Asean People’s Forum: Nations Must do More to Help the Poor

Saying that Asean’s policies often overlook the people they are meant to benefit, more than 300 participants at Sunday’s Asean People’s Forum said more attention must be paid to the victims of “inhumane” economic de­velopment.

Members of civil society organizations from eight Southeast Asian countries gathered at the Juliana Hotel criticized several Asean governments, including Cambo­dia, for their approach to fighting terrorism.

The members said ef­forts to stop terrorist cells are leading to human rights violations. Asean governments, they said, are using the new war to crack down on political opposition groups and self-determination movements.

“We come here with fear,” said Jodi Pasimio of the Asian Pacific For­um on Women, Law and De­vel­opment. “When we go back to our countries, our names may be added to the lists of terrorists.”

For the forum, the participants drafted the Mekong Declaration, a culmination of concerns of in­dig­enous peoples, urban poor, po­litical refugees, youth and wo­men’s organizations and development workers.

These victims of globalization often are the first to fall into a widening class cleavage caused by multinational corporations and unrealistic policies im­posed by the World Bank, the WTO and the International Monetary Fund, the participants wrote. The declaration calls for returning power to the poor through re­formed social welfare and health care programs, job security and judicial systems.

Participants appealed to the me­dia to relay their message, but the government’s security measures for the Asean Summit squashed plans for a peace march Sunday morning and prohibited delegates from hanging peace and anti-poverty banners.

“We have felt suffocated by security measures,” said Thida Khus, executive director of Sila­ka. “The municipality wants to show people the good clean face of Cambodia, not the real face.”

Strategic planning sessions will continue today and Tues­day, and an open letter was to be delivered to Asean leaders this morning.




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