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No bloody hands on an ASEAN Charter

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At the conclusion of the ASEAN + Civil Society Conference in Singapore on 4 November, over 200 participants from civil society organizations and trade unions from across Southeast Asia and beyond called upon the leaders of ASEAN to postpone the signing of the ASEAN Charter due to the Burmese junta's recent violent crackdown on peaceful protests.

(Singapore, 5 November 2007) Over 200 participants from civil society organizations and trade unions from across Southeast Asia and beyond have called upon the leaders of ASEAN to postpone the signing of the ASEAN Charter due to the Burmese junta’s recent violent crackdown on peaceful protests.

At the conclusion of the third ASEAN + Civil Society Conference (ACSC III) held in Singapore from 2-4 November, all participants agreed that the current political crisis in Burma must first be resolved in accordance with basic human rights standards before ASEAN’s leaders can sign a Charter for a “caring, sharing community”.

Participants urged ASEAN countries, particularly Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia, to do more than issue strong statements and to take concrete action, including the imposition of an arms embargo and the stemming of the flow of resources to the military junta. There was also a call on the Indonesian government, as current Chair of the UN Security Council, to advocate the imposition of sanctions and other targeted measures, and for ASEAN to place more pressure on China and India to take concrete measures to bring the Burmese military generals to engage in a democratic process of reform.

Apart from the focus on events in Burma, participants also agreed that ASEAN’s approach to drafting a “people’s charter” had been far from people centred, with no release of a draft version of the Charter for civil society to consider and provide feedback on prior to its signing at the upcoming ASEAN Summit in Singapore (18-22 November). Any engagement that had taken place with civil society had been little more than a public relations exercise. Therefore, participants demanded that ASEAN go through a process of “meaningful public consultation and discussion” before signing a Charter on behalf of the people of Southeast Asia and, furthermore, that a referendum on the Charter be held in each member state.

In response to dissatisfaction over the entire Charter drafting process, the decision was taken to launch the drafting of an alternative ASEAN People’s Charter by national and regional civil society groups “that will embody the shared values and collective aspirations of the peoples of the region”, and which will be completed prior to the 2008 ASEAN Summit in Thailand.

Background information:

ACSC III was organized in Singapore by the following civil society organizations:

Asian Partnership for the Development of Human Resources in Rural Areas (AsiaDHRRA), Focus on the Global South, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Human Rights Working Group – Indonesia, Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA), South East Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA), Think Center – Singapore, and Third World Network (TWN).

There was also an ACSC III Singapore Local Organizing Committee.

The local host was Union Network International-APRO.

ACSC III General Statement (.pdf)
ACSC III Burma Statement (.pdf)

For further information, please contact:

– Sinapan Samydorai, President of Think Centre – Singapore and member of the Local Organizing Committee for ACSC III, at [email protected] ;
– Corinna Lopa, Regional Coordinator for SEACA, at [email protected] ;
– Anselmo Lee, Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA, at [email protected] .