Southeast Asia Transformed: A Geography of Change

Southeast Asia Transformed: A Geography of Change

Southeast Asia Transformed: A Geography of Change

Southeast Asia Transformed: A Geography of Change

Synopsis

Bringing together the combined insights by specialists who have worked and lived in the region, the theme of this book is change and transformation. The authors identify the trends and forces that propel the region along, and then bring in discussions on key issues.

Excerpt

Southeast Asia has a total of about 520 million inhabitants spread over eleven couns before the arrival of the Europeans were already strongly influenced by Indian, Arabic, and Chinese cultures. Clear imprints of these remain both in physical form as well as in cultural practices. The process of colonization by European powers, starting from the early sixteenth century Portuguese influence on the Malay Archipelago, wiped clean the indigenous states with the exception of Thailand. The occupation of Dutch, British, French, and Spanish colonial rule, the last supplanted by the Americans in the Philippines, further divided the then clearly recognizable modern states defined by the Europeans. Colonial administration for many decades conspired to orientate the links of individual states towards their metropolitan states. This outward orientation continued to hold true today in terms of language, culture, politics, trade and investments, and tourism that made regional integration more difficult in many ways. It therefore superimposed over each country a distinctive flavour and landscapes that serve as a constant reminder of their respective colonial past.

The aspirations of self-determination by the indigenous population by the middle of the twentieth century were suppressed by subterfuge, clever administration, and in many cases by brutal force on the part of the colonial administrators. It took the tidal wave of an Eastern power, the Japanese, to sweep aside the colonial stranglehold on the region. With the defeat of the Japanese in 1945, the return tide of colonial rule receded, giving way finally to self-rule. The process was generally peaceful in the case of British-held Malaya, Brunei, Burma, and American-administered Philippines. In the case of Dutch Indonesia and French Indochina, the handover was violent and bloody. The departure of the British from the region also gave birth to the small island state of Singapore. The final vestige of colonial era ended with the declaration of independence of East Timor in 2002.

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