Published 6:16 PM, November 14, 2017

By Danielle Nakpil: Updated 10:27 PM, November 14, 2017

ASEAN NGOs decry rights atrocities, inequitable policies in the region

'An important element of the discussions is to really strengthen the solidarity of the peoples among Southeast Asia'

UNITED IN SOLIDARITY. Representatives from different civil society movements in the ASEAN region gathered at the People Power Monument as a sign of protest to the current ASEAN policies.

MANILA, Philippines – Hundreds of representatives of civil society groups and social movements from across the Southeast Asian region decried "the human rights atrocities, breakdown of rule of law, and unjust inequitable economic policies in the region." (READ: Why you should care about ASEAN integration)

According to the groups, the policies of the ASEAN integration have widened the gap between the rich and the poor.

"It is tearing communities apart because of the kind of development that is being pushed. So this is our collective way of saying that we are in solidarity to resist this kind of regional integration," Focus on the Global South Philippines head of office Joseph Purugganan told Rappler.

The representatives from different ASEAN countries gathered at the ASEAN Civil Society Conference or ASEAN Peoples’ Forum in parallel to the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit that is being held in the country.

"I think another important element of the discussions over the last four days is to really strengthen the solidarity of the peoples among Southeast Asia, who are challenging the kind of regional integration that is being pushed by governments," he added.

Purugganan also said that the regional integration must be anchored on addressing the people's needs and interests.

Same hurts, one region

Issues like human rights violations, economic, social and environmental crises, conflict and violence, and exploitation of natural resources resonate among ASEAN countries.

Some of the examples are drug-related killings in the Philippines, the systematic attacks on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and the suppression of free press in Cambodia. (READ: What ASEAN Summit world leaders said on human rights, PH drug war)

Some of the aims of ASEAN as stated in its 5 articles include accelerating economic growth, social progress, and cultural development in the region, and promoting regional peace and stability. (READ: LOOK BACK: How ASEAN was formed)

However, the current state of the ASEAN countries is not reflective of its goals, civil society groups said.

Purugganan explained that the ASEAN is pursuing a neoliberal economic agenda that focuses on giving more power to corporations to attract investments. These investments, according to him, have a big impact on indigenous cultures.

"It's creating greater inequality, so therefore the gap between the rich and the poor is not decreasing but is increasing."

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