SDP applies for protest permit during ASEAN summit, SDP, 2 Nov 2007

ASEAN 13th Summit logoThe Singapore Democrats have applied for a license to hold a protest on 19 Nov 07 during the ASEAN Summit (18-22 Nov 07). The application was submitted yesterday.

ASEAN heads of government will be in Singapore for its annual meeting during which it will sign its charter, a full 40 years after its inception.

The charter promises to look into the protection of human rights in ASEAN states.

But the promise already looks very unpromising given the fact the charter will be signed in Singapore, a state that prohibits protests (with the exception, of course, of those aligned with the PAP). In addition, the Singapore Government is the current chair of the regional body.

Nevertheless, it is important that democrats and human rights defenders across the region continue their campaign to impress upon the member states that democracy plays a vital part in the region’s development.

As such, the planned protest on 19 Nov, Monday, outside the Shangri-la Hotel where the summit is taking place will be an important event.

The protest will also be used to express the Singaporean community’s anger at the representatives from Burma. We are determined to show our solidarity with the oppressed people of Burma and continue our call for the military junta to restore peace and democracy in that country.

It will also be a prime opportunity to press ASEAN to take firm action against the pariah regime that has no business participating in the summit.

In light of all this, the SDP calls on the PAP Government not to make a laughing stock of Singapore: You cannot chair ASEAN, sign a charter pledging support on human rights, and then ban a protest at the summit.

The hypocrisy is too glaring, even by PAP’s standards.

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Burma crises a symptom of Asean’s flaws, The Nation, 2 Nov 2007

Singapore – Prominent human rights activists noted that there are many disturbing parallels between the crises in Burma and Asean.

“Asean’s inaction on Burma reflects Asean’s institutional weaknesses”, said Debbie Stothard of the Alternative Asean Network on Burma.

It can be recalled that Asean came out with a statement expressing ‘revolt at the violent crackdown’, after the violent dispersals of protest actions in Burma. Stothard said this statement is not enough and Asean can do more actions considering the influence that Asean countries can exert on Burma.

She noted that “Burma, whose military is the largest consumer of fuel in the country, relies on petrol and diesel from Malaysia and Singapore. Thailand and Singapore are the biggest sources of Burma’s foreign direct investments.” (Pseudonymity: See ASEAN should stop passing the buck on Burma)

Burma’s military junta also relies on Singapore’s financial services to store and move the wealth that they drain away from the country. Indonesia currently chairs the United Nations Security Council, the body most feared and respected by Burma’s military junta.

Why can’t Asean take decisive action to pressure Burma move towards freedom and democracy”?

Stothard also said that Asean has failed to act on other burning issues such as the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines and the increasing violence in southern Thailand.

“If Asean cannot deal with problems in our own backyard, how can we hope Asean to be truly responsive to the dynamics in the region?”, Stothard declared.

Rafendi Djamin, meanwhile of the Solidarity for Asian Peoples’ Advocacy Working Groups on Asean and Human Rights, said that there is a gap between Asean policymakers and citizens.

“The Asean policymakers fail to respond to the people’s issues that is why people are indifferent to the Asean,” Djamin said.

Djamin challenged civil society groups to push Asean to transform from a highly elitist to a more people-oriented institution.