A protest on corporate greed during the ASEAN civil society conference

GONGOs’ presence in ASEAN civil society conference needs to be addressed

by Jean Chong

Yesterday I was terribly upset by what I saw. The ASEAN civil society conference (ACSC) is a parallel event to the ASEAN summit that brings civil society organizations (CSOs) together yearly for solidarity, to discuss issues and to draft a statement to be submitted to Governments.

Every year, we see GONGOs (Government Organised Non-Government Organisations) from Laos and Vietnam sending big contingents to try to influence the rest that they didn’t kill Sombath, they have no indigenous people, they didn’t beat up and jail human rights defenders, there are no killings, etc.

And every year, we see wives, sons, families of the Vietnamese taking huge risks to come to plead with us to help them, knowing that the GONGOs will be taking pictures of them and the moment they are back they will be jailed, threatened or banned from travelling ever again.

But yesterday, we again see that the GONGOs tried to dominate the statement drafting by demanding we take out sentences that referred to what is happening in their country. I was upset that despite the support from other civil society members against the GONGOs, they were still able to take up so much space and stall the progression of the statement.

What happened to safe spaces to protect our human rights defenders?

While we are critical of the consensus mechanism of ASEAN, why is it that we are not critical of this in ACSC? Why are we asking the Vietnamese independent CSOs to take such huge risks to their lives by not addressing this?

It upsets me to see some regional steering committee and members waffle about this in the name of dialogue. There is no dialogue when we see the son pleading with us to help his father knowing that he is going to be arrested once he is back home.

We need to call out the Vietnamese Govt for their escalating violations and address the issue of GONGOs in this supposedly civil society space.

As LGBT activists, we know all about safe spaces and injustice. We don’t want LGBT rights in a sea of blood.

This post was first published as a Facebook post by Jean Chong and reproduced with permission