ASEAN Parliamentarians Cannot Escape ‘Lawfare’ or Violations of their Human Rights — Global Issues

  • Opinion by Jan Servaes (Brussels)
  • Associated Press Service

Asia follows a similar trend according to the Parliamentary Union (I PU). This is the second most dangerous area for MPs, with number of cases recorded by the annual increase in IPU.

While cases of physical assault remain rare in Southeast Asia, governments often use politically motivated accusations against MPs and opposition leaders in so-called ‘law“.


Since the military takeover and the suspension of parliament in February 2021, the IPU has received specific report human rights violations against 56 MPs elected in the November 2020 vote.

Two new MPs, Wai Lin Aung and Pyae Phyo, were arrested in December 2021. This brings the total number of MPs detained to 30. Many of those detained are believed to be held in solitary confinement in overcrowded prisons. where they are persecuted and possibly tortured, have little access to medical care or legal advice.

Based on Amnesty International, torture and ill-treatment are institutionalized in Myanmar. Women are tortured, sexually harassed and threatened with rape while in custody,

Stop the law!

ASEAN Member States must immediately end the use of judicial harassment and politically motivated accusations against political critics and opponents, the ASEAN Human Rights Parliament (ASEAN) said.APHR) stated on January 27 Press Conference in Manila under the banner: “Stop the Law! Not with the weaponization of the law and state-sponsored violence.”

The press conference explained the continued use of the law and its effect on freedom of expression. It is a show of solidarity with MPs and others who are facing this kind of repression.


Philippines ranked 147 out of 180 countries in 2022 World Press Freedom Indexand Committee to Protect Journalists ranks the Philippines at seventh place in the 2021 Disclaimer Index, which tracks deaths of media workers whose killers go unpunished.

In the Philippines, the previous administration of President Rodrigo Duterte and the current administration of Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. systematically used the “executive” to suppress opposing voices. One notable case is that of APHR board member and former congressman in the Philippines: Walden Bello.

On August 8, 2022, Walden Bello was arrested online defamation. Bello is facing politically motivated charges brought by a former Davao City information official who now serves as the Head of Public Relations and Communications in the office of Vice President, Sara Duterte, submit.

The indictment against Walden Bello is a clear example of political intimidation and retaliation designed to terrify opponents of the current Philippine government. It is a violation of the right to free speech, which is essential to a democracy.

In addition to Walden Bello, many other political leaders and activists, including Senator Leila de LimaSenator Risa Hontiveros and senator Antonio Trillanes, has fallen victim to questionable justice. Senator Leila de Lima, was arrested in February 2017 on fabricated drug charges, shortly after she opened a Senate investigation into extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration. She has been in custody since, still awaiting trial, although several key witnesses have withdrawn their statements.

Many local and regional leaders are also being arbitrarily detained following suspicious arrests following the government’s “red-tag” campaigns against local activists and journalists, including defenders of human rights and the environment.

Maria Ressawho, as editor-in-chief of Rappler, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2021 along with a Russian journalist, multiple times the victim of lawsuits. Recently they acquit of tax evasion. Ressa said this is one of a number of lawsuits that former President Duterte used to silence critical articles.

However, Ressa and Rappler face three more lawsuits: a separate tax lawsuit filed by prosecutors in another court, her appeal to the Supreme Court against a defamation conviction. online defamation and Rappler’s appeal against the Securities and Exchange Commission shutdown. Ressa still faces six years in prison if she loses a defamation appeal.

As such, the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) called on all “Southeast Asian authorities to stop abusing the justice system to quell dissent and urged ASEAN to reprimand the nations.” members use the law to attack political opposition.

The Philippine government can take the first step by dropping all charges against Walden Bello and immediately releasing Senator Leila De Lima and all others unjustly detained for the charges. politically motivated,” said Mercy Barends, APHR chair and member of the Indonesian House of Representatives.


“The legislation is happening across Southeast Asia and beyond. The government in the region uses ambiguous law to prosecute political opponents, government critics and activists. This weaponization of the justice system is alarming and seriously harms freedom of expression.

It creates a climate of fear that not only silences those targeted by the law, but also makes anyone who wants to criticize those in power think twice,” said Charles Santiago, APHR co-chair. and former Malaysian MP said.

Myanmar and Cambodia

For example, in Myanmar and Cambodia, laws against treason and terrorism have been used to suppress the opposition. The most tragic example occurred last July, with executive Four prominent Myanmar activists were accused by the Myanmar government of false terrorism. These are the first judicial executions in decades and an extreme example of how authoritarian regimes can distort the law to cement their power.

In Cambodia, members of the opposition were sentenced to long prison terms on fabricated charges solely for exercising their right to free speech. Journalists are increasingly subjected to various forms of intimidation, pressure and violence, according to a new report released by the United Nations Office for Human Rights (OHCHR).


While, defamation law is one of the most commonly used laws in Thailand where, unlike many other countries, it can be considered an offense and not just a civil crime. Sections 326-328 of the Thai Penal Code provide for a variety of defamation offenses with penalties of up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 200,000 Thai Baht (approximately $6,400 USD).

“I think that we as MPs in our respective countries should do our best to repeal or at least amend these kinds of laws. Our democracies depend on it. But I also think we can’t do it alone. We need to work together across borders, share experiences with MPs from other countries and stand in solidarity with those who fall victim to it, because in the end we are all in it together. each other,” said Rangsiman Rome, a member of Thai Thai. parliament and APHR members.

Jan Servaes is the UNESCO Chair of Communication for Sustainable Social Change at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has taught ‘international communication’ in Australia, Belgium, China, Hong Kong, USA, Netherlands and Thailand, alongside short-term projects at around 120 universities in 55 countries. He is the editor of the Communication Handbook for Development and Social Change 2020.

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© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOrigin: Inter Press Service


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