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ASEAN Summit Talk Includes Economy, Ignores Human Rights

ICC Note:

The 10 countries of ASEAN (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Laos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Brunei, and Cambodia) met in Thailand recently, but pushed serious human rights issues to the sidelines to focus on the economy and trade agreements.

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2/28/09 Southeast Asia (AsiaNews) On the first day of the 14th summit in Cha-am, province of Hua Hin (Thailand), the 10 countries of ASEAN are talking about the economy and trade agreements, but human rights and the dramatic situation of the Rohingya remain entirely forgotten.

The objective is the creation of a single market in ASEAN by 2015, similar to the one in the European Union, in order to compete with China and India.

But the emergency over the global financial crisis, which has also hit developed economies like Singapore, has pushed human rights out of the picture. The summit, being held at a well-known beach resort area south of Bangkok, is expected to issue a concrete decision on the drama of the Rohingya, the population that has fled from Myanmar, where it was persecuted, and has taken refuge in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. In December, the Thai army prevented hundreds of them from landing on the shore, putting them on boats without motors to die on the open sea. In this period of crisis, there is no country to welcome them.

Today, Myanmar has said that it will accept the return of the refugees, but only if they are recognized as Bengalis living in Myanmar, instead of Burmese citizens. The government refuses to acknowledge that a Rohingya ethnic minority exists, even though they have been living in the country for more than a thousand years. But of course the refugees do not want to return to a place where they are persecuted, stateless, unable to marry, establish legal residency, or work.

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