(image: Blurred by the rain – poster of the ASEAN peoples forum, Cha’am, Thailand, 18 October 2009 – by sloone)
It was a disastrous 3 day meeting in Cha’am, Thailand, where civil society representatives anticipated several sessions of heated ‘dialogues’ with ASEAN officials/their government representatives from 18-20October 2009.
As it turned out, it was a monologue – where NGOs had to ‘dialogue’ with themselves since the ASEAN government officials met by themselves not far away from the NGOs, in Dusit Thani Hotel, for their annual Summit.
For many observers, this is like a tight slap on their faces, since the NGOs had high hopes that ASEAN/or rather their governments would be more receptive. Didn’t they just approve the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights – whatever that means now – which will be launched on October 23rd!
(image: ASEAN youth rally in Cha’am)
For many of us, the AICHR is a sham, a public relations exercise for these violators of human rights – from Burma to Indonesia, Malaysia, and all in between.
It will not be independent, not transparent, and I expect, not effective! How can it be, when all it wants to do is “promote” human rights and not ‘protect’.
But ASEAN or rather the governments managed to pull wool over the NGOs eyes recently by picking one or two of them to be Commissioners (as in the case of Indonesia and Thailand).
Words of congratulations to the appointed representatives are making their rounds in emails, but don’t they ask themselves this: why do you want to join an entity you have been condemning day in and day out as a toothless tiger?
My little email message to a would be commissioner “are you going to keep your teeth or go toothless, too” remains unanswered.
The NGOs are elated with the recent overture by ASEAN, thinking that finally their voices will be heard. Imagine their disappointment when no one on that side turned up for the much awaited ‘dialogues’.
About 300 participants from NGOs working in diverse issues such as women, workers, fisherfolks, Burma, Southern Thailand, human rights, waited with bated breath.
(image: ASEAN Youth dance at the opening of the APF in Cha’am)
We ended up enjoying the scenic Holiday Inn in Cha’am, and dancing to the tunes of different cultures during the Solidarity Night.
Earlier, since last year, the NGOs have also been trying to match the hundreds of meetings where they could “stalk” these ASEAN officials – at times succeeding in making their issues heard for about 5-15 minutes.
They forget that in that endevour they are leaving of course, millions of carbon footprints on the planet – the very thing they shout against.
(image: one of the many exhibitions at the ASEAN peoples forum in Cha’am)
But ah, never mind. It’s the American and European funders who should care about these things. They are the ones happily paying for all these regional ‘sandiwaras’ – for want of better words – to be a part of the ASEAN regional process, very much like they were during the colonial days 🙂
Well, if all these are not enough, the governments have become even nastier by imposing who they want as representatives to their meetings. Isn’t it their meetings after all?
Why are the NGOs raving and ranting that they (ASEAN officials) have “interfered” in the selection process of the NGO representatives to this meeting?
The NGOs are not giving up and have shamelessly sent a list of ten representatives representing the ten countries. They have also come up with a 10-paged statement to present to the officials, whether they get to meet them or not.
What would be the outcome of all these? We hope it will not be like the poster above – blurred by the pouring rain.
* all imges by sloone*