Ethnic Conflicts in Southeast Asia

Ethnic Conflicts in Southeast Asia

Ethnic Conflicts in Southeast Asia

Ethnic Conflicts in Southeast Asia

Synopsis

Potentially destabilizing ethnic conflicts continue to challenge nation-states worldwide: The countries of Southeast Asia are no exception. Globalization, population movements and historical and political fault-lines in a tremendously ethnically diverse region, coupled with continuing uneven access to economic development, have seen the resurgence of old conflicts or the flaring up of new ones. Along with violence and the loss of life and livelihood there are also longer-term cross-border impacts to consider in the form of refugees or displaced persons, illegal migrant labour, as well as drug and arms smuggling. Written by country experts, this volume examines ethnic configurations as well as conflict avoidance and resolution in five Southeast Asian countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand. Ethnic Conflicts in Southeast Asia is a resource for scholars, policy-makers, NGO personnel, analysts and others who wish to deepen their understanding of the region, or develop strategies to prevent, modulate and resolve such conflicts.

Excerpt

Francis Fukuyama in his seminal book, the End of History, and President Ronald Reagan’s prediction of the “New World Order”, envisioned, as the Cold War came to an end, an international community at peace and with social and political stability being the norm. Unfortunately, the world has not lived up to their expectations. On the contrary, the term “New World Disorder” would be more appropriate as the emergence of a “new history” has been marked by destabilizing tensions and conflicts. More often than not, such conflicts have their roots in ethnic and religious rivalries and divisions. Conciliation, resolution, and a return to ethnic harmony have proved difficult, if not impossible to achieve. One has only to look at the chaos, for example, in Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Bosnia, and the current problems in Aceh, Indonesia, or the three southern provinces of Thailand to see examples of that disturbing them.

The end of the Cold War has also broadened the meaning of ethnic conflict, hitherto subsumed under the security of the state. At present, security has taken on multiple dimensions from the state down to the individual, thus adding more layers to the analysis of ethnic conflicts.

In Southeast Asia, ethnic diversity, social stability, and national unity, have all presented challenges with which all the countries have had to cope from the time of their independence. Thailand, although never colonized, is no exception. Also, without exception, ethnic problems are seen as a threat to the state and/or regime. Nevertheless, despite incidences of ethnic conflict, situations in the Southeast Asian region had been kept mostly under control in one way or another until Indonesia’s policy of “unity in diversity” unravelled after the fall of the New Order of President Suharto. This has led to concerns in other Southeast Asian countries about possible “echo effects”.

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