Seminars & meetings - 2004
October 17, 2004
The Constitutional Committee on the Revelation of the People's Aspirations (CCRPA) Workshop No. (3)
The Constitutional Committee on the Revelation of the People's Aspirations (CCRPA), which was jointly formed by the Burma Lawyers' Council (BLC) and the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area) (NLD-LA), held its third workshop discussing the revelation of the people's aspirations for the future constitution. It took place on the Thai-Burma border on 17th October, 2004, and over 50 Burmese migrant workers in Thailand attended. A committee member of CCRPA, U Tin Tun Aung, Member of Parliament from Yinmarbin Township Constituency (2), Sagaing Division, Burma, addressed the importance of the people's participation in Burma's democratization process in his opening speech of the workshop.
See details in English, Burmese.
October 11, 2004
The Constitutional Committee on the Revelation of the People's Aspirations (CCRPA) Workshop No. (2)
The Constitutional Committee on the Revelation of the People's Aspirations (CCRPA), which was jointly formed by the Burma Lawyers' Council (BLC) and the National League for Democracy (Liberated Area) (NLD-LA), held a workshop No.2, discussing the revelation of the people's aspirations for the future constitution. It took place on the Thai-Burma border on 10 October, 2004, and over 30 Burmese migrant workers in Thailand attended. The secretary of CCRPA, U Kyaw Thwin, Member of Parliament from Khayan Township, Yangon Division, Burma, addressed the background, aims and objectives of the committee as well as the importance of people's participation in the constitution drafting process at the opening speech of the workshop.
See details in English, Burmese.
September 25, 2004
Constitutional Consultation No.(7)
The constitutional consultation No (7) initiated by the Burma Lawyers' Council (BLC) was held in the Thai-Burma border on 25.9.2004.
See details in English, Burmese.
September 18, 2004
Constitutional Consultation No.(6)
The constitutional consultation No (6) initiated by the Burma Lawyers' Council (BLC) was held in the Thai-Burma border on 18.9.2004.
See details in English, Burmese.
September 11, 2004
Constitutional Consultation No.(5)
The constitutional consultation No (5) initiated by the Burma Lawyers' Council (BLC) was held in the Thai-Burma border on 11.9.2004.
See details in English, Burmese.
September 4, 2004
Constitutional Consultation No.(4)
The constitutional consultation No (5) initiated by the Burma Lawyers' Council (BLC) was held in the Thai-Burma border on 4.9.2004.
See details in English, Burmese.
Seminars & meetings - 2003
Media Law Workshop
BLC held a Media Law workshop in the campus of Chulalongkong University, Bangkok on 14-17, January, with the participation of ten lawyers from the BLC and two media law experts - Dr. Mike Fowler from US and Mr. Graeme Wiffin from Australia. The workshop was to skill up in media associated legal areas, such as freedom of information, privacy, national security, and broadcasting requirements and to critique the draft law using article 19 of UDHR as the benchmark, plus a drafting exercise with an expert in legislative drafting to determine the best method to approach drafting.
Seminars & meetings - 2000
BLC recognizes the importance of interacting with regional and international human rights bodies. This involves BLC in exchanging information, attending seminars and conferences, participation in missions such as election monitoring, undertaking study and fact finding trips etc. BLC also recognizes that more work is required to establish and to sustain strong ties with Thai civil society. These difficulties have stemmed-from BLC's status in Thailand, and the temporary immigration status of its staff in Bangkok. Moves are now being made to address these problems locally, by direct approaches to government and through Thai NGOs, as the standing of BLC is increasing in both international and regional domains.
Regional and international seminars
BLC has achieved consultancy status by being invited to attend the Fifth Annual Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions, held in New Zealand from 7 to 9 August 2000. A Senior Legal Officer of BLC has been briefed to attend this meeting and to report on the proceedings. In June 2000, BLC was invited to the workshop on the International Criminal Court sponsored by Forum Asia in Bangkok. On 8 May, BLC was invited to a meeting on the establishment of an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism at Chulalongkorn University.
U Ye Htut and U Khin Maung Win on behalf of BLC attended the International Conference on Corruption, Democracy and Development, that was held in Bangkok on the 18 and 19 September, 2000. The conference was opened by Minister of the Prime Minister's Office Mr. Ahbisit Vejjajiva. The conference dealt with corruption's impact on democracy and development, the response by government and civil society, and the role of the media. The Thai experi-3 ence included the police being identified as amongst the worst three engaged in corruption. Much of the concern about corruption focused on its impact on business, and that big corruption scandals of the last few years have had one factor in common: cooperation between politicians and senior bureaucrats, a very powerful combination. Money and politics is a vicious cycle, a self-sustaining system. Politicians invest money in buying votes. Senior officials invest money in buying promotions to gain positions with opportunities for gain. Then these two groups conspire to recoup their losses. They conspire by resisting any reforms which will threaten them. In the end they deliberately undermine democracy in order to ensure that they can make money from politics. They try to control the media, obstruct political reforms and ignore pressure for judicial reform. The real pressure for reform has to come from civil society. BLC actively participated in panel discussions, and BLC's awareness on the impact of corruption on democracy was enhanced by the speakers' and participants' experiences in their fight against corruption. At the conference BLC had the opportunity to exchange experiences and to discuss solutions and strategies, with representatives from various countries in the region, and to explore effective collaboration in promoting a more active role for civil society, in eradicating corruption at national and international levels.
Another representative of the BLC participated in a regional workshop in September, Citizenship and Good Governance - A Gender Perspective -, sponsored by the Japan Foundation. BLC's representative reported that the workshop was very valuable and also enabled her to network amongst activists and development workers within the region.
Second Assembly of World Democracy
U Ye Htut represented BLC at the Second Assembly of the World Movement for Democracy in Sao Paulo, Brazil, from 12 to 15 November 2000. The theme of the conference was "Confronting the Challenges to Democracy in the 21 Century". Delegates from about 90 countries around the world attended the conference. BLC actively participated in topical, functional and regional workshops that produced short lists of collaborative strategies and recommended actions. BLC gained invaluable knowledge from this, particularly from the workshops on "Improving Governance Through Federalism: Decentralization, Devolution and Other Approaches"; "Ethnic Conflict Management: Federalism and Alternative Models for Regulation of Conflict"; "Elections and the International Community:"
Do's and Don'ts"; "Asia After the Crisis: More Reform or More of the Same?"; and “Democracy Assistance Foundations: Programme Challenges". The conference gave BLC the opportunity to forge support and cooperation alliances and networks, to collaborate with activists from around the world, in BLC's quest for the restoration of democracy and human rights in Burma. BLC believes that this conference has achieved its goal of assisting democracy groups working at grass roots level, to develop the initiatives, skills, and contacts needed in the struggle to make democracy a reality for everyone in this era of globalization. BLC is grateful to NED for their permission to participate again in the World Movement for Democracy.
Participation in the UN Sponsored Conference
On 29 and 30 May, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and Social Watch Asia held a joint conference, "Asia Regional Consultations on Social Development"at the UN office in Bangkok. BLC was invited as one of the consulting participants. Also participating at this conference were the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), International Labour Organization (ILO), and World Health Organization (WHO). Representing UNICEF at the conference was Dr Aung Thun Thet from Burma. This was the first time that BLC was invited to participate in a consultative UN meeting. At the conference, BLC raised questions as to whether there was a Civil Society in Burma; because the Union Solidarity and Development Association and the Maternity Association are created and controlled by the Burmese military and do not fail within the accepted norms of Civil Society. Also mentioned were instances where humanitarian assistance rendered by UNICEF was misused by the Mandalay Military Intelligence Service (MIS), as there is no monitoring arrangement in Burma regarding humanitarian assistance. BLC emphasized that in order to build a strong cMI society in Burma, there is an urgent need for the emergence of basic social services. NGOs can perform an important role in this regard. The Burmese UNICEF representative admitted that there were deficiencies in this regard.
Ms Nurul lzzah Anwar, the eldest daughter of former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, sought a meeting with BLC on her visit to Bangkok, to lobby Thai society for the cause of the Rule of Law in Malaysia. BLC exchanged information on the Rule of Law in our respective countries at a meeting in BLC's Bangkok office.
Regarding regional networks, BLC representatives held discussion with a Singapore Human Rights Lawyer, Tang Lay Lee, on citizenship issues. He has agreed to work closely with BLC on this issue. There has also been discussion with Taiwanese officials in Bangkok on Burma issues, self-determination, and the need for grass root contacts in the implementation of a strong dvii society in Burma.
Mr Sidoti met with BLC representatives in Bangkok, upon his return from Rangoon in October. Those discussions canvassed current and pertinent issues such as the proposed National Human Rights Institution for Burma, and the Australian Government's initiative to provide human rights training to representatives of the SPDC. Mr Sidoti taken an active role in both of these significant policy matters.
In February 2000, BLC's Chairman U Them Oo met the visiting delegation from East Timor (led by Xanana Gusmao) in Bangkok, and discussed the situation in Burma and opportunities for East Timor to support the Burmese democracy movement. U Them Oo provided information about BLC and the refugee situation. The East Timorese delegation was very supportive towards BLC's work. The delegation agreed to discuss the difficulties experienced by Burmese refugees with the Thai government. Maybe in response to this, the Thai government has in subsequent months adopted a more open policy on this issue. Mr. Sukhumband Paribatra invited officials from different embassies to visit camps in the border region. The Thai Government also accompanied British Foreign Minister, Mr. Robin Cook, to a Karen refugee camp.
International Bar Association meeting
In early April, Mr B.K. Sen, on behalf of BLC, attended the International Bar Association's (IBA) Asian Bar Leaders Meeting in Hong Kong. The meeting brought together leaders from: Malaysian Bar Council;
Japanese Federation of Bar Associations;
Integrated Bar of the Philippines;
Philippine Lawyers' Assodation;
All China Lawyers Association;
Lao Bar Association;
Law Society of Hong Kong; and
Hong Kong Bar Association.
IBA's President and Vice President attended. A legal expert from Spain also participated. The President addressed the meeting, then stated that not much news was available about Burma. He requested Mr B.K. Sen to give an address. Mr B.K. Sen gave all participants a set of documents containing a statement by BLC. He gave a short background of Burma's judicial system and outlined the colonial judicial system, the common law and the role of the Bar, the situation after independence and then the severe decline since the military coup. Lawyers who run defences and expose stock witnesses are harassed and their licences to practise are cancelled, although according to law, a licence to practise can be suspended / cancelled only for professional misconduct proved in a judicial tribunal. He gave a list of 46 suspended lawyers and the offences alleged against them, and requested the IBA and its President to inquire about this matter with the military regime. The President consulted his Vice-President and stated that they will look into the matter and if necessary ask their Human Rights Committee to pursue the matter.
BLC also initiated contact with the All China Lawyers' Association, suggesting future meetings to discuss possible cooperation. BLC is awaiting a response.
BLC and Thai-Burma 'Workshop'
BLC recognizes that more work is required to establish and sustain strong ties with Thai Civil Society. Relations between Thailand and Burma are extremely important for future change in Burma, as well as for the situation of refugees and border groups. While Thai and Burmese NGOs and other organizations have a good working relationship and cooperate freely, this has been on an ad hoc basis, without an agreed strategy or overall plan.
Thailand has been facing a lot of issues arising from problems in Burma such as refugees, women trafficking, migrant workers, illegal immigrants, drugs, and others including the Burmese embassy siege and the Ratchaburi hospital raid.
Unfortunately, the Thai Government has never formulated a clear policy on Burma. Different Thai Government institutions (such as the Prime Minister's Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Interior, National Security Council, Forestry Department, the Thai Army, and local authorities) all have different ways of dealing with the situation along the Thai-Burma border.
The different (sometimes conflicting) views of the various Thai bodies have hindered the promotion of democracy in Burma and also the welfare of Thai people. For example, under the economic-orientated Thai foreign policy, the Thai government put pressure on ethnic groups in Burma to enter the cease-fire with the SPDC. As a result; the momentum of democratic movement was seriously lowered. Under such a cease-fire the ethnic issue was not properly politically resolved. The United Wa State Party, one of the major ethnic cease-fire groups, has cooperated with the SPDC in the trade of narcotics.
As a result of the many problems arising from SPDC's repression, Thai middle class, academics, human rights NGOs and some government officials (including some army officials) have started to talk about the issues of the relation between Thailand and the SPDC. Whenever the opportunity occurs, BLC shares its view with academics from Chulalongkorn, Thammasat and Mahidol Universities and Thai NGOs. The major strategic planning of the BLC is to encourage Thai society to review and re-establish a new policy on Burma, focusing on human rights beneficial to the people in both countries.
BLC has actively co-operated with the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB) in convening the proposed "Thai-Burma Seminar". BLC has also played an initiating role in convening the seminar by lobbying, consulting Thai academics and Thai NGOs. Such a seminar has never been attempted before. Upon initiating the process in April, BLC, through FORUM-ASIA, contacted academics and the universities in Bangkok to explore the best timing and venue for the seminar. The Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS), ChuIalongkorn University Bangkok, will host the Seminar in May 2001. The NCIJB will be the main organizer from the Burmese side, while ISIS and Forum-Asia will be the co-organizers from the Thai side. Academics who are interested in the Burmese political situation, and who are close to Thai policy makers and government representatives, will be invited to the seminar. High-level leaders from the opposition movement will represent the Burmese. Apart from BLC's involvement in the initiating and preparatory process of the seminar, BLC has also committed its share of the costs of convening the seminar in the sum of 200,000 Baht.
Meetings with embassies
BLC delegations often meet with foreign embassies in Bangkok which include those of the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Norway, India, and the Office of the European Delegation to Thailand, briefing about the Burmese political situation from legal perspectives.
On 31 March 2000, BLC attended a meeting at the Australian Embassy. U Aung Htoo and Ms. Janelle Saffin represented BLC. Mr. Paul Tyghe (Deputy Head of Mission), Mr. Craig Keating (AusAID Officer), Mr. Peter Holmes (Councilor), and Mr. Luke Williams (First Secretary), participated on behalf of the Australian Embassy.
The topic discussed was the Australian Government's policy and aid projects regarding Burma. The embassy officials explained that Australia's previous hard-line policy against the SPDC had not worked and that Australia was now trying a slightly different approach. One example was the visit to Rangoon by Australia's Human Rights Commissioner Mr. Chris Sidoti, and his discussion with the SPDC and other parties. This was supported, and in fact promoted, by the Australian Government, specifically by Foreign Affairs Minister Alexander Downer, who first raised it during an ASEAN meeting with Win Aung, the SPDC Foreign Affairs spokesperson. It was concluded that the door was at least ajar to continue speaking on issues in an instructive and mutually informative way.
BLC commented that while economic investment is only beneficial to the SPDC, engagement from the international community, specifically working programs on human rights, should be encouraged. From this perspective, the visit of Mr Chris Sidoti is interesting and is being debated by people inside Burma. BLC suggested that the Australian Government should inform democracy leaders about its policy and policy change, as it was unclear, lacked transparency and should be more open to criticism. The BLC commented that if the Australian Government's ultimate objective was to encourage the SPDC to establish a Human Rights Commission then why not say so? It could be said in a diplomatic way. Simply referring to discussions about human rights did not provide a clear enough objective. Janelle Saffin said that Australia could be seen as following the 'constructive engagement' line if its policies were not more made more transparent. The First Secretary reported that the Australian Government, through its embassy in Rangoon, talked to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NW regularly.
BLC commented that the working plan by the international community to focus more on human rights, including the formation of a Human Rights Commission, is good at any time. BLC, however, encouraged the Australian Government to discuss matters such as the Paris Principles (the benchmark for the independent operation of Human Rights Institutions). Then an Act establishing the Human Rights Commission Act needs to be enacted. Such developments hardly seem likely under the SPDC. Formation of a Human Rights Commission in Burma should not be a cosmetic step that would enable SPDC to gain credit from the international community.
BLC also encouraged the Embassy officials to talk and consult not only with the SPDC but with the NW and ethnic leaders, for example the New Mon State Party, the Kachin Independence Organization and the Shan National League for Democracy.
Craig Keating reported that the Australian Government also spends 1 .5 million dollars of aid money on the border camp refugees through the Burma Border Consortium and M?decins Sans Fronti?res. They also support the Distance Education Program (DEP), operated by the National Higher Education Committee (NHEC). BLC expressed gratitude for the money for refugees.
Seminars & meetings - 1999
" Building a Worldwide Movement for Democracy" conference (New Delhi, India)
BLC's Secretary participated in the Global Conference on "Building a Worldwide Movement for Democracy" held in New Delhi, India on February 14-17, 1999. This conference was organised by the India-based Centre for Policy Research, the Confederation of Indian Industry, and the United States-based National Endowment for Democracy.
The conference was part of an aim to establish a world-wide forum for the promotion of democracy, and involved more than 400 participants from 85 countries. The meeting was addressed by the former Indian Prime Minister, and also the current Indian Prime Minister (by video) and the US President (also by video). A presentation was made by Nobel Laureat Amartya Sen.
Legal Aid Practitioners Forum (Bangkok, Thailand)
The International Human Rights Law Group and the Asian Human Rights Commission organized the Forum. The Forum aimed to improve the dialogue and communication between individuals and groups attempting to strengthen the rule of law in Southeast Asia and China. The Forum provided a gathering point for international legal experts including legal activists, NGO representatives and international organization actors who have specialized legal training and knowledge of the rule of law, legal techniques, and most importantly, first hand experience in legal activism. The Forum also intended to provide a unique opportunity for regional networking, exploring new legal defence technique, and improving the quality of legal services to society's disadvantaged.
BLC Secretary as a panellist on the topic 'Sustainable Effective Legal Aid institution: Challenges', made a presentation focusing on a specific challenge facing BLC and Burmese lawyers. He emphasised the areas of lack of rule of law in Burma, illegal actions taken by Burmese military regime against opposition politicians and Burma's unjust laws and orders. He also briefed the challenges faced by BLC members and Burmese lawyers working in countries outside of Burma. BLC's secretary described the Thai authorities' raid on BLC's office, demonstrating some of the difficulties in working about Burma in other countries.
Regional Lawyers Workshop (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
This workshop was held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and was organized by Forum-Asia and ADHOC. Twenty-five participants from countries in the region presented their experiences and obstacles in terms of practicing civil and political rights. The purpose of this seminar was to bring together lawyers from south Asia and Southeast Asia who have connection with human rights activities, and to examine the difficulties faced in integrating international human rights standards mainly civil and political rights into domestic laws and practices.
The resource persons presented main theme of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to the Seminar. The resource persons also explained the trend of human rights movement towards global one and emergence of International Criminal Court (ICC) that will eliminate the state boundaries in terms of dealing with human rights issues. One of BLC's Executive Committee made a presentation during the seminar, "Civil and Political Rights: Integrating International Human Rights Standards", focusing on repressive laws of Burma (a copy of this presentation is available from BLC).
Conference on Transition and Globalisation: Comparative Strategies (Bangkok, Thailand)
BLC's Secretary participated in this conference which compared strategies and tactics employed in seeking democratic change in countries around the world. Different countries will always have unique stories, with various factors influencing their transition, such as shifts in elite loyalties, mass mobilisation, international pressures and external factors. One objective of the conference was to consider what commonalities might exist in these experiences. The conference brought together people who had participated in democratic transitions around the world, and people from countries yet to experience this transition.
The topics broadly covered the following areas: (1) comparative political transitions; (2) economic transitions; and (3) civil society and globalisation: social and environmental consequences. The conference was a mix of panel discussion and formal presentations, with mixing of participants encouraged and facilitated. The conference raised a number of interesting issues for BLC to consider.
" Peace and Democracy for the New Millennium" conference (Seoul, Korea)
This conference was organised by the Forum of Democratic Leaders of Asia Pacific (FDL-AP). BLC was represented by its Secretary, who was invited to participate together with 40 others participants from various countries. Prime Minister Dr Sein Win and Office Director U See Paing from the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) also participated there.
During the conference, prominent political leaders debated issues relating to democracy in the region, including in Indonesia, East Timor and Pakistan, and then the remainder of the symposium was given over to debate of a resolution concerning Burma. The Burmese opposition delegation, led by Dr Sein Win, provided information to participants about the current situation in Burma. Participants then debated whether a resolution to urge ASEAN to apply economic sanctions against the SPDC should be passed. Deliberations on this matter took several hours and arguments on each side were serious and quite interesting.
The meeting was addressed by Korean President, Kim Dae Jung, who also invited participants to a meal with him. The President expressed support for democratic causes in the region, specifically mentioning Burma and East Timer.
The meeting passed a motion that, inter alia, calls on ASEAN to take steps to
bring about democratic change in Burma as soon as possible. In respect of
ASEAN, significant resolutions made in the FDL-AP conference were as follows:
1. to take a pro-active approach to advancing the dialogue process within Burma by forming a group of Eminent Persons from among ASEAN leaders to engage with the leaders of the SPDC and CRPP on accelerating democratic transition, national reconciliation and national reconstruction;
2. if no progress is made towards the establishment of effective dialogue between the SPDC and the Burmese democracy movement, to seriously consider applying economic sanctions
3. if no progress is made towards the establishment of such effective dialogue, to seriously consider suspending Burma's membership of ASEAN.
Seminar on Fair Trial (Hong Kong, China)
This seminar was organised by the Asian Human Rights Commission. Two BLC representatives attended and made presentations about the right to a fair trial within the Burmese context.
BLCs presentation discussed the ever-present link between a country's capacity for fair trials and the country's prevailing political conditions, with reference to Burma. Burma's legal system functions in such a way that fair trials are not possible, and BLC's papers outlined some of the main areas in which the legal system is failing. The concept of the trial reaches beyond the in-court proceedings and can encompass the steps taken by the authorities prior to the case appearing in court. One example of the lack of fairness in Burma's system is that pre-court procedures are not followed. For instance, a case will be opened under one section of the criminal law and a suspect detained. The military police will change the case to another section of the criminal law without closing the case under the first section or releasing the detained person. In spite of lack of evidence the suspect continues to be detained under one of Burma's national security laws such as the Emergency Provision Act or the State Protection Act. The continued detention merely indicates that in fact there is insufficient evidence to put the accused to trial under the criminal law.
Other major problems noted in Burma's criminal justice system included: arbitrary arrests (particularly pertaining to cases on political matters), use of stock witnesses (witnesses who had been 'coached' by the prosecution), delays in pre-trial and trial procedures causing detentions without trial for lengthy periods, lack of legal aid system and availability of defence counsel even where the defendant can pay for these costs. Presentations were also made by representatives of organisations from the Asian region, and a number of common features emerged in their critiques of their legal systems. Some of the topics raised frequently were detention without trial, lengthy delays while waiting for trial, problems with bail being set too high or not available, the police not following correct procedure and abusing their powers, and lack of legal aid and legally trained personnel.
At the conclusion of the presentations there was a period of discussion and exchange of information and views, which led to the conference developing a comprehensive statement on fair trials in the Asian region. This statement covered the following topics: the rule of law; fair trials and militarism; judicial independence; victims' rights; rights of persons under investigation and in police custody; torture and confessions; changing attitudes and ensuring accountability; inadequacy of budgets for the judiciary and the poor salaries of judges; training for judges and lawyers for fair trials; appeals and review; prison systems; the media; technology as a means of promoting fair trials; truth commissions; capital punishment.
Forum "Political Trends in Malaysia after the 1 Qth General Election" (Bangkok, Thailand)
This forum was organised by the Institute of Asian Studies (Chulalongkorn University), Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) and Forum-Asia. BLC sent four representatives at the forum, which was held at Chulalongkorn University. The forum had a panel of six speakers: two from ANFREL (its chair and an election-observer); a representative from an opposition political party in Malaysia; a journalist in southern Thailand; a representative of the Malaysian embassy in Thailand; and a Thai foreign ministry representative.
The meeting opened with some general remarks about the political history of Malaysia. Other speakers addressed various matters including: the rise of Islam ideology in Malaysian society and politics; relevant statistics during the recent elections (eg. number of votes, amount of polling stations, size of Electoral Commission workers, distribution of seats between parties); irregularities reported in the lead up to and during counting of votes. Many speakers and other participants focused on several issues of concern. One of these was the delay in registering new people to vote (reported 680,000 people were denied the right to vote because the Electoral Commission explained it would take 9 months to register these people). Another issue discussed at length during the seminar was media coverage that was perceived to be biased in favour of the ruling political party. Some participants suggested the Malaysian Electoral Commission required more power and regulation of the media. The representative of the Malaysian Embassy disagreed, explaining the media content was not controlled by government and the media printed what it wanted to.
The ANFREL representatives explained they would be forwarding their findings to the Malaysian authorities. The findings record some concern about failure to meet some United Nations standards, including lack of (1) time to prepare; and (2) Electoral Commission power to control the media. ANFREL's chair also questioned why they couldn't observe the whole process (including counting) rather than just casting of votes.
Workshop on Integrating Women's Rights in Human Rights Activism (Chiangmai, Thailand)
One BLC representative attended this workshop conducted in Chiangmai by Friends Without Borders and Forum-Asia. There were 27 participants, most of them women and from Burmese ethnic and opposition groups. The workshop covered the following topics: gender and women's rights, women's concerns in Burma, trafficking, women refugees and migrants, rape, domestic violence, reproductive health and rights, and women in conflict.
Meeting with experienced Thai human rights lawyer, Mr Thongbai-Thongpao and Mr Somchai from Forum-Asia. BLC invited them to discuss issues related to police harassment and to join a press conference (on February 1 2) about SPDC I SLORC Proposed Constitutional Principles.
Meeting with FNS Country Director, Dr Arno.
Meeting with EC on different issues: update action, current movement, planning and budget matters.
BLC India Section has been regularly meeting with Indian lawyers friends to build up a solidarity movement among the legal community in India. The India section tried to arrange meetings with some Indian lawyers (to expand the network) through Ms Nimla Deshpande, Member of Parliament in India. We also talked with Ms Nandita Haksar, who is a well-known human rights lawyer in India and who is currently teaching in Cochin University on law and she advised us that we should work more on discussions and debates among the nationalities of Burma to bring about a representative constitution. She thinks that it is better to build Indian solidarity movement after Burma democratic forces have clear visions on these basic questions, which Burma is facing and will be facing in future.