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Open Letter to The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Royal Government of Cambodia

By Cambodian Civil Society Working Group on ASEAN  •  May 8, 2014

Open Letter

8th May 2014

To: The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Royal Government of Cambodia

From: The Cambodian Civil Society Working Group on ASEAN

Subject: We request the Cambodian CSO Delegate for the Interface be recognized, or, the reason for rejecting the Cambodian CSO Delegate for the Interface. We request the Interface seat remain unoccupied if our delegate is not approved.

The Cambodian Civil Society Working Group on ASEAN (CCWA) was formally initiated on 29 April 2013, to form a working network of Cambodian civil society organizations that play a critical role in ASEAN platforms and other regional civil society work. CCWA consists of nine NGOs including the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), the Cambodian Human Rights Action Committee (CHRAC), Cambodian Volunteers for Society (CVS), the NGO Coalition on the Rights of the Child (NGOCRC), the NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF), SILAKA, STAR Kampuchea, Youth for Peace (YFP), and the Youth Resources and Development Program (YRDP). One aspect of the work of the CCWA is participation in the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF), held each year to give space to CSOs to express their concerns at national and regional levels and to collaborate in creating a joint statement to ASEAN leaders.

The Interface meeting is an additional dialogue between CSOs and ASEAN leaders, which was introduced by the Government of Thailand. On 22 March 2014, at the ACSC/APF in Myanmar, over 70 participants from Cambodian CSOs representing diverse groups and networks such as women, youth, LGBT, indigenous people, people with disability and marginalized groups came together to select our representative to the Interface meeting. Ms. Thida Khus, SILAKA Executive Director, was selected as the Interface Delegate to represent Cambodian CSOs. Mr. Tek Vannara, NGO Forum Executive Director, was named her alternative. The selection of the Interface Delegate was in keeping with the national process of democratic procedure within CSOs, which is meant to ensure meaningful dialogue with mutual respect and the rights to a CSO representative who presents the people’s voice.

Unfortunately, the Cambodian Government has rejected our selection of Ms. Thida Khus as our Delegate to the upcoming Interface meeting to be held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar on 11st May 2014. The Cambodian Government proposes replacing Ms. Khus with a delegate of the government’s choosing. However, at the meeting in Yangon at which we chose our delegate we also collectively decided that should the Cambodian Government reject our delegate no substitute should take her seat, and that in such a case the Cambodian delegate’s seat should remain empty.

ASEAN Charter Article 1.13 supports a people-orientated ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate and from which all will benefit.  We believed the engagement of independent CSOs in every aspect of ASEAN’s process effectively benefits the people. CSOs are agents that bring the concerns of the people to the fore giving voice to the people, especially at a grass-roots level. CSOs can help ASEAN improve planning, policy development and accountability. Good collaboration between CSOs and government will lead to the positive growth in our country that is our common goal. In the name of democracy we must promote and protect human rights as a crucial aspect of justice in our country. Cambodia’s international reputation is enhanced when we are recognized as free of human rights violation.

We want to confirm that our Interface Delegates will not be substituted. Substitution of our chosen delegates with those chosen by the government would violate our right to autonomy and undermine our existence as independent CSOs and people’s movements in the region. Therefore, we make these requests of the Cambodia Government and the other ASEAN member states:

1.       Please recognize the Interface Delegates democratically chosen by Cambodian CSOs.

2.       Please give us an appropriate reason our representative was rejected.

3.       Please leave the Cambodian seat at the Interface meeting unoccupied rather than substitute our chosen delegate for a government-selected delegate.

4.       Please be open and transparent.

5.       Please initiate a CSO engagement process in ASEAN consistent with the model of the CCWA.

Thanks for your kind attention and understanding. We are looking forward to hear from you.

Sincerely Yours,
On the behalf of CCWA
Signed by Core Member of CCWA

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This post is in: ASEAN, Press Release

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