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Jakarta Post

COVID-19: ASEAN rights body urges members to respond to pandemic humanely

  • Dyaning Pangestika
    Dyaning Pangestika

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sun, May 3, 2020   /   09:31 am
COVID-19: ASEAN rights body urges members to respond to pandemic humanely A migrant worker prays after a pre-dawn meal during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in a dormitory in Singapore on April 30. (REUTERS/Edgar Su)

The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) has called on member states to integrate human rights values into their responses to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

In a statement issued on Friday, the ASEAN human rights body emphasized the importance of responding to the pandemic humanely. The statement highlighted the human rights aspects of ASEAN's collective response to COVID-19 – a topic not mentioned in the statement from ASEAN leadership issued in mid-April.

"We expect all ASEAN sectoral bodies and entities, as well as member states, to integrate human rights values and the principles of non-discrimination, participation and inclusion into their responses to the crisis," the AICHR wrote in the statement.

Read also: Leaders support establishment of ASEAN COVID-19 response fund

Yuyun Wahyuningrum, Indonesia’s representative to the AICHR, previously expressed concern about Malaysian authorities’ denial of entry to a boat carrying about 200 Rohingya because of fears that the undocumented migrants would spread COVID-19 in the country.

Yuyun argued that ASEAN member states should show compassion during the pandemic and should not be afraid of Rohingya people in desperate need of assistance, as the bloc had already established COVID-19 health protocols.

The commission highlighted Article 29 of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD), which states that every person has the right to the highest attainable standard of health, basic and affordable health services, as well as access to medical facilities. 

"Measures taken to protect public health must ensure that all persons at risk [of catching] or infected by COVID-19, including women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities, migrant workers and vulnerable groups, can access essential health care services," the AICHR stated in the press release.

Johns Hopkins University data showed on Saturday that there were more than 46,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Southeast Asia. Singapore has recorded the most cases of any Southeast Asian country, with about 17,500 cases, followed by Indonesia with nearly 11,000 confirmed cases. (dis)