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Updates from the ASEAN Peoples' Forum
27
Apr

THREATS TO PEOPLE-CENTRED ASEAN RAISED AT INTERFACE BETWEEN CIVIL SOCIETY AND ASEAN HEADS OF GOVERNMENT

Kuala Lumpur, Monday: Rising inequality and poverty, disappearances of human rights defenders, the acceleration of death penalty executions; the dangers of unmitigated free trade agreements; widespread corruption, increasingly fragile peace processes, the growth of religious extremism, land and natural resource grabs, the Rohingya stateless people, declining democratic practices, police brutality and unprofessional conduct continues in the region; discrimination, lack of coherent commitment to address climate change, the glorifying and strengthening of repressive colonial laws, and exploitation of migrant workers were raised today in an interface between ASEAN civil society representatives and heads of government.

Only the governments of Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar accepted civil society representatives selected by participants of the ASEAN Peoples Forum 2015, the largest annual gathering of regional civil society. The government of Cambodia rejected the APF representative and replaced her with a government official while the government of Singapore selected its own representative on grounds that Singaporean civil society had not met the selection deadline.

APF 2015 Chair Mr Jerald Joseph, who delivered the statement on behalf of the civil society delegation emphasized the need for an institutional and a truly people centered framework: ” In the last 10 years since the 1st ACSC in Kuala Lumpur, the Interface has gone through some choppy roads and at many times been extremely disappointing by some governments… The post 2015 vision must come up with a framework for engagement with Heads of States and Ministerial meetings, in order for us to continue engaging with ASEAN states, in a mutuality of respect from 2016 onwards. ”

The civil society delegation reiterated the need for civil society and governments to work together as partners for a truly People-Centred and People-Driven ASEAN: “Don’t keep us out because we present a critical and honest evaluation on what we see, hear and feel on the ground. We are convinced that being open and transparent in our analysis and proposals, is the most constructive way forward.”

The civil society representatives were:

  • Brunei: Ms. Amal Nazirah Abd Mulok, Secretary General of Society for Community Outreach and Training (SCOT)
  • Indonesia: Ms. Anna Arifin, Head of Program Division of Arus Pelangi, Chair of the Board of Trustees of ASEAN SOGIE Caucus and a LGBTI Rights Defender.
  • Lao PDR: Dr.Maydom Chanthanasinh, Vice President of Phatthana Phasouk (Well-Being Development Foundation)
  • Malaysia: Mr. Jerald Joseph, ACSC/APF 2015 Chair of Regional Steering Committee/ Co-Chair of National Organizing Committee. Board member of an NGO Pusat Komas.
  • Myanmar: Dr. May Shi Sho (Ms.), Community Management Coordinator, Karen Development Network (KDN). Chairperson of Myanmar Civil Society Core Group on ASEAN.
  • Philippines: Dayang Karna M. Bahidjan, representative of Nisa Ul Haqq Fi Bangsamoro
  • Vietnam: Ms. Nguyen Thi Minh Chau, Permanent Member of Viet Nam’s Association for the Protection of Child Rights
  • *Thailand: Sattara Hattirat, Togetherness for Equality and Action (TEA), member of ACSC/APF 2015 Regional Drafting Committee that prepared the ACSC/APF 2015 CSO Statement. (Withdrew in solidarity over rejection of Cambodia and Singapore civil society reps)

Full text of the statement follows

Enquiries: Jerald Joseph +6012 2861 1715, Ren Chung Yu +601 0225 7971

ASEAN Head Of States Interface with Civil Society Organizations
26th ASEAN Summit Malaysia
27th April 2015,

Your Excellencies, it’s our pleasure to meet and greet the leaders of our nations. Thank you for this opportunity to have this honest dialogue.

We just completed a successful ASEAN Peoples Forum 2015 in Kuala Lumpur with 1500 people in attendance from all ASEAN countries, as well as about 500 people in the 4 preparatory meetings prior, with the support of Financial Assistance , without conditions, from the Prime Minister of Malaysia and other donors. I thank you.

We have been working together since September 2014 to prepare our selves for the Peoples Forum. We take our deliberations seriously and with integrity as civil society; and so too for this. We stand here having received the support of a larger ASEAN CSO community.

To that end we are pleased to announce that ONLY Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar interface representative here today enjoy the full support of the Asean People Forum 2015 process, that have gone through a CSO national process. We thank these governments.

In the last 10 years since the 1st ACSC in Kuala Lumpur, the Interface has gone through some choppy roads and at many times been extremely disappointing by some governments. Its time the CSO interface has an institutional and a truly people centered framework. We are ready to work with you on getting this framework ready. The post 2015 vision must come up with a framework for engagement with Heads of States and Ministerial meetings, in order for us to continue engaging with ASEAN states, in a mutuality of respect from 2016 onwards.

We note the positive engagement that has emerged this time around when Foreign Ministers received our final statement submitted 2.5 months ahead and hope that Your Excellencies, would provide some concrete response to our statement at this Summit. Therefore this year at this interface, unlike previous ones, we have no new document to present but only reaffirm the Final Statement as sent earlier to all governments on Feb 17th.

We note the many challenges in Asean. We remain concerned that inequality continues to rise despite the promise of the ASEAN regional integration. We are: worried with disappearances of human rights defenders without any information or accountability; the acceleration of death penalty executions; the dangers of unmitigated free trade agreements; widespread corruption in the region in the face of escalating poverty, worried about the fragile peace processes that are on the verge of collapse; alarmed at the growth of extremism in the name of religions that continue to be bred, observe the unabated exploitation of lands and waters for resources in the name of development; we are especially worried about the Rohingya stateless people in ASEAN region; anxious that a vibrant and truly democratic and multi party system is yet not in place in all nations; we remain shocked that police brutality and unprofessional conduct continues in the region; perplexed that till today there are still communities discriminated based on their ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity; enquire on the lack of coherent commitment to climate change agenda; the glorifying and strengthening of repressive colonial laws; exploitation of migrant workers…Your Excellencies the list goes on and so does our concerns.

Don’t get us wrong please. We remain hopeful that this wonderful region can and must surely improve. We bring to your attention what we see, hear and feel on the ground with the only intention that the peoples deserve better to reclaim their dignity and human rights.

These concerns, though painful for all of us, must be told, in order to find faster resolutions. Don’t keep us out because we present a critical and honest evaluation on what we see, hear and feel on the ground. We are convinced that being open and transparent in our analysis and proposals, is the most constructive way forward. We believe that adversarial notions against CSOs must change in the post 2015 vision. We engage governments as our representatives to deliver on its duties and obligations of human rights as States.

We believe that your excellencies share this same aspirations like us , as these have been inked in the ASEAN Charter since 2007. We too love our nations and its peoples.

For ASEAN to launch it community soon, we must truly believe that people are its core assets and anything to uphold their dignity and human rights is not a misplaced call, but a necessary ingredient for the growth of a people-centred community of people that ensures development and economic growth should not happen at the expense of the peoples.

Let us together work as partners for a truly People-Centred and People-Driven ASEAN.

I thank you and we look forward to this interactive time with Your Excellencies.

Jerald Joseph
CSO Representative of Malaysia and Chair of ACSC/APF 2015
Email : jjerald@pd.jaring.my
Mobile : +6012-2861715
Website : www.aseanpeople.org