Draft ASEAN Chairman statement invites dialogue partners to solve drug problem

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 13) — Southeast Asia leaders are calling on its dialogue partners to cooperate in addressing the illegal drug crisis in the region.

“Recognizing that the illicit-drug problem is affecting not only some ASEAN Member States, but also other countries outside the region, we welcome the assistance of Dialogue Partners and other external parties in addressing this problem,” a  November 11 draft of the Chairman’s  Statement on the 31st summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations stated.

The regional bloc said its partners and other group could help fight drug trafficking through information-sharing, capacity-building, and other forms of cooperation consistent with international laws.  It assured, however, that all cooperative efforts would preserve the sovereign rights of countries in handling the problem.

The Philippines has drawn local and international criticism for killings linked to its war on illegal drugs.

Experts from the United Nations (UN) on Friday urged ASEAN leaders to address human rights concerns in the region.

In a statement,  the experts observed “rising numbers of cases of serious human rights violations affecting among others, people working on women’s rights, environmental and land issues and lawyers dealing with drug cases.”

President Rodrigo Duterte, who chairs this year’s ASEAN Summit, launched the controversial war on drugs at the beginning of his term.  At the 30th ASEAN summit in April, the President  stressed the importance of non-interference in the internal affairs of the 10 countries in the regional bloc.

“Relations bear fruit when they are based on mutual respect and benefit,” Duterte said last April 29. “Dialogue relations can be more productive, constructive, if the valued principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN states is observed.”

The statement came after an international rights group called on ASEAN members to denounce Duterte’s drug war.

READ: Duterte highlights ASEAN principle of non-interference

He dared Western countries and institutions, including staunch critic European Union, to take the “lead role” in his drug war.

READ: Duterte to West: If you want, take ‘lead role’ in PH drug war

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that U.S. President Donald Trump would not have issues with Duterte’s drug war.

READ: Duterte’s drug war won’t spark tension with Trump

Government data show 3,967 drug personalities have died in anti-drug operations in the country  as of October 25, 2017, much lower than the 13,000 cited by  local and international groups.

Aside from the U.S, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, India, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, and the European Union are also ASEAN dialogue partners.