Southeast Asia

The respect for human rights is backsliding in mainland Southeast Asia amid challenges to democracy, weak justice systems and rampant corruption. Human Rights Defenders are vulnerable to abuses and censorship, and hundreds of peaceful activists are detained or imprisoned across the region. Read about the current human rights situation in our reports: Human Rights In Cambodia | Human Rights in Myanmar | Human Rights in Vietnam |

Select archive for a specific country: Myanmar | Cambodia | Thailand | Vietnam

Myanmar: One Year On, No Justice for Kawng Kha Rape

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One year ago today, two teachers volunteering with the Kachin Baptist Convention were attacked and killed at home in a local church compound in Kawng Kha Village. A year on, there has been little progress towards identifying the perpetrators of the brutal rape, torture and murder. This case demonstrates the pressing need for the country’s incoming leaders to address impunity in genuine efforts to tackle sexual violence in conflict.

Vietnam Must End Arbitrary Detention of Human Rights Defenders

Vietnamese human rights defenders Nguyễn Vãn Ðài (L) and Lê Thu Hà (R).

In a statement released today, Civil Rights Defenders joins 25 civil society groups in calling on the Vietnamese authorities to drop charges against and immediately release human rights defenders Mr Nguyễn Vãn Ðài and Ms Lê Thu Hà, who have been in police custody in Hanoi after their arrest three weeks ago. The police have charged Ðài, a former prisoner of conscience, and his colleague Hà with “anti-state propaganda” under Article 88 of the Penal Code, which carries a prison sentence of between three and 20 years.

Will Myanmar’s Government Deliver on Human Rights Commitments?

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In the days following Myanmar’s historic election it was fast apparent that Aung San Suu Kyi’s party NLD had taken a landslide victory. Will the NLD and their allies be able to effectively remedy a long legacy of human rights abuses? What hope is there for the persecuted minority group Rohingya when they appear to have no representation in the new government? Read Civil Rights Defenders’ Op Ed in The Huffington Post.

Civil Society Urges Obama to Press for the Release of Thich Quang Do

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Civil Rights Defenders along with numerous other civil society organisations in a letter to President Obama have called on him to press for the release of Vietnam’s most long standing prisoner of conscience Thich Quang Do. President Obama is due to attend the upcoming Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum and the US – ASEAN and East Asia summits where he will have the opportunity to meet with Vietnamese leaders.

Joint Statement of Concern on Draft Law on Religion

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Civil Rights Defenders joins 26 civil society organizations in calling for Vietnam’s government to comprehensively revise the draft Law on Belief and Religion to comply with Vietnam’s obligations under international human rights law, and to do so through broad-based and inclusive consultation. In its present form, the draft law places limitations on freedom of religion or belief that extend beyond those permitted under international human rights law that is binding on Vietnam.

Human Rights in Myanmar

Significant changes have taken place in Myanmar after the quasi-civilian government was installed in 2010, ending a fifty-year military rule. However, the military still has great influence in politics. Corruption and impunity persist and reinforce each other. With current peace negotiations and wide discussions on constitutional reforms as well upcoming elections in 2015, Myanmar is at a crossroads for democratisation or a possible reversal.

Human Rights in Cambodia

The Cambodian constitution provides for separation of power and judicial independence, but the political dominance and influence of the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CCP) over all branches of government poses a serious challenge to democratisation and human rights protection and promotion. Prime Minister Hun Sen has been in power since 1985. Human rights violations in Cambodia include excessive use of force against and arrests of protesters; threats, intimidation, and judicial actions targeting human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists,

Authorities Must Drop Politically Motivated Charges Against Activist

Photo Courtesy of Than Zaw Aung

The Myanmar authorities should immediately release from prison and drop all charges against activist Myat Nu Khaing. Myat Nu Khaing, an independent candidate contesting in the Phyu constituency in Pegu Division, was arrested on October 16 while campaigning for elections in Yangon. “Given the timing of the arrest, these charges appear politically motivated,” said Brittis Edman at Civil Rights Defenders.

Vietnam: Restrictions on Freedom of Movement Violate Domestic and International Law

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Authorities in Vietnam have blocked at least 33 human rights defenders and activists from freely travelling abroad or internally in the last six months, despite legal protection of the right to freedom of movement. Civil Rights Defenders considers these restrictions arbitrary and in violation of Vietnam’s obligations under its own Constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Lao Government Must Investigate Sombath’s Disappearance

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The 11th of September 2015 marks 1000 days since prominent Lao civil society leader, Sombath Somphone, “disappeared” at a police checkpoint on a busy street in Vientiane. Civil Rights Defenders joins 10 regional and international organisations in reiterating our call for the Lao government to intensify its efforts to conduct a investigation into Sombath’s apparent enforced disappearance. The full statement can be read here.

CAMBODIA: Open Letter to Permanent Representatives of Member and Observer States of the UNHRC

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Members of the UN Human Rights Council should address the deteriorating human rights situation in Cambodia during the upcoming council session. They should also extend the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, a coalition of International, regional and domestic human rights groups including Civil Rights Defenders writes in an open letter today.

Fourth Viet Pride Promotes Diversity in Common Spaces in Vietnam

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Despite a rainy weekend, hundreds turned out to attend the 4th annual Viet Pride in Hanoi, that included a bike rally through the streets of the capital city on August 02nd . As part of its work to combat non-discrimination worldwide, Civil Rights Defenders supports Viet Pride and has participated in this year’s events along with a growing coalition of local and international supporting organisations, including civil society groups, businesses, and foreign embassies.

Published in the Irrawaddy: Human Rights Defenders Continue to Suffer in Burma

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Min Min* has been actively promoting land rights issues for over two decades. In the late 1990s she was arrested and imprisoned for her political activities, and during her detention she was subjected to torture and severe abuse at the hands of authorities. After languishing in prison for years, she was finally released. Undeterred by her experience, she continued to pursue her rights activism.

Human Rights in Vietnam

Against the backdrop of a growing and diversifying civil society movement, the Government of Vietnam continues to repress dissidents and human rights defenders and has taken steps in recent years to amend or introduce laws and regulations that impact on civil and political rights. A host of laws, regulations and decrees grant broad discretionary powers to officials to impose restrictions of basic rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution and under international human rights law.

End of Sentence for Lawyer a Reminder of On-going Detention of Prisoners of Conscience in Vietnam

Le Quoc Quan, a prominent human rights lawyer and blogger, left An Diem prison in Quang Nam province last Saturday after completing his 30-month sentence. Civil Rights Defenders considers the 2013 “tax evasion” charges against Quan reprisal against his writings on human rights abuses and democratic reforms, topics usually not reported by State-controlled media in Vietnam.

Joint Statement Calling for the Release of Vietnamese Prisoner of Conscience

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Several human rights organizations call on the Vietnamese government to abide by their international and domestic obligations and immediately release Tran Huynh Duy Thuc, Vietnamese ICT entrepreneur and blogger. Tran Huynh Duy Thuc was arrested under the initial charge of “promoting anti-government propaganda” under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression.

Published in The Nation: Myanmar, Thailand abandoned Rohingya in their time OF NEED

Published in The Nation May 22, 2015: In the past three years, more than 100,000 Rohingya have fled sectarian violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, where they have been subjected to a systemic, state-sponsored campaign of violence, abuse and discrimination, leading to a humanitarian crisis. The international community must awaken now, grasp the urgency of the Rohingya’s plight and do more. How many more mass graves need to be uncovered before we ensure accountability from the government of Myanmar, and put an end to systemic abuses against a recognised vulnerable population?

The state of Internet freedom after the coup in Thailand

Photo: Thai Netizen Network

Since the military coup three months ago, Thailand has introduced a ban on political gatherings; politicians and activists have been arrested, and media censored. In the light of these developments, we invite Thai human rights defender and Internet activist Arthit Suriyawongkul to talk about the present state of freedom of expression and how human rights defenders can operate under these conditions.

24 September: The state of Internet freedom after the coup in Thailand

Photo: Thai Netizen Network

Since the military coup three months ago, Thailand has introduced a ban on political gatherings; politicians and activists have been arrested, and media censored. In the light of these developments, we invite Thai human rights defender and Internet activist Arthit Suriyawongkul to talk about the present state of freedom of expression and how human rights defenders can operate under these conditions.

Tomás Ojea Quintana on challenges in Myanmar

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Tomás Ojea Quintana , the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar , recently left Myanmar after their last field trip to the country. He describes the ongoing reforms as a positive step towards democracy in Myanmar , while stressing the remaining challenges .ome and listen to a breakfast seminar with Tomás Ojea Quintana on March 20, when he talks about future challenges for human rights in Myanmar and the role the international community can play in addressing these challenges .

Tomás Ojea Quintana on challenges in Myanmar

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Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, describes the ongoing reforms as a positive step towards democracy in Myanmar, while stressing the remaining challenges. On 20 March, he visits Civil Rights Defenders to talk about future challenges for human rights in Myanmar and the role the international community can play in addressing these challenges. Watch live on: http://bambuser.com/v/4459084

Housing Rights Activist Yorm Bopha is freed on bail

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22 November the Supreme Court ordered the release of Cambodian Housing Rights activist Yorm Bopha, but only on bail. The Court further ruled that the Boeung Kak Lake activist should have her case returned back to the Court of Appeal for a retrial. “The fact that Bopha is released on bail is positive in the respect of her being able to go home to her family and friends. But it is at the same time disturbing that the Supreme Court does not drop the charges, but instead decides on a new trial in the Appeal Court and thereby allows a continuation of this politically motivated process.” says Brittis Edman, Southeast Asia director at Civil Rights Defenders

Cambodian Supreme Court must free housing rights activist Yorm Bopha

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On 22 November, the Cambodian Supreme Court is hearing the final appeal of human rights defender Yorm Bopha. Civil Rights Defenders believes she is imprisoned for her human rights activism.For more than a year, Yorm Bopha, has been in prison following an unfair trial. In 2012, the housing rights activist and mother of one was sentenced to three years for what the Phnom Penh court determined as “intentional violence with aggravating circumstances” without any concrete evidence presented against her.

Peaceful post-election protests in Cambodia mobilise masses

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In Cambodia, peaceful protests which took place over three days last week mobilised tens of thousands of people who came out in force to call for electoral reform and a review of the results from the parliamentary elections in July. The opposition party collected thumb prints from some two million Cambodians. The authorities responded with restraint, essentially protecting the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

Burmese human rights lawyers inspired in Serbia

Human rights lawyers in Burma do not waste any time when trying to make use of emerging opportunities as their country is opening up. But rule of law is weak, civil society initiatives are nascent and threats against lawyers commonplace. To support them, Civil Rights Defenders has organised a two-week study tour to Serbia for ten activist lawyers, to meet with our partner organisations that work in the field of legal aid.

Ee Sarom

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About 60.000 people were forcibly evicted in Cambodia in 2011 alone, local human rights group ADHOC reports. Those who refuse to abandon their house or dare to demonstrate face risk of arrest or violence, and human rights defenders working on housing rights are persecuted. In a country where many non-governmental organisations are afraid to support human rights issues, Ee Sarom, and his organisation, stands tall. ”Sometimes I am scared but I have to do my job”, says Ee Sarom.

Criminalisation and persecution of Cambodian human rights defenders

“Free the 15” campaign (Photo LICADHO)

In May, police arrested 15 human rights defenders in Phnom Penh. Within days, 13 of them had been convicted to each 2.5 years in prison in an unfair trial. In the past several years, they have carried out peaceful protests against forced evictions and unlawful expropriation of land. Ee Sarom at Sahmakum Teang Tnaut (STT) tells his story about the “Free the 15” and the increasingly tough conditions for human rights defenders in Cambodia, in this autumn’s first seminar in our series “One hour of human rights”!