The Vice-Chair of the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission, Mr. Nurkholis, today called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to support a UN investigation into business and human rights violations in Burma. Mr. Nurkholis made his statement as a member of the experts panel at regional civil society’s first Public Hearing on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Human Rights in ASEAN held in Jakarta today.
Mr. Nurkholis’ recommendation came alongside other human rights experts’ dismay with ongoing and widespread violations in Burma. They were shocked at evidence of increased militarization in locations where multinational companies had entered into partnerships with state-owned enterprises, such as with the Shwe Gas project. Mr. Nurkholis said, “If ASEAN can’t, for whatever reason, investigate and stop these abuses, then they should at least support the UN to do it.”
The other members of the panel were 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).
“This is an important acknowledgement of the serious crimes taking place in Burma and the need for ASEAN to endorse measures to investigate and prevent further crimes,” said Debbie Stothard, Coordinator of Altsean-Burma and a member of Burma Partnership’s working group. “ASEAN must recognize that neither Burma nor the region have the ability to investigate these crimes. A UN-led inquiry, such as a Commission of Inquiry into serious international crimes, would be a step towards fulfilling the principles of justice and human rights laid out in ASEAN’s Charter.”
The panel heard testimonies by people from communities affected by corporations’ exploitative projects in Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Burma-specific testimonials included issues of forced labour and land confiscation associated with the Shwe Gas pipeline, and the case of human rights defender Charles Hector’s efforts to protect the rights of migrant workers from Burma in Malaysia.
“The Shwe Gas pipeline is a perfect example of how Burma’s military regime places profits before the protection of the human rights of its citizens. There is no evidence that this will change any time soon,” said Wong Aung, International Coordinator of the Shwe Gas Movement, who spoke at the public hearing today.
The public hearing was organized by SAPA thematic task forces, as well as 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.