BANGKOK, 11 September 2017 – The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) convened its fourth Youth Debate on Human Rights last September 4-6 in Bangkok, Thailand. About 40 university students from the ten ASEAN Member States participated in the event.

The issues debated revolved around the establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights Court; the challenges of balancing economic growth and human rights in meeting ASEAN development goals; the promotion of women’s rights, a quota system for women representation; the right to work in all Member States; and environmental damage as a human rights violation. These topics encouraged the participants to focus on the complementarity and inter-sectionality of political stability, economic prosperity, inclusiveness and human rights in ASEAN. The event also focused on the long-term sustainability of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The debate provided a platform for young people in ASEAN to express their views on human rights and interact with experts/academics on human rights issues within the region. The event also aimed to nurture critical thinking, public speaking, leadership and other relevant skills among the young people and future leaders of ASEAN. The award ceremony for the five best speakers was presided by the Deputy Minister of Education, M.L. Panadda Diskul, who represented the Prime Minister of Thailand.

 The youth also participated in a Special Talk on Migrant Workers in Thailand: A Move Toward Inclusivity and two panel discussions – one on the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN: Forging Ahead Together toward a Sustainable Community and one on the ASEAN and Human Rights: Toward Sustainable Decades – at Thammasat University and Chulalongkorn University. The sessions generated a lively discussion between the youth and the resource persons on the evolution of human rights in ASEAN, as well as the challenges faced within the region.

Over the course of the three-day event, the participants visited the Grand Palace to pay their respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej and to the Central Women’s Correctional Institution where they learned about Thailand’s application of the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules).

This year’s Youth Debate is one of the AICHR’s commemorative activities to celebrate the 50thAnniversary of ASEAN. It was organised by Dr. Seree Nonthasoot, the Representative of Thailand to the AICHR, in collaboration with various agencies in Thailand, including Ministry of Education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, Faculty of Law, Thammasat University and Chulalongkorn University. The event was supported by the ASEAN-U.S. Partnership for Good Governance, Equitable and Sustainable Development and Security programme.