Strengthening parliamentary cooperation with ASEAN, 14 September 2020

MEP Daniel Caspary: Strengthen parliamentary diplomacy between the European Parliament and the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly

At the General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), which took place last week in Vietnam, MEP Daniel Caspary (EPP, DE) underlined the European Parliament's intention to strengthen parliamentary relations with the ASEAN Parliaments. The Chair of the Delegation for relations with the countries of Southeast Asia and the ASEAN proposed to hold one annual inter-regional meeting on specific policy issues of joint concern.

Chair Caspary underlined the important role of parliamentary diplomacy in the Parliament's relations with third countries and international organisations, alongside classical diplomacy. Parliamentarians constitute the link between executives and citizens. An annual inter-regional meeting with AIPA would allow for a more structured dialogue between the European Parliament and AIPA with the aim of developing targeted fields of cooperation between both sides.

In times of hardship, Mr Caspary stated, such as the current situation the world is experiencing with the Covid-19 pandemic, priority should be given to solidarity and cooperation. Both the EU and ASEAN have demonstrated that regional cooperation and solidarity are of the utmost importance to help and support their people, societies and economies. Beyond that, the European Union decided to mobilise a "Team Europe" package of over €800 million for the ASEAN region. The funds will support actions at country and regional level to address the immediate health crisis, strengthen health, water and sanitation systems, as well as mitigate the socio-economic impact.

The Chair of the ASEAN Delegation also emphasised that in times of geopolitical volatility and unpredictability, where the post-World War II international order is challenged, the EU and ASEAN are key factors of stability. Both believe in a rules-based multilateralism as opposed to the law of the strongest. Therefore, they must strengthen their own regional entities and enhance their relations based on common interests and shared values.

Key areas of cooperation, Mr Caspary continued, are trade and investment. The ultimate goal remains to establish a region-to-region Free Trade Agreement, building on the existing agreements with Singapore and Vietnam. Beyond trade and investment, the European Union aims at upgrading the EU-ASEAN relations to a Strategic Partnership covering areas such as political and security cooperation, as well as integration, connectivity, mobility, education and culture. The potential for greater engagement is enormous. The EU and ASEAN can make a difference with global impact.

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) is a regional parliamentary organisation. It was originally formed in 1977 and serves as the centre of communication and information among ASEAN Member Parliaments. AIPA aims to encourage understanding, cooperation, and close relations among Member Parliaments as well as Observer Member Parliaments and other parliamentary organiszations. AIPA also plays an instrumental role in familiarising the peoples of Southeast Asia with policies aimed at accelerating the realization of an ASEAN Community.

The highest body in AIPA is the General Assembly, which convenes once a year. The General Assembly is held to provide policy directions for the development of AIPA's objectives and as a forum for interchange of its members. The European Parliament has observer status and attends each year. The 41st AIPA General Assembly, at which Members of the European Parliament participated remotely, took place from 8-10 September in Hanoi, Vietnam.

The disappearance of Wanchalearm Satsaksit, 26 June 2020

MEPs call on Cambodian and Thai authorities to investigate the destiny of Thai human rights activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit
Not the first case of enforced disappearance in the region
Freedom of expression and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms must be ensured

Leading MEPs ask for clarifications on the abduction of Thai human rights activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit in Cambodia.
Following the recent disappearance of Thai human rights activist Wanchalearm Satsaksit in Cambodia, MEPs Heidi Hautala (The Greens/EFA, FI), Maria Arena (S&D, BE) and Daniel Caspary (EPP, DE) issued the following statement on Friday:

"We are very concerned about the safety of Thai political activist and human rights advocate Wanchalearm Satsaksit who recently disappeared in Phnom Penh. Therefore, we call on the Cambodian and Thai authorities to immediately investigate his abduction. We recall that the abduction constitutes a grave violation of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. National authorities must ensure that such crimes are effectively investigated and that those responsible are brought to justice. We are furthermore concerned about reports of the exchange of political dissidents by authorities in the ASEAN region. It is imperative under international law to respect the principle of non-refoulement. Thus, we urge all relevant authorities to ensure that the rights of those individuals seeking shelter in their countries are respected and that their safety is guaranteed. The freedom of expression is an essential part of these rights. It entails the right to express peacefully dissenting voices."

Heidi Hautala is Vice-President of the European Parliament, in charge of Human Rights, Democracy and the Sakharov Prize Community.

Maria Arena is the Chair of the European Parliament's Subcommittee on Human Rights.

Daniel Caspary is the Chair of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with the countries of Southeast Asia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

According to information gathered by Human Rights Watch, Mr Satsaksit was kidnapped on 4 June by a group of armed men in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. Mr. Satsaksit, an activist affiliated with the pro-democracy United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, known as the "Red Shirt" movement, fled to Cambodia after the May 2014 military coup in Thailand. Having criticised the Thai Government and the Prime Minister, the Thai authorities issued a warrant for his arrest in 2018.
On 3 June, one day before his disappearance, he posted a video clip on Facebook criticizing the Thai Prime Minister.

The U.N. Committee on Enforced Disappearances has called on Cambodia to "urgently search" for Mr. Satsaksit.
Before his disappearance, at least eight other exiled Thai dissidents had disappeared in Laos and Vietnam.