MONDAY, 09 MAY 2011
JAKARTA : Thai NGOs are upset the government has chosen someone to represent them at a crucial meeting with Asean heads on Saturday _ especially after the NGO worker concerned failed to show up.
Decha Chaithap, a Chiang Mai-based community development worker who is supposed to represent Thai NGOs at the meeting, yesterday failed to show up at the conference.
His no-show provoked howls of protest by NGOs, who oppose the decision by organisers to ask member governments to choose the NGO workers they are prepared to meet.
NGOs say the government should choose from a list they submit.
The meeting between NGOs and regional leaders is being held on the sidelines of the Asean conference.
The Ministry of Social and Human Development nominated Mr Decha as the person who would attend the meeting on behalf of NGOs.
The meeting, known among Asean summit participants as the “Interface” meeting, will provide a venue for regional civil society groups to communicate with their national leaders.
Indonesia, which is this year’s Asean chairman and also the host of the summit, had asked member countries on April 28 to submit a list of their non-government delegates by May 1.
NGOs that have gathered for the parallel meeting under the banner of the Asean Civil Society Conference (ACSC) and the Asean People’s Forum have their own list of delegates for the Interface meeting.
They say the government should choose from that list, rather than nominating activists of their own choice.
The Foreign Ministry, sources said, had asked the Ministry of Social and Human Development to nominate someone to attend.
The ministry chose Mr Decha, but he failed to show up at an early part of the conference.
NGOs say they respect his credentials, but say his non-appearance underlines the need for the government to choose someone from their list.
Efforts to remove Mr Decha from the list are unlikely to succeed as Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has already submitted his name to the Indonesian hosts.
The Burmese government nominated its police chief, Sit Aye, to represent Burmese civil society, while activists had proposed Chiang Mai-based Aung Myo Min, of the Human Rights Education Institute of Burma.
Cambodian NGOs have chosen Chhaya Hang, director of the Khmer Institute of Democracy, but Phnom Penh has yet to submit its choice.
Asean NGOs staged a similar protest at the Asean summit in Bangkok two years ago after a similar problem arose when Thailand was chairman of the regional grouping.
During the opening session, Indonesian vice-president Boedinono said Asean governments needed civil society groups as the “tongue of the people” to help integrate political, economic and social culture. However, Mr Boedinono appeared uneasy when the NGOs showed, at the end of the opening session, footage of Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s message for democratisation in her country.