Bangkok (October 16, 2009): More than 30 Muslim NGO activists and representatives from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Cambodia today gathered in the capital of Thailand to discuss the impact and implications of three conflict-torn regions in Southeast Asia and called for ASEAN and ASEAN member governments to undertake new and renewed efforts to tackle the conflicts.
The two-day gathering entitled “Peoples Call for Justice and Peace”, organised by the Council of Muslim Organizations of Thailand and the Nusantara Initiatives for Justice and Peace (NADI) and held at the Islamic Centre, Bangkok, focused on the military campaigns, their impact, and the human rights situation of:
- the Rohingyas in Arakan, Myanmar
- the Muslims of Yala, Narathiwat, Patani and Satun, and
- the Bangsamoro of Mindanao, Philippines.
In all of these three conflict zones, millions have been killed, displaced and made refugees either in their own countries or other countries in which they have sought asylum, and/or made to suffer a host of human rights violations for several decades. Generations of Rohingyas, Moros and South Thai Malays are growing up in an environment of violence, deprivation and tragedy.
With the launch of the ‘War on Terror’, these conflicts have been presented and received as part and parcel of the efforts against terrorism and hardline Islamism. As many speakers in the conference noted, however, the decades-long history and contemporary dynamics of all three conflict areas stem from particular, local grievances that have concrete, social, economic, political and civic dimensions and manifestations.
“The three conflicts, involving the issue of the right of self-determination to indigenous communities, have been going on for many years without any resolution and produced serious violation of human rights, socio-economic underdevelopment; waste of valuable and limited resources on trying to find a military solution to the conflict; dislocation, poverty and hardship for millions of people,” Penang-based Citizens International’s executive director Mohideen Abdul Kader said in his presentation.
Mohideen also pointed out that unless the conflicts are tackled and redressed effectively and justly, the worsening and spread of their impacts could spill over national borders.
“They have also created tension between neighboring states which could seriously affect the evolution of the proposed ASEAN Community… The member states, where the conflicts exist, must be made to realise that there can be no peace, security and development without resolving the just claims of those whose right to self-determination has been denied for decades,” Mohideen noted.
Along these lines, the non-interference principle adopted by ASEAN states is long overdue for a overhaul in favour of more effective and relevant policy options while still respecting ASEAN members’ national sovereignty, said Mohideen.
For these and other reasons, the groups called for ASEAN governments to engage with the governments of Myanmar, Thailand and Philippines in putting the point across that the security and situation within their strife-stricken jurisdictions impacts upon the security and situation of the region as a whole.
“We must civilianise the situation, not militarise as has currently been opted,” foremost human rights education and legal expert Dr Vitit Mantraporn said in his remarks, in which he spoke at length also on human rights in the context of security concerns in South Thailand.
The conference issued ‘The Bangkok Declaration’, which they will submit to the governments of Thailand and other ASEAN member states, that calls on them for them to eschew military options for the resolution of conflict in favour of peaceful and holistic strategies of dispute settlement, socio-economic development and political empowerment.
The other demands issued by the conference that the groups directed to the governments of ASEAN include:
- to guarantee the people’s legitimate rights to justice and peace, to live in dignity, to the fulfillment of basic needs and to the equitable distribution of national resources;
- promote engagement and consultation between States and their peoples and the need to live up to our collective responsibilities for the resolution of conflicts and disputes;
- intensify regional and international cooperation for the promotion, sharing and implementation of policies and best practices to ensure fairness and justice and for the safeguarding of the interests, livelihood, and general wellbeing of the people;
- resolve immediately the plight of the Rohingyas, the South Thailand unrest and the Bangsamoro struggle through mutual consultation and collective effort between all ASEAN governments based on the justice and legitimate rights of the people;
- work with the UN, the international community and civil society groups in protecting, assisting and according the rights of all peoples displaced from their homes by conflict or persecution to justice and fair treatment as expected by the States’ own citizens and on principles of universal humanitarian grounds until such times as these same States can guarantee such displaced persons safe return to their homelands and dignified lives therein.
- ratify the 1951 Convention Related to the Status of Refugees, its 1967 Protocol, the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and the 1990 International Convention for the Protection of the Right of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families;
- form nation-wide truth and reconciliation commission in the countries of Myanmar, Thailand and Philippines to rebuild justice and trust among all communities and institutions by addressing and tackling past human rights violation, reviewing all national security cases;
For further information on the conference or participating groups, please contact:
– Mohd. Azmi Abdul Hamid (NADI coordinator):
– Dr Ananchai Thaipratan (Young Muslims Association of Thailand advisor):
Council of Muslim Organization of Thailand ( COMOT )
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