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The failure of ASEAN way: Washing off the bloody hands off Burma

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The SAPA Working Group on ASEAN in Singapore condemned the southeast Asian governments for washing its hands off Burma. They said that the Burmese military junta has slapped the face of ASEAN by insisting that the political turmoil was an internal matter.
(20 November 2007, Singapore) Representatives of the Solidarity for Asia People’s Advocacies (SAPA) Working Group on ASEAN today condemned ASEAN for washing its hands off Burma. “The Association persisted in admitting Burma despite strong opposition from civil society groups in 1997”, said Charm Tong of the Shan Women’s Action Network during a press conference held in Singapore today. 

“ASEAN is shameful because it washes its hands off Burma, and passed on the burden of dealing with Burma to the UN”, Charm Tong added. This Burma activist said that the recent policies and actions of the Association are a clear indication of the failure of the ASEAN Way. The Burmese military junta has slapped the face of ASEAN during this Summit by simply insisting that the political turmoil in the country is an internal matter, and preventing a dialogue between ASEAN leaders and the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari.

Representatives of Southeast Asian civil society groups also expressed their disappointment about the human rights elements in the ASEAN Charter, which was signed earlier today. Rafendi Djamin of the Indonesian Human Rights Working Group (HRWG) argued that “ASEAN remains non-committal to human rights being an overarching principle of the Charter.” Djamin also commented that elements in international human rights law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are absent in the ASEAN Charter. In addition, Djamin also expressed his pessimism regarding the creation of the ASEAN Human Rights Body. “From what we have seen in the Charter, we cannot really expect that this human rights body will have a protection function.” 

Southeast Asian civil society groups were also concerned about the lack of attention given by ASEAN leaders towards the migration issue in this Summit. “The bulk of economic flows and economic growth in Southeast Asia are generated by migrant workers, both documented and undocumented, many of whom are women who are abused and exploited!” commented William Gois of the Migrant Forum Asia (MFA). Consequently, Gois argued that ASEAN must have core labour standards that respects the rights of migrant workers in the region.

The disappointment about the Charter prompted civil society groups to launch the ASEAN People’s Charter campaign. Previously, Singaporean Foreign Minister, George Yeo, was quoted as saying that “this [the ASEAN Charter] is a government agreement, but there should be parallel activities among parliamentarians, CSOs, students, graduates, think-tanks, and so on”.

Reacting to the aforementioned comment, Sinapan Samydorai of the Singapore based Think-Centre, argued that civil society must not be relegated to organizing parallel activities outside of formal ASEAN processes, but rather should be an integral part of ASEAN processes. “If ASEAN governments act against the wishes of the people, refusing to listen to the voices of the people, will ASEAN be legitimate in the eyes of the people?” stated Samydorai.

The SAPA Working Group on ASEAN will continue to hold the press conference at the Singapore Council of Women Organisations (SCWO) at 3.00-4.00 pm until tomorrow, 21st November 2007. 


About SAPA Working Group on ASEAN

The SAPA WG on ASEAN is a common platform for collective action on ASEAN advocacy. The WG-ASEAN respects and promotes the multiplicity of perspectives, strategies and forms employed by its individual members, as it strives for specific unities in ASEAN-related advocacy and action. Presently, the SAPA WG on ASEAN has more than 100 CSOs, national and regional organizations, as members. 
Further information and documents related to SAPA and SAPA WG on ASEAN activities may be downloaded from .

For more information, please contact: 
Mr. Samydorai Sinapan, Think Center, +65 9479 1906, [email protected]

Ms. Consuelo Katrina Lopa, South East Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA), +63 928 5025685, [email protected]