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Panel 10. Routes of Human Insecurity in Modern Southeast Asia

Chair: Gianluca Bonanno (Kyoto University)

The panel looks at the side effects that a too optimistic promotion of mobility has triggered across Southeast Asia, particularly after the establishment of the Greater Mekong Sub-region in 1992. Just as increased mobility and connectivity foster a freer, trans-boundary movement of people (thus goods, information, and labour markets), so they promote the proliferation of negative issues on an equally sub-regional basis, too. The papers in this panel analyse tangible instances of human insecurity driven by mobility, particularly for people who have moved (voluntarily, involuntarily, or forcibly) from their original location in search of better life opportunities elsewhere.

Paper 1: Responsibility to Protect in Southeast Asia: Enlarging Space for Civil Society in Protecting Human Security

Pavin Chachavalpongpun (Kyoto University)

The concept of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is relatively new to many Southeast Asians, who have traditionally relied on the state for security and therefore faced a sense of hopelessness when such protection was lacking. While, the state represented the only institution ensuring human security for the masses in the past, civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have today emerged as indispensable non-state actors campaigning for humanitarian interventions in situations where the state has failed in the provision of human security. Indeed, CSOs and NGOs are playing crucial roles in advocating and championing the cause of R2P despite encountering extensive obstacles that range from an overwhelming sovereignty-conscious mentality and an exploitation of cultural pretexts such as Asian values on the part of the state for a justification of its apathetic attitude toward R2P to a lack of awareness among the people about the significance of R2P to their own security.

This speaker will discuss the roles that CSOs and NGOs play in promoting the R2P concept in Southeast Asia, particularly in three fundamental areas: promoting awareness and understanding of R2P; aiding the protection process and strengthening justice; and, knitting alliances with other actors.

Paper 2: Sacrifice for the sake of development: Cambodia’s children plight

Gianluca Bonanno (Kyoto University)

The rapid economic development in the Greater Mekong Sub-region of the last two decades has meant an equally rapid expansion of a better-off middle class. According to the generally understood law of supply and demand, the extra wealth accumulated by these people has to be promptly funnelled into the economy again. The problem in Southeast Asia, as in many other developing corners of the world, is that too many times this translates into the rise of a vicious entertainment industry. This paper analyses the situation at the borderland of Poipet – Aranyaprathet, on the Cambodian-Thai frontier. Particularly focussing on the deteriorating circumstances in Poipet, this study uncovers some of the most worrisome underworld connections between increasingly organised criminal syndicates, and the involvement, oftentimes forced, of the local population. In a country, Cambodia, were young people make up for the largest portion of the population, the consequences of the rise in the entertainment industry on the weakest and most vulnerable, the children, are graphically presented. Lastly, some countermeasures to contain a further uncontrolled explosion of illegal activities are reported, in the sheer hope of seeing them sprout as quickly as some of the casinos in the area are.

Paper 3: Despite the recent political pledges and rhetoric, to what extent do human rights exist in actuality, for immigrant workers within ASEAN countries such as Thailand, today?

Titipol Phakdeewanich (Ubon Ratchathani University)

At the 21st ASEAN Summit held in November 2012, political leaders reiterated the importance of the “promotion and protection of human rights”, as reflected in the adoption of the ASEAN ‘Human Rights Declaration’. Nevertheless, despite the apparent principles espoused within this document, the question inevitably arises as to what extent the signing of this declaration will lead towards tangible action to improve the basic human rights of either the legal or illegal immigrant workers, who are increasingly continuing to migrate between the countries of ASEAN? In this context and in relation to Thailand, which is a regional economic ‘honeypot’, many questions therefore, arise. Namely, the relative treatment of legal and illegal immigrants, and any evident differentiation between those of Lao or Cambodian nationality; the range of cross-border experiences; the workplace and broader quality of life issues; and importantly, questions that relate to their treatment at the hands of government officials and private sector employers, including the extent to which these two groups attempt to collaborate or collude in relation to the issue of immigration, and how this then relates to question of legal versus illegal immigrant status.