Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ASEAN mechanism must help junta overcome fear of being invaded by food and medicine

SAPA STATEMENT: May 21, 2008


On Monday, May 19, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers met in Singapore to
discuss how best to assist Burma after the cyclone Nargis disaster.
ASEAN established a coordinating mechanism to help facilitate the
distribution and utilization of humanitarian aid into Burma, on the
basis of which Burmese generals agreed to receive international assistance.

While SAPA welcomes the development, it wants the mechanism to
involve the participation of aid agencies and civil society groups
from ASEAN and its dialogue partners in aid efforts, particularly in
rehabilitation programs.

SAPA further calls on ASEAN to ensure that its newly-established
coordinating mechanism will immediately lead to the free movement of
aid supplies and workers to help all 2.5 million survivors of Cyclone
Nargis, as well as the dismantling of all restrictions on aid. A
commonly-agreed protocol must be established for an ASEAN Task Force,
headed by ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan, to be empowered as
a deliberating and decision-making body. This must be established as
a matter of urgency, before the 25 May donors meeting, to allow
donors to make informed and realistic proposals.

It is essential that ASEAN helps the regime overcome its paranoia of
being invaded by clean water, plastic sheeting, food and medicines.
Decisive steps on this will signal to the people of Burma that ASEAN
is indeed working for their benefit.

SAPA is concerned that the ASEAN-led mechanism is not misused as a
means to shield the Burmese junta from its obligation to cooperate
with the international community. ASEAN has said that international
assistance should not be politicized, therefore it must ensure that
help reaches those in need, regardless of their political
affiliation, ethnicity or religion. ASEAN must also be prepared to
work with all stakeholders to guarantee accountability and
transparency so that aid is not used to coerce or induce people to
join militias or junta-aligned groups.

In the 17 days since Cyclone Nargis devastated one of the most
densely populated and economically significant zones in Burma, the
junta has denied aid to most of the survivors, choosing instead to
focus its resources on a sham referendum. It has refused to accept
assistance offered in good faith by ASEAN dialogue partners, and has
even declined to take the phone calls of the UN Secretary General.

The cyclone-affected communities will not be able to survive any
recurrence of such tactics. The governments of ASEAN and the
international community must not tolerate anymore delays.


*ASEAN Dialogue Partners are Australia, Canada, China, European
Union, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Pakistan, Russian Federation
and the United States.

*SAPA previously made a statement on Cyclone Nargis on May 16.

SAPA Working Group on the ASEAN, together with:


Burma Partnership

Focus on the Global South

Forum-Asia. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development

Human Rights Working Group, Indonesia

IID Initiatives for International Dialogue

MFA Migrant Forum in Asia

SEACA South East Asian Committee for Advocacy

SUARAM Suara Rakyat Malaysia

SWAN Shan Womens Action Network

About SAPA:

Founded in 2006, SAPA or the Solidarity for Asian Peoples Advocacies
is an open networking platform for civil society advocacies with
governments and inter-governmental organizations in Asia. SAPA works
through functional groups: the Working Group on ASEAN, the Working
Group on Migration and Labor, the Working Group on the UN, the Task
Force on Human Rights in ASEAN, and the Task Force on Migration in ASEAN.

For more information, please contact:

BURMA PARTNERSHIP: Khin Ohmar + 6681 884 0772

SWAN/ SHAN WOMENS ACTION NETWORK: Charm Tong , +6681 603 6655

ALTSEAN BURMA: Debbie Stothard <> +6681 686 1652 or
Anelyn de Luna

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