From 1 to 5 August 2016, APHR led a delegation of parliamentarians from seven Southeast Asian countries to Dili, Timor-Leste, to attend the 11th ASEAN Peoples’ Forum (APF). At the conference, APHR hosted the second annual APF Town Hall and also organized sideline meetings with various stakeholders.
The Town Hall, which took place on 2 August to kick off the APF proceedings, featured parliamentarians from seven ASEAN countries, plus Timor-Leste. There were a number of human rights concerns raised during the event covering a variety of areas, including business and human rights, the death penalty, and the overall erosion of democracy in Southeast Asia. The participating parliamentarians were enthusiastic in answering all questions raised from the floor and spoke passionately about the need to create a more people-centered ASEAN by putting human rights at the forefront. They also committed to working further with CSOs in attendance to implement a joint strategy to advance democracy and human rights region-wide.
The participating parliamentarians included: Aderito Hugo da Costa (MP, Timor Leste), Eva Kusuma Sundari (MP, Indonesia), Mu Sochua (MP, Cambodia), Mercy Barends (MP, Indonesia), Kasthuri Patto (MP, Malaysia), Teddy Baguilat (MP, Philippines), Rachada Dhnadirek (Former MP, Thailand), Htay Kywe (MP, Myanmar), and Nguyen Van Tien (Former MP, Vietnam).
As part of the APF conference, APHR co-organized a joint thematic workshop entitled “Large Scale Hydropower Dams and Climate Change: Threats to People’s Livelihoods and Responsibility of the ASEAN Community.” Rachada Dhnadirek (Former MP, Thailand) of APHR was one of five speakers on the workshop panel. Her presentation focused on the human rights impacts of hydropower dam development along the Mekong mainstream and tributaries. She described her experience visiting with communities affected by the Lower Sesan 2 and Don Sahong dams during an APHR fact-finding mission to Cambodia in June 2016. She noted that the human rights impacts of development projects, especially hydropower dams, are often transboundary in nature, but ASEAN lacks strong regional mechanisms, which would allow for the investigation of such impacts.
The APHR delegation also met with stakeholders throughout the week, including the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus of Timor-Leste (GMPTL), the UN Resident Coordinator, staff at the US Embassy in Dili, and the Ombudsman of Human Rights and Justice in Timor-Leste. The meetings covered topics ranging from advancing women’s political participation to the impacts of free trade agreements to human rights and transitional justice challenges in Timor-Leste. On the final day of the mission, the delegation also had the honor of a private meeting with former Timor-Leste President and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jose Ramos-Horta.