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Current Human Rights Issues in Malaysia: A View from the Inside

Friday 3 February 2017, 1.00PM to 2.15 PM

Speaker(s): Azmi Sharom, Associate Professor, University of Malaya

In the past ten years, the nations of Southeast Asia have gone through an interesting period in relation to human rights. With the signing of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Charter (2007) and Human Rights Declaration (2012), it was thought that the region was on the verge of having at the very least, the aspirations of governance with the rule of law and respect for human rights.

This optimism was supported by the appearance of growing democratic spaces in countries like Thailand and Malaysia. In Indonesia and the Philippines, these ideals seemed to have become firmly entrenched. Yet today the situation has changed dramatically.

Although Malaysia has not faced a situation as dramatic as the imposition of martial law (Thailand) and mass extra judicial killing (Philippines) the human rights situation there has deteriorated badly. The freedom of expression has been curbed using colonial era laws; religious freedom has been threatened for what it is submitted are political reasons and the democratic process subverted.

While the nation is embroiled in financial and political scandals on an unprecedented scale, the very tools needed to put an end to such corruption have been systematically blunted by the enforcement of oppressive laws (old and new) and undemocratic administrative decisions.

This lecture shall discuss these issues from the viewpoint of the speaker who has an insider’s view, working as he does in academia and the press, both of which face governmental pressure. In 2014 he was charged with sedition giving him first-hand experience as to how the laws of Malaysia are used to curb human rights.

Azmi Sharom, LLB (Sheffield), LLM (Nottingham), PhD (SOAS), is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, University of Malaya where he has taught since 1990. He currently teaches Private International law, International Environmental Law and Human Rights Law. He is Head of the Human Rights Research Group in his Faculty and President of the Academic Staff Union in his University. He is Chief Editor of the Human Rights in Southeast Asia Series by the Southeast Asian Human Rights Scholars Network based in Bangkok. Azmi writes regular newspaper columns and a compilation of his articles was published in a book entitled Brave New World: Greatest Hits. In September 2014 he was charged with sedition for giving an opinion on a constitutional crisis in the state of Selangor to a newspaper. The charge was dropped in February 2015. He would much rather spend his time watching football.

Location: ARC/014, Alcuin Research Resource Centre, Alcuin College, Unviersity of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD

Admission: Free