NGOs send own delegate to leader talks

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SUNDAY, 08 MAY 2011 BANGKOK POST

JAKARTA : The Interface Dialogue between Asean civil society organisations and Asean leaders went ahead yesterday with last-minute changes of Thai and Burmese non-governmental organisation representatives.

Decha Chaithap, from a Chiang Mai-based community development network organisation, was nominated by the Foreign Ministry to attend the 40-minute talks between civil groups and Asean leaders.

But civil groups opted instead to send wheelchair-bound Sureeporn Yupa, an advocate of the rights of people with disabilities.

Ms Sureeporn was selected through a national process during the Asean Civil Society Conference/Asean People’s Forum held last week in Jakarta.

Mr Decha was not present at the NGO meeting.

Burma also saw their NGO-nominated representative changed from a human rights activist to a police colonel. Burmese NGOs had earlier nominated Aung Myo Min, from the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, to represent Burma’s civil society organisations.

But it was police colonel Sitt Aye who instead attended the Interface Dialogue.

Aung Myo Min told the Bangkok Post that it was a shame that the Burmese government did not respect the civil society’s decision.

“This is also disrespectful to the regional civil society organisation’s process of claiming a people-centred Asean for a just global community,” wrote Aung Myo Min in an email.

“We want a genuine delegate who can present the voice of the people of Asean at this interface. However, the Burmese government picked its own advisory group’s member and disguised him as a civil groups representative.

“This is the same as how they changed from a military to a civilian uniform in Burma,” said the exiled Mae Sot-based activist.

Ms Sureeporn said after the meeting that she had called on Burma to respect and honour the civil society process in selecting their representative.

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