[Joint Statement] Statement of Concern On Lao PDR and the ACSC/APF 2016


    While we have had a demonstrable commitment to the ACSC/APF process, we wish to raise our collective concern on the state of democracy and human rights in Lao PDR, and the difficulties we anticipate in having an ACSC/APF in Lao PDR in 2016.

    To the Regional Steering Committee
    ACSC/APF 2015 Malaysia

    We, the undersigned, are national, regional and international civil society organisations, networks and alliances working in South East Asian countries, and key movers of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN People’s Forum (ACSC/APF) processes through the last ten years, from 2005 to 2015. With you, we have been committed to promoting the ACSC/APF process as a civil society-driven, free and open space for building community and solidarity amongst the peoples of Southeast Asia.

    While we have had a demonstrable commitment to the ACSC/APF process, we wish to raise our collective concern on the state of democracy and human rights in Lao PDR, and the difficulties we anticipate in having an ACSC/APF in Lao PDR in 2016.

    During the consultations leading to and during the APF 2015, particularly during the 3rd Regional Organizing Meeting in March 2015, a group of unnamed Lao CSOs expressed their objection to the ACSC/APF’s positions on issues, namely on 1) LGBTIQ/ lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer; 2) indigenous peoples, and dams; 3) multi-party systems and democracy; and, 4) the disappearance of Sombath Somphone. Dr Maydom Chanthanasinh, Lao representative to the ACSC Regional Steering Committee, confirmed during the Regional Organizing meeting, that discussions on these issues would not be possible in Laos.

    Based on this, we foresee and have reason to believe that any free discussions and dialogue on very crucial regional issues–on equality and diversity; on development projects and their impacts on peoples and environments; on freedoms and human rights–will not and cannot take place in Lao.

    Based on the prior experience of the Asia Europe People’s Forum (AEPF9), we do not see any credible assurances from Lao CSOs based within the country that a prospective ACSC/APF 2016 in Lao will not be plagued by troubles similar to those experienced in AEPF9.

    We are certain that an ACSC/APF 2016 will not be organized by Lao civil society. Instead, the government of Laos will certainly have its hand in controlling an ACSC/APF 2016, contrary to the spirit of a civil society organized event. Even if the current CSO representatives from Laos, or the government of Laos, are genuinely sincere in using this opportunity to recover its credibility to hold future events like the ACSC/APF, they have yet to address specific measures to prevent a repeat of any of the inexcusable examples of harassment and impunity by various state actors during and immediately after the AEPF9.

    The issue of Sombath Somphone’s enforced disappearance, and the developments around the AEPF9, particularly the inability of the Laos government to make good their promise of allowing the event to be held independently, without interference, is a warning on the current state of Lao society, and the Lao government’s attitude towards civil society and the legitimate issues they work on. The reluctance of Lao civil society to participate, as well as the inability to do so independently in this post-AEPF9 period, clearly highlight the repercussions of the tragedy of the AEPF9. There should be no illusions about the reality of the prevailing fear within Lao society in mentioning issues that are deemed sensitive, such as, Sombath and enforced disappearances, Indigenous peoples, LGBTIQ, multi-party political systems and democracy.

    The statement from the International Organizing Committee of the AEPF and other sources of narration of the foreign civil society actors being expelled from the country should serve as further reminders of the state’s involvement in the current alarming situation of human rights abuses and danger to civil society within Laos.
    Considering all of the above, there seems to be no possibility of a freely organized ACSC/APF in Laos. It would be impossible to uphold the agreed engagement modalities and guiding principles as determined during the ACSC/APF 2015.

    We, CSOs in Southeast Asia, hope that the ACSC/APF 2015 Regional Steering Committee will provide the courageous leadership in answering the following questions among the ACSC/APF community, which are central to the current crisis in Laos, and are relevant to the ACSC/APF going forward.

    • Are we prepared to accept an ACSC/APF that is not freely organized by regional civil society? Are we prepared to accept the controlling hand, whether seen or unseen, of the Lao government on the process?
    • Are we fully cognizant of the risks and dangers toward participants, particularly Lao participants, by holding an ACSC/APF in Laos?
    • Are we willing to disenfranchise participants and communities of the LGBTIQ, of indigenous peoples, of environmental groups, of anti-dam campaigners, of democracy activists and human rights defenders, of families of prisoners and the disappeared, by holding an ACSC/APF in Laos?
    • Even if we wish to act upon the idea of benefitting Lao peoples in Laos, and of supporting Lao civil society, are we prepared to compromise the integrity of the ACSC/APF process in Lao, while keeping faithful to the ACSC/APF guiding principles and engagement modalities?

    We foresee that the painful answers to the questions we raise will be in the negative; and therefore,

    We implore the ACSC/APF 2015 Steering Committee, to seriously consider the option of not endorsing an ACSC/APF 2016 process in Lao.

    We implore the ACSC/APF 2015 Steering Committee to bring this discussion back to the country and regional caucuses, to jointly imagine an alternative ACSC/APF process in 2016 outside of Lao PDR, while ensuring that Lao peoples and civil society can still participate freely in such a process.

    10 September 2015

    Source : www.sombath.org

    Target Institution

    Mr. Jerald Joseph, Malaysia, RSC Chair
    Pengiran Datin Paduka Hajah Mariam Pg Hj Matarsat, Brunei Darussalam, RSC Member
    Mr. Pen Somony, Cambodia, RSC Member
    Ms. Mida Saragih, Indonesia, RSC Member
    Dr. Maydom Chanthanasinh, Lao PDR, RSC Member
    Mr. Aung Myo Min, Myanmar, RSC Member
    Mr. Eduardo C. Tadem, Philippines, RSC Member
    Mr. Soe Min Than, Singapore, RSC Member
    Ms. Wanun Permpibul, Thailand, RSC Member
    Ms. Nguyen Thi Hoang Van, Vietnam, RSC Member
    Ms. Reileen Dulay, Regional, RSC Member
    Ms. Nalini Singh, Regional, RSC Member
    Mr. Gus Miclat, Regional, RSC Member

    Organisation/s Involved


    Aliansi Masyarakat Adat Nusantara (AMAN)
    Aravati, Myanmar
    ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
    ASEAN SOGIE Caucus
    Asia Democracy Network (ADN)
    Asia Indigenous Peoples Network on Extractive Industries and Energy (AIPNEE)
    Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
    Asia Pacific Indigenous Youth Network (APIYN)
    Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (AFAD)
    Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
    Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)
    Association to Protect Religious Freedom, Vietnam
    Ayar West Development Organization, Minbu, Myanmar Ayeyarwady MATA , Myanmar
    BAI National Alliance of Indigenous Women, Philippines
    Boat People SOS (BPSOS)
    Burma Partnership (BP)
    Cambodia Indigenous Peoples Organization (CIPO)
    Cambodia Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA)
    Cambodian Civil Society Working Group on ASEAN (CCWA)
    Cambodian Food and Service Workers’ Federation (CFSWF)
    Cambodian Volunteers for Society (CVS)
    Cambodian Youth Network (CYN)
    Capacity Building Initiative, Myanmar
    Center for Sustainable Development in Mountainous Areas (CSDM), Vietnam
    Civil Society Forum, Vietnam
    Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community (CCFC)
    Coalition to Abolish Modern-day Slavery in Asia (CAMSA)
    Colors Rainbow, Myanmar
    Community Response Group (COMREG), Myanmar
    Cooperation Committee for Cambodia (CCC)
    Cordillera Women’s Education Action Research Center (CWEARC), Cordillera Region, Philippines
    Defend the Defenders, Vietnam
    ECCD Network, Pwint Phyu, Myanmar
    Education Garden, Magway, Myanmar
    Equality Myanmar
    Farmer Rights and Development Organization, Magway, Myanmar
    Focus on the Global South
    Free Jonas Burgos Movement, AFAD, Philippines
    Fundação Feto iha Kbiit Servisu Hamutuk (FFKSH), Timor Leste
    Genuine People’s Servants (GPS), Myanmar
    Green Future Environmental Activities Group, Yenangyaung, Myanmar
    Green Network Sustainable Environment Group, Magway, Myanmar
    Green Peasant Institute (GPI), Myanmar
    Guardian Network, Pakokku, Myanmar
    Hands of Unity Group, Magway, Myanmar
    Hands of Unity Group, Magway, Myanmar
    Harmony Volunteer Group, Magway, Myanmar
    Highlander Associations (HA), Cambodia
    HuMa, Indonesia
    IFI Watch, Magway, Myanmar
    Ikohi, AFAD, Indonesia
    Imparsial, Indonesia
    Indigenous Peoples Human Rights Defenders (IPHRD)
    Indigenous Peoples Task Force on ASEAN
    Ingyin Thar Social Service, Myo Thit, Myanmar
    Innabuyog Federation of Indigenous Women in Cordillera, Philippines
    Institut Titian Perdamaian (ITP / Peacebuilding Institute), Indonesia
    International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID)
    International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC)
    International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)
    International Rivers (IR)
    Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), Thailand
    Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)
    Justice for Peace Foundation, AFAD, Thailand
    Kachin Peace Network, Myanmar
    Kachin Women Peace Network, Myanmar
    Karen Environment and Social Action Network, Myanmar
    Khối Nhơn Sanh (KNS) CAODAISM, Vietnam
    Koalisyon ng mga Katutubo at Samahan ng Pilipinas/National Coaltion of Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines (KASAPI, Inc.)
    Kontras, Indonesia
    Kusog sa Katawhang Lumad sa Mindanao (KALUMARAN), Philippines
    Land Core Group, Myanmar
    Lands In Our Hand, Myanmar
    Lighthouse, Myanmar
    Local Resource Center, Myanmar
    Magway EITI Watch Group, Magway, Myanmar
    Magway Farmer Union, Myanmar
    Magway Youth Network, Myanmar
    Manaw Thukha Social Service, Yesagyo, Myanmar
    MATA (Mdy working group), Myanmar
    ME, Community Development Center, Magway, Myanmar
    Metta Development Foundation, Myanmar
    Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
    Mintae Development Group, Mintae , Pwint Phyu, Myanmar
    Myaing Youth Development Organization, Myaing, Myanmar
    Myanmar China Pipeline Watch Committee
    Myanmar Civil Society Coordinating Group on ASEAN
    Myanmar Social Initiative Group, Magway, Myanmar
    Nationalities Youth Forum, Myanmar
    Organic Agro and Farmer Affair Development Group, Pwint Phyu, Myanmar
    Organisation for the Promotion of Kui Culture (OKC), Cambodia
    Pan Pyoe Lat Social Organization, Pwint Phyu, Myanmar
    Paung Ku, Myanmar
    Peace and Justice, Myanmar
    Peace & Open Society, Kyaukse Township, Myanmar
    People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF), Thailand
    Pikhumpongan Dlibon Subanen, Inc. (PDSI), Philippines
    Pioneer Star, Seik Phyu, Myanmar
    Pyo Khinn Thit , Myanmar
    Relatives Committee of the May 1992 Heroes, AFAD
    Religion and Ethnic Minorities Defenders, Vietnam
    SAVE Rivers, Sarawak
    School for Wellbeing Studies and Research, Thailand
    Shwe Ye’ Na Thar Labour Group, Yenangyaung, Myanmar
    Social Care Volunteer Group, Magway, Myanmar
    Solidarity for Asian Peoples’ Advocacies (SAPA) Working Group on ASEAN
    South East Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA)
    Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)
    The Sombath Initiative
    Thirst Aid, Myanmar
    Triangle Women Group, Myanmar
    U Chit Maung Library and Community Forestry Group, Minhla, Myanmar
    United ACT, Myanmar
    Vietnamese League for Human Rights in Switzerland
    Vietnamese Prisoners of Conscience (FVPoC)
    Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (VNWHR)
    VOICE Vietnam
    Women for Human Rights in Vietnam (WFHR)
    Yayasan Lintas Nusa Batam, Indonesia
    Yoema Yape, Ngaphe’ , Myanmar
    Youth Current Group, Taung Dwin Gyi, Myanmar

    Active Society Nepal (ASN), Nepal
    Adivasi Women’s Network
    Advocacy Forum, AFAD, Nepal
    Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons, AFAD, Kashmir, India
    Borok Peoples Human Rights Organisation/Borok Indigenous /Tribal Peoples Development Center (BPHRO/BITPDC), India
    Chittagong Hill Tracts Citizens’ Committee (CHTCC), Bangladesh
    CHT Indigenous Jumma Association Australia (CHTIJAA)
    Civil Society Women Organization (CSWO), Meghalaya, North East India
    Conflict Victims Society for Justice, AFAD, Nepal
    Defence for Human Rights, AFAD, Pakistan
    Families of the Disappeared, AFAD, Sri Lanka
    Finnish Asiatic Society
    Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL)
    Indigenous Women’s Forum Northeast India (IWFNEI)
    International Coalition Against Enforced Disappearances (ICAED)
    International Council for the Indigenous Peoples of CHT (ICIP-CHT), France
    Kapaeeng Foundation, Bangladesh
    Karbi Human Rights Watch, NE India
    Kirat Chamling Language Culture Development Association (KCLCDA), Nepal
    Kirat Welfare Society (KWS), Nepal
    Kirat Youth Society (KYS), Nepal
    Knights for Peace, International
    Kulung Mimchha Guskham (KMG), Nepal
    La Voix des Jummas, France
    Lawyers for the Human Rights of Nepalese Indigenous Peoples (LAHURNIP), Nepal
    Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), North East India
    Naga Women’s Union, Manipur, India
    National Indigenous Woman’s Federation (NIWF), Nepal
    Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN)
    Nepal Kirat Kulung Bhasa Sanskriti Utthan Sangh (NKKBSUS)
    NGO-Federation of Nepalese Indigenous Nationalities (NGO-FONIN)
    North South Initiative
    Odhikar, AFAD, Bangladesh
    Papora Indigenous Development Association (PIDA), Taiwan/China
    People Unity Youth Society (PUYS), Nepal
    Youth Awareness Society Nepal (YASN)
    Youth Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (YFIN), Nepal
    Anne-Sophie Gindroz, Lawyer, Indonesia
    William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Defender and Freelance Journalist, UK
    Sumitha Shaanthinni Kishna, Malaysia
    Tipakson Manpati, Researcher, Thailand