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Commissioners Stand with ASEAN Lawmakers on Human Rights

Commissioners Stand with ASEAN Lawmakers on Human Rights

October 9, 2015

On September 16, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission was pleased to welcome a delegation from ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) for a briefing on the human rights situation in member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including Burma, where they recently concluded a fact-finding mission. 

The information that was shared by the delegation is deeply troubling. In Burma, a concerted effort is underway to disenfranchise minority communities in advance of elections scheduled for November, including through recently passed legislation that restricts the rights of women and religious minorities. Among the delegation was U Shwe Maung, a member of the Rohingya minority and an incumbent Burmese parliamentarian. Yet the Burmese election commission recently declared that U Shwe Maung is not a citizen, and is thus ineligible to run for reelection in the upcoming national elections. 

The delegation also drew attention to the potential for another regional migrant crisis as the rainy season comes to an end. Little has been done to address the underlying conditions that in the past have driven thousands of people to take to the seas, leading to more than 1,100 deaths since 2014 and raising concerns of instability in Southeast Asia. 

As Members of Congress, we stand with U Shwe Maung and his fellow lawmakers from ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, who are seeking to improve the human rights situation in their countries. We call on the government of Burma, including the Union Election Commission, to reverse the U Shwe Maung decision and uphold his right to run for reelection, as well as to restore citizenship rights–including the right to vote–to all ethnic minorities. 

We look forward to working with all interested individuals to further realize and advance human rights in all ASEAN member states. Equal treatment under the law, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or gender, is a fundamental human rights principle, and is key for the consolidation of democracy, as well as for development, stability and prosperity in Southeast Asia. Reversing existing laws and government policies that discriminate is a necessary first step towards achieving these goals. 

James P. McGovern 

Joseph R. Pitts

Alan S. Lowenthal

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