Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs

Publisher: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies; Project Muse, Johns Hopkins University Press


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Johns Hopkins University Press

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Publications in this journal

  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: One key component of modern constitutions is the representative system. The often-contested codification of this system over time in democratizing political orders depends on a number of factors, such as the existing institutional setting, the power relations of important political actors, and the ideational resources, or political culture, available to the constitution drafters. This article examines the ideational resources drawn on by the members of Thailand’s 2007 Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) in debating and deciding the shape of the National Assembly’s upper house, the Senate. This is mainly done by analysing the word-by-word minutes of their meetings. The respective processes of the 1997 CDC are described more briefly in order to provide background on an area of constitutional contestation that found its latest expression in November 2013, when the Constitutional Court invalidated the National Assembly’s constitutional amendment, which would have reintroduced a fully elected Senate. The article contextualizes these developments by reference to mass protests against the “Thaksin regime” that had been organized since November 2013 by the so-called People’s Democratic Reform Council (PDRC).
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2014; 36(1):51-76.
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    ABSTRACT: This article analyses eleven cases of constitution-making in eight Southeast Asian countries since 1986. It investigates design choices and actors’ interests, the link between the form of the political regime and the extent to which process designs matter for the legitimacy of the constitutional orders in the region. In doing so, the article demonstrates that the link between the form of the political regime and the extent to which constitution-making is inclusive or participatory is less clear-cut. While we would expect better opportunities for public participation and broader inclusion of extra-parliamentary actors in constitution-making in democratic environments, the empirical evidence is mixed. If and how this matters for public support for a constitution and the social acceptance for the constitutional order is not clear. In fact, the Southeast Asian experience seems to indicate that procedural legitimacy is less relevant for the acceptance of a constitution than the legitimacy that derives from the “day-to-day plebiscite” by citizens and elites.
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2014; 36(1):23-50.
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    ABSTRACT: How do you organize a regional grouping in the most diverse region of the world? This question has bedeviled Southeast Asian leaders since the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established in 1967. It has often been said that regionalism requires shared values to facilitate cooperation and to reduce the misunderstandings that frequently arise from cultural and political differences. Unlike Europe, which shares a common Christian foundation of sorts, Southeast Asia has had no similar sense of common bonding. It was understood not as a region but a crossroads for Indian, Chinese, Muslim and Western civilizations. The idea of Southeast Asia as a region is of recent origin and its general acceptance was a product of regionalism, ASEAN and its predecessor, the Association of Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, despite the lack of cultural and political commonalities, ASEAN not only managed to survive but to expand, both in terms of membership and function, to the point where it became a model for similar enterprises in other regions. ASEAN has succeeded because of the common bonds that were created between the political elites of member states, and in particular their foreign ministries. Leaders would work together in the “ASEAN way” according to which decisions were made by consensus avoiding any interference in each other’s domestic affairs. They played golf to get to know each other and sang karaoke in carefully managed events to promote personal ties. They demonstrated that regionalism in Southeast Asia could work in a culturally dissimilar context, unlike Europe. Constructivists would claim that norms of cooperation were established between the political elites, strengthening regional cooperation and overcoming the barriers created by political and cultural diversity. Constructivists understand ASEAN as a grand norm building project in which declarations are made by the leaders which stimulate cooperative behaviour and promote the region’s steady integration. Realists, however, cringe at what they regard as ASEAN rhetoric and critically examine the empirical record to assess its success or otherwise. Christopher Roberts’ detailed study of ASEAN is the latest in a long line of works on the topic that include Arnfinn Jorgensen-Dahl (1982), Michael Leifer (1989) and Shaun Narine (2002). In the first part of the book Roberts strongly reflects the exuberance of the Constructivists and their buoyant enthusiasm for the ASEAN norm building project. In the second part Roberts takes on the role of a Realist as he identifies the great gap between declaration and performance. Roberts utilizes two related concepts to trace ASEAN’s recent development and to assess its performance. One is Karl Deutsch’s idea of a “security community” which emerges as a major theme in his work. The notion was adopted by Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry when it proposed an ASEAN “security community” and was incorporated in the Bali Concorde II Declaration of 2003. This declaration set the goal of an “ASEAN community” which would be composed of economic, socio-cultural and security communities. The deadline was 2020, but later it was brought forward to 2015 in the hope that a shortened timeframe would stimulate greater efforts. According to Roberts, a security community is created when political, economic and security cooperation reaches a very high level where there are “dependable expectations of peaceful change” (p. 32). The second concept is “complex integration” which is understood as a high level of political, economic and cultural integration. The two concepts are interchangeable as one can be understood in terms of the other; complex integration is achieved when a security community is created. After this Constructivist/Liberal Institutionalist beginning, Roberts examines ASEAN’s performance utilizing the results of extensive fieldwork — he conducted 150 interviews and two surveys with 919 respondents. When Roberts tests ASEAN in this way he finds it “high in ambition and low in performance” (p. 101). One major problem with ASEAN, as explained in chapter five, is the authoritarian-democratic divide in ASEAN which widened with the democratization of Indonesia after 1998. Democracies such as Indonesia and the Philippines lined up against authoritarian members, such as Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in pressing for participatory regionalism, and the involvement of civil society in the drafting of the ASEAN Charter. The ASEAN Charter was accepted at the 13th...
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2014; 36(1):162-164.
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    ABSTRACT: On 11 November 2013 the International Court of Justice (ICJ) handed down its verdict concerning the interpretation of its 1962 judgement on the temple of Preah Vihear on the Thai-Cambodian border. The Court ruled that Cambodia’s ownership of the temple entitled it to sovereignty over the promontory of the site, as shown on the map Cambodia bases its border claims on. The ICJ made clear, however, that the judgement concerned the promontory only, and did not affect the boundary line between Thailand and Cambodia. While the ruling allowed both sides to claim at least a partial victory on details of the interpretation, ironically enough, it was Thailand’s deepening political crisis that lessened the danger of a widely feared outbreak of violence along the border. The Guide to the Preah Vihear Conflict is a joint effort by two Thai and one Cambodian scholar to explain the context of the dispute and how conflict might be avoided in the future. In a sense a critique of the political manipulation of Thai and, to a lesser extent Khmer nationalism, the book offers a well-balanced account of the complex relationships between the various stakeholders in the dispute. The compact volume builds on previous work by the authors and is divided into four rather loosely integrated chapters which attempt to unravel the differing historical narratives that dominated the crisis between 2008 and 2011. In addition, the authors offer a set of practical guidelines to manage the simmering conflict. According to the authors, the revival of contested claims to an area of roughly four square kilometers surrounding the Preah Vihear temple was primarily the result of political infighting in Thailand, and specifically, “part of a plot to remove the government of Samak Sundaravej” (p.25). Subsequent developments are interpreted through the lens of domestic power struggles in both Bangkok and Phnom Penh. The first two chapters of the book provide the historical background to the events that culminated in military clashes in early 2011, when fighting spread to two smaller temple complexes located 150 kilometers from Preah Vihear. Regrettably, however, the period between the ICJ’s 1962 ruling and the first decade of the twenty-first century is somewhat sidestepped, and the reader is left wondering how the still rather obscure past of the no-man’s land surrounding the temple fits into the historical account. Nevertheless, the authors do an excellent job of highlighting the inconsistencies in the versions of the temple’s history advanced by both countries. According to the authors, it is surprising that, given the similarities between the two peoples, relations “should be characterized by deep-seated ignorance, misunderstanding, and prejudice” (p.4). It is precisely the many similarities between the two peoples, however, that explain why territorial nationalism and the remembrance of past wars constitute such central elements to their respective national identities and render the ambiguities along the common border as destructive sources of potentially violent conflict. In focusing on nation-building, it is unfortunate that the authors refrain from problematizing the challenges posed by the ongoing project of state-making, to which their description of contemporary events alludes. In 2003 Jean-Marc F. Blanchard coined the term “adolescent state”; that is a state that is yet to find its identity and to consolidate the institutional processes ensuring predictable and prudent, in short adult behaviour. Uneven development and an excessive concern with status and position in foreign policy increase the functional pressures on the borders of the adolescent state. The failure to build societal consensus and extreme fragmentation among the elites, especially in the Thai context, effectively raised the political, economic and emotional value of the Preah Vihear temple. Such a perspective calls in particular for a closer examination of the role played by the Thai military. The claim that it were members of the armed forces that successfully pushed for the militarization of the dispute is alluded to in several passages of the book, yet more could have been done to show the extent to which different actors were able to assert their preferences. The second part of the book reflects on the viability of the different bilateral and multilateral mechanisms the conflicting parties have...
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2014; 36(1):168-170.
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    ABSTRACT: Raja Mohan’s book is premised on three inter-related assertions: first, the persistence of Sino-Indian rivalry; second, the “spill-over” of their traditionally land-based rivalry into the maritime domain; and third, the emergence of the Indo-Pacific as a new geopolitical space. While there is some validity in each of these assertions, all three are open to some scrutiny. The first — the persistence of Sino-Indian rivalry — is probably the least controversial. Mohan is right to note that “since the emergence of modern independent states in China and India during the middle of the last century … the dynamic between the two nations in Southeast Asia has been a competitive one” (p. 31), though this competitive dynamic has been somewhat tempered by semi-institutional ties, such as the recent conclusion of a Border Defence Cooperation Agreement in October 2013. However, the unresolved territorial dispute between the two countries in Arunachal Pradesh and Aksai Chin remains a thorn in the bilateral relationship, one that has fuelled a climate of mistrust, as demonstrated most recently by tensions in the Depsang Valley of Eastern Ladakh in April 2013. Despite official rhetoric claiming otherwise, there remains a propensity for misunderstanding between both states that is fuelled by limited people-to-people contacts and rising levels of nationalism, which is reflected in jingoistic media reporting in both countries. Mohan notes that “while the political leadership repeatedly affirms that they (China and India) are not a threat to each other and that Asia is large enough to accommodate their aspirations and simultaneous rise, the strategic communities on both sides have nurtured adversarial images of each other” (p. 204). There is also evidence of the second assertion of Mohan’s book that Sino-Indian rivalry has “spilled over” into the maritime domain from being a traditionally continental competition. The maritime domain has emerged as an increasingly important theatre of interaction for both countries amid their emergence as major trading and resource-consuming powers. In China, this growing dependence on imported resources has prompted concerns over a so-called “Malacca Dilemma” while India maintains ambitions to develop, in the words of Admiral Nirmal Verma, the former Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy, “a brand new multi-dimensional Navy” with “reach and sustainability” (Times of India, 21 December 2011). As such, Mohan’s thesis is correct to the extent that it captures both countries’ growing maritime interests and ambitions. However, the idea that growing maritime competition has supplanted their longstanding land-based rivalry may be taking it too far. In both India and China the navy continues to play second-fiddle to the army when it comes to forging military doctrines and strategies. Furthermore, both countries’ growing maritime interests do not automatically translate into rivalry and competition. Mohan asserts that “as New Delhi and Beijing define their maritime approaches in terms of the US Monroe Doctrine, the two would seem bound to step on each other’s toes” (p. 205). To be sure, the naval discourse in both countries increasingly reflects Mahanian thinking — with an emphasis on sea-control and competitive naval diplomacy — thus moving away from a traditionally defensive maritime posture. In China, debates over maritime strategy have moved beyond the first and second “island-chains” and increasingly into the realm of “farsea operations” while New Delhi has declared — in its 2007 India’s Maritime Military Strategy — that its maritime interests extend “from the north of the Arabian Sea to the South China Sea”. Mohan also notes the potential for China and India’s growing maritime interests to move onshore as India counters China’s “string of pearls” with its own so-called “necklace of diamonds” (p. 135). This alludes to both countries’ ambitions to develop a forward naval presence through the development of transhipment hubs along maritime trade routes. However, China and India’s growing naval power projection capabilities need not be a source of mutual insecurity. For instance, humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations have emerged as a catalyst for India to expand its maritime influence; this includes Indian relief operations following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami and the cyclone that struck Myanmar in 2008. Similarly, China’s rhetoric of maintaining “harmonious oceans...
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2014; 36(1):165-167.
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    ABSTRACT: Courts have become an increasing focus for political contestation in Southeast Asia. Yet little is known about the basis of their political power and legitimacy. Drawing on recent scholarship in the field of judicial politics, and presenting a case study of the Philippine Supreme Court after the transition to democracy in 1986, this article explores the conditions under which the Court has exercised its powers in the context of a democratizing state such as the Philippines. More specifically, it will show how strong public support has enabled the Court to exercise its judicial review powers and its authority over contending political actors. In drawing attention to the understudied link between public support and judicial assertiveness, the paper aims to advance existing scholarship by going beyond existing indicators of judicial independence and to provide new insights into the dynamics of evolving constitutional practice in the region through the interaction of the courts with the public.
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2014; 36(1):128-158.
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    ABSTRACT: According to the author, a “technological state” is one with “a political economy that is largely structured by a macro vision of socioeconomic transformations which places a strong emphasis on state-led rapid technological development” (pp. 9–10). He posits three essential features of the technological state that differentiates it from the developmental state: first, a high degree of technological supremacy, not economic growth, is the measure of success; second, the state institution in charge of technological advancement is relatively protected from external factors such as market forces; third, accomplishment is proven by presenting sophisticated technological accomplishments to the public, and not necessarily by improving their welfare. This book examines the New Order’s love affair with high-technology, and especially the career trajectory of German-educated engineer B.J. Habibie who went on to become the third President of Indonesia after the downfall of “the father of development”, President Soeharto. Soeharto — who’s New Order regime ruled the country with an iron fist from 1965 to 1998 — had ambitions to put Indonesia on par with developed countries. Soeharto’s successful attempt to lure Habibie home from an impressive career in the aeronautical industry in Germany exemplifies the intersection between high-tech advancement and the authoritarian state: “We have to bring about some reforms and changes in science and technology, but please Rudy [Habibie’s nickname], don’t bring about any social upheavals” (p. 45). On his return, Habibie immediately set about transforming Soeharto’s dreams into reality, mainly through an ambitious project to design and construct aeroplanes at the state-run Indonesian Aerospace Industry (IPTN). The author combines historical description and sociological analysis in an engaging way, and his analysis of the intersection between high-tech development and authoritarianism is reflected throughout the book. Chapter 1 illustrates the comprehensive backdrop against which authoritarian politics and technological development intersected. Chapter 2 depicts the close personal relationship between Soeharto and Habibie. Chapter 3 discusses the practices of strong technocracy, which constituted the New Order’s authoritarian governance. Chapter 4 examines Habibie’s influential concept of “leapfrogging” and its insidious influence on the logic of the New Order’s development, which led to the establishment of the technological state. Chapter 5 looks at how the transformation of IPTN from a small-scale concern into a world-class aircraft maker became the prime manifestation of the logic of the technological state. Chapter 6 describes “take-off”, depicting an important stage in the accumulation of knowledge and technical capabilities of the technological state, taking the N250 aircraft as a case study. It describes in detail the maiden flight of the N250 in August 1995, an event that evoked a tremendous sense of pride among Indonesians, many of whom watched it live on television with a sense of admiration. Chapter 7 goes on to describe how the New Order’s high-tech ambitions fell victim to the 1998 financial crisis, during which IPTN was forced to produce cooking pots to help finance the moribund N250. The author highlights the political aspects of Indonesia as a technological state, though Habibie was often regarded as apolitical. The author describes two ways in which Habibie influenced the political dynamics of the New Order. First, he acted as a bridge between Soeharto and Muslim modernists through his role in the establishment of the Indonesian Muslim Intellectual Association (pp. 51–56). Second, Habibie invited the self-declared opposition group Petisi 50 — which consisted of disgruntled former prominent officials and generals — to visit IPTN. The leader of the group, Ali Sadikin, “was even brought to tears when he delivered a speech at IPTN in which he expressed his deep admiration and pride for what IPTN was able to achieve in high technology development” (pp. 112–13). The author concludes that “This suggests that the impressive psycho-political effect of high technology encouraged the Petition 50 to end their oppositional stance against the New Order as they came to acknowledge the importance and significance of the New Order’s high technology accomplishments” (p. 113). The author’s application of the technological state to analyse the intersection between the authoritarian state and high-tech advancement using Indonesia as a case study makes a...
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(1):132-134.
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    ABSTRACT: Since the normalization of Sino-Vietnamese relations in 1991, Vietnam’s China policy has been shaped by a combination of approaches which can be best described as a multi-tiered, omni-directional hedging strategy. The article argues that hedging is the most rational and viable option for Vietnam to manage its relations with China given its historical experiences, domestic and bilateral conditions, as well as changes in Vietnam’s external relations and the international strategic environment. The article examines the four major components of this strategy, namely economic pragmatism, direct engagement, hard balancing and soft balancing. The article goes on to assess the significance of each component and details how Vietnam has pursued its hedging strategy towards China since normalization.
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(3):333-368.
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    ABSTRACT: This article explores the involvement of a range of diverse for-profit actors in providing port and border security in Indonesia. Using the port of Belawan, Medan, as a case study, the article demonstrates the critical, albeit controversial, role that private security providers play in security governance in Indonesia. After a discussion of port security and the notion of ports as borders, the paper provides an overview of the large number of state and non-state actors involved in providing security in the port of Belawan. Among the for-profit actors are guards hired by the state-owned port operator Pelindo I; Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) with links to the Indonesian military; and members of Pemuda Pancasila (PP), known to be involved in illegal activities in the port they help secure. The article argues that while some private actors do contribute to port security, the involvement of so many different types of state and non-state agencies has actually lessened security in Belawan. This is in part due to the nature of some of the agents involved — particularly the members of PP — and the problematic relationship and lack of cooperation between the different state and non-state actors.
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(2):163-187.
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    ABSTRACT: Australia’s new government is committed to delivering the next defence white paper in 2015. The two previous white papers took a predominantly risk-management approach to Southeast Asia, generally ignored the strategic opportunities in the region, treated it as a stand-alone region largely unrelated to developments in East Asia and failed to link Australia’s policies in Southeast Asia with the broader goal of helping to ensure greater strategic stability in Asia by putting constraints on Chinese assertiveness and encouraging its peaceful rise. After offering a summary of recent Australian defence thinking on Southeast Asia, this paper outlines why managing China is the key variable when it comes to strategic stability in the region. It then examines how China’s strategy and behaviour can be shaped and influenced by events and relationships in Southeast Asia, and offers some suggestions as to the role Australia can seek to play in Southeast Asia that relates to Canberra’s China-focused objectives and strategic stability in Asia more broadly. If that can be achieved in the 2015 defence white paper, Australia — which is often criticized for being preoccupied primarily with managing the relationship with its superpower ally the United States — will demonstrate to itself and Asia that its heavy reliance on the ANZUS treaty is no barrier to strategic creativity in Asia.
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(3):395-422.
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    ABSTRACT: Denny Roy’s comprehensive survey examines the impact of China’s growing military and economic power through the lens of a “hegemonic transition” that Roy perceives to be underway in East Asia. This will not necessarily lead to war between the United States and China, but the cost of avoiding it would be “the abdication of America’s position as a great power in Asia” to permit “a hegemonic transition without a hegemonic war” (pp. 57, 140). Even if the two powers find a modus vivendi, China’s growing strength will increase domestic pressure on Beijing to act more assertively abroad (pp. 35, 258), and other nations will have to adjust to the reality of Chinese dominance. In any case, the book concludes, “China’s continued growth into a Great Power or a regional hegemon will likely lead to a net reduction in security for most of the world” (p. 262). Roy begins his analysis with distinctive elements of China’s worldview. First among these is lessons from China’s past: that China deserves to regain its position as the world’s greatest country; that China must not be divided, and therefore must regain lost territory such as Taiwan; and that the world’s other Great Powers are ruthless and exploitative and will oppose China’s rise (p. 15). Equally important is Chinese exceptionalism, the belief that China as a Great Power will not behave as others have done because it is acutely conscious of having been downtrodden, because it is an inherently defensive country that never makes war unless attacked, never seeks hegemony, etc. (pp. 24–26). Yet despite this self-image, Roy asserts, “Beijing’s desire and intention is to make eastern Asia … a Chinese sphere of influence” to be “the preeminent power and rule maker within the region” (p. 161). The volume alternates chapters analyzing broader issues — military power, risks of conflict, factors that mitigate such a risk etc. — with chapters examining how that affects China’s neighbours and the international system. The explicitly zero-sum analysis assumes that for one Great Power to have more security, the neighbouring Great Power must have less (p. 57). As the balance shifts in China’s favour, Vietnam is “acknowledging Chinese hegemony”, “bending to Chinese power but not breaking” (p. 117). China and India are locked in a struggle of containment and counter-containment, each seeking to limit the other’s influence (pp. 107–08). China’s rise is closing the space for Russia’s re-emergence as a Great Power, and may either re-kindle Sino-Russian tensions (p. 103) or force Moscow to accept subordinate status to avoid serious tensions with Beijing (p. 128). Japan is losing badly in the centuries-long competition for regional leadership (p. 89), but Roy does not take sides between those who think Tokyo will turn to appeasement and those who expect full rearmament and a cold war with China, the only two outcomes he considers (p. 102). These somewhat controversial judgments aside, the author does a good job outlining the issues at play in each relationship and in the overall strategic environment. The brief chapter on military modernization is a good introduction for those who have not considered the issue. The chapter on mitigating factors is a useful counterbalance to the Hobbesian power struggle depicted in other chapters, outlining the many constraints on China’s ambition. Among these are China’s unwillingness to take on all the responsibilities and burdens of a hegemonic leader (p. 146) and Beijing’s recognition that overly aggressive behaviour can be counter-productive, frightening the neighbours and helping the main opponent organize its anti-China containment strategy (pp. 147–56). Despite these mitigating factors, however, there is a persistent risk of conflict, as the author articulates in chapters on Taiwan, North Korea and the South China Sea. There are a few structural flaws that mar an otherwise excellent work. First is the lack of attribution for several strong statements about the motives of various actors. In a work of such breadth, it is inevitable that an author must rely on assertions without room to lay out the facts and analysis underlying them. But it is incumbent on...
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(3):453-455.
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    ABSTRACT: This article explores perceptions and reactions across Southeast Asia towards the Obama administration’s “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia. The US approach has been dismissed as more rhetorical than substantive grand strategy, its credibility under renewed scrutiny following President Obama’s cancelled visit to Southeast Asia in October 2013. Nonetheless, the rebalance has expanded from its origins in 2010–11, acquiring diplomatic and economic “prongs” with a particular focus on Southeast Asia, broadening the bandwidth of US engagement beyond military diplomacy and force realignment. However, the US “pivot” has had to contend with entrenched narratives of the US role in the region oscillating between extremes of neglect or over-militarization. The US-China strategic dynamic weighing over the region, itself central to Washington’s strategic calculus across Asia, has also coloured the lens through which Southeast Asians have viewed the re-balance. Varied reactions to the US rebalance at the national level in Southeast Asia are further suggestive of a sub-regional divide between “continental” and “maritime” states that to some extent predisposes their perspectives and orientation towards the Great Powers.
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(3):305-332.
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    ABSTRACT: In the early 1990s Indonesia and Malaysia were locked in a long-running and bitter dispute over the ownership of two tiny islands in the Sulawesi Sea and the associated question of maritime boundaries in this area rich in oil and gas deposits. Neither government had ever referred a dispute with another state to the International Court of Justice but in 1996 President Soeharto agreed to Malaysia’s proposal to ask the ICJ to issue a ruling on the dispute between the two countries. In 1998 Indonesia and Malaysia asked the ICJ to rule on the ownership of the islands. They did not, however, ask it to rule on the far more important question of their maritime boundaries in the Sulawesi Sea. The ICJ’s judgement in 2002 that the islands belonged to Malaysia therefore left that question unresolved. The article argues that because of Indonesia’s experience with the ICJ and the high stakes involved for both countries any resolution of the boundary dispute — which came close to open conflict in 2005 — will almost certainly be the result of state-to-state negotiations rather than a ruling by the ICJ or any outside body.
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(2):235-257.
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    ABSTRACT: Located in the north-east of Peninsular Malaysia, Kelantan is well known to anthropologists. The state is where Malay, Thai and Chinese cultures meet, and where Muslims and Buddhists live side by side. Accordingly, it is a location of unique anthropological value (at least since the early 1970s, the locals have become aware that there is a profession called “anthropology”).1 Yet The Buddha on Mecca’s Verandah: Encounters, Mobilities, and Histories along the Malaysian-Thai Border is more than just another anthropological work on Kelantan: it is also what the author professes to be “an exercise in reflexivity” because he was “among friends, relations, and strangers”. It is a place where his mother, a Kelantanese-Thai, grew up and, one that Johnson visited numerous times (p. ix). And as an academic, Johnson is well-equipped to help us understand the Malaysian state: he speaks several languages, including English, Standard and Kelantan Malay, Central, Southern and Kelantanese-Thai, and has a Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard University. The book begins with the history of Kelantan, a marginal place located on the Thailand-Malaysia border, where, for hundreds of years, traders, smugglers, thieves, officials and religious teachers have crossed each other’s path. Ban Bor On, where Johnson conducted his research, is “one of Kelantan’s largest Thai villages”. Its history was inextricably linked to the province of Narathiwat in southern Thailand long before the border was imposed by the British, and the “Long periods of Thai and Malay interaction have resulted in lexical convergences in both directions, with the Kelantanese Malay vocabulary incorporating a number of Thai words and the Kelnatanese Thai lexicon including many Malay loan words” (pp. 12–13). Although many villagers are market gardeners, they seem quite mobile. Cross border travel is common, but crossing into Thailand to patronize the local sex industry, especially for younger men, can be risky or even deadly (p. 72). Over the decades, Ban Bor On’s residents have experienced many changes, some of which were introduced by tourists, Buddhist monks and government officials from Thailand. This is not simply the story of a Thai village located in the Malay world: it is about what ordinary people encounter in their daily lives and how they choose to live those lives. It is about how different ethnic groups coexist. And it is also about the rise of Thailand’s religious-cultural influence. In the 1970s, contacts between Thai villagers in Kelantan and people from Thailand were minimal. For the former, Central Thai was a different language and, Thai cuisine foreign. Even in Sungai Golok, the nearest border trading town in Thailand, Kelantanese-Thais felt “much more like foreigners than in Kelantan” (Golomb 1978, p. 25). Many villagers even equated the “bars, dancing parlours, and houses of prostitution” in that town as “urban commercial sin”, which they did not wish to be associated with (Winzeler 1985, p. 91). Thirty years later, as Johnson points out, Thailand is no longer perceived as a very different country and Central Thai culture is no longer alien. Kelantanese-Thai villages have become tourist destinations for Thais, where the locals sell “cold drinks, rice salad (khao jam), spicy green papaya salad, and fresh coconut juice” (p. 89). Others, including “academics, monks, journalists, and elite members of Bangkok’s standard Thai-speaking bureaucracy” also travel to Kelantan in search of another Thai identity outside of Thailand (p. 79). When Kelantan’s chief monk died in 2005, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, daughter of King Bhumipol, contributed five sets of monk’s robes as part of Thai royal sponsorship of the funeral. In the past, such a ritual would have been a purely Kelantan affair (p. 134). Monks from Thailand have also been active spreading Buddhist teachings to the locals. Thammathut2 monks established a Pali school in a local temple “sometime between 1973 and 1974” (p. 150) and the Dhammakaya3 are among the newcomers of Buddhist monks from Thailand, who are involved in the teaching of Thai Buddhism and culture. Apparently, more Kelantanese-Thai villagers, especially the younger ones, are learning about Thailand, Central Thai culture and language. (In 2010 when my friends and I visited a Thai village...
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(2):301-304.
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    ABSTRACT: How have Japan’s security policies changed from the Cold War period to the post–Cold War period? In Japan’s Security Identity: From a Peace State to an International State, Bhubhindar Singh seeks to answer this question as he traces the evolution of Japan’s security policies over recent decades. The book’s focus is ostensibly on the period from the end of the Cold War until the 2009 lower house election, although it also provides a comprehensive account of Japan’s security policies since the 1950s. At different points, it discusses such diverse events as the creation of the 1957 Basic Policy on National Defense, the 1976 National Defense Program Outline, and the 2010 National Defense Program Guidelines, among others. The overall aim of Japan’s Security Identity is to analyze “what these changes mean for Japanese security policy and what kind of role(s) Japan would assume in … regional and security affairs in the post-Cold War period” (p. 2). The argument, as the subtitle indicates, is that between these two periods Japan has moved from a peace state to an international-state identity. As Singh explains, the “role conceptions or identity that determine Japan’s role in regional and international security affairs” have shifted, with Japanese policymakers recognizing that the country’s “Cold War approach … was inappropriate in the post-Cold War period” (p. 3). Adopting key elements of Constructivism from International Relations theory, Singh sets up a complex conceptual framework in which the “normative context” of Japan’s security policymaking is a key variable engendering a “transformation of Japan’s security identity and its resultant security policy” (p. 3). According to Singh, Japan’s normative context consists of three dimensions: (1) the scope of the country’s territorial conception of national security; (2) the extent to which the Self-Defense Forces (SDF) operate internationally; and (3) the “institutional culture embedded within the policymaking structure” or the policymaking regime (pp. 3–4). The shift from peace state to international state, therefore, can be understood as the outcome of a shift in this normative context — from a narrow, territorial, Yoshida-bound, limited security identity to a more regional and international, revisionist and expanded security identity (pp. 4–5). To make this case, Singh divides Japan’s Security Identity into seven chapters, including the introduction and conclusion. The book also includes extensive notes, some of which run to multiple paragraphs. In chapter two, Singh outlines the main concepts and principles, as well as the chief explanations for change, in Japan’s security policy (pp. 9–40). He then explains in further detail the book’s conceptual framework (pp. 41–76), which is divided into four parts examining the idea of security identity, Japan’s particular peace-state and international-state identities, the three normative contexts and the key elements of the following empirical chapters. In the three chapters that follow, Singh examines each of the three normative contexts in depth. By focusing on these ideational concepts as the drivers of change in security policy, Japan’s Security Identity is seeking to resolve some of the weaknesses of existing understandings of Japanese strategy. Realist, Mercantilist or Liberal explanations, which emphasize international factors, overlook many important features of the change in Japan’s security policies. On the other hand, Constructivist explanations, which emphasize domestic factors, cannot adequately account for the shift away from anti-militarism in Japan’s security identity. Singh’s context-identity approach, by comparison, incorporates the “mutual interaction between the international structure and states” (p. 46) and encompasses not just material factors but also the cultures (social structures) operating both domestically and internationally (pp. 47–52). A key challenge when using multiple variables is to delineate the important cause-and-effect relationships. In this regard, Singh sets himself an immense task juggling these interests, norms, and intersubjective understandings of identity (p. 42), as well as mutual interactions between international and domestic levels (p. 46), and also material and ideational structures (p. 67). Given this inherent complexity in the framework, it is not always clear how or whether the multiple factors identified as important are driving policy change in Japan, whether they reflect deeper transformations, or possibly both...
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(3):462-464.
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    ABSTRACT: As this review was being written, Cambodia was preparing for its fourth general election since the historic elections sponsored by the United Nations (UN) in 1993. Those elections helped propel Cambodia from war to peace, and from autarky to global integration. As a result, the Cambodian economy has, since the turn of the century, experienced on average near double-digit annual growth, driven mainly by the tourism and garment sectors. Politically, Cambodia has held regular multi-party elections at the national and sub-national levels. Despite these developments, there exist diverse assessments of Cambodia’s political and economic trajectory, varying from the image of a glass half-full to half-empty. Public opinion surveys conducted by the International Republican Institute — a U.S. based agency that promotes democracy around the world — have consistently shown that over three-quarters of Cambodians shared a favourable view that Cambodia “is headed in the right direction”. Sophal Ear, an Assistant Professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in California, offers a glass half empty diagnosis. He suggests that while on the surface Cambodia appears to be headed in the right direction, closer scrutiny reveals signs for concern and that the country is “one broken government away from disaster” (p. 133). According to the author, Cambodia has become “a kleptocracy cum thugocracy” (p. 8) in which the political and economic elites have colluded to exploit the country’s natural resources and divert foreign aid for personal gain as well as to perpetuate the country’s patronage based politics. In the meantime, the quality of democracy has declined with an absence of inter-institutional accountability, deterioration of the rule of law and tightly restricted civil liberties as the long ruling Prime Minister Hun Sen and his Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) monopolize power. Ear postulates that Cambodia’s growth has occurred without development, signified by the country’s rising inequality, declining freedom and widespread poverty. Growth without development in Cambodia is attributable to the lack of good governance, a problem closely associated with the generous inflow of development assistance. Foreign aid is a hindrance to sustainable development for it enables the government to forgo tax collection, a condition that perpetuates the absence of governmental accountability and responsiveness. The author faults the Western donor community for being short sighted and self-serving, basing the continuation of their assistance on Cambodia’s political stability and Western interests rather than on promoting good governance and democracy. Donors, Ear rightly argues, equate democracy with elections and this equation has perpetuated the façade of democracy in Cambodia. In certain respects, Western governments face a dilemma in pushing for genuine democracy and good governance due to the emergence of alternative donors — particularly China — whose aid to Cambodia is not linked to improvements in human rights and democracy. Cambodia’s linkage to these non-traditional donors serves as a countervailing force to Western donors’ attempts at promoting democracy and human rights. The book devotes considerable attention to explaining the paradox of economic growth under conditions of weak governance by examining three sectors — garments, rice and livestock. Rather than an outcome of “good governance”, the garment sector’s growth has been made possible by three factors; first, the presence of a strong and unified Garment Manufacturing Association with a history of working with the Ministry of Commerce to reduce corruption and create predictability; second, the favourable external market under conditions of preferential treatment based on garment sector’s good labour practices that respect workers’ rights; and third, these good labour practices are the product of semi-corporatist arrangements involving producers, the government and the International Labour Organization. Generally, for the rice and livestock sectors, the “state has been a hindrance rather than an enabler” (p. 79). Although the rice sector has great potential given rising global demand and export preferences granted by the European Union under the “Everything But Arms” arrangement, it remains questionable whether its full potential can be achieved given the absence of collaborative bargaining on the part of rice millers, poor access to credit, the high cost of transport and storage, expensive, unreliable energy supply and high informal payments. The livestock sector is poorly developed due to an absence of trade...
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(2):284-287.
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    ABSTRACT: According to the author, Pak Nung Wong, this book is a historical ethnography, one that looks mainly at frontier “governmentality” (using a Foucauldian concept) as applied to the Philippines. He argues that “the gist of the Philippine post-colonial statecraft” hinges on how “frontier strongmen” are coopted into becoming the state’s ruling instruments, particularly in serving or subverting the centralizing state in “hegemonic processes of monopolizing physical force and symbolic violence” (p. 25). Looking at the cases of three strongmen in the Cagayan Valley in the northern Philippines, he concludes that — perhaps contrary to expectations — strongmen are not necessarily a threat to state rule, but may be “successfully contained” as well as “caught in the centralizing state’s governmental technologies and the ruled majority’s countergovernmental technologies” (p. xxvi). Frontier governmentality, Wong argues, involves diverse tug-of-war processes and multiple areas of contestation where, across the Philippine archipelago, the sovereign state has decentralized to strongmen the authority to generate internal revenue, pacify unrest, and resolve disputes and conflicts. They do so — oftentimes successfully and to the benefit of the central government — through implementing state laws such as in counter-insurgency, land reform, elections, and education (p. 26). The process entails techniques described by Wong through his case studies as networking, identity-switching and brokering, among others (94). In the case of the former military counterinsurgency expert–turned-governor-turned mutineer Rodolfo Aguinaldo, the strongman is co-opted and initially serves the objectives of the centralizing state, but he eventually does present a challenge to state-building when he declares secession of his province from the Republic. Revered as a legendary Robin Hood-like figure by the Cagayan populace when he served as governor from 1988–98, but loathed by others for his abuse of military power and then civilian authority, Aguinaldo exemplified both the local strongman’s critical role in capacitating the state to conduct discipline and surveillance, but also its need to maintain a careful balance between central and local power. Wong further explores the theme of discipline and surveillance in his discussion of the Mamba clan in the border town of Tuau, who belonged to the ethnic group Itawes. Fighting a communist insurgency, Cordilleran self-determination movement and vigilantes, the Mambas (with three generations involved in politics) employed governance techniques that further illustrate how frontier governmentality works. A second theme of the book is the important role of ethnic Chinese individuals and clans in the local economy and politics in some parts of the Philippines. As in much of Southeast Asia, capital-rich ethnic Chinese are, to the author, “most wanted frontiers” of the state, who, as transnational actors, are also expected to present a potential challenge to state sovereignty. In the Philippines, the launching of a land reform programme in the 1950s broke landlord dominance over the peasantry and gave way to new patron-client ties between tenants and Chinese capitalists (p. 35). Many of these Chinese had, however, intermarried with locals, and, in Cagayan, they counted among their kinsmen Ilocanos or even indigenous Itawes and Ibanags. When President Ferdinand Marcos allowed the ethnic Chinese to become naturalized citizens, they gained more access to political office. Here, Wong presents his readers with the interesting case of Delfin Ting, a former mayor of Tuguegarao City, who drew his influence in part from ethnic Chinese networks, business patrons in Manila and his family’s own participation in key economic activities such as rice milling and grain trading. Delfin launched his campaign against the other strongman Aguinaldo by moving to eliminate jueteng, a now-widespread illegal numbers game that had itself been brought by southern Chinese migrants into the Philippines but which later produced large slush funds for local officials, including Aguinaldo, who used it to fund counterinsurgency operations. Delfin Ting, the book tells us, used his “Chinese” credentials — being industrious, hardworking and a self-made businessman — in his campaign to be elected mayor of Tuguegarao. Those who opposed him tried but failed to have his election nullified on the grounds of his being a Chinese national, as Ting was declared to be a Filipino citizen after all. In the process of presenting his narratives on these three...
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(2):288-291.
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    ABSTRACT: Hedley Bull’s distinction between diplomatic and cosmopolitan culture, though insufficiently developed, has two applications in the context of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It provides a broader theoretical backdrop to the oft-noted need for a thicker socio-cultural underpinning to counterweigh ASEAN’s elite diplomatic culture; and it offers an alternative perspective with which to critique ASEAN-focused efforts in that direction. This article uses the diplomatic/cosmopolitan dyad to examine a range of regional communication initiatives, from cartoons and computer games to Facebook communities and curricula. While some still represent an essentially diplomatic culture that has simply been transferred to a popular environment, others have the potential to promote a more genuinely cosmopolitan vision that better enables citizens to come to terms with both the rough and the smooth of regional cooperation. The article suggests that ASEAN would be well advised to promote hands-off communicative efforts that not only give participants scope to explore, but also accommodate the ineluctability of contention and difference in regional affairs.
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(1):104-128.
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    ABSTRACT: Contemporary maritime security threats such as piracy, smuggling and illegal fishing are major concerns in Southeast Asia. responding to these threats have long been seen as the responsibility of governments. This article demonstrates how new actors have become involved in addressing national and regional maritime security threats in Southeast Asia. Focussing on three distinct types of new actors — for-profit actors, not-for-profit actors and multilateral institutions — the article provides an understanding of the (sometimes controversial) nature of their responses to threats and the relationships between these new actors and the state. By revealing the contribution made by new actors in Southeast Asia — a region where governments are particularly protective of their sovereignty — this article shows how and why established patterns of security governance in Southeast Asia are changing and offers new insights into alternative methods for tackling maritime security threats.
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(2):141-162.
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    ABSTRACT: Several states in Southeast Asia have long attempted to produce their own armaments, both to support national security and to aid in national economic and technological advancement. In most cases, however, such efforts have been decidedly disappointing, and few local arms industries have been economically or technologically self-sustaining. Nevertheless, we may be witnessing a new phase of renewed interest among several Southeast Asian nations in expanding their capabilities for indigenous arms manufacturing, as evidenced in particular by new defence-industrial initiatives in Indonesia and Malaysia. These efforts have been supported by a long-term growth in defence expenditures and new efforts to utilize industrial offsets (such as technology transfers and localized production) as a part of arms acquisitions to build up local arms industries. It is unlikely, however, that these efforts alone will suffice to create economically viable local defence industries. Consequently, countries in the region will still have to make tough decisions about the future course of their defence industrial bases. Most likely, they will have to either invest considerably greater resources into developing their defence sectors (which may beyond their capacities and which are still no guarantee of success) or else they have to scale back their ambitions and choose to concentrate in niche areas where they have a better chance of being competitive in the global arms marketplace.
    Contemporary Southeast Asia A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs 01/2013; 35(3):369-394.