Open Letter to the Chairperson of AICHR regarding the Threats and Intimidation by the Malaysian Government against the Electoral Reform Mass Rally Supporters

1 July 2011
Your Excellency,
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), the South East Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA), the Southeast Asian Center for e-Media (SEACeM), the Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA), and the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) write to you today to draw your urgent attention to the on-going threats and intimidation by the Malaysian government against the electoral reform campaigners and supporters.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) is comprised of Malaysian civic and human rights organisations campaigning for electoral reforms and independent monitoring of elections in the country. Bersih 2.0 plans to hold a mass rally on 9 July 2011 to demand for, among others, fair access of all political parties to the media, reform of postal ballots and a revision of the electoral roll to address irregularities for the upcoming 13th General Elections to be held in mid-2012.
We are appalled over the current wave of arrests and intimidation by the Malaysian authorities, which have taken place weeks ahead of the rally. As of today, around 120 campaigners and supporters have been arrested for distributing pamphlets or wearing Bersih 2.0 t-shirts for the 9 July mass rally. In particular, on 29 June 2011, the police raided the Bersih 2.0 office in Selangor without a warrant and confiscated election reform campaign materials including t-shirts, leaflets, laptops and banners while they arrested six staff members and one volunteer in the office. Although some of them were later released on bail, we are deeply concerned that there are still many individuals who remain in detention.
One of main purposes of ASEAN is “to strengthen democracy, enhance good governance and the rule of law, and to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms” in the region. The attempt by the Malaysian government to hinder the 9 July rally and weaken the electoral reform campaigns significantly undermines ASEAN’s inspiration and subverts its aim to establish the community of caring nations. The government of Malaysia must not shut down the space for citizens to freely exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, which are essential components for a solid and vibrant democratic society.
In this respect, we urge you to exert your full capacity as the Chairperson in order for AICHR to swiftly address this alarming situation of human rights in Malaysia, on which the concerns of international community are mounting. The Terms of Reference mandates AICHR to “uphold international human rights standards as prescribed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, including freedom of expression and peaceful assembly among its members, and particularly Malaysia. Therefore, we also strongly call on AICHR:
1. To address and respond to this appalling situation of human rights in Malaysia as a matter of urgency, as consistent with its mandate;
2. To urge the government of Malaysia to stop further arrests of campaigners and supporters of the 9 July rally and to release immediately all those being detained; and
3. To recommend the government to allow Malaysian citizens to assemble peacefully on 9 July and let their electoral reform demands be heard.
We look forward to your positive response on this matter.
Yours Sincerely,
Mr. Yap Swee Seng, Executive Director, FORUM-ASIA
Ms. Consuelo Katrina Lop,  Regional Coordinator, SEACA
Mr. Sean Ang,  Executive Director, SEACeM
Ms. Gayathry Venkiteswaran, Executive Director, SEAPA
Mr. Augusto N. Miclat, Executive Director, IID
1. H.E. Mr. Pehin Dato Hamid Bakal, Representative of Brunei Darussalam to AICHR
2. H.E. Mr. Om Yentieng, Representative of the Kingdom of Cambodia to AICHR
3. H.E. Mr. Bounkeut Sangsomsak, Representative of the Lao P.D.R. to AICHR
4. H.E. Mr. Dato’ Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Representative of Malaysia to AICHR
5. H.E. Mr. U Kyaw Tint Swe, Representative of Myanmar to AICHR
6. H.E. Ms. Rosario Gonzalez Manalo, Representative of the Philippines to AICHR
7. H.E. Mr. Richard R. Magnus, Representative of Singapore to AICHR
8. H.E. Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree, Representative of the Kingdom of Thailand to AICHR
9. H.E. Mr. Nguyen Duy Hung, Representative of Viet Nam to AICHR
10. H.E. Dr. Surin Pitsuwan, ASEAN Secretary-General