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ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum Withdraws from Interface with Heads of Government

By ACSC/APF 2014 Regional Steering Committee  •  May 10, 2014

We, the Regional Steering Committee and Interface Delegates of ACSC/APF 2014, after consultations on 9 -10 May in Yangon, unanimously decided to withdraw from the Interface Meeting with ASEAN Heads of Government. The 30-minute interface was scheduled to be held at 3pm on Sunday, May 11, during the 24th ASEAN Summit in Naypyidaw. We are sad that we have to cancel our participation in the Interface meeting as the collective representatives of ACSC/APF 2014.

The main reason we reluctantly withdraw from this Interface is that three ASEAN member states are poised to substitute 3 delegates of civil society with their own nominees, in clear breach of the principles that we have frequently reiterated. A delegation of the Regional Steering Committee traveled to Naypyidaw twice, on 8 and 30 April, where they emphasized the 4 principles: Meaningful dialogue, Advancing People’s Voices and Advocacy, Mutual Respect and Self-selection, as they met with the ASEAN Affairs Department of the Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The delegation felt encouraged and positive during the trips despite earlier reservations. We therefore continued our discussions with the Department and cooperated to have a meaningful interface meeting. However, as of today, our discussions have led us to a conclusion that our principles have been violated.

We were willing to be flexible with our governments. We were willing to accept that some delegates chosen by civil society could be rejected by governments, as long as the seats of those rejected will be vacant. However we are not willing to accept that the governments concerned have apparently decided to replace our rejected delegates with their own nominees.

We fully appreciate the commitment of the ASEAN Member Countries who have agreed and approved the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN Peoples’ Forum Interface Delegates from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. However, it is very troubling for us that Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore have rejected our representatives from their countries and arranged to substitute them with their own nominees. We regret that these governments have undermined the good faith of the host Myanmar authorities in trying to organize the interface meeting.

We therefore officially withdraw as regional civil society from the Interface and regret that Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore have failed to uphold their commitment to a people-centered ASEAN. We understand that individual delegates may have to be present for the interface as individuals and not representatives of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN Peoples’ Forum.

We still regard the ACSC/APF 2014, held at the Myanmar Convention Centre in Yangon on March 21-23, attended by more than 3,000 participants from Myanmar and the region, to be a success. Our main focus is to work together as a people-centered regional civil society under the theme “Advancing ASEAN Peoples’ Solidarity toward Sustainable Peace, Development, Justice and Democratization.”  We are very proud of the regional solidarity and cooperation at the conference which had 4 plenary sessions and 35 workshops on 4 themes of Peace, Justice and Human Rights, Development, and Democratization. While we are sorry that it was not possible for ASEAN governments to interface with us according to four basic principles, this has not been the ultimate focus of the conference.

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