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Transnational Security Challenges and Governance in Southeast Asia

Organiser and Chair:
Dr Lee Jones
Queen Mary, University of London

Panel Abstract

Although often seen as a region of ‘hard’ states fiercely attached to their national sovereignty, Southeast Asia has always been host to a massive array of transnational social, political and economic forces: ethnic, religious and linguistic groups and diasporas; communist, separatist and rebel groups; transnational flows of people, capital, goods, diseases, communications, crime and pollution – to name but a few. Although some of these flows are welcomed, others are considered as threats to local, national, regional or global ‘security’. This panel explores how transnational security problems – understood in their broadest sense – are defined and managed in Southeast Asia. This is not simply a question of the discursive identification of threats, but has real-world implications for the exercise of power, political order and governance. In some cases, transnational challenges lead local authorities to try to harden national structures of governance: to toughen border controls, or forcibly repress domestic groups relying on transnational economic flows or support networks. In other cases, their very transboundary nature seems to render state-based governance defunct, with calls for great regional integration or global governance to tackle new threats to human well-being. What drives the ‘securitisation’ of transboundary flows and how they are addressed? What interests and ideological projects are being served?

Paper 1: Governing Non-Traditional Security in Southeast Asia

Lee Jones
Queen Mary, University of London

Shahar Hameiri
Murdoch University

This paper presents the findings of a three-year research project into the politics and governance of non-traditional security (NTS) issues in Southeast Asia, specifically transboundary pollution, pandemic disease, and transnational crime. Given the transboundary nature of NTS threats, many scholars and practitioners argue that national state-based governance is no longer sufficient, since no one country can tackle these problems alone. Instead, governance must be rescaled to a regional or global level that matches the threat in question. Consequently, who should govern NTS, and how, is far more open-ended than for traditional military security. Discussions of NTS in Southeast Asia often conclude that little governance is occurring because of the failure of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to acquire significant supranational authority over member-states. However, this overlooks the fact that many NTS issues are increasingly governed through the transformation of states rather than a zero-sum loss of sovereignty to regional bodies. State apparatuses are increasingly networked into regional or global regulatory regimes designed to govern transnational issues. However, this transformation is heavily contested, since different scales and instruments of governance inevitably privilege different societal interests and ideologies. To understand how threats in our three issue areas are governed, therefore, we analyse this contestation, which involves social conflict within specific political economy settings connected to the NTS issues concerned. A considerable amount of governance rescaling has occurred, despite Southeast Asia’s reputation for a cast-iron attachment to sovereignty and non-interference. Yet, the incipient governance regimes are shaped and constrained by powerful societal interests that often limits their efficacy.


Paper 2: Countering Piracy: Transnational Maritime Security Governance in Southeast Asia

Carolin Liss
Griffith University

In the early 2000s, maritime piracy in Southeast Asia, and particularly in the Malacca Strait, received substantial international attention. As the number of attacks in the Malacca Strait declined and more and more incidents were reported from the Gulf of Aden area, international attention shifted to Somali piracy. Piracy in Southeast Asia, however, did not disappear, and pirates who often operate across national borders continue to be active, especially in the waters of Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. This paper examines how piracy is addressed in Southeast Asia, with a focus on the different state and non-state actors involved in combatting the threat and their interactions. The paper suggests that even though individual states continue to play an important role in addressing threats such as piracy, maritime security governance in Southeast Asia today involves an ever expanding range of state, non-state and hybrid actors, including international and regional not-for profit and for-profit actors.


Paper 3: Indonesia and Maritime Security Governance in Southeast Asia

Senia Febrica
University of Glasgow

Indonesia is vitally important because half of the world’s trading goods and oil pass through Indonesian waters including the Straits of Malacca, the Strait of Sunda and the Strait of Lombok. Consequently, Indonesia’s engagement in maritime governance is a matter of some import for the international community. In the development of maritime security governance dealing with criminal activities in the region Indonesia has played an important role in shaping cooperation institutions. However, Indonesia’s varying behaviour towards the development of maritime governance is puzzling. Indonesia has initiated and led some of these maritime cooperation initiatives and opted out of others. Concerns over sovereignty infringement have often been given as the reason underpinning Indonesia’s behaviour towards maritime governance.  Sovereignty concerns can have some bearing when seeking to understand Indonesia’s behaviour towards maritime governance; however, by focusing too much on sovereignty concerns the current literature tends to overlook the extensive networks of maritime governance that involves Indonesia and its efforts to project preferences and interests onto the institutional design of maritime governance in Southeast Asia and Asia-Pacific. This paper argues that in dealing with transnational crimes Indonesia – both its government and private sector – have promoted cooperation institutions that enable states to carry out cross-border sea and air patrols and provide access to its land, air space, ports and other industrial sites to other states’ law enforcement agencies. The evidence shows that costs and benefits calculation, rather than sovereignty concerns can explain the way Indonesia responded to different forms of maritime governance.  The extensive networks of maritime governance in Southeast Asia are developed through the interweaving of maritime initiatives at bilateral, regional and international levels. Among these initiatives Indonesia decides only to promote cooperation initiatives that yield significant benefit.