Two years ago in Phnom Penh, Cambodia , Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and nine other Southeast Asian leaders signed the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration which provides that,“No person shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Last week, the Sultan of the oil-rich Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, announced the start of a new criminal code based on sharia law that will impose barbaric punishments like amputation and stoning for offenses that includes being gay and pregnant outside of marriage.
A Los Angeles Times news report said “Under the first phase, fines and jail terms were introduced Thursday for offenses that include failure to attend Friday prayers, indecent behavior and pregnancies outside of marriage.
“A second phase of the law, which will come into force later this year, provides for severing of limbs and flogging for property crimes. A third phase set for late 2015 will allow the justice system to sentence offenders to death by stoning for crimes including adultery and gay sex.”
The report said Bolkiah celebrated the new legal code as obedience to "God's command, as written in the Koran.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights condemned the Brunei legal code. So did the Human Rights Campaign, a U.S.-based group that advocates for gay and transgender rights.
Showbiz personalities Jay Leno and Ellen DeGeneres; fashion designers Brian Atwood and Peter Som; and entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson have called for a boycott of Sultan of Brunei owned businesses particularly hotels.
The Sultan of Brunei owns the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles and Dorchester hotel chain.
Branson said his family and Virgin Group of companies, which include an airline, with more than 50,000 employees worldwide will stay out of Dorchester Hotels “until the Sultan abides by basic human rights."
A number of events at the Beverly Hills Hotel including the pre-Oscars party have been cancelled in protest of Bolkiah’s anti-gay and anti-women laws.
Human Rights is in the agenda of the 24th ASEAN Summit to be held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar May 10 and 11. Let’s see if anyone of the 10 leaders will dare take up Bolkiah’s stone- age law vis-avis the ASEAN Charter which stresses "adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance;respect for and promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms."
In fact, ASEAN has an Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to supposedly promote and protect human rights, and regional co-operation on human rights among in the member states (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam).
The ASEAN Human Rights Declaration also states that “Every person has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. All forms of intolerance, discrimination and incitement of hatred based on religion and beliefs shall be eliminated.”
It also provides that “Every person charged with a criminal offence shall be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a fair and public trial, by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, at which the accused is guaranteed the right to defence.”
Bolkiah’s new criminal code makes a mockery of the Human Rights Declaration that he signed.
The silence of Asean as a group as well as that of other ASEAN members is deafening.