VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — As bodies continue to pile up in his war on illegal drugs, the Philippine president is making waves at his first summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations where he joins a diverse cast of leaders, including some who have found themselves in the crosshairs of human rights watchdogs.
Rodrigo Duterte would fit right in, critics say, and even steal the show.
As president, Duterte brings a long-blemished rights record into the 10-nation ASEAN bloc, which has struggled with internal strife due to its unwieldy collective of dictatorships, authoritarian states, a monarchy and fledgling democracies since its founding nearly half a century ago as an Asian bulwark against communism.
“For most ASEAN leaders, Duterte represents a throwback to an uglier and more brutal form of Asian state, which taints ASEAN efforts to market itself as an increasingly progressive, modernizing trade block with a focus on trade data, rather than daily police-killing body counts,” said Phelim Kine of New York-based Human Rights Watch.
Once a government prosecutor who fought outlaws and insurgents, Duterte was a longtime mayor of southern Davao city, where he started to build a name for his deadly anti-crime campaign — he was nicknamed “Duterte Harry” after Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry movie character. Since he took office as president on June 30, his crackdown on suspected drug dealers and users has left more than 2,000 people dead. More than 600,000 others, mostly drug