Report on the Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Southeast Asia

  1. On behalf of the Myanmar Human Rights Commission, commission member Daw Mya Mya attended a two day conference held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 30 September to 1 October 2015.
  2. The conference was to enhance the rights and freedom of religion or belief in Southeast Asia. The event was co-organized by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM – ASIA), and Boat People SOS (BPSOS).
  3. About (70) human rights defenders, members of religious groups, rights groups, UN agencies and representatives from the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Rights of Women and Child (ACWC), National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIS) and other government agencies (including seven participants from Myanmar) gathered together to discuss the rights and freedom of religion or belief in Southeast Asia with the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt.
  4. The Special Rapporteur stated that “politicization of religion undermines freedom of religion or belief to the detriment of minorities, followers of majority religions who do not want to see their faith be turned into a tool of political power gambling”.
  5. The two day conference provided a multi – stakeholder platform for the participants to share challenges and best practices, brainstorm ideas on addressing violation related to state control and regulation of religion and extreme interpretations of religion.
  6. The participants discussed the need for reforms such as the repeal of blasphemy laws and mandatory registrations, the importance of dialogue between groups of the same faith as well as those of different religions.
  7. The Conference was successfully concluded with a conference declaration based on the Charter for Freedom of Religion or Belief and the New York Resolution for Freedom of Religion or Belief of the International Panel of Parliaments for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFORB).

Letters sent to the Thai Foreign Ministry and Thai National Human Rights Commission

The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission received news that two brothers Moe Zin Aung age 15 years and Kyaw Ye Aung age 16 years were arrested by Thai police on suspicion of murdering an 18 years old, Thai girl student on 28-9-2015 in Ranong, Southern Thailand.

The brothers are Myanmar citizens who are migrant workers, working in Thailand. The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission sent letters to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar and The National Human Rights Commission of Thailand for them to contact the Thai Authorities and request them to ensure legal protection for the accused in accord with the laws, fair treatment and humanitarian grounds and allow them access to health service and lawyers. Even though they would have to face legal action if they were proven to have committed the crime, the two brothers are under 18 years of age and should have the right in accordance with International Standards of Juvenile Justice.