Women’s Political Leadership Amid Closing Civic Space in ASEAN

May 11, 2022
09:00 am - 10:00 am

About the Event

Following hopeful democratic progress in the 1990s and 2000s, Southeast Asia has seen a dramatic democratic regression in the past decade. 2021 alone witnessed a violent military coup in Burma, the introduction of sweeping anti-NGO legislation in Thailand, suppression of opposition voices such as independent media and democracy activists in Cambodia, and continued impunity for Philippine President Duterte’s deadly “war on drugs.” In the face of these setbacks, women political leaders across the region have been at the forefront of movements to promote human rights and democracy in ASEAN member states. The event featured women activists from Burma, Cambodia, the Philippines, and Thailand who shared their plans to promote women’s political participation amid closing civic space in the region and conveyed recommendations on how international stakeholders should engage with backsliding democracies in ASEAN.

About the Speakers

Chiranuch Premchaiporn (Jiew) is a media activist and a co-founder of Prachatai, an online independent outlet at the forefront for human rights and democracy development in Thailand. Prior to her involvement with Prachatai, she led HIV/AIDS campaigns with AIDS Access Foundation for more than a decade. Currently, she is the coordinator of the Constitution Advocacy Alliance, an ad-hoc network advocating for constitutional reform. In 2012, she was convicted under Section 14 of the Computer-related Crimes Act for not promptly removing a comment deemed to insult the monarchy from the Prachatai web board.  Jiew’s case received extensive international media attention and she received numerous international awards for her activism in defense of the right to freedom of expression, including the Hellman/Hammett Award from Human Rights Watch and the Courage in Journalism Award from the International Women’s Media Foundation. In 2012, Jiew was named by Newsweek magazine as one of the world’s 150 Fearless Women.

Khin Lay is a Burmese civil society leader, political activist, and the founder of the Triangle Women Organization (TWO). TWO and Khin Lay have been receiving NED support since 2014 for their work expanding civil society’s role in Burma’s transition to democracy and promoting women’s rights in Burma. Along with her work supported by NED, Khin Lay and her organization work tirelessly at the grassroots level to fight human trafficking, provide vocational training, prevent sexual and gender-based violence, and promote women’s health. In addition, Khin Lay is chair of Access to Justice Initiative, which is an advocacy platform fighting against corruption in Burma. Khin Lay holds a master’s degree from the University of Yangon, was an Eisenhower Fellow, and was selected for The Bush Institute’s Women’s Leadership Program. Khin Lay is an outspoken civil society leader and an active driver of international and regional advocacy on Burma. Khin Lay has spoken on a panel to President Obama and met and briefed high-ranking U.S. officials including Secretaries of State Clinton and Kerry, President and First Lady Bush, and Ambassador Rice. Before establishing TWO, Khin Lay was a youth leader with the National League for Democracy and for her activism, she was tortured and jailed by the military dictatorship in the notorious Insein prison. Khin Lay is currently a Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow.

Mu Sochua is a Cambodian politician and rights activist. She was a Member of Parliament for Battambang from 2013 to 2017, a seat which she previously held from 1998 to 2003. She was a member and Vice President of the Cambodia National Rescue Party until its dissolution in September 2017. She served as Minister of Women and Veterans’ Affairs in Hun Sen’s coalition government from 1998 to 2004. Mu Sochua has won numerous awards for her work on human rights, including the Leadership Award in Washington, DC from the Vital Voices Foundation; the Elise and Walter A. Haas International Award from the University of California, Berkeley for a distinguished record of service in Cambodia; the Eleanor Roosevelt Award from George Washington University for leadership in human rights; and the 2010 People’s Choice Honoree by Global Exchange for their Human Rights Heroes Award. In 2005, Sochua was one of 1,000 women nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her work against sex trafficking of women in Cambodia and Thailand.

Teresita Quintos Deles (Ging) is a co-founder, former chair, and current sector lead for Women at the International Center on Innovation, Transformation and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov), which works to catalyze, facilitate, and nurture reform-centered policy research and movements for the defense and strengthening of democratic governance. She has been at the forefront of peace initiatives in the Philippines as a civil society activist and public servant. Ging was the first woman to be appointed as Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, with Cabinet rank serving under two presidential administrations. Under her watch the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed in 2014, marking the end of four decades of armed conflict between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. She sat as an Expert-Member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women from 1991 to 1994 and as the Philippine Permanent Representative on the Advisory Board of the ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation from 2013 to 2016. After completing her second term in public office, she assumed the position of Senior Mediation Adviser, with a special focus on Gender and Inclusion, in the Standby Mediation Team under the UN Department of Public Affairs. She co-founded and serves as chair-convener of the women’s coalition EveryWoman, a leading hub in the broad citizens’ movement against misogyny, impunity, and creeping authoritarianism in the Philippines.

Tricia Yeoh is CEO of Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS), an independent public policy think tank in Malaysia, where she has previously held positions of Chief Operating Officer (2013-2017) and Fellow (2017-2020). She is also a PhD candidate at the School of Politics, History and International Relations at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, examining federal-state relations and opposition subnational durability within dominant party authoritarian regimes. She was formerly Research Officer to the Selangor Menteri Besar at the Selangor State Government, and has previously served as Director of the ASLI Centre for Public Policy Studies. She is editor of “The Spirit of Merdeka” (jointly edited with Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad), the book “The Road to Reform: Pakatan Rakyat in Selangor” and its Malay version, “Liku-liku Reformasi: Pakatan Rakyat di Selangor” and author of the book, “States of Reform: Governing Selangor and Penang”. Her documentary, “The Rights of the Dead”, which tells the story of the Teoh Beng Hock who died in 2009 under the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission’s watch, won the Justin Louis Award at the FreedomFilmFest 2012. She is recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal, conferred by the Selangor Sultan (Pingat Jasa Kebaktian, PJK), and the Monash University Malaysia Distinguished Alumni Award 2017.