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Meeting between ASEAN leaders and Civil Society organizations cancelled after substitution of representatives

By Terry Xu

The meeting between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and representatives of civil society organizations was cancelled after the regional steering committee and interface delegates of the Asean Civil Society conference/ Asean People's Forum withdrew from the interface meeting with the ASEAN leaders.

The withdrawal of the civil society organisations is due to the rejection of the chosen representatives for Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore by the civil society organizations. The three countries had instead arranged to substitute the chosen representatives with their own nominees for their countries.

The original representative from Singapore is Sinapan Samydorai from Think Centre. No one knows who was supposed to be the representative selected by Singapore to substantiate him in the forum.

The 30‐minute interface was scheduled to be held at 3pm on Sunday, May 11, during the 24th ASEAN Summit in Naypyidaw.

In a statement by the regional steering committee and interface delegates of the ACSC/APF, this act is in clear breach of the principles that the Regional Steering committee have frequently reiterated and that they have come to a conclusion that that their principles have been violated.

"We were willing to be flexible with our governments. We were willing to accept that some delegates chosen by civil society could be rejected by governments, as long as the seats of those rejected will be vacant. However, we are not willing to accept that the governments concerned have apparently decided to replace our rejected delegates with their own nominees.
We fully appreciate the commitment of the ASEAN Member Countries who have agreed and approved the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN Peoples’ Forum Interface Delegates from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

However, it is very troubling for us that Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore have rejected our representatives from their countries and arranged to substitute them with their own nominees. We regret that these governments have undermined the good faith of the host Myanmar authorities in trying to organize the interface meeting.

We, therefore, officially withdraw as regional civil society from the Interface and regret that Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore have failed to uphold their commitment to a people‐centered ASEAN. We understand that individual delegates may have to be present for the interface as individuals and not representatives of the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN Peoples’ Forum."

The forum has therefore been cancelled due to the withdrawal of the Regional Steering Committee and Interface Delegates.

In a statement, Myanmar's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the cancellation of the interface meeting between the leaders and the civil society groups.

"The arrangements undertaken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are in accordance with the ASEAN practice and as such, the representatives of civil society organizations attending the interface meeting must be chosen by their respective ASEAN member countries. The ASEAN Civil Society conference/ASEAN People's Forum 2014, realizing the precedence and practice of ASEAN, rejected the representatives chosen by some ASEAN member states. In this regard, it subsequently informed the ministry of its decision not to attend the interface meeting,"

In another news, Singapore has sent youths from the National Youth Council as the official youth delegates to the youth equivalent of the forum that was cancelled. Story on this is coming up.

Photo - AP/ Gemunu Amarasinghe