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Southeast Asian Countries Create Human Rights Body


Southeast Asian nations have established their first regional human rights body, but critics say it will be powerless against countries such as Burma that abuse human rights.

The Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights was created as leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations began their annual summit Friday in the Thai resort town of Hua Hin.

Rights activists say the panel will aim to promote, rather than protect, human rights.But Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who chairs the 10-member ASEAN bloc, said the human rights panel marks a major milestone in the association's 42-year history.

Leaders of five ASEAN nations -- Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Singapore and the Philippines -- canceled a meeting scheduled Friday with leaders of civil society groups from their respective nations. In response, rights activists from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand boycotted the meeting in protest.

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