Former Malaysian Foreign Minister, Syed Hamid Albar, said ASEAN’s non-interference policy should be reviewed if we are to build a tolerant society and address human rights abuses and regional security, according to a press release issued by the ASEAN People’s Forum on April 23.
Delivering the keynote address at the welcome dinner of the ASEAN Peoples’ Forum 2015 in Kuala Lumpur on April 22, he said, “We cannot allow our region to be bogged down with problems that are prolonged or intensified by the blanket application of non-interference.”
As Foreign Minister of Malaysia between 1999 and 2008, Mr Syed Hamid Albar was engaged in key initiatives to transform and integrate ASEAN. He initiated the inaugural ASEAN civil society conference in 2005.
The APF is the largest annual gathering of civil society organisations in ASEAN and is organised in conjunction with the ASEAN Summit, where heads of state meet.
A town hall discussion between civil society and ASEAN parliamentarians also took place in the afternoon, featuring seven members of parliament from various ASEAN member states. Activists and parliamentarian alike emphasised the need for ASEAN to heed the people’s interests and not just business and corporate interests. Three parallel workshops were held in the morning.
Around 1,400 people have registered for the APF 2015, which continues until April 24.
ASEAN member countries have typically been loath to interfere in each others’ political and social affairs, leading to criticism that ASEAN fails to rein in errant members, as seen when the Thai military staged a coup in May 2014.