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Statement from the Burma/Myanmar Delegation to the Solidarity for Asian Peoples Advocacy (SAPA) Workshops in Relation to the 21st ASEAN Summit in Cambodia

By Task Force on ASEAN and Burma  •  November 16, 2012

This week, under the aegis of the ASEAN Grassroots Peoples Assembly, the Solidarity for Asian Peoples Advocacy (SAPA) organized four regional workshops. The SAPA workshops offered a free, independent and inclusive platform for regional and national civil society organizations and communities to discuss issues related to business and human rights, the draft ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, peace and trade justice, and to formulate joint recommendations to ASEAN leaders.

During the 21st ASEAN Summit, the regional block is set to adopt the draft of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. The draft in its current form does not meet international standards and puts broad and excessive restrictions upon the enjoyment of fundamental rights of ASEAN peoples.

ASEAN leaders will also negotiate free trade and investments agreements while existing development projects are already generating human rights violations and creating adverse impacts on peoples’ access to land and natural resources.

Meanwhile, civil society organizations and grassroots groups have been facing excessive challenges when trying to contribute and engage with ASEAN. Authorities in Cambodia have had power cut on civil society meetings, pressured venues to cancel bookings and guesthouses to turn away participants. These restrictions placed on peoples’ fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly and association in parallel to the ASEAN Summit are a sad illustration of the overall human rights situation in the region.

This is an alarming forecast of what could happen during Burma/Myanmar’s chairmanship of the regional bloc in 2014. Despite the fragile changes that have taken place in the country over the last year, civil society organizations and grassroots organizations are still arrested, prosecuted, harassed and threatened because of their work for the promotion and protection of human rights. Thirteen peace activists are currently facing prosecution for organizing peaceful demonstrations on International Peace Day without authorization. Freedom of expression is still an illusion for independent voices and oppressive laws are still on the book. The flood of foreign investments that is beginning to enter Burma/Myanmar along with the reengagement of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank are also an increasing factor of human rights violations throughout the country.

We therefore urge ASEAN leaders to:

  • Extend the drafting process of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration and engage in further rounds of genuine discussions and consultations with civil society organizations;
  • Review existing national laws to ensure that corporate investments and activities are in compliance with international human rights laws and standards;
  • Ensure that all individuals, men and women, and local communities affected by business projects have adequate participation and representation within the business and human rights framework, and ensure access to effective remedy and redress, including through judicial, administrative, legislative, or other means for those whose human rights have been violated;
  • Respect the rights of migrant workers and their families;
  • Respect the right to freedom of speech and assembly of the independent civil society and the people of ASEAN.

In preparation of Burma/Myanmar chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014 we urge the government of Burma/Myanmar to:

  • Ensure that civil society and community based organizations’ preparations for genuine and independent participation in the ASEAN processes during Burma/Myanmar’s chairmanship in 2014 is free from intimidation and harassment;
  • Ensure and promote free and meaningful participation of the people of Burma/Myanmar and regional independent civil society in ASEAN processes in 2014 and in the country’s transition process;
  • Put an end to all human rights violations throughout the country and in particular violations of the freedom of expression, assembly and association;
  • Unconditionally release and rehabilitate all political prisoners and immediately stop intimidation and surveillance of those who have been released;
  • Amend or repeal those laws and provisions of the 2008 Constitution that are in contradiction with international human rights standards and ratify and implement international human rights treaties and conventions;
  • Withdraw Burma Army troops from ethnic areas and reach a nationwide ceasefire that addresses the root political causes of conflict with ethnic armed groups;
  • Provide aid to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in all conflict affected areas and permit international and local NGOs to deliver humanitarian assistance;
  • Address the issue of truth and accountability for human rights abuses and put an end to the ability of the Burma Army to perpetrate crimes with impunity;
  • Ensure that refugees play a decisive and meaningful role in the preparation and implementation of the repatriation process to guarantee the free and voluntary return of refugees in safety and dignity;
  • Ensure that development projects and international financial institutions (IFIs) take into account local communities’ needs and rights, do not exacerbate conflict, respect international environmental and human rights standards, protect peoples’ access to livelihood and natural resources, and are conducted in a transparent manner and with the informed consent of the local populations;
  • Put an end to the widespread land confiscations taking place throughout the country in the name of development and ensure the protection of land and housing rights by reviewing laws that restrict peoples’ rights to property and access to land.

Wong Aung, Burma Environmental Working Group (BEWG): + 66 857133344
Lway Aye Nang, Palaung Women’s Organization (PWO): + 66 801159598

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This post is in: ASEAN, Press Release

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