Groundswells of democratic aspirations and developments in Asia

Based in Germany, and operating in 60 countries around the globe, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) promotes freedom, liberalism, democracy, human rights, pluralism, tolerance, market-based economy and the rule of law.  In its Southeast and East Asia branch, the Foundation cooperates with a variety of local NGOs sharing the same liberal vision, and work on human rights, democracy, freedom of expression and women’s rights.

In 2003 the only regional alliance of liberal and democratic political parties in Asia was formed as The Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats. (CALD)

The essence of democracy – the peaceful and smooth transfer of power and change of government – cannot yet be said to have become the norm in Asia. But it is clear that the traditional type of power politics, often with military intervention, is on the wane, while groundswells of democratic aspirations and developments have become very much apparent. Decentralization is more acceptable, and new parties are growing in countries where, for decades, one party successfully defended its grip on power.

There are silent revolutions of traditional Asian behaviour and habits going on, and as the growing middle class becomes increasingly mobile and informed, and take on fast-paced lifestyles, so too does the demand for more participation in governance become stronger and more urgent.

Emblem of ASEAN

With the rise of globalization and the current competition with China and India, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) with vast diversity, needs to consolidate in order to form its own foundation for bargaining and for competition with the outside world – to revalidate its driver’s license to get back on the driver’s seat, to once again serve as the fulcrum of power play in Asia and as the cornerstone of community building. Dr. Surin presented inJuly 2008 the ASEAN Charter, a document which he strongly believes will give ASEAN its legal personality, as the start of further strengthening the cooperation among members and finding the appropriate solutions to the common challenges in the region to help move their region towards this brighter horizon.

Map showing ASEAN member states Legend ██ ASEA...

Map showing ASEAN member states Legend ██ ASEAN full members ██ ASEAN observers ██ ASEAN candidate members █ █ ASEAN Plus Three █ █ █ East Asia Summit █ █ █ █ █ █ ASEAN Regional Forum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and CALD want to be a platform for dialogue and co-operation between liberal political parties and like-minded organisations and individuals on development issues and concerns in the region.

Thailand’s Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Member of Parliament Kasit Piromya (center) with CALD and guests in a round table discussion on Thailand’s Continuing Political Crisis

“The nature of Thai politics (at present) changed from democratic competition for governmental power to conflict emanating from two competing ideologies… continuation of constitutional monarchy guided by the principle of separation of powers, or the institution of one-party absolute power based on majority rule in the parliament.”

said Thailand’s Shadow Deputy Prime Minister and Member of Parliament Kasit Piromya last at the CALD-Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) Office.

Currently, nine member parties hold full member status in CALD. They compromise of the Democrat Party of Thailand, the Democratic Progressive Party of Taiwan, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle, the Liberal Party of the Philippines, the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka, the National Council of the Union of Burma, Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia, Sam Rainsy Party, and Singapore Democrat Party. Observer member parties are the Democratic Party of Japan, the Nation Awakening Party of Indonesia, The Democrat Party of Hong Kong, and the Civil Will Party of Mongolia.

CALD partners with various liberal foundations in the region. These include the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, Liberal International, and the Alliance for Liberals and Democrats from Europe. The Council organizes international conferences on vital issues affecting the region, and regular workshops on communication, political management, and women in politics. Along those lines, CALD also organizes regular activities and workshops for its own working groups, namely the CALD Women’s Caucus and the CALD Youth Caucus.

That lots of work on peace arrangements and democracy still has to be done is sure, but work is slowly in progress. It is unacceptable that human rights violations still take place in ASEAN member states, most notably in border-regions of Myanmar, Thailand and Indonesia, where government forces and separatist movements of ethnic minorities fight each other. Myanmar and Vietnam imprison dissidents. Malaysia and Singapore’s internal security laws allow for detention without charge or trial. Most countries in the region ban peaceful public protest, curb freedom of expression and control the media.

The Economic Freedom Network Asia (EFN), initiated by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty in 1998 is a network of research institutes, practitioners, think-tanks, and individuals who share the aim of promoting the benefits of a market economy, civil society and individual liberty to enhance human development and economic growth in Asia.

EFN provides a platform for political dialogue, public education and academic exchange in order to encourage political decision-makers, political advisors and the general public to debate the merits of a free market economy, private ownership, equal competition and the limitation of state intervention in market processes. At EFN Asia, we believe in private ownership, personal choice, voluntary exchange, competition, free market access and rule of law.

The Network cooperates with the Economic Freedom of the World (EFW) index in Asia, to further analyse the economic development, and the strengths and weaknesses of Asian economies in a global context. Since 1998, EFN Asia has organised a series of successful annual conferences and workshops to discuss specific relevant issues, assess the methods and indicators of the EFW index from an Asian perspective, and disseminate ideas about economic freedom to a broader audience.

Since its launch, the Network has grown throughout Asia and beyond. The Network currently comprises 4 international partners, 15 member institutes and 10 individual members. EFN Asia also seeks partnerships with other like-minded organisations within and outside Asia.

International awareness of political parties is becoming a trend, in tandem with the increasing realization that events in neighbouring countries affect the entire region more directly than before.

The growing economic interdependency among nations has also made any kind of isolation more costly. But open borders and free flow of goods and services are not the only ingredients for successful economic cooperation and fair trade. There is also a need for a free flow of ideas, as well as more convergence in the political and social development of players.

Being primarily a network of liberal and democratic political parties, CALD believes that it can help people in the region deal with these challenges. Democracy, after all, has been on hold for many Asians for far too long.

The Korea Democracy Foundation(KDF) also was established to contribute to the development of democracy by carrying out projects to memorialise the democratization movement and inherit its spirit in accordance with the Korea Democracy Foundation Act(Act 6495) passed into legislation on June 28, 2001. The KDF carries out support projects and arranges events to develop democracy movement, such as the establishment and operation of the Korea Democracy Memorial Hall. It also collects, digitizes, manages, and researches documents for the historical organization of the democratization movement as well as the democratization movement artefacts preservation, management and publication.

Dr. Adam Rainer represents the FNF Regional Office at the  7th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies in Ulaanbaatar, April 27-29, which provides an opportunity for participants to decide how the Community of Democracies will remain as a global action-based platform to strengthen and support democracies around the world.

With the Mongolian presidency, the 7th Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies have invited a variety of CSO representatives from all over the world, to take part in the Conference, discuss, and promote their ideas. The representatives will take part in different elements of the Conference, discuss the engagement of CSOs in the Community’s “Democracy Partnership Challenge” Task Forces in Moldova and Tunisia, and work on a digital platform to enable civil society activists to share the stories with others around the world.

Southeast Asian nations have quietly begun to row back on a deadline of forming an “economic community” by 2015, confirming what many economists and diplomats have suspected for years as the diverse group hits tough obstacles to closer union.

Rather than referring to the end of 2015 as a firm goal, officials at this year’s first summit of leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), whose 10 members range from glitzy Singapore to impoverished Myanmar, prefer to call it a “milestone” to be built on in years ahead.

In so doing, they are bowing to the reality of slow progress and even some regression on politically sensitive goals, such as eliminating non-tariff barriers and lowering obstacles to the free flow of labour in the diverse region of 600 million people.

While failure to meet the ambitious goal, which was brought forward from 2020 originally, is no surprise, it risks undermining ASEAN’s credibility at a time when it faces unprecedented divisions over maritime disputes with China.
says Stuart Grudgings

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Secretary General Le Luong Minh has affirmed that the association will make stronger efforts to fulfill its goals, fostering the implementation of agreements and Asean integration to successfully establish an Asean Community in 2015 based on three key pillars; politics-security, economics and socio-culture.

Speaking at a recent press briefing, Minh stressed Asean’s requirements, tasks and goals, as well as those of the Asean Secretariat and his own as the Secretary General, in the 2013-2017 period.

It is a significant era for the association as it includes the building of an Asean Community in 2015 and the 50 th anniversary of its establishment in 2017, the Secretary General said.

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  • Iloilo City Solon Chosen to Represent the Philippines in International Conference of Liberals and Democrats (congressmantrenas.wordpress.com)
    Congressman Jerry Treñas was chosen to represent the Philippines in the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) – Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD) summit on trade which was held on June 4-8, 2012 in Brussels, Belgium. The ALDE-CALD meeting examined the trade relations between Europe and Asia. It also allowed the participants, members of parliament and other government officials from Europe and Asia, to strengthen the ties among liberals and democrats from various Asian and European countries.
  • Training of Moderators Workshop (sustainableinitiativespk.wordpress.com)
    the participants learnt about event management, understanding the target audience, group processes and packing messages in the right way.
  • ASEAN’s chairmanship in 2013 and 2014 (dinmerican.wordpress.com)
    Myanmar is deeply divided ethnically and is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. These weaknesses are supposed to render the two countries vulnerable to political pressure from interested great powers, as, it is claimed, Cambodia was from China last year.The disputes over sovereignty and jurisdiction in the South China Sea, on which the joint communiqué supposedly foundered, seem only to have escalated. China’s military ability to pursue its claims is reported to have increased, and Beijing’s assertiveness in the pursuit of those claims is said to have intensified.
    +
    the strongest source of confidence in the leadership of ASEAN in 2013 and 2014 is that it is in the national interest of the major world powers, as well as ASEAN’s member states, that ASEAN remains united on the principles governing the conduct of international relations in Southeast Asia. These principles are consistent both with the values proclaimed by the United States and with the safeguards insisted upon by China.
  • FDI: Asean’s future brighter than China’s (blogs.ft.com)
    Foreign direct investment into the Asean countries has risen strongly in the past few years and is now on a par with FDI into China.
    +
    Chua says demographics explain the growing wage gap between China and the Asean countries and will continue to do so: “China’s working age population started shrinking last year (some three years ahead of schedule), while ASEAN’s working age population continues to expand at a healthy pace.”
  • Ignoring Genocide: Rohingya People Deserve (ramyabdeljabbar.wordpress.com)
    One fails to understand the unperturbed attitude with which regional and international leaders and organizations are treating the unrelenting onslaught against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, formally known as Burma. Numbers speak of atrocities where every violent act is prelude to greater violence and ethnic cleansing. Yet, western governments’ normalization with the Myanmar regime continues unabated, regional leaders are as gutless as ever and even human rights organizations seem compelled by habitual urges to issue statements lacking meaningful, decisive and coordinated calls for action.
    +
    western countries, led by the United States are clamoring to divide the large Myanmar economic cake amongst themselves, and are saying next to nothing about the current human rights records of Rangoon.
  • ASEAN’s AEC Integration: The need to educate global journalist, like Reuters, dimension (aseaneconomist.wordpress.com)
    The formation of the AEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2015 is an important “milestone” in the process of ASEAN integration. The challenge for members is to grow with the gains of integration while staying prepared for changes. It is important to reap benefits by creating a mutually reinforcing “virtuous circle” of integration.
    +
    The summit’s final communique contained no specific commitment to the 2015 goal, saying that leaders had agreed to “leverage upon ongoing work to establish the AEC”, or ASEAN Economic Community.The problems raise doubts over whether the group, whose renowned “consensus” approach is designed to protect national interests but also slows decision-making, can bridge yawning economic gaps between richer nations like Malaysia and newer, poorer members such as Myanmar and Laos.

    “They are a long way off,” says Jayant Menon, a senior economist at the Asian Development Bank in Manila, referring to the “Mekong” nations of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Vietnam.

    “This kind of exercise – highly ambitious, short time-lines – simply works to fracture the organisation further.”

  • ASEAN to China: Let’s discuss disputes (rappler.com)
    Southeast Asian leaders on Thursday, April 25, called for urgent talks with China to ensure that increasingly tense territorial disputes over the South China Sea did not escalate into violence.The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) wrapped up a two-day summit in Brunei with a chairman’s statement in which they emphasized the importance of “peace, stability and maritime security in the region.”
    +Southeast Asian leaders said this week’s summit had successfully led to a regained sense of unity within ASEAN on the issue, with Philippine President Benigno Aquino praising his Brunei host for deft diplomacy that helped build a consensus.

    “Everybody is interested in having a peaceful resolution and also in voicing… concern that there have been increasing disputes,” Aquino told reporters.

    Nevertheless, analysts said ASEAN’s calls for China to agree on a legally binding code of conduct for the sea would likely lead nowhere.

About Marcus Ampe

Retired dancer, choreographer, choreologist Founder of the Dance impresario office and archive: Danscontact-Dansarchief plus the Association for Bible scholars, the Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" and "From Guestwriters" and creator of the site "Messiah for all". - Gepensioneerd danser, choreograaf, choreoloog. Stichter van Danscontact-Dansarchief plus van de Vereniging voor Bijbelvorsers, de Lifestyle magazines "Stepping Toes" en "From Guestwriters" en maker van de site "Messiah for all".
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