We, the Free Burma Coalition-Philippines and the Asia-Pacific Solidarity Coalition, welcome the occasion of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (ACSC/APF) 2014 in Yangon, Burma /Myanmar, jointly organized by the civil society of Burma /Myanmar and the rest of Southeast Asia (SEA), and attended by over 3,000 individuals from civil society, peoples’ and grassroots organizations representing the ASEAN region as well as Timor Leste and beyond.

This year’s ACSC/APF, the largest gathering since its inception in 2005, and its theme “Advancing ASEAN People’s Solidarity Toward Sustainable Peace, Development, Justice and Democratization” have a special meaning not just for the peoples of ASEAN, but more importantly to the people of Burma/Myanmar. After years and decades of struggle for genuine peace and democracy, the ACSC/APF being held in Burma is a concrete expression of the mounting calls for and the deepening accomplishments of the struggle for more and wider spaces for freedom of expression and people’s participation, and ultimately, for sustainable peace, development, justice and democratization.

We welcome this watershed event, hoping that it is indeed a continuity of the reform and democratization process obtaining in Burma/Myanmar. The test of such, however, comes after the ACSC/APF, thus the need also for continuing solidarity and monitoring of the process and the resolutions and unities agreed upon in the conference/forum, and for continuous engagement with ASEAN and its member governments, especially the Burmese government, for them to respond to the calls and address the issues raised by the civil society across the region.

For one, notwithstanding ongoing national reconciliation efforts and the new spaces and opportunities for engagement in Burma/Myanmar, human rights and labor rights violations as well as injustices against ethnic peoples still persist and continue to worsen. These prevailing injustices frustrate the attainment of all-encompassing and sustainable peace and democratization in SEA.

Thus, we reiterate our long calls for the Burmese government, and for the ASEAN to join the pressure, to speed up the political dialogue and the peace processes between the the ethnic armed groups and the Thein Sein government based on a comprehensive and inclusive framework for peace and the ethnic peoples’ right to self-determination; and to stop the continuing military offensives against ethnic communities and sexual assault against women and children, especially of the Kachin, Rohingya and Shan peoples. We join the calls for the abolition of all repressive laws and formal recognition of the peoples’ fundamental human rights in Burma/Myanmar’s Constitution; for guaranteeing of women’s and civil society participation in all decision-making and political processes; for the end to the elite military rule; and for support for genuine democratization through transparent, accountable and participatory governance that will deliver real social and economic justice for all.

We are one with the rest of the ASEAN civil society and peoples in our vision of a genuinely people-centered and people-driven and gender-responsive ASEAN. For the realization of this vision, we call upon the governments of ASEAN to review the ASEAN Charter, particularly its Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM); to establish an Inter-Governmental Body on dispute prevention, settlement, reconciliation mechanisms addressing intrastate and ethnic conflicts and cross-border and sea territorial disputes in SEA; to adopt a gender perspective that include the special needs of women during repatriation and resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction; to popularize the application of Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) principles in conflict prevention strategies; and to develop measures to democratize spaces for women’s and civil society participation in decision-making in post-conflict transition processes especially in ceasefire and peace treaty negotiations, constitution-building, and relief and return of IDP refugees.

In ensuring a people-centered, gender responsive ASEAN, the people’s voice must be at the centre of its processes, where the most marginalized including women and their children, youth, and ethnic/indigenous peoples have a greater voice in participation and decision-making. This is the only way to achieve sustainable peace, development, justice and democratization.

Padayon! Shae thot!