Monday, March 27, 2006

FTA Watch’s Statement: In support of Korean people’s struggle against the Korea-US FTA

The Korea government is now negotiating a bilateral trade agreement or FTA with the United States. Like Korean people, we Thais have been in a similar battle against the Thailand-US FTA since 2004 and which is still continuing to date. The US’ FTA template, wherever negotiated, contain similar demands in most sectors. These demands, when implemented, are bound to have a devastating impact over people’s livelihoods and well-being. We already witness this in Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and in other countries which have already concluded the agreements with the US.

It is widely accepted that access to health care and medicines is vital in reducing unnecessary deaths from diseases. The US, through FTAs, has sought to impose stringent measures on the protection of patents of pharmaceutical companies. This will reduce the availability of generic drugs that are much more affordable and hence undermine people’s access to life-saving medicines. The FTAs will also limit the role and responsibility of governments to guarantee people’s access to medicines by restricting even more flexibilities that are allowed under the World Trade Organization (WTO). As a result, governments in trading countries will find it increasingly restrictive to exercise their domestic public health policies under the FTA.

Although Thailand and South Korea are different in terms of development, people in both countries share a common demand for the protection of their right to affordable medicines and treatment. Negotiating an aggressive FTA like the one with the US will never be a win-win situation. The process of negotiations itself is opaque and undemocratic. Only a handful of people are allowed to participate in the negotiations and decision making process. Patients, farmers, labour, and small and medium enterprises are in the losing end while large corporations win big in such agreements.

As a coalition of Thai civil society groups and individual academics struggling against the Thailand-US FTA, FTA Watch understand the threat that the Korean people now face. We would like to express our solidarity and support to our Korean friends that are opposing the FTA with the US. Governments in Asian countries, no matter what level of development, must guarantee the right of the people to health and livelihoods. In the future, newer types of diseases like SARs or H5N1 can develop. We must ensure that both governments and people in this region are able to afford necessary medicines and treatment. Creating and protecting a stronger and skewed intellectual property right (IPR) regime will cost Asian people dearly. We must stand together against a paradigm that puts money before people.

In Solidarity
FTA Watch, Thailand
23 March 2006

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Regional Trade Strategy Meeting:The Battle of Hong Kong Continues


At the 6th Ministerial of the World Trade Organization last December 2005, the big trading superpowers were able to pull out a deal at the last minute, which, if fully implemented, will be severely detrimental to the majority of the world’s peoples. The deal in Hong Kong has given the multilateral institution new momentum and if unchallenged, the WTO will be able to conclude the so-called Doha “Development” Round by the end of 2006. And the next major opportunities for us to affect these negotiations are at the coming talks to finalize the modalities on Agriculture and Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) in the last week of April and at the next General Council Meeting in Geneva on May 2006.

It was with this sense of urgency that representatives of social movements, NGOs and trade activists from 14 countries gathered here in Bangkok, Thailand on February 28-March 1, to map out a strategy and action plan to prevent the round from concluding in 2006.

We urge others to join us in implementing the following program of action:


We demand that Agriculture and food be taken out of the WTO.

We reject the current framework on Agriculture in the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration, which institutionalizes the unfair and destructive export oriented agricultural paradigm by allowing the increase of subsidies that cause dumping. We call on developing countries to resist the demands of developed countries for greater market access and liberalization in agriculture. We reject the notion that the promise to end export subsidies by 2013 is a real gain for developing countries and we condemn the developed countries’ demand for greater market access to developing countries in exchange for this non-offer. Export subsidies should have ended during the Uruguay Round.

We demand the immediate implementation of the Dispute Settlement Body decision on cotton and demand real compensation for cotton farmers in Africa. We also call for real disciplines to be urgently placed on food aid to prevent further dumping. We demand real special and differential treatment by allowing developing countries to self designate Special Products (SP) and Special Safeguard Mechanisms (SSM) without limitations and conditionalities. We call on developing country governments, particularly those belonging to the G33, to resist the watering down of the SP/SSM provisions and push for the demands of small farmers to not reduce tariffs and reinstate quantitative restrictions on agricultural products.

We call on our governments to give meaningful support to small scale family-based farmers, promote alternative ways of farming and ensure food sovereignty for all peoples.

- We will petition our governments and launch campaigns for reinstating of quantitative restrictions to check the impact from cheap subsidized imports from developed countries.
- We commit to mobilize farm unions, womens groups, landless laborers, tribals and indigenous groups and social movements to prevent the further movement of negotiations in the Doha Development Round on Agriculture.
- We plan several rallies, protests and educational seminars at the national level before the April 30 deadline of Agriculture negotiations.


In services, we reiterate our rejection of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) which pushes for the privatization of public services. We reject Annex C which fast tracks the GATS and removes developing countries options to protect its essential services. We call on developing countries to resist the push to enter into plurilateral negotiations and to fight for the right for countries to put in place and strengthen domestic regulation.

- We will conduct popular education to unions and ordinary people, translating technical terms into simpler terms and producing visual materials
- We will give special focus on supporting campaigns and efforts in Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and work together as a region.
- We will strengthen national campaigns, integrate the human rights campaign and involve local media.


We reject the agreements on Non-Agricultural Market Access (NAMA). The adoption of the ambitious Swiss formula will deal the death-blow to the already ailing industries in the developing countries and would set back the development gains made. The binding of tariffs under this formula will severely limit developing countries’ policy space. If fully implemented, NAMA will cause de-industrialization and unemployment across the region. Even the promises of “duty-free, quota-free” market access to LDCs will not give meaningful access to products of interest to LDCs.

We call on developing countries to resist the push for drastic cuts proposed by developed countries and to demand for real flexibilities.

- We will ring the alarm bells on NAMA and expose the disastrous effects of NAMA.
- We will conduct popular education, producing research papers, campaign materials and videos to mobilize people
- We will encourage as many affected sectors as possible to write letters, send petitions to our governments to list our demands.
- We will focus our energies on critical sectors: Critical sectors: Textiles and clothing, Automotives, Metal, Fisheries, Electronics, Food and Beverage and Leather
- We will expose the “illusory” gains of “duty-free, quota-free” market access to LDCs
- We will reach out to as many groups as possible especially unions and call for an international mobilization on NAMA.


While we commit to struggle against the WTO, we will also campaign against bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) that push for the same neoliberal policies of the WTO. The current FTA negotiations allow the powerful countries to advance their agendas of fast tracking investment, strengthening intellectual property right rules and service liberalization onto the developing countries. These agreements will negatively impact on the livelihoods, food security and rights of majority of the people. Most of the time, they go further than the WTO agreements and they deepen the liberalisation process.

- We will convince our partners at local levels of the dangers of bilateral FTAs in our campaign
- We will demand greater transparency and information disclosure on negotiations
- We will look closely into the ASEAN and the various regional trade agreements and their possible impact
- We will develop networking with civil society groups and social movements in developed countries in order to do concerted actions
- We will give special focus to sectoral issues such as access to medicine and agriculture


We oppose the Aid for Trade measures in the Hong Kong Declaration on the grounds that it reinforces an economic order that is based on unfair terms of trade, debt and dependency. Aid for Trade and in fact the entire “development package” in the Hong Kong Declaration, is a smokescreen to divert attention away from the fact that the current round of negotiations is not about development at all, but about securing the offensive economic interests of developed countries. Most Aid for Trade proposals are focused on trade facilitation, trade related “capacity building” and establishing trade infrastructure in LDCs and other low-income developing countries to ensure that their markets are opened up to the commercial interests of rich countries. The real aim of the scheme is to enable developing countries to comply with their WTO commitments.

A significant portion of this so called aid will be in the form of loans, which will dictate national trade policies in developing countries and drag them even deeper into debt and dependency. Particularly alarming is the central role that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and regional development banks such as the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are likely to play in Aid for Trade proposals, through expanding the Integrated Framework for Trade Related Capacity Building (IF) and other similar mechanisms that will integrate WTO compatible trade liberalization with structural adjustment and sectoral reform policies. Loans and these policies have already proved to be the primary causes of economic stagnation and increased inequality, unemployment, poverty, hunger, malnutrition, poor health and distress migration in the “adjusted” countries.

- We will expose the “development package” as an empty and dangerous promise by showing that developing countries and LDCs have nothing to gain from it.
- We will work closely with movements and groups working on debt cancellation and the international financial institutions (IFIs) to expose the role of IFIs in tightening the grip of the WTO regime in developing countries, especially the LDCs.
- We will educate the public and elected representatives in developing countries about the anti-development nature of the so-called development package.


We commit to mobilize at the national, regional and international levels on the following key dates:

- March 2 onwards: Trial of the two anti-WTO political prisoners in Hong Kong
- April 30: Finalization of modalities on Agriculture and NAMA
- May 3-6: Asian Development Bank Annual Governors Meeting (AGM) in Hyderabad, India
- May 15-16: WTO General Council, Geneva
- April 22-23: IMF/WB Spring Meetings, Washington DC
- July 27-28: WTO General Council, Geneva
- July 31: Deadline of submission of second round of revised offers in Services
- September 19-20: IMF/WB Annual Meetings, Singapore

We commit to monitor closely the developments in Geneva, coordinate with Geneva-based groups, mobilize and bring a strong Asian voice to pressure governments and negotiators in Geneva. We also commit to support each other in our national campaigns and efforts to prevent the conclusion of the Doha Round of negotiations. We stand together in solidarity with our comrades who are undergoing a trial in Hong Kong for the protests last December. We commit to stand together in solidarity and work together in building and strengthening peoples’ alternatives.

Endorsed by:

Alliance of Progressive Labor, Philippines
Asian Farmers' Association for Sustainable Rural Development ( AFA)
Asian Migrant Centre
Asian Partnership for the Development of Huiman Resources in Rural Asia ( AsiaDHRRA)
BMP/ Solidarity of Filipino Workers
Centre for Organization Research and Education, India (CORE)
Committee for Asian Women (CAW)
Community Development Library, Bangladesh
Cultural Action, Korea
Drug Study Group, Thailand.
Equations, India
Federasi Serikat Petani Indonesia (FSPI)
Focus on the Global South
Forum Asia
Freedom from Debt Coalition, Philippines
FTA Watch Thailand
Hong Kong Confederation of Trade Unions (HKCTU)
Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements
Institute of Global Justice (IGJ), Indonesia
Jubilee South Asia Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD)
Kilusang Mangingisda (Fisherfolk Movement) Philippines
La Via Campesina (South Asia)
Migrant Forum in Asia
National Confederation of Officers Associations (NCOA), India
People's Action against Neoliberal Globalization, Korea
Stop the New Round! Coalition, Philippines
Women’s March Against Poverty and Globalization (WELGA!)
Womyn’s Agenda for Change, Cambodia

To endorse this program of action, please write to

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Posters of PM of Caning Nation Burnt in Thailand

The people of Thailand have taken to the streets in an attempt to oust the incumbent Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. It seems to have claimed a collateral victim in the form of his Singapore counterpart, Lee Hsien Loong. This does not bode well for the nation who is set to host the annual International Monetary Fund and World Bank meeting. Read on.

BANGKOK - Protesters burnt posters of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong outside the city state's Bangkok embassy on Friday as a campaign to oust his Thai counterpart, Thaksin Shinawatra, took a nationalist twist.

Waving placards saying "Thailand Not for Sale, Get Out", several hundred protesters urged a boycott of all things Singaporean in answer to the takeover of telecoms giant Shin Corp by its state investment arm, Temasek, from Thaksin's family.

"If Singaporeans faced the same situation as we do now, we believe Singaporeans would also rise up to do what we are doing," said Somsak Kosaisuk, a key member of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which is trying to kick Thaksin from office.

They also torched models of Singapore Airlines planes, its "merlion" national mascot and pictures of Lee's wife, Ho Ching, the Temasek boss.

The political crisis has already caused the Thai stock market and baht to wobble and is now raising long-term economic concerns, with ratings agencies looking at growth forecasts and companies delaying public flotations or investment projects.

The anti-Singapore sentiment, which stems from outrage at Thaksin's family paying no tax in January's $1.9 billion Shin Corp deal, now appears to be hurting business.

According to Chainid Ngow-Sirimanee, head of builder Property Perfect PCL, Singapore firms have delayed decisions on potential Thai property investments worth $256 million.

DBS Group Holdings, which had been thought keen on raising its stake in Thailand's TMB Bank PCL, had yet to make up its mind on whether to go ahead, a spokesman said. Analysts attributed the delay to politics.


With the caning threat imposed on activists who intend to protest in Singapore, little do her govenors know that outside of the country, people are unrestrainedly voicing their unhappiness.

If protesting equates caning, what about burning the posters of the Singapore PM?

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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Singapore to Silence Activists at IMF/WB Meeting

Concern is brewing among advocacy groups that monitor the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, a staple of protests during the annual meetings of the two organizations, after Singapore threatened a crackdown on some of their activities.

A number of international civil society groups have draft a letter to the government of Singapore to dissuade the country from vows that its chief security official made against their activities.

Singapore's Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng had reportedly said that certain civil society actions may "attract severe punishment, including caning and imprisonment" in this Southeast Asian country where a political gathering of more than four people requires a security permit.

Activists interpreted this as a veiled threat and wrote a letter to be sent to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, possibly later this week, asking him to roll back the warning and allow full access to the groups during the Sept. 19-20 meetings.

"Many groups are concerned about these threats and intimidations, but are determined not to let such threats undermine actions being planned," said Rukshan Fernando of the Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) in an e-mail message to IPS.

The 184-member IMF and the World Bank will hold their annual meeting amid what is expected to be highly tight security in the wealthy city-state, where public demonstrations are banned and the last police license for a demonstration was issued in the late 1980s.

The annual meetings, held outside of Washington, D.C., once every three years, are the largest and most comprehensive gathering of global financial representatives in the world. They are expected to draw about 16,000 visitors this year.

Organizers in Singapore, a country of 4.5 million people, expect some 300 to 500 non-governmental organizations to be accredited by the IMF and World Bank for the meeting.

Meetings for international financial and trade institutions, which often discuss the course of global economic development and plan the underpinning policy strategies, have attracted heated activities from advocacy groups along with street protests, some of them marred by violence.

Around 30,000 demonstrators turned up for the 1999 World Trade Organization (WTO) talks in Seattle, and more than 20,000 protested against the bank and fund in Washington the following year. However, fewer numbers have protested since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Some critics have pointed out that these institutions have been holding their meetings in tightly controlled countries, including the last IMF/World Bank meeting outside Washington, held in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. In 2001, the WTO organized its ministerial conference in Doha, the capital of Qatar, ruled by an authoritarian regime with close military ties to the United States.

Singapore, however, where people are penalized for failing to flush a public lavatory, for instance, had to accept a request by the IMF and World Bank to allow demonstrations during the meeting in order to be able to host the gathering, which usually attracts finance, trade ministers and central bank governors from around the globe.

But activists say that if implemented, the threats from Singapore to restrict their activities could impede their engagement during the meetings on strategic issues such as trade, aid, debt and sustainable development.

"Thus, we would like to highlight the importance of spontaneous and unrestricted civil society actions before, during and after the WB-IMF meeting," the groups said in their draft letter to the Singapore government.

Dozens of organizations have endorsed the letter so far. These include Focus on the Global South, the Halifax Initiative Coalition in Canada, the Think Center, and Jubilee South.

Singapore says that the IMF and World Bank have an "established process" to engage these groups, including having them take part in activities throughout the annual meetings.

The groups said they expect that even the regulated processes, agreed upon by the IMF and the World Bank with the government of Singapore, will likely follow previous patterns where participation has been selective and exclusive, and has provided limited opportunities for the expression of activist voices.

But a spokesperson for the IMF told IPS that the security issue for the meeting is under discussion with the government of Singapore and said his institution will press for the full participation of advocacy groups.

"The bottom line is that we want to have an inclusive meeting, with active and open NGO participation. That's the whole plan," said William Murray of the IMF. "I am not aware of any desire by anybody to cane anybody. This is a hypothetical situation and frankly security is an issue of ongoing discussions."

NGOs have long criticized the IMF and the World Bank, both dominated by industrialized nations, for placing the interests of international corporations, the rich and local elites before the middle classes and the poor around the world.

Another point of alarm for activists were statements by the government that it would only allow peaceful protests by foreign organizations -- waiving the rules that normally apply in Singapore -- and that local groups will not be able to participate.

The activists said that peaceful protests are universal rights that should be extended "to all people, including Singaporean people and organizations."

Earlier in January, the Consumers Association of Penang and Friends of the Earth Malaysia called for a boycott of Singapore Airlines, the national carrier, to protest the warning issued by the Singapore government that it is prepared to "cane" or imprison protesters.

"Imposing restrictions on demonstrations by civil society to express their outrage at the brutal policies of the IMF and World Bank that impoverish societies and destroy the environment is indeed a restriction on the freedom of expression and the right to dissent against unjust policies," said Mohd Idris, who heads the two groups.

Activists fear that Singapore's vow to restrict civil society groups is likely to be translated into unwarranted screening of participants in the events and anyone who enters Singapore during that period.

The Singapore government has been keen to use the opportunity to promote tourism and showcase the country as a leading financial center.

During the last annual meetings in Washington, it set up a colorful booth to advertise its housing in 2006. It has already launched a Web site in anticipation of the event that touts the country's glittering skyscrapers and thriving port. Singapore says it has also prepared a visual arts extravaganza that will take place for the first time in Southeast Asia.
Join in the boycott. Boycott Singapore Airlines! A stupid country which aims to attract more tourist by hosting the event and telling the world that protestors will be caned clearly marks the death of human rights in that country. We should come together and stage a protest right under the nose of such an authoritarian regime!

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Sunday, March 12, 2006

South Korean Farmers Under Siege by Korean Troops

On March 6th, 2006, South Korean military riot police began an attack on the autonomous village of Daechuri. For over four years, Daechuri and the nearby community of Doduri have defiantly resisted the siezure of their homes and fields for the expansion of an United States Army base. Barracaded inside the elementary school, rice farmers, elderly residents, and peace activists are holding out against sporadic, sometimes intense attacks by Korea's elite military police force. International support is needed to pressure the Korean government to halt its brutal assault.

Utilizing tractors as road blocks, human shields chained to the school gates, and the courage of a people fighting for their homes and lives, they have, so far, resisted wave after wave of attacks by hundreds of military riot police. Residents and peace activists have suffered beatings and arrests, while inside the school, activists upload news updates, video of the attacks, and make pleas for immediate aid. They are exhausted and dehydrated, and in need of reinforcements and supplies. International observers, journalists, and anyone with a phone or a computer can take action now.

The expansion of U.S. Army base Camp Humphreys (K-6) is part of the Global Repositioning Plan, first outlined by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and later adopted as the Bush Administration's strategy for consolidating its military hegemony over Northeast Asia.

Opposition to the expansion of the base has come from many diverse currents within Korean society. Apart from community displacement, many have also highlighted issues including the devastating environmental impact of US bases, the violent crimes committed by US troops stationed on the peninsula, the issue of human trafficking and forced prostitution which surrounds the bases, and the potential for a new arms race that could destabilize all of Northeast Asia.

Currently, Camp Humphreys occupies 3,734 acres. However, in December 2004 the Korean government pledged to give over an additional 2,851 acres for the base facilities. But this land is flat, rich farm land stretching as far as the horizon. With this new expansion, some 1,372 residents will be driven off their land. Many are elderly people in the 60s and 70s. Fifty years ago these communities lost their land as 2 foreign forces (first Japanese, then American) built and expanded the base. Now for the 3rd time they will experience being forced off their own land. The Korean Ministry of National Defence (MND), has publicly declared that it will make the houses unlivable and the land untillable. If anyone touches an empty house they will be fined. To prevent people from engaging in agriculture the water lines have been cut and barbed wire has been laid.

Residents and Korean peace organizations have been fighting the proposed expansion through legal means since 2001, all the while being deceived and ignored by officials, which finally prompted them to take matters into their own hands. In Feb 2005, Nomads for Peace "Peace Wind" moved into the village and initiated a variety of supportive activities while living with the residents. Last March, NGOs from all over Korea formed a Counter Measures Comittee to join with the residents of Pyongtaek in educational programs, publicity and solidarity actions.

Eventually weary of the struggle, some villagers accepted the compensation money and left, others were intimidated into fleeing, but many farmers and their families refused to surrender their homes and livelihood to a foreign power's imperial ambitions.

A national campaign formed, including a tractor driven "Peace Pilgrimage", as well as massive solidarity rallies. In November of '05, two Korean farmers died at the hands of riot police in Seoul. In December, 2005, the Land Expropriation Committee approved the "imminent domain" seizure of Daechuri, Doduri and the surrounding fields. The farmers' existence on their own land was now illegal. Outraged and dissillusioned with the corrupt beaurocracy of an indifferent government, in February, farmers marched to Pyeongtaek city hall and burned their "residency cards", renounced their Korean citizenship and declared Daechuri an autonomous region.

Within this rebel territory, a vibrant community has flourished. Artists, musicians, peace activists, and religious leaders have joined with the residents, repairing and occupying vacant houses, and creating a "Peace Village". Murals of hope and resistance have appeared on blank walls, flags and banners opposing the American base expansion and U.S. imperialsim hang throughout the town. Traditional, shamanistic "totem poles" were carved in order to chase out the evil spirits plaguing the farmers. Every day, for over 550 days, residents and visitors have gathered in the Peace Village for a candlelight vigil. Famous Korean entertainers have made appearances and popular musicians held concerts to highlight the cause and encourage the farmers to continue fighting. Faced with the greatest tragedy of their lives, the villagers and their supporters have created a community of inspirational beauty and power

These peaceful farming communities are now being uprooted and brutalized due to American military expansion. Attacks against the village by Korean authorities will continue until the U.S. withdraws its proposal for base expansion. Only massive international solidarity can save this land.


It there is anything that the United States is good at, it is its violence. Brute force to coerce people into submission. So much for Land of the Free.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

The Never Ending Struggle Against the WTO

The WTO Ministerial Conference ended, but the touching and agitating moments of people action week against WTO leaded us to rethink the impacts of free trade to grassroots and the oppression, exploitation bring by the corporations and rich countries governments. However, the hurts to poor people didn’t ends with the conference, and we have to flight until we win.

Right before the trail of two WTO political detainees, HKPA and many different groups will hold a series of activities to review the struggle and arouse people's attention to the unjust prosecution.


Candle Light Vigil
Date: 1st March (Wed)
Time: 7:30p.m.
Venue: Causeway Bay Pedestrian Zone, East Point Road

Date: 2nd March, 2006 (Thur)
Time: 12:00 noon
Venue: Outside Failing Magistracy

Date: 14th March, 2006 (Tue) (to be confirmed)
Time: 12:00 noon
Venue: Outside Failing Magistracy

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Open letter to Singapore PM on WB-IMF meeting on Sept 19-20 2006

During the SAPA (Strategic Action Planning for Advocacy) meeting in Bangkok (Feb. 3-4), many participants, from Singapore and other national, regional and international organizations expressed their concerns about possible restrictions and threats (including caning for protestors) being made by Singaporean authorities regarding civil society actions at the September meeting of World Bank and IMF in Singapore.

Participants decided that as the first response, concerned civil society groups should send a letter to the Singaporean authorities expressing our concerns.

Below is the open letter drafted by some participants. Should you want to endorse this open letter, please email your name and the name of your organization to

Please circulate this also amongst your networks and encourage more civil society groups to join this campaign. Thank you.

8th February 2006

Mr Lee Hsien Loong
Prime Minister
Republic of Singapore

CC.Ms. Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights,
Ms. Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the (UN) Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders
Mr. Ambeyi Ligabo, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom opinion and expression of the UN Commission on Human Rights
Mr. Manfred Nowak, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of the UN Commission on Human Rights
Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, President, World Bank
Mr. Rodrigo de Rato y Figaredo, Managing Director, IMF

Dear Mr. Lee Hsien Loong;
As a network of the national, regional and international civil society organisations, we the undersigned express our grave concerns about the impending restrictions and threats reportedly being made that will hamper meaningful civil society participation at the upcoming WB-IMF meeting in Singapore, 19-20 September 2006. These threats and restrictions will jeopardize civil society engagement with various inter-governmental bodies on strategic issues such as trade, aid, debt, sustainable development, human rights, peace and human security.

We understand that your government, as well as WB-IMF, are making some arrangements for actions by foreign NGOs, during the above meetings. In our experience such regulated processes tend to be selective, exclusive and provide very limited opportunities for the expression of civil society voices, particularly of marginalised groups who are directly affected by the deliberations and decisions of these meetings. Thus, we would like to highlight the importance of spontaneous and unrestricted civil society actions before, during and after the WB-IMF meeting.

We are also concerned by reports that only selected foreign organisations may be “allowed” to stage peaceful protests – waiving the rules that normally apply in Singapore – and that like-minded Singaporean organisations will not be allowed to do so. We emphasise that freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, particularly the right to organize and participate in peaceful protests are universal rights that should be enjoyed by all people, including Singaporean people and organisations.

We consider statements such as the one reportedly made by Mr Wong Kan Seng, Singapore Home Affairs Minister, that certain civil society actions may “attract severe punishment, including caning and imprisonment”, as veiled threats towards civil society.

The World Bank – IMF meeting in September is not a meeting that concerns only Singapore. Its deliberations and decisions will affect millions of people in hundreds of countries. Hence it will bring thousands of activists from all parts of the world to Singapore, and the eyes of the world will be on this country.

This will be an excellent opportunity for Singapore to display its respect and commitment to uphold universally-recognised human rights standards, particularly freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Restrictions on peaceful civil society actions of any kind and threats of using cruel, inhumane and degrading punishments such as caning will only erode Singapore’s credibility in the eyes of global civil society.

We look forward to your response to our concerns.

Sincerely yours,

1. Anselmo Lee, Executive Director, FORUM-ASIA
2. Sinapan Samydorai, President, THINK CENTRE
3. Debbie Stothard, Coordinator, ALTSEAN-Burma
4. Lucia Victor Jayaseelan, Coordinator, Committee for Asian Women
5. Al Alegre, Executive Director, Foundation for Media Alternatives
6. Aileen Bacalso, Secretary-General, Asian Federation Against Disappearance
7. Fred Lubang, Regional Representative, Nonviolence International
8. Lidy Nacpil, International Coordinator, Jubilee South
9. Jenina Joy Chavez, Senior Associate, Focus on the Global South
10. Irene Xavier, Coordinator, TIE Asia
11. Hye-Woo Na, Coordinator, Leaders and Organizers of Community Organization in Asia
12. Zinithiya Ganespanchan, Coordinator, Women's Network for Peace and Freedom
13. Wilfred Dcosta, General Secretary, Indian Social Action Forum
14. Khalid Hayat, Balochistan Rural Development & Research Society
15. Sultana Kamal, Executive Director, AIN O SALISH KENDRA
16. Anis Hidayah, Migrant Care, Perhimpunan Indonesia
17. Agnes Khoo, Executive Director, Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives
18. Mohiuddin Ahmad, Regional Committee, Jubilee South/Asia-Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (APMDD)
19. Hemantha Withanage, Executive Director, NGO Forum on ADB
20. Ana Maria R. Nemenzo, Freedom from Debt Coalition
21. Steve Hellinger, President, The Development GAP
22. Bernadette T. Aquino, World Council of Churches Women and Globalization Program
23. Danielle Mahones, Executive Director, Center for Third World Organizing
24. Deus M. Kibamba, Gender Networking Programme
25. Andrew Mushi, Tanzania Association of Non Governmental Organisations
26. Mouafo Florent Noel, Centre for Promotion of Social and Economic Alternatives
27. Novita M. Tantri, Yayasan NADI
28. Rosemarie R. Trajano, Executive Director, Kanlungan Center Foundation
29. Nikki Reisch, Africa Program Manager, Bank Information Center
30. Dr. Mala Bhandari, Social and Development Research & Action Group NOIDA, India
31. Virgilio da Silva Guterres, President, Timor-Lorosa'e Journalists' Association (TLJA)
32. John Mihevc, Chair, Halifax Initiative Coalition, Canada
33. Chris Wangkay, Coordinator for Debt Campaign, INFID (International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development)

Please contact Ruki Fernando, Coordinator of Human Rights Defenders Program of FORUM-ASIA (+66-4-0991538 / for further details and information.


Here is an open letter endorsed by the heavy weights of Human Rights defenders and anti-globalisation activists. What kind of medieval nation is hosting the forth-coming meetings? One that canes? Freedom of expression is so dead!

We managed to keep 2005 safe with no deals concluded at the last Ministerial Meeting. That is the benchmark that we shall seek to achieve henceforth.

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