“ASEAN in reality is good for businesses only, as an economic community. It should be more of a ‘People-Centred’ Community, because people should matter more”, said Charles Santiago, the Klang Member of Parliament yesterday at the ASEAN People’s Forum (APF).

“Its People vs Corporate interests, and where 3 out of 4 people in the region do not know about ASEAN, we need a more social one, and as long as economic matters don’t affect people, people won’t know about ASEAN.

Charles Santiago were amongst the panelists at the “A Town Hall Open Discussion Between Civil Society and Parliamentarians (APHR) at APF which is being held from 21 to 24 April at Wisma MCA.

“We need to do a social protection programme, if our governments can agree and work on [other issues] and services, I don’t see why we can’t agree to this”.

“Civil society must serve as the conscience of society, same as politicians but they are sometimes distracted, they tend to forget their responsibility.

“It is my view, that civil society’s responsibility to remind the politicians about the duty to the voters as well as the ASEAN people.

Charles also touched on the topic of migrant workers throughout the region, and the plight they are going through.

“Right now we need an ASEAN Migrant Declaration, to protect the millions of migrants that move between countries. Domestic laws don’t protect migrant workers. It must be enforceable if not it will not work”.

The ASEAN People’s Forum is the largest annual gathering of civil society and peoples organisations in the region. APF 2015 will be discussing issues of regional importance including development, human rights, and democracy, and hearing from civil society activists at the forefront of their field as well as ASEAN and national government leaders.

Other panel members were the MP of USDP Myanmar U Shwe Maung, Nur Jazlan Mohamad (UMNO Malaysia), Diah Pitaloka (Democratic Party Struggle Indonesia), Charles Chong (People’s Action Party Singapore), Mu Sochua (Cambodia National Rescue Party Cambodia), Kraisak Choonhavan (Democract Party Thailand) and Maria Chin, Chairperson of Bersih.

– Malaysian Digest