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PRESS RELEASES, OPEN LETTERS, STATEMENTS

For Immediate Release: 16 May 2008

SAPA STATEMENT
SOLIDARITY FOR ASIAN PEOPLE’S ADVOCACIES (SAPA)
WORKING GROUP ON THE ASEAN


ASEAN ACTIONS MUST REFLECT URGENCY OF SITUATION IN BURMA
CALL FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION TO ENSURE CYCLONE NARGIS SURVIVORS GET AID

The members of SAPA demand that ASEAN immediately take a pro-active stand to ensure that the Burmese authorities stop blocking delivery of urgently needed international aid - both supplies and expertise – to the 2.5 million survivors of Cyclone Nargis who are hanging onto life by a thread. Otherwise, ASEAN risks being seen as callous, irrelevant and hypocritical.

It is time that our regional grouping proves that it is indeed “One ASEAN at the Heart of Dynamic Asia” in addressing the biggest humanitarian disaster to hit the region since the Aceh tsunami. Failure to do so will undermine the credibility ASEAN worked so hard to build at its 40th anniversary.

ASEAN must play a facilitation role between the Burmese generals and international agencies to launch a sustained effort for immediate relief work as well as long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction..

ASEAN leaders must also immediately move to persuade China, India and Russia to exert their influence on the military junta to ensure that international aid – and international aid workers and experts – be allowed into Burma immediately. Aid must be provided unconditionally to all areas of Burma.

ASEAN members, Indonesia and Vietnam, should use their position at the UN Security Council to advocate for stronger support of UN initiatives to help the people of Burma.

The consequences of more aid delays will hurt the entire region. Failure to deliver immediate relief and long-term assistance to rebuild the economic capacity of the affected areas, long considered the rice-bowl of Burma, would intensify internal stability which in turn, would have serious regional repercussions. ASEAN is already bearing the cost of Burma’s human security problems, problems that may increase exponentially if the survivors of Cyclone Nargis are abandoned to their living nightmare.

ASEAN countries together experienced the horror of the 2004 tsunami, and its aftermath. Together they rebuilt, repeating the mantra “never again”. The tsunami response recognized that ASEAN’s “non-interference” policy is irrelevant in the face of natural disasters. ASEAN must prove that it is capable of putting effective pressure on the generals to make way for a regional response.

So far ASEAN has established a humanitarian fund, and has appealed to the junta for quick admission of ASEAN relief and rescue teams. It needs to do much more. In the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami, large-scale, uninterrupted international and ASEAN-led assistance helped to alleviate the hardships of the victims and speed up the recovery.

ASEAN has a responsibility to protect all the peoples of ASEAN. Its responsibility now is to act to protect the most vulnerable, not the generals who have created the conditions for this disaster.

16 May 2008

SAPA Working Group on the ASEAN, together with:

ALTSEAN Burma

Burma Partnership

Focus on the Global South

Forum-Asia. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development

Human Rights Working Group, Indonesia

IID Initiatives for International Dialogue

MFA Migrant Forum in Asia

SEACA South East Asian Committee for Advocacy

SUARAM Suara Rakyat Malaysia

SWAN Shan Women’s Action Network
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About SAPA:

Founded in 2006, SAPA or the Solidarity for Asian People’s Advocacies is an open networking platform for civil society advocacies with governments and inter-governmental organizations in Asia. SAPA works through functional groups: the Working Group on ASEAN, the Working Group on Migration and Labor, the Working Group on the UN, the Task Force on Human Rights in ASEAN, and the Task Force on Migration in ASEAN.
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For more information, please contact:

ALTSEAN BURMA: Debbie Stothard <Debbie@altsean.org> +66 81 686 1652 or Anelyn de Luna anelyn@altsean.org

SWAN SHAN WOMEN’S ACTION NETWORK: Charm Tong <kenneri@shanwomen.org>, <charmtong2@gmail.com> +66 81 603 6655