Independent Asean activists will boycott a traditional meeting with regional leaders in a sideline session of the Asean Summit in Phnom Penh next month after the Cambodian government set conditions for nominating their representatives.

Asean non-profit organisation representatives were to meet Asean leaders on April 3 in a related session of the summit in Phnom Penh on April 3-4 under the so-called interface dialogue.

Phnom Penh has sidestepped the nomination of representatives by telling its Asean colleagues to nominate their own people instead of the Asean Civil Society Conference and the Asean People’s Forum (ACSC/APF) as normal.

NGOs said Cambodia’s action has undermined the process of independent groups galvanising local support and coordinating functions with other Asean counterparts.

Suntaree Saeng-ging, secretary-general of the Thai NGO Coordination Committee, told the Bangkok Post the Asean NGOs have decided to proceed with their own plans with an ACSC/APF meeting at the Lucky Star Hotel in Phnom Penh on March 29. The theme of transforming Asean into a people-centred community will have as its keynote speaker a renowned political prisoner from Myanmar, Min Ko Naing. But they will boycott the government interface.

“Why do we have to be their decoration and simply let ourselves be used as a justification that Asean is participatory and people-centred, despite their negligence towards the significance of transparency and accountability for the people’s voices,” Ms Suntaree said.

An activist source said the Cambodian Council of Ministers was responsible for the nomination issue, not the Foreign Ministry.

The Council of Ministers has assigned two Cambodian representatives _ a woman, Prak Sokhany, executive director of Cambodian Civil Society Partnership, and a youth _ to meet at the interface dialogue on April 3.

Phnom Penh also told its Asean partners to select two people from their respective NGOs. In Thailand’s case, the Social Development and Human Security Ministry has nominated Chalida Tacharoensak from the People’s Empowerment Foundation, sources said.

This has undermined the fragile unity and poor coordination among NGOs in all Asean countries, another source said. –Bangkok Post