Asean human rights reps urge stronger efforts on haze

A file photo taken on Sept 25, 2019, showing hazy skies in the western region of Singapore. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

Representatives to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights from Singapore, Myanmar, Malaysia and Thailand have called for stronger collaborative action among the bloc's members to mitigate transboundary haze and prevent it from occurring again in future.

In a statement issued on Monday, Dr Shashi Jayakumar of Singapore, Mr Eric Paulsen of Malaysia, Ambassador Hla Myint of Myanmar and Dr Amara Pongsapich of Thailand said once again, transboundary haze this year had an adverse effect on people in South-east Asia.

"We call upon Asean and all member states to recognise that this is a long-term and regional issue, which must be taken seriously to prevent further harm to our environment, economy, and the health and human rights of Asean citizens," the statement said.

The representatives noted that following severe land and forest fires in 1997-1998, Asean member states signed the Asean Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution (AATHP) in 2002.

"However, the AATHP was not ratified by all member states until 2014 and its impact has been limited. Despite its objectives to monitor and prevent air pollution through national, regional and international cooperation, the haze is still a recurrent event," the statement said.

The representatives noted that poor air quality affects the quality of life in Asean nations and impinged upon the enjoyment of a range of human rights protected in the 2012 Asean Human Rights Declaration.

These include the right to life and the right to the highest attainable standard of health and an adequate standard of living, which includes the right to a safe, clean and sustainable environment.

"We call for Asean and its member states to fully and effectively implement the AATHP and revisit the Roadmap on Asean Cooperation towards Transboundary Haze Pollution Control with Means of Implementation, with its vision to be haze-free by 2020," the representatives said in the statement. "We urge all member states to work together for a more effective and sustainable solution to the haze and to ensure all citizens can enjoy their human rights to the fullest," they added.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2019, with the headline Asean human rights reps urge stronger efforts on haze. Subscribe