International Campaign for Freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi and Burma


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Weekly Highlights: ACSC/APF 2014 is Burma’s Chance to Set a Positive Benchmark for ASEAN Civil Society

 

 

Weekly Highlights

ACSC/APF 2014 is Burma's Chance to Set a Positive Benchmark for ASEAN Civl Society

On 21-23 March, the 2014 ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC), otherwise known as the ASEAN People's Forum (APF), will take place in Rangoon, Burma.  The ACSC/APF is held annually by the ASEAN Chair country – currently Burma – in advance of and parallel to the official ASEAN Summit, which will be held in May and attended by ASEAN and regional leaders.

The ACSC/APF is the showcase event for the ASEAN civil society community.  Civil society actors from across the ten ASEAN countries, as well as Timor Leste, and beyond will be coming to Rangoon to attend a range of programs, events and workshops on a variety of ASEAN issues.   Their mandate is to represent the voices of the people of ASEAN.  The theme of this year's ACSC/APF is "Advancing ASEAN People's Solidarity toward sustainable peace, development, justice and democratization".

In October 2013, at the end of the most recent East Asia Summit, when President Thein Sein accepted the gavel that symbolizes the ASEAN presidency, the Burma government reaffirmed to ASEAN and the international community that Burma was ready to assume the ASEAN Chairmanship.  In addition to hosting high-level political meetings, holding the ASEAN Chairmanship entails accepting the responsibility of hosting the ACSC/APF, which also falls on civil society.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that the Chairmanship was a "good opportunity" for Burma to build on its socio-economic and political reforms and to advance its democratic transition, while also acknowledging the many challenges that Burma still faces.

The ACSC/APF is indeed one of the tougher challenges of holding the ASEAN Chair.  It is a challenge to which some countries have spectacularly failed to rise to in recent years.  In March 2012, during Cambodia's year as ASEAN Chair, the APF (as it was then) descended into farce, as fundamental freedoms were repressed, guest houses closed their door to participants, workshops were cancelled, and host venues suddenly refused to honor their commitments in the face of pressure from the Cambodian government.  Lasting impressions of the 2012 APF are of confused civil society participants wandering the streets of Phnom Penh trying to find hastily re-arranged workshop venues.  The Cambodian government saw the APF as a threat, and decided to disrupt proceedings, but ended up with egg on its face: these chaotic events did nothing for Cambodia's international reputation and set the tone for its shambolic year as ASEAN Chair.

Burma can avoid such mistakes.  Indeed, it is in a strong position to set a positive benchmark for the future of ASEAN civil society.  Now is not a time for mistrust and fear, but a time for trust-building and positivity, for allowing people space to express their concerns and their hopes, and to propose their own recommendations and solutions to ASEAN issues.  A successful ACSC/APF will go a long way to establishing Burma's reputation and credibility on the regional and international stage.  A successful ACSC/APF will also strengthen the Burma people's faith in their government, because it represents one of the stiffer tests of the sincerity of Burma's reforms.  In other words, whether or not this ACSC/APF 2014 is held successfully, free of government control and intervention, will be a clear indicator as to how genuine are the reforms taking place in the country, which was under the iron fist of the military regime until only three years ago.  Furthermore, a successful ACSC/APF will inspire the people of other ASEAN countries to expect similar democratic standards from their own governments in future.

The ACSC/APF is a vital component of the ASEAN project.  A vibrant and free civil society is not a threat to governments; rather it is a necessary democratic counter-balance that strengthens governmental leadership, empowers the people, and allows every man, woman and child to be invested in ASEAN.  On the other hand, a stifled and fettered civil society would contravene the ASEAN Charter – signed by all Member States in November 2007 – one of whose principal objectives under Article 1.13 is: "To promote a people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in, and benefit from, the process of ASEAN integration and community building."  The ACSC/APF 2014 is Burma's opportunity to honor the ASEAN Charter and become a true leader within the ASEAN community.

News Highlights

 

Constitution review committee will not focus on a section that effectively gives the military veto power over constitutional change

 

Inside Burma

Government's final investigation into the massacre at Duu Chee Yar Tan Village in Arakan State vehemently denies killings and attacks the UN and MSF, as well as media outlets

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi says media responsibility is as lacking in Burma as press freedom and that establishing the rule of law is the only solution to the crisis in Arakan State

A committee comprising both government and ethnic armed group representatives is formed to work together to draft a nationwide ceasefire agreement but the Shan State Army-South state that they will negotiate a separate ceasefire deal

Ethnic Chin workers, working on the China-Burma oil pipeline who were arrested after fighting with Chinese workers, were forced to confess after torture a court hears

Housing department plans to build 30,000 low-cost homes on the outskirts of Rangoon

National census is completed early in three remote parts of Burma

Regional

 

Hong Kong textile manufacturer to build an industrial park at Thilawa Special Economic Zone, aiming to employ 30,000 Burmese workers at much lower salaries than in China

 

International

NLD seeks Australian support for constitutional reform push

Swiss Ambassador to Burma criticizes the lack of women involved in the peace process

A US-based campaign group postpones a campaign to reestablish MSF operations in Arakan State, citing progress in negotiations with the government

Opinion

Burma's Ethnic Persecution is State Policy

By Matthew Smith
Wall Street Journal

For Burma Muslim Minority, No Escape From Brutality
By Jane Perlez
The New York Times

The Rohingya Crisis: Finding a Way Forward
By Michel Gabaudan
The Huffington Post

Latest from the Blog

Burma Government's Decision to Ban MSF from Arakan State is Deplorable and Risks an Even Greater Humanitarian Crisis
By Burma Partnership

Actions

TAKE ACTION! Write a letter to UK Foreign Secretary William Hague to back a new permanent independent political prisoner review committee to be set up in Burma

TAKE ACTION! Support Auntie Pamela's Sky Dive for Burma to raise awareness about the situation in Burma

Villagers from Myaung Byo to File Court Case Over Damages Caused from Mining Project

On International Day of Action for Rivers, demonstrations involving over 34,000 people are conducted up and down the Salween river to oppose the environmental destruction that planned dams and mining activities will incur

Statements and Press Releases

Myanmar: Need for Permission Dropped from Assembly Law

By ARTICLE 19

BURMA/MYANMAR: No Rule of Law via Special Branch, Militarised Police
By Asian Human Rights Commission

Karen Worldwide Call for Burma's Census to be Postponed
By Burma Campaign UK

67yr-old Refugee From Burma Does 2 Mile High Fundraising Parachute Jump
By Burma Campaign UK

Open Letter from Myanmar/Burma Civil Society to the Member States of the United Nations Human Rights Council Regarding the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar/Burma
By Burma Partnership

Press Statement on International Day of Action for Rivers and Against Dams
 By Burma Rivers Network

UN Human Rights Council Burma Resolution Must Not Drop Demands For Action
By European Burma Network

UN: Request for Burmese Peacekeepers Misguided
By Human Rights Watch

Burma's Government Must Suspend All Dam Plans on the Salween River
By Karenni Civil Soceity Network

Reports

Report A/HRC/25/64 to the UN Human Rights Council

By the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar

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As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,

As Daw Aung San Suu Kyi proclaimed,
"Justice is a dream. But it is a dream we are determined to realize."