Jun 14, 2016

European Parliament Conference to Discuss Minority Rights and Regional Cooperation in South East Asia

The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), in collaboration with the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (TFD), the Haella Foundation and Urmas Paet MEP (ALDE), will be convening a conference at the European Parliament entitled ‘Prospects for Minority and Indigenous Rights in South East Asia: Towards Regional Cooperation’. Drawing on the experiences of Taiwan in particular, the event will provide an overview of the current state of minority rights in South East Asia, as well as evaluate lessons learned from regional instruments such as the EU, the Council of Europe and OSCE. 

14 June 2016 | 9:30 – 16:00 | Room PHS7C050 |

European Parliament | Brussels, Belgium


Despite South East Asia being a conglomerate of myriads of distinct ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic groups, minorities and indigenous peoples remain the region’s most vulnerable communities. Often seen as a threat to social cohesion, members of these groups are routinely being denied their fundamental human rights, while left with little opportunity for redress. On top of that, many of the region’s governments deliberately exclude these populations from decision-making processes and fail to uphold their basic rights to food and health care.

The economic situation of minority and indigenous groups is likewise critical, with their lands encroached by mining, logging, dam constructions and similar large-scale “development” projects. Concomitant mass displacements and the destruction of ancestral homelands further endanger the very existence of these groups. With regards to religious freedom, minority and indigenous groups are targets of systematic discrimination, often in the form of enforced religious assimilation. Despite some timid advances in recent decades to establish human rights mechanisms that would counter these worrying developments in the region, implementation and enforcement are still in their infancy.

Against this background, this conference will raise awareness for issues associated with minority and indigenous rights in South East Asia, in particular by assessing recent developments and policies towards indigenous peoples in Taiwan, and comparing the path chosen by Taipei with other Asian cases, while keeping in mind the different European mechanisms dealing with the protection of minorities. The event will bring together expertise from academics, policy-makers, human rights activists, and representatives of various ethnic, religious and linguistic groups and indigenous communities in South East Asia.

Registrations for the event are now closed.


Conference Programme (also attached in PDF):


9:30 Opening Remarks

- Mr Urmas Paet - Member of the European Parliament (ALDE – Estonia)

- Mr Marino Busdachin - UNPO General Secretary

10:00 Panel I – Minority and Indigenous Rights in Taiwan: An Overview 

- Indigenous Rights Movement in Taiwan: A Democratic Perspective  (Dr Jolan Hsieh – Taiwan Foundation for Democracy

- Political and Legal Developments of Indigenous Rights  (Mr Yapasuyongu Poiconu, Deputy Director of General Planning Department Representative of the Taiwan Council of Indigenous Peoples)

- Setting an Example: Taiwan’s Role in South East Asia (Mr Michael Danielsen, Taiwan Corner Chairman) 

11:00 Debate

11:30 Panel II – Minorities and Indigenous People:  Current Trends in South East Asia

- Special Economic Zones for Whom? Land-Grabbing and Persecution in Laos (Mr Gymbay Moua, Representative of the Congress of World Hmong People)

- CHT Accord at a Crossroads: What Next for the Chittagong Hill Tracts? (Mr Ushatan Talukder, Member of the Bangladeshi Parliament) 

- Human Rights in Acheh: Implementing the Helsinki Agreements (Mr Arif Fadhillah, Acheh-Sumatra National Liberation Front’s Representative)

- Vietnam’s Second Class Citizens: Khmer Krom and the Struggle for Indigenous Recognition (Mr Chum Chuon Son, Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation)

12:30 Debate

13:15-14:30 Lunch break 

14:30 Panel III – Ideas from Europe and Ways Forward – Towards Regional Cooperation?   

- The European Parliament and ASEAN Countries: Supporting Democratization and Minority Rights (Mr Csaba Sogor MEP – European Parliament Delegation to ASEAN)

- The European Union and South East Asia: Strengthening Regional Cooperation (Mr Paulo Casaca – Executive Director South Asia Democratic Forum)

- ProtectDefenders.eu – An EU Mechanism to Protect Minority and Indigenous Rights Defenders (Ms Joan Audierne – ProtectDefenders.eu)

15:20 Debate

15:45 Closing Remarks

16:00 End of Conference


For further information please contact Tommaso Nodari ([email protected])

For media enquiries please contact Johanna Green ([email protected])