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World | National

Civil-society groups to boycott ASEAN meeting

IVY JOSIAH: We need to make a stand . . . It's a boycott here. PHOTO BY JEPOI TUPAS, TV5 DAVAO
The online news portal of TV5

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia—Members of civil-society organizations gathered here for a parallel forum will boycott a meeting next week with heads of member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations  (ASEAN).

This is to protest the alleged intervention of some countries in the selection process of representatives of people’s groups to interface with ASEAN leaders during the 20th ASEAN Summit here on April 3.

Ivy Josiah, executive director of the Malaysian Women’s Aid, said the boycott is meant to show disgust over how host country Cambodia, the chair of ASEAN, manipulated the civil-society organizations that resulted in the simultaneous holding of two different ASEAN Peoples’ Summit (APF).

The boycott was also a collective decision of the steering committee of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference and the APF, which held their activities at the Lucky Star Hotel.

“We would be very clear, this time around…because of the way we were manipulated, that we need to be very careful and we need to make a stand and not see them.  It is a boycott here,” said Josiah.

She said if they will appear at the ASEAN Summit, it will only reaffirm the “other APF”—which, according to them, had the backing of the Kingdom of Cambodia.

“You going there will only reaffirm the other APF.  We go there and say that we reclaim the space. No, I don’t think so. I think it is too large an issue. There was much manipulation there…and too much show of power there…” she said.

She stressed: “ By going there, you are acknowledging the other APF exists.  For me the other APF morally does not exist.”

Most of those listed as members of civil-society organizations who will represent the member states during the interface come from the “other” APF, according to Indonesian activist Yuyun Wahyuningrum, senior adviser on ASEAN of Indonesia’s NGO Coalition.

Wahyuningrum learned that her country selected her as the representative of civil-society groups from Indonesia to interface with ASEAN leaders on April 3.

“All countries already had names, mine included. My government included me. But I will personally reject that for various reasons. My government or any other government must not choose the representative of the civil society organizations. It is a process that must be done by the members of the organizations ourselves,” she said.

“It is very frustrating and really confusing,” Wahyuningrum added.

Philippine delegates to the APF met among themselves Saturday morning to discuss the matter.

Upon learning of the fiasco, the Philippine delegation rushed a manifesto urging President Benigno Aquino to “enjoin the heads of state of all ASEAN member states to ensure that genuine participation of civil society organizations will never be again compromised.”

The manifesto was signed by 16 Filipino nongovernment organizations. They said the selection made by the state members countered the image of ASEAN as a “people-oriented community.”

They added: “We assert the importance of meaning engagement by government with the broadest number of stakeholders within the region on all aspects of the people-oriented ASEAN community that we envision to build,” they added.

And, like the rest of the groups that attended the APF at the Lucky Star Hotel—in contrast to “the other APF” that enjoyed better billeting in a more expensive venue-- the Philippine delegation will also boycott the ASEAN Summit.

“We appreciate that the Philippine government respected our CSO process but we are not sending any representative to this year’s interface in solidarity with the rest of civil society organizations in Southeast Asia whose processes were compromised by their governments,” they said.