PHUKET, Thailand (AFP) - Southeast Asian foreign ministers endorsed the regions first human rights watchdog Monday, rejecting criticisms that the body would be powerless to tackle rogue members such as Myanmar. Officials also urged North Korea to return to talks on its nuclear programme and they condemned the hotel bombings in Jakarta after meeting on the Thai resort island of Phuket, ahead of Asias main security forum this week. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will officially launch its long-awaited rights commission at a summit in October after years of claims that it is too soft on military-ruled Myanmar and communist Vietnam and Laos. But rights groups said the proposed watchdog lacks teeth to punish violators, has no monitoring powers and would merely make the blocs members provide internal reports on rights conditions inside their countries. Its better to make a start than to leave this hanging with no progress at all, Thai premier and ASEAN chairman Abhisit Vejjajiva said, shortly before officials confirmed that ministers endorsed the body at their talks on Monday. He added that the commission would first focus on the promotion of human rights and then the next step obviously once that is put into place, is that there will be more teeth for the body in terms of protection of rights. Myanmar has been a thorn in the side of ASEAN since it joined in 1997 because of its detention of more than 2,000 political prisoners, including pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The junta caused fresh headaches for the bloc by putting the Nobel peace laureate on trial following an incident in which an American man swam to her lakeside house in May. She faces up to five years in jail. ASEAN has been hamstrung throughout its 42-year history by its guiding principle of non-interference in members internal affairs. The rights commission is being set up under a new ASEAN charter agreed in December. Rights groups said the new bodys remit fell short of international standards. The human rights body is born, but it needs a lot of careful care so that it can become a mechanism with teeth and not become toothless, Rafendi Djamin, of the regional group Solidarity for Asian Peoples Advocacy, told AFP. Splits emerged in ASEANs normally placid facade on Sunday as Indonesia objected to the final terms for the rights body and Myanmar protested against changes wanted by the Indonesians, diplomats said. A statement issued by the ASEAN ministers urged Myanmar to free all detainees including Aung San Suu Kyi thereby paving the way for genuine reconciliation and meaningful dialogue ahead of elections planned in 2010. The statement also urged North Korea to return to six-party talks on its weapons programme and comply with UN Security Council resolutions. Pyongyangs foreign minister has declined to attend Thursdays ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in Phuket, which groups 27 nations including the United States, and is sending an ambassador-at-large. North Korea quit the talks with the US, South Korea, China, Russia, and Japan after the Security Council censured its April 5 long-range rocket launch. It staged its second nuclear test on May 25. Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said that a five-member North Korean delegation was still coming and expressed hopes that ASEAN could help move the stalled talks forward. The statement also vowed to step up the fight against terrorism following the bombings of the Marriott and Ritz-Carlton hotels in Jakarta on Friday in which two suicide bombers killed seven people and wounded dozens more. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due in Phuket on Wednesday for the ARF. The ASEAN statement welcomed the planned signing of a so-called treaty of amity and cooperation with the United States at the forum this week. Thousands of police and troops remained on duty to prevent a repeat of anti-government protests that derailed an Asian summit in April.