Rights groups condemn Asean

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Bangkok Post 20 October 2009


CHA-AM : Civil society organisations covering Southeast Asia have criticised many Asean members for their lack of transparency in nominating national representatives to the Asean Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights.

Instead of nominating delegates who work in the field of human rights, several Asean governments had appointed, or influenced the selection of, diplomats or officials as their choices, they said in a meeting of the Asean People's Forum in Cha-am.

Some of the known commission representatives include legal expert Om Yentien from Cambodia, Rafendi Djamin from Indonesia's Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy, Deputy Foreign Minister Boungerd Sangsomsak from Laos, former senator and academic Wigberto Tanada from the Philippines, Richard Magnus from Singapore and Sriprapha Petcharamesree from Thailand.

The civil society organisations also expressed concern about the Burmese government's meddling with non-governmental organisations in the nomination of delegates to a meeting with Asean leaders on Friday.

Burmese junta-sponsored NGOs, including the Union Solidarity and Development Association, the Anti-Narcotics Association and the Federation of Womens Affairs, were present at the NGO nomination meeting yesterday.

Although they were outnumbered by exiled Burmese activists, the groups presented a powerful front, demanding that only a representative of the Burmese NGOs be selected and that they be a Burmese national and speak the Burmese language.

Some NGOs based outside Burma suggested that Ashin Sopaka from the International Burmese Monks Organisation represent the Burmese NGOs at the meeting with the Asean leaders. But the Burmese NGOs based in Burma objected strongly saying they had already proposed Shwe Shwe Sein Latt to the Burmese and Thai foreign ministries.

The Burmese exile groups said they would still choose their own representative, Khin Omar, to attend the meeting.

The Asean civil society organisations made up of 18 core groups also called for the launch of the fourth pillar, the environment, in building up the Asean Community by 2015. The other three pillars are the socio-cultural, economic, and political and security aspects.

The Towards Ecological Recovery and the regional Alliance and the Alternative Agriculture Network-Thailand are spearheading the proposal which calls for all 10 Asean members to embrace internationally recognised standards in deciding on megaprojects or action on climate change and biodiversity.

The NGOs asked for a review of the Asean Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation 2010-2015 to pay more attention to energy efficiency, demand side management and renewable energy technologies in order not to harm the environment.

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Writer: Achara Ashayagachat