Report on the Conference on Freedom of Religion or Belief in Southeast Asia

  1. On behalf of the Myanmar Human Rights Commission, commission member Daw Mya Mya attended a two day conference held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 30 September to 1 October 2015.
  2. The conference was to enhance the rights and freedom of religion or belief in Southeast Asia. The event was co-organized by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM – ASIA), and Boat People SOS (BPSOS).
  3. About (70) human rights defenders, members of religious groups, rights groups, UN agencies and representatives from the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Rights of Women and Child (ACWC), National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIS) and other government agencies (including seven participants from Myanmar) gathered together to discuss the rights and freedom of religion or belief in Southeast Asia with the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt.
  4. The Special Rapporteur stated that “politicization of religion undermines freedom of religion or belief to the detriment of minorities, followers of majority religions who do not want to see their faith be turned into a tool of political power gambling”.
  5. The two day conference provided a multi – stakeholder platform for the participants to share challenges and best practices, brainstorm ideas on addressing violation related to state control and regulation of religion and extreme interpretations of religion.
  6. The participants discussed the need for reforms such as the repeal of blasphemy laws and mandatory registrations, the importance of dialogue between groups of the same faith as well as those of different religions.
  7. The Conference was successfully concluded with a conference declaration based on the Charter for Freedom of Religion or Belief and the New York Resolution for Freedom of Religion or Belief of the International Panel of Parliaments for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFORB).