Letter: Human rights in Asia

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Sir: It is preposterous for Randhir Singh Bains (letter, 8 March) to propagate the view that there is a difference between the value of human rights in the West and Asia. Indeed, the value of human rights is universal in itself and is the same everywhere: the respect of human dignity and integrity.

Unfortunately, the recent conflict between the British press and the Malaysian government has clouded the whole issue of so-called Asian values. To suggest that south-east Asian values are being defined by Singapore or Malaysia, which happen to be the most vocal in the regions, is absurd. These countries speak only for themselves.

Thailand and the Philippines, for example, respect human rights and try to improve their protection. They also have a relatively high standard of press freedom. Their newspapers serve as a watchdog to check on their governments' performance. They have the courage to expose corruption and irregularities.

Ironically, those Asian countries who have complained most about Western comments on their affairs are those who have serious problems of their own to confront. If only their citizens were free to speak and criticise their governments, the Western press would matter very little, if at all.

Your sincerely,


Green College, Oxford