Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion in ASEAN


“In 2012, the Heads of State of ASEAN Member States signed the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (“AHRD”), uniformly affirming and committing to respecting, promoting, and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms in the region.1 In the Preamble to the AHRD, ASEAN governments stated their “commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of the United Nations, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and other international human rights instruments to which ASEAN Member States are parties.” This pledge towards realizing the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people of ASEAN Member States reiterates one of the fundamental purposes of ASEAN as stated in the ASEAN Charter, and further strengthens ASEAN’s political commitments as set out in the ASEAN Community Blueprints.

“This strong statement of political intent toward eradicating religious intolerance in ASEAN is highly commendable, particularly as it sets the bar high at “incitement of hatred”. This could, among others, justify limiting hate speech. Yet understanding how, and in what ways both Member States and ASEAN as a regional grouping can begin to honour this commitment continues to be the subject of discussion, both within the region and beyond.11 The present study seeks to contribute to this discussion by providing an overview of state practice on the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion across ASEAN, and highlighting serious issues of religious persecution and conflict for ASEAN’s attention. This report provides a critical analysis of recent significant events, through which ASEAN, its Member States, and civil society organizations can reflect on both the progress made and the challenges that need to be addressed to ensure that this aspiration is fulfilled.”

For more information, read Keeping the Faith: A Study of Freedom of Thought, Conscience, and Religion in ASEAN.