Burma Partnership, Strengthening Cooperation for a Free Burma
Signup Now!
Join our mailing list for latest news and information about Burma.

Varied Challenges to Civil Liberties Persist in ASEAN; Vietnamese Debate Human Rights and State Progress

By Burma Partnership  •  May 4, 2011

JAKARTA, May 4 – Civil Liberties in Southeast Asia are under threat from government policies and actions, according to civil society participants of the “Challenges to Civil Liberties in the ASEAN Region” workshop on the 2nd day of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference / ASEAN People’s Forum 2011.

Panelists presented civil liberties situations of their countries and the region, covering such issues as religious conflict and persecution, freedom of expression, torture, political imprisonment, and fair trial.

Using examples from southern Thailand, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia, Ahmad Suaedy, Director of the Wahid Institute in Indonesia, outlined problems arising from religious interference in political affairs.

In Thailand, those in power have undermined open political dialogue and limited freedom of expression through a “web of regulative censorship”, explained Thai media scholar, Ubonrat Siriyuvasak. As a result, a “climate of fear” persists.

Former political prisoner, Aung Khaing Min, weaved his personal story of political activism and imprisonment with an overview of the severely poor civil liberties situation in Burma, where peaceful assembly is met with violent repression and 2,061 political activists are being detained in appalling conditions.

Some progress has been made in the region, however.  Though problems of torture and fair trial persist in Indonesia, for example, several laws have been put in place to protect human rights, and some funds for legal aid for the poor are being distributed, said Erna Ratnaningsih of the Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation.

With several issues discussed, the session was not without contentious debate.  More than one Vietnamese participant took issue with the presentation from the Vietnamese Committee on Human Rights that described Vietnam’s increasingly sophisticated methods of political repression.

Responding to the panelist’s calls for human rights and democracy in Vietnam, one Vietnamese in attendance criticized what he saw as disguised and “foreign-controlled” efforts to subvert the Vietnamese government, spurring comments from others about the priority of people’s rights over the preservation of states. Another extolled progress made by the Vietnamese government, in contrast to information from the panel as well as others in attendance.

Nearly 100 people from several countries in Southeast Asia participated in the workshop.

Tags: , , ,

This post is in: ASEAN

Related Posts
“People-Oriented” ASEAN Undermines Civil Society Efforts at Regional Conference
Letter to Permanent Representative of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to ASEAN
Statement of Representatives of 2011 ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum to the Informal Meeting Between ASEAN Leaders and Civil Society
The Rocky Road to Interface
Statement of the 2011 Asean Civil Society Conference/Asean Peoples’ Forum