May 2, 2011:
Thousands of communities throughout ASEAN are living under dire threat because of irresponsible corporate behavior which has continued because state agencies were connected in some way to harmful projects or simply apathetic.
People from affected communities in Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand today shared their experience of serious human rights abuses including killings, forced labor and forced relocation because of projects conducted by domestic and foreign companies at the first public hearing on Corporate Social Responsibility and ASEAN held in Jakarta today.
The hearing was convened by civil society groups from the region in the lead-up to the ASEAN Summit next week. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is one of the proposed thematic studies of the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).
Over 130 members of civil society movements from various ASEAN countries were shocked and moved to learn of serious health problems and loss of livelihoods suffered by families because of projects by actions of corporations from inside and outside the region. They were outraged to learn that the efforts of affected communities to seek justice and protection from the courts and other means went unheeded.
The witnesses came from communities affected by the Xayabouri Dam on the Mekong River, the Shwe Gas Project in Burma, the Koh Kong Sugar Plantation and Factory in Cambodia, Rare Earth project in Kuantan and Asahi Kosei Factory in Kuala Lumpur. Witnesses from Indonesia included a teenager who testified on the Lapindo project and local villagers affected by gold mining projects in Maluku and Sulawesi.
Malaysian MP Fuziah Salleh who spoke on the Kuantan Rare Earth Refinery Plant Project (LAMP), pointed out that many harmful projects were economically unjustified. She explained that the rare earth project which would cause long-term health and environmental problems would only create 350 jobs while generating income of billions of dollar for companies that would enjoy a “tax holiday” of 12 years.
The panel of experts who listened to the testimonies emphasized that ASEAN has a responsibility to live up to the commitments it has already made through the Charter and other human rights treaties to protect human rights and ensure that development is sustainable.
The experts called on ASEAN and AICHR to urgently address the problems encountered by its citizens because of corporate irresponsibility, and to ensure that the rule of law was upheld and prioritized when it came to such cases. Members of the panel were Mr Nurkholis (Vice-Chair of the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission), Ms Rinno Arna (Indonesian lawyer specializing in social justice and child rights), Attorney Joselito Calivoso (a legal expert on CSR and rural communities) and Mr Jerald Joseph (Executive Director of Dignity International).
The event was organized by the SAPA Task Force on ASEAN and Burma, SAPA Task Force on ASEAN and Human Rights, SAPA Task Force on ASEAN Migrant Worker, SAPA Task Force on Extractive Industry, SAPA Task Force on Freedom of Information, SAPA Working Group on ASEAN, SAPA Working Group on Environment, Altsean-Burma, Asia Indigenous People Pact, Burma Partnership, Focus on the Global South, FORUM-ASIA, IESR, JATAM, KontraS, Migrant Forum in Asia, SEACA, TERRA, Thai-ASEAN Watch, WALHI and YLBHI.
* Fabby Tumiwa, IESR, +628 1194 9759 (Bahasa & English)
* Atnike Sigiro, Forum-Asia, 6281 29 401 766 (Bahasa & English)
* Debbie Stothard, Altsean-Burma, +66816861652 and +6285 888 610 436 (English)
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