M. D. NALAPAT Its a fact that Western countries today are far more technologically advanced than their Asian counterparts and their citizens live a 'better life. But that does not mean human rights are better protected in the West. Instead, an honest examination would show human rights are far better protected in Asia, at least when it comes to the most vulnerable sections of society such as ethnic minorities and residents without citizenship. Take healthcare. In the US - the epitome of Western culture - it is difficult for a person without a health insurance or enough money to get medical treatment. Visitors to the US, especially from poorer countries, may be refused access to healthcare. In many European Union (EU) countries, the standard of medical treatment the underprivileged of other countries get is far below their national standards. Are the rights of visitors who fall ill in Europe and the US protected? Why is the fundamental right to health neglected by the very countries that claim to be the torchbearers of universal human rights? Contrast this with Kuwait, for example. This small Asian country has an excellent healthcare system accessible not only to its citizens, but also to any visitor with a valid visa. And the cost for the best medical treatment is just one Kuwaiti Dinar (or $3.50). Wouldnt a person visiting the US even with a valid visa be laughed at and thrown out of the door if he/she enters a hospital with $3.50 and seeks medical treatment. Good medical care is not confined to Kuwait. The Arab spirit - in the best Asian tradition - ensures that every member country of the Gulf Cooperation Council provides excellent healthcare. Hundreds of thousands of patients die each year because they cannot afford the medicines from American and European pharmaceutical companies, as they have priced it out of the reach of most of the people to make huge profits. These companies fleece patients not only in other countries, but also in their own, saying the high costs are to fund research. But the pharmaceutical cartel has enough power to get the EU to block low-cost drugs from entering not only their home markets, but also those in Africa. US companies, on the other hand, use their judicial system to maintain their monopolies and continue crippling patients in America and Europe with their high costs. If the authorities in these countries had the moral courage to resist the lures of the pharmaceutical giants, millions of their citizens would have benefited from low drug prices. But that in the Western paradigm is not a violation of human rights. Then there are the super-rich US and EU speculators who cause immense damage to the global economy. These unscrupulous traders have brought incalculable misery to hundreds of millions of people by driving up prices of oil, food, metals and other goods essential for the modern economy. Yet, no one bothers to even talk about, let alone oppose, such rampant violation of human rights. Governments in rich countries pay billions of dollars in subsidy to their farmers, giving them an unfair advantage over their counterparts from developing countries. We know how milk lakes and butter mountains in developed countries are allowed to rot to preempt a drop in their prices while tens of millions of people starve in poor countries. We know about the $40-billion subsidy that EU fishermen get to drain our oceans of fish. And we know about the vast stretches of forests in Brazil, Russia and Indonesia being destroyed by companies headquartered in the very countries that champion human rights. But again these have nothing to do with human rights, because they fill the pockets of people in the rich countries. The world needs a comprehensive definition of universal human rights, which should include the right to get cheap medicine and proper medical care, the right to equal market access for developing citizens, the right to be free of the disasters created by speculators and other unscrupulous traders, the right to protection of forests and control of fishing and the right to protecting our environment as a whole. The list can go on. China Daily