HANOI, Sept 6, 2004 (dpa) – The fifth ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) People’s Forum got underway in the Vietnamese capital Monday with over 800 delegates from Europe and Southeast Asia expected to attend.
The forum was officially opened by Vietnams Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan, who said he was convinced that the conference would strengthen cooperation between European and Asian countries.
Participants in the three-day forum will discuss a range of topics including Peace and Security, Economic and Social Security, and Democratization and Peoples’ Rights.
Forum attendance has exceeded organizers’ expectations, an official said earlier, revealing that 300 more people had registered than were envisaged. Journalists are not permitted to take part in the forum’s various workshops but can attend the opening and closing ceremonies.
The forum – held a month before the ASEM 5 meeting where heads of states from several European and Southeast Asia countries will come together – is intended to make the process of dialogue between Europe and Asia more accountable, transparent and open to civil society..
The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (VCHR), a Paris-based human rights group, earlier criticised the decision to allow Vietnam, which has a one-party political structure, to host the meeting.
“Vietnamese civil society will have no voice at the forum,” said VCHR president Vo Van Ai. “The real proponents of civil society – the ordinary men and woman who are calling for peaceful, democratic development and the enjoyment of human rights, are subject to intimidation, surveillance, and arrest in Vietnam today.”
dpa st ch