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DAGAinfo

28 October 2000
No. 113


In this issue:
  1. FEATURE
    Globalisaton: Challenge to the People's Movement
  2. NEWS in Brief
    Korea: The Spirit of Seoul
    Philippines: NCCP Calls for Estrada to Resign
    Malaysia: 17 NGOs Issues Memorandum to Abolish ISA
    China: Three gorges Dam
    Thailand: Update on Durable Textile Workers
  3. RESOURCES received
    New Conference papers available
  4. Urgent APPEALS
    Pakistan: Save Dr. Shaikh
  5. ANNOUNCEMENT
    New Conference papers available

 

1. FEATURE - top
 

GLOBALISATION:
CHALLENGE TO THE PEOPLE'S MOVEMENT

Kim Yong Bock
Advanced Institute for the Study of Life

 

Globalization is a process of integration of all peoples and nations into one global market, driven by global capital. This process has several characteristics which pose new challenges for people's movements around the world.

The geo-political integration of nations is forcing all peoples into a mono-polar world. Local, national, regional and global horizons are integrated into one global market. Financial speculation has driven people into a casino economy. Science and technology in highly advanced forms have led to the global integration of digital information and to a multi-communication society. The cultural life of the people is subjugated to the process of commoditization on a global scale. Globalization, driven by "global marketization," threatens the life of the people at the microcosmic (genetic) level as well as macrocosmic (ecological) level.

In this process the life of the people and of the cosmos (macro-and micro) are under the threat of death. People's movements are to preserve, enhance and fulfill life in the cosmos. We will outline the experiences of the people (Minjung) under the globalization process, which is unfolding in a new and unpredictable way. Then we will reflect upon the emerging challenges to the People's movements as they struggle for life in the cosmos.

The people (Minjung) are suffering in a multi-dimensional way. Their movements are challenged in terms of reading the signs of times, in terms of analyses, and in terms of the vision of life in the future, and, therefore, in terms of strategies of their struggle and movement. We should try to discern tentatively the signs of the times and seek to clarify the challenges of globalization to the People's movement.

1. The world has become one globe, dominated by one power. This is what we have called the mono-polar world. This is a dramatic shift of global geo-politics from the bi-polar world. The geo-politics of the world is truly shaped into the structure of the global power versus the peoples of the world. The mono-polar power seeks to maintain and consolidate its global geopolitical hegemony, as a result of which the peoples of the world will be victimized by direct and indirect violence.

The challenge to the People's movement is how to achieve peace and security for life in the cosmos. This task is far more difficult now than during the previous bi-polar situation. The People's movement is challenged to form alliances and solidarity for geo-political security and peace. When nation states and international organizations such as the UN are basically under the hegemony of mono-polar power, the People's movements and their solidarity are the only way to peace and security.

The other dimension of the challenge for the People's movement is to link their local and grassroots movements with national and regional movements and further to the global movement. The importance of civil society movements, NGO movements and various kinds of People's movements is to be understood in this context.

2. Transnational capital, in the form of transnational corporations and speculative financial capital, is a special challenge to the People's movement. It has encroached into the life of the people and impoverished them at unprecedented levels. Recently it caused financial crises among Asian nations, victimizing the People's life.

People do not seem to have any alternative to the global market. The People's movement must seek an alternative political economy of life free from the reign of the global market and its rulers. The so-called national economic growth among Asian nations has not benefited the Minjung people, though it was wrought through their sacrifice. New thinking is needed among the people. Asian religions can provide new orientation for a political economy of life against the global market economy.

3. Globalization has brought about drastic changes in the nature of the nation-state. It has served the neo-colonial policies of the global powers. Now nations have succumbed to the pressure of the market forces to open their borders to the global market, thereby exposing the people directly to the principalities and powers of the global market. The neo-liberal process of globalization has weakened the People's freedom and participation.

The challenge to the People's movement is to forge a new political democracy not only in political terms within nations, but also in global political and economic terms to democratize the market and the international political process. This demands that the People's movement develop a direct participatory process and international solidarity across national and regional boundaries, even as it is faithful to local democracy, which is basic. Previously the People's movement had to deal with dictatorship by national powers; now it must deal with global powers as well.

4. Globalization has deepened social contradictions and made them more violent. The social and human security of the people is threatened more than ever. Social peace has been evaporating in the process of globalization. The doctrine of the survival of the fittest is newly enforced by limitless competition for the maximization of profits. Traditional contradictions between classes, races, genders and other conflicts are intensified and become more violent. National social welfare and security systems are being dismantled in the process of market globalization, and integrated into the market.

The People's movements have been struggling for social justice; and they have struggled for social rights at all levels and in all places. The "triumph of neo-liberalism" is generating a kind of new social Darwinism. The People's movement must face the global market forces in a newly complex struggle to realize social justice, as the web of social contradictions has become more complicated. The challenge is to clarify the nature of the social contradictions and to articulate a vision for social justice and solidarity in the global context.

5. The greatest challenge of globalization for the People's movement lies in the area of information technology (technetronics) and hi-tech multi-media. The global market dominates the information and media industry, including various cultural products. The people are subjugated by the power of information and media, eroding their cultural identity and value, dismantling their style of life and subjugating their perceptions and senses. The people experience not only cultural subjugation but also cultural up-rootedness and chaos.

The People's movements need to struggle for cultural and ethnic identity in the context of globalization, which drives the process of cultural integration into the global market. One of the challenges is to struggle against cultural subjugation for the establishment of an open and strong identity that enriches cultural life. This will overcome cultural exclusiveness, which often creates the situation of cultural and ethnic conflicts. Asian people enjoy their unique cultural life in richness and diversity.

The challenge is to communicate among the people for justice and peace, against the dominant order of information and communication, which is increasingly dominated by the market forces. Previously, information and communication were dominated by the political powers; and now the economic powers dominate the worldwide order of information and communication. The people must struggle for a new information and economic order that supports the People's movements at the local, national, regional and global levels from the bottom up. Participatory democracy is essential in the information and communication order, for the life of the people.

6. People in Asia must also cope with the religious situation. Globalization is challenging the religions in Asia. Some religious groups react strongly to the impact of globalization, and there arises a tendency of fundamentalism, causing religious reactions and religious conflicts. The people in Asia have been very much immersed in their religious faiths and heritages. Their religions have sometimes been oppressive, when they are symbiotically related to the ruling powers. Although the globalization process will loosen religions' grip over the life of the people, this may trigger religious reactions against the People's movements for change.

The People's movements must search for authentic religious teachings for free, just and peaceful life. Deeper religious foundations for life may become a great cornerstone from which to build strength to meet the challenges of globalization and the global market. This means that religions in Asia must be freed from the ideological captivity of the powerful. For example, People's movements in Asia must seek wisdom as to how to attain a good, healthy economic life. Buddhism rejects greed, Islam advocates justice, Hinduism cherishes life, and Confucianism condemns selfishness. What do these teachings mean for the political economy of life, and what are the implications for the People's movements? Christian religion in Asia must serve the people, joining in ecumenical solidarity with Asian religions.

7. Globalization and the global market turn people against life, as well as destroying the ecological balance and harmony. The global market promotes biotech ventures to manipulate microcosmic and macrocosmic life. The life of the people is convivial with cosmic life. It is the nuclear core of the life of the universe. Globalization separates the life of the people from the life of the cosmos.

The challenge of the People's movement is to promote the solidarity of life in the cosmos, rejecting a split between the life of the people and life in the Eco-sphere. When the life of the people is victimized in the global market, life in the cosmos is also victimized. The People's movement must promote the political life of the people, which expresses the conviviality and solidarity of life in the cosmos, human or otherwise.

Direct Participation and Solidarity in the New Geo-political Situation of Globalization.

The challenges of globalization for the People's movement are basically the questions of the free subjectivity of people for life and of their solidarity for the conviviality of life in the cosmos. For this reason I would like to propose LIFE as the central focus of our deliberation. The vision of the good and full life, the transformation of the conditions of life, or rather, of death, for new, just and peaceful life, and the ways to enjoyment of life together, the feast of life, are some our concerns. Therefore, the study of life and praxis for life is a new paradigmatic framework with which to articulate the vision of life, analyze the conditions of life, and develop a praxis for life. This is to liberate life from the forces of death. This is to free life from the forces of destruction in the context of globalization.

The study of life involves the vision and imagination of life, rooted in human civilizations. In my case I have visions of ?, Buddhism (the Western Paradise), Confucianism (the Reign of Great Peace), Donghak (the Paradise on earth) and Christianity (the Messianic Reign). The social visions of secular philosophies are part of my vision for life, in so far as they enrich and fulfill life as a whole in the cosmos.

The study of life is an integral study, not a reductionist and fragmentary one. It begins with the life experiences of the people in the cosmos, including the question of convivial relationships. The study respects the subjecthood of life, rejecting the objectification of life, human or otherwise. It is inter-disciplinary and wholistic study for the whole of life. Modern science and technology, which has thus far been serving the dominant powers of the market, must serve life, not the other way around.

The study of life serves life as a whole. It is to establish an alternative abode of life, an alternative political economy of life and to till the garden of life in the cosmos. It turns the market into a festive place for exchange of life. It does not serve the powers and forces of death in the global market.

The People's movements in Asia are the movements of direct participation as the subjects of life and of convivial solidarity with the whole of life in the cosmos.

_____________
*[The above paper was presented at the conference on "Development and Liberation in the 3rd Millennium" organised in Kuala Lumpur by the URM and Development & Service desks of the Christian Conference of Asia. More papers from the conference will be posted at this website.]

 

2. NEWS in Brief - top
 

KOREA

The Spirit of Seoul

October 20, 2000
by Brid Brennan, Transnational Institute, Amsterdam

Between ASEM 2 and ASEM 3 a profound re-structuring of the East Asian economies has taken place. The rules now governing Asia's political economies have been so thoroughly re-written that new liberalism is now the new development orthodoxy. Structural Adjustment has been severely imposed and has according moved the region from crisis to the recovery. According to the World Bank " East Asia’s recovery has gained momentum...is now creating jobs at a quickening pace...external balances remain favourable'. In other words it is back to business as usual in Asia - or is it?

The evidence on the ground from civil society actors throughout the East Asian region is that the effects of the crisis are still intense in the destruction of people's livelihoods whether as workers who are being laid of or as farmers whose produce is being made worthless by the massive import of agricultural produce.

This was the starting point for the ASEM 2000 People's Forum which was organised around the theme "Solidarity and Action Challenging Globalisation". An additional reason for addressing neo-liberal globalisation was the fact that the economic pillar of the official ASEM is very much constructed on a commitment to further "rapid libleralisation of trade and investment" which further re-enforces the tying of the East Asian economies into the paradigm of economic globalisation.

The situation in East Asia is also reflected globally. The number of people living in poverty that is, on less than a dollar a day increased from 1.1 billion in 1985 to 1.2 billion in 1998, and is expected to reach 1.3 billion this year.(1) According to a recent World Bank study, the absolute number of people living in poverty rose in 1990s in Eastern Europe, South Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa all areas that came under the sway of adjustment programs.(2)

The unrestricted flow of speculative capital in accordance with Washington Consensus Doctrine was what the governments of East Asia institutionalised in the early 1990s, under the strong urging of the International Monetary Fund and the US Treasury Department. The result: the US$ 100 billion that flowed in between 1993 and 1997 flowed out in the bat of an eyelash during the Great Panic of the summer of 1997, bringing about the collapse of the East Asian economies and spinning them into a mire of recession and massive unemployment from which most still have to recover.

In several workshops during the ASEM 2000 People's Forum, analysis and discussions led to the conclusion that the ASEM's economic interventions in the post-crisis development debate is focused on engineering and legitimising neoliberal reforms. In the meeting between representatives of the ASEM 2000 People's Forum and the Senior Officials of the ASEM, this message was made very clear. Delegates indicated that the neoliberal juggernaut driving economic co-operation in the ASEM process was highjacking the other developments in ASEM which could now also take a bold initiative in the political dialogue given the new conjuncture on the Korean Peninsula which has profound implications for peace and security in the region.

The more than 800 delegates from Asia and Europe representing social movements, trade unions, people's organisations, women and human rights organisations who participated in the ASEM2000 People's Forum also addressed the question of what is the alternative?

Ideas of an alternative route to the future de-globilisation which are being formulated based on discussions in the Third World, and especially focused on Asia, were articulated during the ASEM 2000 Peoples Forum by Walden Bello.

"I am not talking about withdrawing from the international economy. I am speaking about: reorienting our economies from production for export to production for the local market; about deemphasising growth and maximizing equity in order to radically reduce environmental disequilibrium; about not leaving strategic decisions to the market, but making them subject to democratic choice." (3)

The ASEM 2000 People’s Forum concluded with articulating a 'People's Vision' which is also being popularised as the 'Spirit of Seoul'. This vision calls on the peoples of Asia and Europe to push for the replacement of the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO as the unacceptable and de-legitimised architecture of the global economy and to urge the ASEM Governments to decisively turn to the pursuit of a paradigm of economic development that can eradicate poverty and usher in a sustainable future for the peoples of Asia and Europe.

------------
1) Giovanni Andrea Cornia, Inequality and Poverty Trends in the Era of Liberalization and Globalization, Paper delivered at the United Nations Millenium Conference, Tokyo January 19-20, 2000; see also number of Worlds poor unchanged in the 1990s, Reuters August 3, 2000.
2) Cornia.
3) Walden Bello, From Melbourne to Prague: the struggle for a deglobalized world, in Prague 2000; Why we need to decommission the IMF and the World Bank, Focus on the Global South, September 2000.
4) Brid Brennan wishes to thank Gareth Api Richards and Walden Bello for their ideas and contributions to this article.

 

PHILIPPINES

NCCP CALLS FOR PRESIDENT ESTRADA TO RESIGN

"Mr. President, the hour has come!"

"But this is what the Holy God of Israel says: 'You ignore what I tell you and rely on violence and deceit. You are guilty. You are like a high wall with a crack running down it; suddenly you will collapse. You will be shattered like a clay pot, so badly broken that there is no piece big enough to pick up hot coals with or to dip water from a cistern."--Isaiah 30:12-14

Could this be a prophetic judgment on the powerful of this country?

Today, violence circumscribes peoples' lives -

  • the violence of a run-away inflation and non-stop oil increases that deprive the poor of the basic survival needs;
  • the violence of unemployment, displacement, homelessness, and utter disregard for fundamental human rights;
  • the violence of wealth accumulated through highly questionable means flaunted before a people who have virtually nothing to live on;
  • the violence of burning villages, desecrated mosques, murdered critics, harassed community organizers.

TODAY, deceit wraps its mantle on society, choking decency and truth -

  • A pronouncement of peace and security in an environment of hunger, militarization, and restlessness;
  • A pronouncement of democratic inclusiveness in a bureaucratic system that is stuffed with politicians from a despised and dismantled regime;
  • A pronouncement of impeccable honesty and transparency in the midst of shallow denials of sins committed against the people.

Indeed, there are cracks in the ruling class as disgruntled business persons, erstwhile bosom friends, demoralized cohorts one by one disengage to join the broadening movement to dislodge the Chief Executive. The Filipino people, seeing through the veneer of a deceptive campaign slogan, are now calling on the President to step down. For how can he continue to govern when the mandate is no more? For how can he perform his functions when his administration is shrouded with doubt? For how can he lead when many followers have forsaken their leader?

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) cannot but stand up and be counted with the myriad Filipinos who are challenging the President Joseph Estrada to voluntarily divest himself of his presidential powers - an act that could unite the people in collectively realizing their hopes and aspirations for justice, truth, and freedom.

"Righteousness exalts a nation..."

 

MS. SHARON ROSE JOY RUIZ-DUREMDES   
General Secretary

 

THE MOST REV. TOMAS A. MILLAMENA
Chairperson

MALAYSIA

71 ORGANISATIONS HAND OVER 'ABOLISH ISA' MEMORANDUM AT PARLIAMENT

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 - Representatives from 71 organisations today gathered at the Parliament entrance to hand over a memorandum calling for the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) to be abolished.

The memorandum, endorsed by 71 NGOs, political parties, students groups, workers unions and consumer associations described the ISA, which allows the government to detain anyone it deemed a threat without the need to go to court, as as "immoral and cruel".

"It [ISA] condones torture and humiliation. It is opposed by all major religions practised in Malaysia," it said.

The ISA, originally introduced in the form of the Emergency Act by the British to fight communist insurgency in Malaya, was modified in 1960, providing for detention without trial.

Since then, the Act has been used against political dissidents and opposition leaders, especially during the last 20 years since Mahathir Mohamad took over the premiership from Hussein Onn in 1981.

In 1998, Mahathir, who was then Home Minister, ordered his sacked deputy Anwar Ibrahim to be arrested under the Act, claiming he was a "threat to national security".

Hours later, Anwar was beaten up by then police chief Abdul Rahim Noor, causing the infamous 'black eye' that sparked anti-Mahathir protests in Kuala Lumpur lasting several weeks.

Several other individuals close to Anwar was also arrested only to appear days later recounting how they were tortured under custody.

Among others, Anwar's former speech writer Dr Munawar Anees has issued a shocking affidavit documenting how he was tortured into making a false confession to implicate Anwar in a homosexual relationship.

At about 12.00 pm, activists and members of the public armed with anti-ISA banners gathered at Parliament entrance but were refused entry.

They later displayed banners at a nearby bridge overlooking the busy Mahameru highway, prompting passing motorists to honk as a mark of support.

A group of policemen from the controversial Federal Reserve Unit was rushed to the scene.

Parliamentary Opposition Leader Fadzil Noor led other leading opposition MPs to march towards them, and accepted the memorandum which was also addressed to the Prime Minister and Dewan Rakyat Speaker.

Both however failed to appear to accept the memorandum. Jamaludin Jarjis, chairman of the Government Backbenchers Club was later seen receiving the memorandum on behalf of the ruling party.

 

CHINA

PRESS ADVISORY ONTHE THREE GORGES DAM

October 3, 2000

As violence grows in the Three Gorges resettlement areas, international NGOs call for immediate action by government and investors to address affected peoples' grievances

Reports from the areas to be flooded by the mammoth Three Gorges Dam tell of an alarming rise in violent incidents sparked by resentment against resettlement. Officials summoned troops to quell one protest.

On Friday, Sept 29, the South China Morning Post reported that long-standing complaints that resettlement plans are ill-conceived, funds inadequate and that monies allocated for this purpose have been embezzled by corrupt officials continue to be ignored, while the date for filling the reservoir grows ever nearer. In many cases, years of peaceful petitioning has brought no relief, and frustrated residents are increasingly resorting to public protests, sometimes resulting in clashes with police or local officials. The homes of between 1.2 to 1.9 million people are to be flooded.

Reports of growing tension and violence contradict official statements that the first stage of resettlement is proceeding smoothly. They also demonstrate that the Chinese government's resettlement regulations and policies, praised by the World Bank as a model for the developing world, are often nothing but empty promises for displaced people. In addition, they reveal the serious inadequacy of complaints mechanisms in China, where the constitutional right to petition the authorities for the redress of grievances generally means little in practice.

A number of recent examples of disturbances illustrate the seriousness of the problems in the Three Gorges area. In mid-September, about 300 peasants from Gaoyang Township in Yunyang County attacked officials in charge of the county Resettlement Bureau, injuring at least one. In another protest in September, farmers hurled objects that injured some officials, including the deputy party chief, who was hit with a brick. Officials summoned troops to quell the violence. Earlier this year in Gaoyang, more than 1,000 peasants staged a protest and demanded a meeting with county leaders to demand more equitable compensation and access to official policy documents detailing the terms and conditions of resettlement.

A group of 300 farmers resettled in Zhanjiang in Jiangsu Province is returning to the Three Gorges area because each household had received the pitiful sum of only 9,000 yuan ($1,200 dollars) to build new houses. Last week, another group of 300 farmers sent to Taofu state farm in Hubei Province returned to Gaoyang and assaulted local resettlement bureau officials, accusing them of embezzling money earmarked for the construction of their new homes.

Farmers have signed dozens of petitions to complain that their representatives had been detained and threatened by local officials and even charging that petitioner representatives had been knifed by local gangsters on the orders of a local official.

These are just a few among a catalogue of incidents resulting from severely inadequate resettlement planning, endemic corruption and mismanagement, problems the International Rivers Network and Human Rights in China have been warning for some years create an explosive situation in the Three Gorges area as large numbers of people began to be moved under the resettlement program.

For over eight years, the International Rivers Network has been lobbying financial institutions to ensure they will not support the project. "We call on the international community to cease involvement in Three Gorges Dam until abuses of civil rights are addressed. By financing the project, U.S. banks are aiding in the creation of the most development refugees for a single project ever. Until Morgan Stanley Dean Witter implements necessary environmental and social policies governing core business operations, International Rivers Network is spearheading a consumer boycott of the firm's Discover Card and I-Choice brokerage services. Financial institutions don't deserve our business if they don't take responsibility for their environmental and social impacts" said Doris Shen, IRN program officer.

Since 1995, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's joint venture, China International Capital Corporation based in Hong Kong, has served as the Three Gorges Project Development Corporation's advisor on raising overseas capital. In May 1997 and 1999, Morgan Stanley Dean Witter helped underwrite $830 million in bonds for the China Development Bank (CDB). Three Gorges Dam is listed as CDB's top loan commitment. (see www.floodwallstreet.org for more details)

Human Rights in China is disturbed at the evident failure of the authorities at all levels to address the grievances of people forced to move by the Three Gorges Dam. "As in so many cases, promises made to people displaced for hydropower projects are proving to be not worth the paper they are written on?said Sophia Woodman, HRIC research director. "People whose rights are ignored have no effective means of redress, and their efforts to organize to protect their interests are met only with repression. This kind of approach is a recipe for instability and unrest. In the Three Gorges, it could mean out-and-out violence as the resettlement program advances.?

"We call on the Chinese government to act immediately to ensure that the rights of people displaced by the dam are fully respected, and to undertake serious, good faith investigation of all complaints. We recommend that foreign investors suspend their involvement in the Three Gorges Dam project until these problems have been satisfactorily addressed," Woodman added.

Companies that are currently involved in the project include: GEC Alsthom of France, ABB of Switzerland and Sweden, Agra Monenco of Canada, GE Canada, and Voith Hydro and Siemens of Germany.

Financing firms involved in financing include: Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, China International Capital Corporation, Merrill Lynch, Salomon Smith Barney of Citigroup, Goldman, Sachs & Co., Credit Suisse First Boston. For a complete list of foreign involvement in Three Gorges: http://www.probeinternational.org/probeint/ThreeGorges/who.html

 

THAILAND

UPDATE ON THAI DURABLE TEXTILE WORKERS' STRUGGLE

(28 September 2000)

Dear Friends

The strike of Thai Durable Textile Workers is entering the fifth month on 1 October 2000. The workers went on strike at the night of 30 May 2000 in front of the factory in Samut Prakan, and occupied the factory later. On 1 August 2000, about 500 workers set up their tents in front of the Government House in Bangkok, to pressure the government for positive interventions.

The Ministry of Labour of Social Welfare has arranged few meetings between the employer and union representatives. The employer hardly turns up for most of the meetings but his representatives. The negotiation process was slow and had little progress. The conditions offered by the employer could hardly fulfill the demands of workers.

The employer agreed conditionally to reinstate 200 workers out of 390 workers, who were illegally fired since the strike began. The 200 workers will be re-employed only if the workers agreed to sign the agreement with following conditions:

  • Workers to withdraw all court cases against him on violence
  • The 15 committee members of Union to resign from the company
  • No dormitory facility to the 200 workers, and workers who decided to give up strike and back to work
  • The Management will hold the final decision on the review of wages and bonus increase

The employer offered compensation to 79 voluntarily resigned workers, and 3 months salary to 111 dismissed workers. According to the Thai Labour Law, 3 months salary should be given to workers who voluntarily resigned as compensation.

The employer threatened that if the workers did not sign the agreement by 25 September, he would pull out from negotiation.

No confirmed date for reinstatement of 200 workers.

The workers have refused offers from the employer based on following reasons:

  • No dateline given to reinstatement of the 200 workers. The employer will only inform about the reinstatement and compensation to workers after the agreement signed.
  • No job security assured to other workers.
  • Although the employer offers compensation, the request to dismiss 15 committee members is not lawful.
  • The 111 workers who are entitled for 3-month compensation will be selected based on employer’s decision.

The 15 committee members have decided to continue the court case against the employer of the use of violence and violation of workers’ rights.

The employer filed court cases against the workers, at the civil court on payment for utility expenses during strike; at the criminal court on illegal occupation of factory; and at the labour court on the dismissal of 15 committee members.

The employer claimed that he planned to close down some sections in the factory. The workers believed that this could be the employer’s tactic to employ new workers to replace them.

According to the reliable source, workers from another factory were sent to the Thai Durable Textile Factory to work. There are 300 workers, mostly administrative staff, and some new workers are operating the factory.

The Ministry of Labour of Social Welfare has requested the workers on strike to move out of the area of Government House. To date, there are 1500 workers go on strike. They are stationed at the Government House and the factory.

Since the strike began, the workers have lost their income. They have to meager donations made by fellow workers from other factories. Many of them are relying on the donations from friends for living and children education. There are 129 families with 183 children need help urgently. Some of them have been forced to take their children out of school. Quite a few with little ones can’t even afford simple things like milk powder. Some of workers spend nights at the tents after the dormitory closed by the employer. Despite the hardship, these middle age women workers are determined to continue their strike until their demands are met.

The workers are planning to set up a labour fund to support their long-term struggle. The fund will be used to assist the living of workers and their family, and to cover the expenses incurred during strike. Meetings with local trade unions are going on to update the struggles and consolidate their networking. The workers will hold press conference with local media to get publicity for the issue.

Information for donations
Name of organisation: Thai Krieng Labour Union
Address: 101/29 Moo4, Bang Chak sub-district, Phra Pradaeng District, Samut Prakan 10130
Contact person: Miss Arunee Srito
Tel/Fax: 66-2-4643969
Savings account: Kong Thun Sawasdikarn Phanak Ngarn Thai Krieng
(Fund for Thai Krieng Workers’ Welfare)
Bank: Siam City Bank, Bang Kru sub-branch
Account number: 088-3-00378-6

Chronology

15 February 2000
The Thai Durable Textile (TDT) Labour Union submitted a letter asking for a raise of one Baht per person as well as a two-month bonus.

24 April 2000
TDT management maintained that the decision on wage increases is the company’s sole jurisdiction, and not the workers.

29 May 2000
The Labour Union submitted a letter to inform the head of TDT that they would stage protest on May 30.

1 June 2000
TDT allowed non-union members to resume work.

7 June 2000
About 1500 workers from neighbouring Prapadaeng and Aom Yai areas visited the protesting TDT workers to give moral support. But they were dispersed by tear gas allegedly ordered by the TDT management. The incident was witnessed by a number of police officers.

14-15 June 2000
About 20 strangers hid in the company’s compound and sprayed chemical extinguisher on the protesting workers. Fourteen workers had to be hospitalised.

21 June 2000
The head of TDT posted a court prohibiting the protesters from blocking the company’s gate.

22 June 2000
A group of 100 men broke through the company gates and attacked over 200 women workers. Again the police witnessed the incident but no action was taken.

27 July 2000
The workers submitted letters to Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai as well as the Minister of Labour and Social Welfare.

1 August 2000
Failure to initiate a tripartite discussion prompted some of the protesting workers to move to the Government House.

18 August 2000
The workers submitted letters to the ILO and UNHCR. They asked the two international organisations to pressure the Thai government to act on the following issues:

  • To negotiate between the workers and the company on how to resolve the dispute and to allow workers to resume work in the factory.
  • To take legal action against parties responsible for attacking the women workers.
  • To ask the company to withdraw all lawsuits against the workers.

CAW Secretariat
2 Oct 2000

 

3. RESOURCES Received - top
 

DAGA receives a lot of juournals, periodicals, newsletters and many other forms of printed resources from its network of Action Groups in Asia and around the world.  Please click on "Resources" in the left bar for an extended listing.

 

4. Urgent APPEAL - top
 

PAKISTAN: Can you help save Dr. Shaikh?

Dr. Younus Shaikh is founder-President of 'Enlightenment', a Pakistan based organization which is a member of the International Humanist and Ethical Union (www.iheu.org). Dr. Shaikh is a doctor and a teacher at a medical college in Islamabad. He lived and worked in the UK before returning to Pakistan. If you were at the IHEU's 1999 World Humanist Congress in Mumbai you would remember his amusing speech; or you may have received his numerous e mails about Humanism, about his collaboration with liberal minded Pakistanis to promote Human Rights, or about his other passion - the South Asian Peace Movement. On 4 October 2000, Dr. Shaikh was arrested by the Islamabad police and booked under the dreaded Section 295-C (Blasphemy) of the Pakistan Penal Code. The police First Information Report was not readily available, but in it he is alleged to have defiled Mohammad, the Prophet of Islam, by pointing out that the Prophet did not become a Muslim till the age of 40 (ie. until he received the first message of God), and that the Prophet's parents were non-Muslims because they died before Islam was proposed by the Prophet. It is for stating these facts that Dr. Shaikh will be killed by the State, if he is found guilty: we should not forget that he did not abuse, he did not threaten, he did not scorn or sneer.

45 year-old Dr. Shaikh lives alone, has no family, and has been sacked from his job following his arrest. To build popular pressure, an Islamabad-based Urdu language newspaper, Khabrain, is carrying a campaign, demanding the death penalty for him. In Pakistan, Blasphemy is a non-bailable offence and attracts the mandatory death-penalty. Dr. Shaikh is currently held in Adyala Jail, Rawalpindi, in judicial remand.

Today, 19 October 2000, Dr. Shaikh was presented before the court, but he had no lawyer. Frequently lawyers are intimidated by the mob, so they do not take up blasphemy cases. Even judges are afraid of trying them. A group of 20 clerics - menacing and aggressive - came to the court, to pursue their case against Dr. Shaikh. They represent the Majlis-I-Khatam-I-Nabuwat (Organization on the Finality of the Prophet) one of the groups responsible for Pakistan's descent into lawlessness. Dr. Shaikh's reading glasses were broken when he came to court, he was unable to read well, and was not allowed to speak to anyone. Fortunately he has not been tortured by the police during 2 weeks of custody. If we do not act in time, he will be doomed.

Blasphemy in Pakistan Blasphemy in Pakistan is a cognizable offence, punishable mandatorily by death, but Section 295-C does not even precisely define the crime it is meant to punish. This law has a history of abuse : it is a convenient means to settle personal scores. In this case, it is a disgruntled student Mr. Muhammad Asghar Khan who complained to the fundamentalists. Even those not present at the time of the alleged 'offence' can file a complaint - this is the case as regards Dr. Shaikh. A cleric, Maulana Abdur Rafoof, registered the case in Islamabad's Margalla police station. Despite the severity of punishment, Section 295-C empowers a police officer to arrest, without obtaining a warrant from a judicial magistrate. Dr. Shaikh is in custody since 4 October 2000.

The Blasphemy law in Pakistan is a shameful relic of the British Raj's 1860 Criminal Law. It was modified in 1926 before Pakistan was born, and again as recently as in 1986 and in 1991 when criminal law was Islamicised by the then dictatorship.

Now, under the regime of Islamic punishments, the evidence required is 'at least two Muslim adult male witnesses who are supposed to be truthful persons who abstain from major sins'. It is required at the trial that the Presiding officer must be a Muslim. Islamic law of evidence declares that the evidence recorded by minorities and women has a status inferior to that of Muslim men.

In the case of Blasphemy, very often the accused is murdered either in police custody or even in the court room itself by blood thirsty zealots. So few cases are even brought to fruition. General Pervez Musharraf's recent attempts to improve the law has been met with vehement opposition from the clerics, and he immediately climbed down, in deference to the Islamic fundamentalists. The law remains as barbaric as it was. And so is the mob.

Pakistan's minorities

3% of Pakistan's 140 million citizens are non-Muslims; and there are at least 20 million Shiites, a minority Islamic sect in Pakistan. The situation for these minorities is desperate. The main victims of Pakistan's discriminatory and repressive legislation so far have been the Ahmadias, the Christians and the Hindus - and the most victimized are the Christians and Ahmadias. Their evidence is not accepted, their rights to freedom of religion or belief not protected, they are not allowed high-positions in the Army or in the bureaucracy, and they are forced to vote under the separate electorate system, where non-Muslims vote for non-Muslims.

But the main concern of Pakistan's Human Rights activists are the Blasphemy laws. Blasphemy of Islam is punished differently and much more severley than Blasphemy of other religions. There is no Freedom of Religion or Belief in Pakistan. Bishop John Joseph, Roman Catholic Bishop of Faizalabad even killed himself in protest in front of the sessions court of Sahiwal, on May 5, 1998. But even this ultimate sacrifice did not move the administration or the legislature.

Pressure must mount from all quarters to enable the law to change, and to protect the victims. Pakistan's theocracy is depriving many honest citizens of their liberty and their life.

What Can you Do?

If you live in the UNITED STATES, please write to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, and invoke the provisions of the International Freedom of Religion Act, 1998. Better still, call them on phone. The law obliges them to take up the case with the US Ambassador in Islamabad, and to follow it up. If Pakistan's government fails to protect Freedom of Religion, there will be automatic and mandatory sanctions imposed on Pakistan.

Write to
Office of International Religious Freedom
(DRL/IRF), Room 4829,
U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520.
Telephone 202 736 7133
Fax 202 647 5283

If you live in a European Union Member State, ask your own country's EU Ambassador to explore possibilities of asylum for Dr. Shaikh. Taslima Nasrin was saved similarly from Bangladeshi fundamentalists. Point out that Pakistan's present Blasphemy law violates international standards of justice; point out that to term religious criticism as 'blasphemy' isprimitive; death penalty as punishment for it is terrible; and that mandatory death penalty is even more savage.

Write to your Foreign Minister, and demand that the Minister summon the Pakistani High Commissioner to share concerns about the state of Freedom of religion or Belief in Pakistan. Ask your Minister to arrange for an observer at Dr. Shaikh's trial, if he is not released immediately.

Wherever you live, Fax your MP and ask him to take up the case of Dr. Shaikh. Ask your MP to bring pressure on the Pakistani government to release Dr. Younis Shaikh, and to ensure his physical safety. Ask your MP to call the Pakistani High Commission / Embassy in your country.

Write to Amnesty International, asking them to adopt Dr. Shaikh as a prisoner of conscience.

Write to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief. The Special Rapporteur has the mandate to take the matter up with the government on a diplomatic level.

Write to

Dr. Abdul Fatteh Amor
The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
8-14 Avenue de la Paix 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland Telephone Number
(41-22) 917-9000 Fax Number (41-22) 917-9016

Please also write to General Musharraf, with the respect due to a Head of Government.

  • Remind General Musharraf that he had declared that Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan's founder (formal title: Quaid - I- Azam) was his political hero. The Quaid had declared in his speech to the Constituent Asembly of Pakistan on 11 August 1947 : "You are free; you are free to go to your temples, you are free to go to your mosques or to any other places of worship in this State of Pakistan. You may belong to any religion or caste or creed - that has nothing to do with the business of the state".

  • Ask General Musharraf to take steps to make Pakistan true to the Quaid's ideals. He can do so by ensuring that Pakistan will no longer remain a theocracy. Ask for protection to all religious minorities and non-believers living in Pakistan.

  • Demand that the Sections 295-B and 295-C of the Criminal Code be repealed as soon as possible, and that he should take steps to prevent their malicious and frivolous abuse meanwhile.

  • Remind him that Pakistan, one of the poorest nations in the world, will be better able to use Dr. Shaikh's services as a doctor rather than keep him prisoner. Mention specific details: Jail: Adyala Jail, Rawalpindi; Date of FIR and arrest: 4 October 2000; Police Station: Margalla.

  • Invite Pakistan to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and political Rights and the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights.

Please write to

General Pervez Musharraf
Chief Executive of Pakistan Government
E-Mail: CE@pak.gov.pk

PLEASE SEND A COPY OF ALL YOUR MESSAGES TO campaign@iheu.org. Please send Letters of Support to Dr. Shaikh also to this e-mail address.

 

5. ANNOUNCEMENT - top
 

Conference on Development and Liberation in the third Millennium

The following papers presented at the recent conference on "Development and Liberation in the 3rd Millennium" will be available at our website from next week:

* Tht Imperative to Build a Debt-Free New Millennium by Rebecca Lozada
* Globalisation and Human Resource Development by Bennet Benjamin
* Globalisation and Women by Cecilia Ng
* Alternatives for a New International Financial Order by Michael Chai
* Globalization: Challenge to the People’s Movement by Kim, Yong-Bock
* Buddhism and Development by Sulak Sivaraksa
* China in the WTO: Impact to its People and Asia by Xiao Lian
* Globalisation, Development and Liberation in the 3rd Millennium: an Islamic Perspective by Habib Chirzin
* Religion and Development by William Stanley
* Mission and Development: Directions for the 3rd Millennium by Samuel Kobia

 


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