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ASEAN Intervention on Burma Starts Now!

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At the 1st Regional Consultation of ASEAN and Human Rights (26 – 28 August 2007) organised by FORUM-ASIA and SUARAM (a FORUM-ASIA member), 23 organisations and individuals endorsed an open letter demanding the Burmese government release all protesters detained for demonstrating against state decision to increase fuel prices. They also called on the ASEAN members to intervene to uphold democracy and human rights to the people of Burma and mark a new beginning for ASEAN’s 40th anniversary.


To: ASEAN Heads of State,

H.M. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang di Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam
H.E. Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia
H.E. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Republic of Indonesia
H.E. Bounyang Vorachith, Prime Minister of the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos
H.E. Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia
H.E. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of Republic of Philippines
H.E. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore
H.E. Surayud Chulanont, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand
H.E. Nguyễn Tấn Dũng, Prime Minister of Socialist Republic of Vietnam

Mr. Ong Keng Yong, Secretary General of ASEAN
Mr. Termsak Chalermpalanupap, Special Assistant to the ASEAN Secretary-General
Mr. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations
Ms. Louise Arbour, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, Special Adviser to the Secretary General on Myanmar
Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar
Ms. Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders
Mr. Homayoun Alizadeh, OHCHR Regional Representative for Southeast Asia

Subject: ASEAN intervention on Burma starts now!

We, representing 23 organizations participating in the 1st Regional Consultation on ASEAN and Human Rights from 26 – 28 August 2007 in Kuala Lumpur organised by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) and SUARAM, its member organization in Malaysia, are joining the international community in demanding that the Burmese government release all protesters currently detained for demonstrating against the government’s sudden decision to increase fuel prices and express our deep concern over the treatment and whereabouts of those detained.

Since the first peaceful marching that took place in Rangoon on 19 August, the junta has summoned its pseudo-civilian proxy, the Union Solidarity Development Association (USDA), to harass and provoke through the use of unnecessary force upon all demonstrators, including women and children. Many have been detained and taken to unknown locations, some of whom were prominent pro-democracy activists during the 1988 uprising, including Mr. Ko Ko Gyi, Ms. Phyu Phyu Thinn, Ms Aye Aye Than, Ms Sandar Minn, U Myint Aye, Mr Min Ko Naing, Mr. Ko Ko Gyi and Mr. Aung Kyaw Oo. We are concerned that future protesters will fall victim to such treatment as demonstrations against the fuel price increases spread throughout the country.

According to reliable sources, some 65 human rights defenders (HRDs), mostly coming from the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) party and the 88 Generation Students, have been harassed and unlawfully arrestedi. About thirteen of these HRDs have been sent to Insein Prison, where they could face up to 20 years imprisonmentii. We believe that the ASEAN is the most relevant body to address this issue. It is the responsibility of this intergovernmental organization to be more proactive in raising concerns and responding to this situation diplomatically. This is particularly pertinent at this point in time for ASEAN celebrates its 40th anniversary and is in the process of drafting an ASEAN Charter to help realize the goal of creating a caring and sharing community.

ASEAN members should help Burma uphold the principles of democracy and the rule of law by urging the Burmese government to respect the freedom of assembly, freedom of expression and the right to information. We are urging ASEAN to exercise its duty as an intergovernmental organization to immediately respond to this situation and avoid a repetition of the 1988 massacre. Indeed, this should be seen as a litmus test of ASEAN’s sincerity in pursuing democracy and human rights in the region.

In light of the upcoming ASEAN Charter and the 13th ASEAN Summit, ASEAN as a regional entity must make its position clear regarding Burma’s continuous human rights violations which also endanger regional peace and security. Let the gift of democracy and human rights to the people of Burma mark a new beginning for ASEAN in its 40th anniversary.

For more information, please contact:

Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, FORUM-ASIA, +66 (0)2 391 8801, [email protected]
Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director, SUARAM, + 60 (0)3 7784 3525, [email protected]
Aung Myo Min, Director, HREIB, +66 (0)8 1992 5293 (Thailand) and +60 017650 3807 (Malaysia), [email protected]

The letter is endorsed by 23 organizations and individuals attending the 1st Regional Consultation of ASEAN and Human Rights from 26 – 28 August 2007 in Kuala Lumpur.

  1. Aliansi Jurnalis Independen (AJI), Indonesia
  2. Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma (ALTSEAN-Burma), Thailand
  3. Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), Thailand
  4. Associate Professor Miriam Coronel Ferrer, University of the Philippines (UP), Philippines
  5. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Cambodia
  6. Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility – Asia (CARAM Asia), Malaysia
  7. Empowering People for Strong Civil Society (People Empowerment), Thailand
  8. Focus on the Global South (FGS), Philippines
  9. Human Rights Education Institute of Burma (HREIB), Thailand
  10. Indonesia’s NGO Coalition for International Human Rights Advocacy (HRWG), Indonesia
  11. Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC), Nepal
  12. Judicial System Monitoring Programme (JSMP), Timor Leste
  13. Komisi Untuk Orang Hilang dan Korban Tindak Kekerasan (KONTRAS), Indonesia
  14. Malaysia Youth & Student Democratic Movement (DEMA), Malaysia
  15. Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), Philippines
  16. Monitoring Sustainability of GlobalisatioN (MSN), Malaysia
  17. Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM), Malaysia
  18. Perhimpunan Bantuan Hukum dan Hak Asasi Manusia Indonesia (PBHI), Indonesia
  19. PILIPINA Legal Resources Centre (PLRC), Philippines
  20. Pusat Komunikasi Masyarakat (KOMAS), Malaysia
  21. Task-Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP), Philippines
  22. Think Centre, Singapore
  23. Yayasan Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Indonesia (YLBHI), Indonesia

i “Analysts say fuel protests in Myanmar pose no immediate threat to junta.” International Herald Tribune, 26 August 2007.
ii Burmese Police Patrol Rangoon Following Protests. VOA News, 26 August 2007.