More than 1,400 participants from civil society and high-level government officials to engage actively on matters concerning civil rights at the third day of the ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) 2015 on 23 April, Wednesday.
The day started with a plenary address by Senator Datuk Paul Low Seng Kuan, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, who emphasised the need for respect of human rights.
“The duty of the state to promote and protect human rights is fundamental. States cannot absolve themselves of their duty to respect human rights by saying that the rights of the majority need to be respected when this is only a thin veil to promote racism, subjugation, apartheid, slavery, genocide, or even extractive forms of industry,” he said.
Datuk Low also engaged audience members from Malaysia and other ASEAN countries in an hour-long question and answer session, with participants who were unable to attend the conference watching the plenary session via live webcast.
Selangor Chief Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali also delivered a speech where he criticised ASEAN’s non-interference principle, noting it did not help in addressing human rights violations in the region like the systematic expulsion of the Rohingya from Myanmar, the persecution of Laotian and Hmong dissidents, the dispossession of the Bangsamoro and Patani, and the disappearance of Sombath Somphone.
The forum continued with 40 thematic sessions, where APF participants had the chance to engage further on subject matters of their interest.
All sessions focused on one of four key themes of the APF 2015: Development justice; democratic processes, governance, and fundamental rights and freedoms; peace and security; and discrimination and inequality.
In addition to plenaries and workshops, various exhibitions were set up by APF 2015 participants. The exhibitions highlighted issues such as indigenous peoples’ rights, migrant workers rights, freedom of expression, and women’s rights.
Jerald Joseph, co-chair of APF 2015, thanked the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) for enabling APF 2015 to rent MCA’s building space for the forum. He noted that the programme and activities of the APF 2015 was solely organised by APF 2015 organisers and participants, and should not be attributed in any way to MCA.
The APF 2015 is organised between 21 to 24 April, immediately preceding the ASEAN Summit. The full programme of the APF 2015 can be viewed at aseanpeople.org.