Call for common action amongst Southeast Asian peoples

Asean Peoples’ Forum

BANGKOK, Feb 20 – Southeast Asian activists at the ASEAN Peoples’ Forum today urged greater coordination amongst civil society groups in the region, saying that the global financial crisis and other challenges provided opportunities for common action.

At a plenary session, the activists broached a number of solutions to the problems, and pointed to greater regional dialogue as the way forward.

Solidarity is very important, especially for those affected by the food crisis, said Henry Saragih from La Via Campesina.

Consumers and farmers should come together to organise alternative solutions to solve the crisis of hunger amongst the poor, Henry said. He cited the 2004 tsunami disaster in Aceh, where communities planned solidarity actions to help each other after the devastation.

“Farmers can use the same experience in cities and rural areas,” said Henry, adding that civil society should continue to pressure governments to implement agricultural reforms.

Hira Jhamtani, from the Third World Network, touched on climate justice, which examines the impact of climate change on poor people.

While ASEAN does not have a common position on this issue, civil society organisations must have their own vision, common position and organise regional cooperation, she said.

“Climate is a cross cutting issue, as it involves poverty, human rights, and others. Crisis brings opportunity for alternatives and collective actions,” said Hira.

“We should have a joint assessment and adaptation plan from the ground level, as we don’t want to see our children become refugees.”

Social justice campaigner Father Vichai Phokthavith warned that people in the region were embracing a new religion, where “money is God, advertising are the scriptures, and department stores are the temples”.

He urged Southeast Asians to shun the influence of money, and value their spiritual and religious values instead. – APF Media Team