‘Asean value system’ for Asean Charter?

Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Dr Rais Yatim today called for the incorporation of ‘Asean value system’ in the human rights provisions in the Asean Charter.


According to a Bernama report, Rais raised this point so as to ensure that the Asean Charter would not be ‘a mere importation of the universal values of human rights’.


While it is understandable that we ought to evaluate carefully certain values from elsewhere, be it West or East, so that we do not copy blindly, the above exhortation is cause for concern.


This is because somehow this so-called ‘Asean value system’ reminds one of the controversial notion of ‘Asian values’ that was a rage in the 1990s particularly in Singapore and Malaysia when both Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohamad were prime ministers in their respective countries.


What ought to attract the attention of concerned Malaysians is that these ‘Asian values’ could function as a kind of a code for the justification of authoritarian rule or illiberal governance in particular countries.


Thus, one wonders whether there was, and still is, an attempt to resurrect these controversial ‘Asian values’, or at least certain portions of these values, in the discussion of the Asean Charter.


It is worth looking at a Wikipedia take on ‘Asian values’ which shows, among other things, the following:


Because the proponents of the concept came from different cultural backgrounds, no single definition of the term exists, but typically “Asian values” encompasses some influences of Confucianism, in particular loyalty towards the family, corporation, and nation; the forgoing of personal freedom for the sake of society’s stability and prosperity; the pursuit of academic and technological excellence; and work ethic and thrift. Proponents of “Asian values”, who tend to support Asian-style authoritarian governments, claim they are more appropriate for the region than the democratic values and institutions of the West. A frequent criticism is that the idea of “Asian values” is most promoted by the elites who benefit from authoritarian rule, rather than the wider populace of their nation.


A summary list of ‘Asian Values’ would include a distinctively ‘Asian’:


predisposition towards strong and stable leadership rather than political pluralism;


respect for social harmony and an inclination towards consensus as opposed to a tendency towards dissent or confrontation;


acceptance of broad and penetrating state and bureaucratic intervention in social and economic affairs;


concern with socio-economic well-being instead of civil liberties and human rights; and


preference for the welfare and collective well-being of the community over individual rights.



6 Responses to “‘Asean value system’ for Asean Charter?”

  1. 1 V 22 July 2008 at 12:52 am

    Aye. Exactly. Watch the film “V for Vendetta”.

  2. 2 max 22 July 2008 at 9:38 am

    Asian values =

    a) Patriach values, i.e. don’t challenge authorities even when authorities are in the wrong. Also means status quo, no democracy ‘cos democracy challenges authorities

    b) we don’t meddle in other countries’ matters, e.g. Myanmar, Tibet. But exceptions can be made for moslems countries (Palestine, Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Myanmar – these are poor & no-muscled countries). Countries such as China (oh, too rich & powerful & important trading nation for malaysia), Malaysia better keep quiet.

    c) better ignore human rights abuse in Myanmar, cos it will go away. Right, that is until Ang San Su Kyii is 6 ft under the ground.

    d) Oh, one most important point about asian values = asians are similar to animals, i.e. they are inferior and don’t have the rights of the western counterparts. Hence it is ok to abuse asians. And don’t any other asian countries disagree with this IMPORTANT ASIAN VALUES

  3. 3 Patricia 22 July 2008 at 10:01 am

    ‘Asian values’sure sounds like a euphemism for the autocracy planned for us!

    And, with the new-DNA-old-DNA charade being played out daily, it looks like if successful, the opposition will be rendered impotent if the one persona keeping it together falls.

    Apparently it is not good to be a fence sitter, but I think that all the options before me suck! So how? I think many of us face only one choice: the lesser evil!

    So yah, ‘Asian values’ sure conjurs up this comfy, feel-good, smiley picture of the bowing subservient Asian. Thank you for pointing out its true ‘face’.

  4. 4 anggara 22 July 2008 at 5:29 pm

    i don’t think that Asian Values fit Indonesia 🙂

  5. 5 Ong Eu Soon 25 July 2008 at 2:35 pm

    Asian values are tangible values measured in term of dollar in the range of billions, make no mistake not millions. Very valuable values, no applicable to the West, unique to Asian only, ‘cos Asian can’t see anything intangible although Asian leaders are suppose to be visionary.

  1. 1 Worthless Asean value system for Asean Charter? « San Oo Aung’s Weblog Trackback on 22 July 2008 at 12:36 am

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