political process magnifiesthe scope for disagreement betweenAsia and the West. Clinton has proceeded more pragmatically than his campaign 30.

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rhetoricwould have suggested.But the president is boundby the languageof the lawsand restrictedby the system.Much Americanhuman rights legislationis loosely worded.The to constitutean invitation struggle: ambiguities to The proclivityof Americanpoliticians narrow political debate to the dimensions of sound-bites and the propensity for human in rightsrhetoricto be presented legalisticand absolutistterms do not make for a nuanced of public understanding complex issues and diminishthe room for compromise-the more so since U.S. leverageis limited. Most of the outsideleveragethat now exists clearlybelongsto Japan,the world'slargestaid donor.Although Tokyo hasmadehuman rights for one of the yardsticks its officialdevelopit ment assistance, will certainlyimplementits to humanrightspoliciesaccording its own assessments.Unlike the West, Japancannot esif humanrights cape the consequences pressing or forcing the pace of politicalchange in its Distance Asian neighborsleads to instability. makesit easierto be virtuous; makes proximity for prudence.If, for instance,tough sanctions breakthe gripof the StateLawandOrderRestorationCouncilin Burmaor the Communist partyin China,the resultscould be violent.If disorderbreaksout in Burmaor China, it is not the United Statesor Europethat will pay the immediateprice. Is the West prepared to intervene and remain engaged, perhaps for decades,to restoreorder?Chinawill be a formidable political and economic force by the turn of the century.That does not mean human rights abuses in China must be overlooked. But if the promotionof humanrights ignores Chinese realitiesand interests,expect Chinato findwaysto exertcountervailing pressures.And it will havethe wherewithal tryto to orderit sees as threatreshapeanyinternational ening. East and SoutheastAsia are now capableof influenceon the internaexertingconsiderable tional politicsof humanrights,andtheirintercannotbe disregarded. ests,values,andcultures Most of the region'scountries no longerbe can pushed or coerced. Unlike Eastern Europe, Russia, or many states of the former Soviet 31.

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Union, Asians do not wish to be considered good Westerners,even if they are friendlyto the West. At least two countries,Japan and China,havethe powerto makea majorimpact on the international system. For the first time since the Universal Declarationwas adoptedin 1948,countries thornot and oughly steeped in the Judeo-Christian natural traditions in the firstrank: law are That unprecedentedsituationwill define the new international politics of human rights. It will also multiplythe occasionsfor conflict.In the between process,will the humanrightsdialogue the West and East and Southeast Asia become a dialogueof the deaf,with eachside proclaimthe ing its superiorvirtue without advancing common interestsof humanity? can it be a Or genuine and fruitfuldialogue,expandingand The latteroutcomewill deepeningconsensus? a balance betweena pretentious requirefinding and unrealisticuniversalism and a paralyzing cultural relativism. mythof the universality The

of all human if the rightsis harmful it masks be bridgedif it is denied.

real gap that existsbetweenAsianandWestern

of The gapwillnot perceptions human rights.

The West went to Vienna accusingAsia of

The June 1993Vienna U.N. conference on humanrightsdid not evenattempt do so. to

so live compromise ambiguous enough allcould withit, butthatsettled fewthings. There very was no real dialoguebetweenAsia and the to the West,no genuine attempt address issues or forgea meeting the minds. anything, of If the Viennaconference mayonly havehardened

weeksof wrangling a predictable was diplomatic

the tryingto undermine idealof universality, anddetermined blame if theconference to Asia failed. Asiaresisted. result The after Inevitably,

attitudes bothsidesandincreased deep on the with whichmanyAsiancountries skepticism on regardWesternposturing humanrights.
Cultureand Human Rights Most Western governments are well informed about political and economic conditions in East and Southeast Asia. Most therefore try to pursue nuanced policies on human rights. But what Western governments would consider 32.

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of a sophisticated appreciation the complexities and realisticpolicies,their publics,media,and human rights NGOsoften dismissas timidity. The Western media,NGOs, and humanrights in the United States,tend to activists, especially press the human rights dialogue beyond the of legitimate insistenceon humanestandards behavior callingfor the summary by implementation of abstract conceptswithoutregardfor a social,economic,and uniquecultural, country's circumstances. it is precisely And those political NGOsand media that are most influentialin to shapingthe publicattitudes whichWestern must respond.In the post-Cold governments War world, advocacy can organizations be exto seize the opportunity pushharder. to pected For many in the West, the end of the Cold War was not justthe defeator collapseof communist regimes,but the supremetriumphand vindicationof Western systemsand values.It has become the lens throughwhich they view in developments otherregions.There has been a tendencysince 1989to drawparallels between in developments the ThirdWorld and thosein EasternEuropeand the formerUSSR, measurof ing all statesby the advance what the West That is a value-laden regardsas "democracy." term, itself susceptibleto multipleinterpretations, but usuallyunderstood Westernhuby man rightsactivists the mediaas the estaband lishmentof political institutions practices and akin to those existingin the United Statesand Europe. There is good reasonto doubt whetherthe countriesof the formerUSSR EasternEuand will reallyevolveinto "democracies" rope anytime soon, however this term is defined, or even whether such a transformation would be for the better,given the necessarilyalways ethnic hatredsin the region. But the Western approach is ideological, not empirical.The West needs its myths;missionary to whip zeal the heathen along the path of righteousness andremakethe worldin its own imageis deeply ingrainedin Western (especially American) political culture. It is entirelyunderstandable thatWesternhumanrightsadvocates chooseto interpretrealityin the way they believehelps their causemost. 33.

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But that is not how most East and Southeast view the world. Economic Asian governments successhas engendereda greaterculturalselfconfidence. Whatever their differences,East and SoutheastAsiancountriesare increasingly and consciousof theirown civilizations tend to of their economicsuccessin locate the sources theirown distinctive traditions institutions. and and sanctiThe self-congratulatory, simplistic, monioustone of muchWesterncommentary at the end of the Cold War and the currenttriof umphalism Westernvaluesgrateon Eastand SoutheastAsians.It is, after all, a West that two launched worldwars,supported and racism the colonialism, perpetrated Holocaustand the Great Purge, and now suffers from serious socialand economicdeficiencies. hasdifficulIt and is unwillingto ty competingeconomically come to grips with many of its own domestic problems,all too proneto blameothersfor its own failings,andapparently of exhausted everyof specialvirtue. thing exceptpretensions The Vienna conference may only have hardened attitudes on both sides and increased the deep skepticism with which many Asian countries regard Western posturing on human rights.

The hard coreof rights aretruly that universal is smaller manyin the Westarewont than to pretend. the Forty-five after Universal years Declaration adopted, was of its 30 articles many are still subject debateover interpretation to andapplication-not between andthe Asia just West, but withinthe West itself.Not every one of the 50 states theUnitedStates of would the provisions the Universal of Declaraapply tionin the sameway.It is notonlypretentious but wrongto insistthateverything been has settled forever. Universal The onceand Declaration not a tablet is Mosesbrought from down the mountain. was drafted mortals. It All by international normsmustevolvethrough condebate different of points viewif tinuing among consensus to be maintained. is MostEastandSoutheast Asian governments areuneasy thepropensity many with of Ameri34.

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humanrightsactivists can and some European to place more emphasison civil and political rights than on economic, social, and cultural not rights.They wouldprobably be convinced, 1992reportissued for instance, a September by by Human Rights Watch entitled Indivisible and HumanRights:The Relationship Political of and Subsistence Poverty. CivilRightsto Survival, They would find the report'sargumentthat those relatand "political civilrights,especially ed to democraticaccountability," basic to are survivaland "not luxuriesto be enjoyedonly after a certainlevel of economicdevelopment has been reached"to be grossly overstated. Such an argumentdoes not accordwith their That experience sees own historical experience. for order and stabilityas preconditions economic growth, and growth as the necessary foundation any politicalorderthatclaimsto of advancehumandignity. The Asian record of economic successis a powerfulclaimthat cannotbe easilydismissed. Both the West and Asia can agreethat values of and institutionsare important determinants and development.But what institutions which values?The individualistic ethosof the West or the communitarian traditionsof Asia? The of consensus-seeking approach Eastand Southeast Asia or the adversarial institutions the of West? The post-MarcosPhilippines-which combineswhatis probably mostdemocratic the constitutionand politicalinstitutions Southin eastAsiawith mismanagement, and lawlessness, the worst economicrecordin ASEAN-must at least open to questionwhetherthere are valid alternative betweencivil-political relationships and economic-social rights. Poverty, insecurity, and instability breed humanrights abuses,while wealthcreatesthe stabilityof Western societies and allows the operation of political institutions that in lessfavorable circumstances could lead to disaster. Only America'swealth, for example, allows it to operate a political system that elevates conflict to the status of principle and makes a virtue of a tendency toward paralysis in all but exceptional circumstances. Wealth makes political institutions almost irrelevant to the well-being and happiness of the majorityin many Western 35.

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do societies.Many Americans not even bother to vote andthe popular estimation American of is politicians low. Those are amongthe luxuries bethat wealthbuys. But the costs are already coming evident. As the international distribution powerand of wealthchanges,the West oughtto subject itself to a probing and unsentimentalanalysis.It shouldask itselfwhethermanyof its persistent problemsandits lackof economiccompetitiveness comparedto severalEast and Southeast Asian countriesare not in part due to its tendency to transformevery social issue into an and questionof "rights" place uncompromising the claimsof the individual specialinterests and over those of society. There are groundsto viewedagainst continuing the whether, question marchof history,the Westerntypeof "democor optimalsocietalarrangements racy"provides even whetherit can endurein its present form. At any rate,manyEast and Southeast Asians tend to look askance the starkly at individualistic ethos of the West in which authority tends to be seen as oppressive rightsare an indiand vidual's"trump" over the state.Most peopleof the region prefera situationin which distinctions betweenthe individual, society,and state are less clear-cut,or at least less adversarial. It will be far more difficult deepenandexpand to the international consensuson humanrightsif East andSoutheast Asiancountriesbelievethat the Western promotion of human rights is aimedat what they regardas the foundation of their economic success.In fact, many Asians insistedupon perceivethe valuesand practices by Western humanrightspuristsas exacerbating the thornyproblemsfacedby the West. There is, however,a natural tacticalconvergence of interestsbetweenthe Westernmedia and human rights activistsand those aspiring Asian elites who are challengingestablished governments.Such elites seek sympathyand legitimacyabroadby espousinghumanrights, servedto justas the rhetoricof anticommunism in the West duringthe Cold War gain support and nationalist leadersof an earliergeneration the ideologyof liberalism underto employed minethe legitimacy illiberal of colonialregimes. Thus the popular imageis createdof repressive 36.

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Asian governmentsholding down the masses yearningto be free, occasioningcheers when whenthey succeed. they fail andcondemnation Such are, for example,some commonpopular Western interpretations eventsin China in of 1989 and in Thailandin May 1992. Such June imagesare not alwaysentirelywrong,as events in Rangoon in 1988 showed, but they often have a political significancethat bears little to relationship their accuracy. If dramaticscenes of the "Goddessof Demodeledafterthe Statueof mocracy"--cleverly Liberty-and students shouting defiance in Tiananmen stirred Westernhearts, emotion the obscured the fact that the vast peasantryof of China-among the first beneficiaries Deng reforms-were largely unmoved. Xiaoping's Sympathyfor the studentscame,if at all, after the massacre probably moreto do with and had the disproportionate of force againstthem use than with their ideas.What may have strucka chord with the peasants not "democracy," was but complaints and inflation, against corruption, When Westerners cheeredthe Bangnepotism. kok crowdsthat broughtdown GeneralSuchindaKraprayoon's government, forgotthat they most Thais acceptedthe previousyear'smilicarriedout against tary coup, which Suchinda the corruptChatichaigovernment. The most recent Thai prime minister,Anand popular was Panyarachun, not electedandruledout his in the electoralprocess.Only six participation years after ImeldaMarcos and her husband's fled the Philippines crony EduardoCojuangco in ignominy,both obtainedmore votes combined in the May 1992 presidential election than Fidel Ramos,whoseoppositionto Marcos in 1986 tipped the balancein favorof people power. One explanationof the contradictionsin
Asian attitudes is that popular pressuresagainst East and Southeast Asian governments may not be so much for "human rights" or "democracy" but for good government: effective, efficient, and honest administrations able to provide security and basic needs with good opportunities for an improved standardof living. To be sure, good government, human rights, and democracy are overlapping concepts. Good 37.

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governmentrequiresthe protectionof human throughperiodicfair dignityand accountability and free elections.But they are not alwaysthe same thing; it cannot be blithelyassumed,as many in the West have, that more democracy and humanrightswill inevitably lead to good as the manylost opportunities of government, The the Aquino government demonstrated. contradictions mirrora complexrealiapparent Good government maywell require,among ty: other things, detention without trial to deal with militaryrebelsor religiousand other extremists; curbs on press freedoms to avoid social fanning racial tensions or exacerbating laws and divisions; draconian to breakthe power of entrenchedinterestsin order to, for instance,establishlandreforms. Those are the realities exercising of authority in heterogeneous,unevenlymodernized,and societieswith largerural imperfectly integrated populations and shallow Western-stylecivic traditions.The competing Asian elites who today use human rights rhetoric to advance their causesmayfind good reasonto retainand if use such measures ever they come to power and encounterthe realitiesof governance. Esor claimingrightsin the midstof politpousing ical struggledoes not meanthey will or can be granted once the struggle is won. After all, their predecessors found it prudentto retain colonial laws that had been used againstthem and that they too denouncedas contraryto human rights. Disagreementsover human evenif the not rightsmaytherefore be resolved currentgeneration East and Southeast of Asian leadersis replaced.The convictionthat these countriesare inevitably evolvingtowardWestis unwarranted. Greater ern-style democracy with the West is possible,but a convergence perfectfit is unlikely.
Roomfor Debate For East and Southeast Asia, the challenge will be to devise credible, distinctive, and coherent positions within the parametersof international law on human rights. Most East and Southeast Asian governments sincerely want to protect and advance the human dignity of their citizens, even if they must do so within the 38.

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Their good constraintsof their circumstances. faith is less likely to be questionedif they acof cept the framework the two U.N. human are Those documents flexible covenants. rights a of to accommodate diversity political enough There is institutions,cultures,and traditions. and sufficientprovisionfor reservation derogato tion and room for further interpretation are ensurethatspecialconditions acknowledged and vital interestsneed not be compromised. law Working within existinginternational on what could human rights will also ameliorate of otherwisebe the overwhelming influence the most powerfulstates,Japanand China, area's on the evolutionof a regionalposition. The challengefor the West is farmore difficult becauseit requires psychological wrenching The West must internalizethe adjustments. reality of diversityin all its dimensionsand the that, acknowledge notwithstanding existence of a body of international on humanrights, law many rights are still contestedconceptswhere a consensusof meaningis coupledwith equally conflicts important,and perhapsunresolvable, of interpretation. West is no more or less The specialthananyotherregion.It mustrecognize that the main influenceon the development of humanrightsin EastandSoutheast will be Asia internal and difficultfor the West to reach. Abrasive ill-considered or to attempts influence that dynamicare not only unlikelyto succeed but could set backacceptance humanrights of nationalisticresponses.Progress by arousing will entail eschewingtranscendent crusades or dramatic confrontations patiently quietfor and on ly buildingconsensus modest,specific objectivesthrougha still-evolving processof international lawmaking. The result will not always reflectWesternpreferences. FutureWesternapproaches humanrights on will haveto be formulated with greaternuance and precision.It makesa great deal of difference if the West insistson humanestandards of behavior by vigorously protesting genocide, murder, torture, or slavery.Here there is a clear consensuson a core of international law that does not admit of derogationon any grounds.The West has a legitimateright and moral duty to promote those core human 39.

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rights, even if it is temperedby limitedinfluence. But if the West objects to, say, capital punishment,detentionwithout trial, or curbs on press freedoms,it should recognizethat it law does so in a contextwherethe international is less definitiveand more open to interpretation and where there is room for further The West willhave elaboration throughdebate. to accept that no universal consensusmay be andthatstatescanlegitimately possible agreeto withoutbeingguiltyof sinisterdesigns disagree or bad faith. Trying to impose pet Western and is definitions "freedom" "democracy" an of incitementto destructive conflict,bestforegone in the interestof promoting humanrights. real law The international on humanrightsprovides a useful, relatively precise,and common for framework the humanrights dialoguebetween West and East.It helpsprevent"human for rights"from becominga mere catchphrase to whateveractionsthe West findscontrary its preferencesor too alien to comprehend.But and the implementation, interpretation, elaboralaw tion of the international on humanrightsis political.It must reflectchanging unavoidably global power structuresand politicalcircumstances.It will requirethe West to makecomplex political distinctions,perhaps refraining from taking a positionon some humanrights of issues, irrespective their merits,in orderto for otherswherethe prospects consensus press are better. the the If, for example, West protests murder of or "disappearance" EastTimorese,it is likely The Suhartogovto get a hearingin Jakarta. ernmentwouldnot disputethatsucheventsare very correctwrong, and it has in fact behaved the seniormilitary officersresponly, punishing the sible for the Dili tragedy.Similarly, West can legitimately objectto the tortureor murder of Tibetansor point out defectsin the administration of justice in China. If done with patience and finesse, there is some chance of improving conditions as China develops. But to demand independence for East Timor or Tibet is an entirely different matter. It is a fantasy to believe that any Indonesian or Chinese government would do anything but reject that outright, no matter what the West does. And it is 40.

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that the causeof humanrights not self-evident if will really be advanced China or Indonesia, both of which contain a diversityof ethnic groups, disintegratesunder such centrifugal pressures, generating instabilitiesacross the region.It is immoralfor the West to give East Timorese or Tibetansfalsehope by encouragBetterto of ing wild dreams self-determination. help the East Timorese and Tibetansimprove their lot withinthe existingsystem. it Unfortunately, is not obviousthatWestern are governments free to adoptsuchhard-headthe ed policiesof politicaltriage.It goes against most deeply held Western notions of human the rights: individualism, idea that rights are of held againstthe state,the primacy civil and It and universalism. will be political rights, the temptationto use human complicatedby rights to pursueother interests.And it raises difficult questions about the role of human rights NGOsin mobilizingpublic and media pressures on Western governmentsto take action. Precisely because they are advocacy organizations,NGOs must adopt a strident, of adversarial stance; they areimpatient nuance; must defineissuesin starkmoraloutline; they andthey areusually interpretaquickto dismiss For tion and exceptionas self-serving. them,to their infludo otherwiseis to risk diminishing in ence andlose publicsupport a mazeof morand al ambiguities contradictions. Yet it is only throughsuch thicketsof compromise, contradiction,and ambiguity that furtherprogresson humanrightscan be made. Those in the West concernedabout human rights in East and SoutheastAsia, therefore, Do must be askeda simplequestion: you ultimatelywant to do good, or merelypostureto feel makeyourselves good?

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...views as possible. -----Asia War Defense – 2NC ASEAN solves stability. Noi ‘7 (Goh Sui Noi, @ Straits Times, 8-23-07 [Asean 'holds key to building stable East Asian region'; S'pore official says grouping plays vital role by providing neutral platform, lexis] GOVERNMENTS in the East Asian region have realised that it is in their nations' interests to build a community to preserve stability for growth, a senior Singapore official has said. And building such a community depends on Asean's ability to integrate deeper and faster, said Mr Bilahari Kausikan, Second Permanent Secretary of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. In addition, a grouping of the region's think-tanks, which held a conference in Singapore, yesterday called for greater cultural exchanges to promote community-building. 'An East Asian community will...depend on Asean's ability to integrate deeper and faster and create a community of its own,' Mr Kausikan said on Tuesday. He explained that the complexity and sensitivity of relationships among major powers meant that Asean played an essential role in providing a relatively neutral platform for an East Asian architecture. 'This is the real meaning of the oft-repeated refrain 'Asean in the driver's seat',' he said. He added that this was the broader significance of the Asean Charter, which will be discussed at the next summit of the 10-nation grouping to be held in Singapore in November. The charter, which will give a legal basis to the grouping, is expected......

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