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Civil Society Calls on Leaders to Promote a People-Centered ASEAN During Burma/Myanmar’s Chairmanship in 2014

By Task Force on ASEAN and Burma, Burma Partnership and Altsean-Burma  •  April 4, 2012

Two hundred and sixty-three (263) people signed a letter urging ASEAN Heads of State to promote a genuine people-centered ASEAN and the free and meaningful participation of the regional civil society during Burma/Myanmar’s chairmanship of the regional bloc in 2014. The letter was signed by participants of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF 2012) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, from 29 to 31 March.

The letter highlighted that despite some encouraging developments recently, Burma/Myanmar remains a country where systematic and widespread human rights violations that may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes take place, and there is no political space and freedom. Recent negotiations between the government and ethnic armed groups have not ended armed conflict or attacks against ethnic civilians; easing of media censorship has not been accompanied by legislative reforms; repressive laws remain on the books and hundreds of political prisoners remain in jail. People continue to fear arrest for their political activities, thus limiting their ability to participate freely in public life.

“This raises serious concerns about what an ACSC/APF would be like in Burma in 2014,” said Khin Ohmar, Coordinator of Burma Partnership. “Our experience in Phnom Penh made it clear that ASEAN governments don’t care about protecting the freedom of expression. Just imagine what will happen in Burma where this right is already violated on a daily basis.”

Pressure from authorities forced the last-minute relocation of a workshop organized by the Task Force on ASEAN and Burma, Burma Partnership, Altsean-Buma, and the Cambodian Human Rights & Development Association at the ACSC/APF, along with three other workshops focusing on land rights, eviction and environment issues.

“ASEAN governments have shown their unwillingness to engage with civil society in the past couple of years, but this year, they have sunk to a new low. It is shameful that they only met with government-selected individuals who do not even represent each country’s real civil society, and furthermore, they limited the topics open for discussion,” said Aung Myo Min, Coordinator of the Task Force on ASEAN and Burma.

The letter urges the bloc’s leaders to take an active role in promoting a genuinely people-centered ASEAN and the free and meaningful participation of regional civil society during Burma/Myanmar’s chairmanship. The signatories called on ASEAN Heads of State to urge President Thein Sein to unconditionally release and rehabilitate all political prisoners, stop intimidation and surveillance of those who have been released, reach a nationwide ceasefire, address the issue of accountability for human rights abuses and end impunity, and amend or repeal those laws that restrict the fundamental freedoms of the people of Burma/Myanmar.

“These are essential steps that must be taken on the path towards democracy and national reconciliation in Burma. Otherwise, the government will continue to stifle democracy and intensify the causes of conflict and displacement that have plagued the peoples of Burma and ASEAN for decades,” said Debbie Stothard, Coordinator of Altsean-Burma.

For more information, please contact: 

Khin Ohmar, Burma Partnership: +66 818840772
Aung Myo Min, Task Force on ASEAN and Burma: +66819925293
Debbie Stothard, Altsean-Burma: +66816861652

Read the letter here.

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This post is in: ASEAN, Press Release

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