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Dormant and Unresolved Border, Land, and Maritime Disputes in Southeast Asia: a New Threat For ASEAN?

Organiser:
Maria Strasakova
Metropolitan University Prague
strasakova@mup.cz

Chair (part I):
Maria Strasakova
Metropolitan University Prague
strasakova@mup.cz

Chair (Part II):
Petra Andělová
Metropolitan University Prague
andelova@mup.cz

 

Panel Abstract

In 2011 a border conflict between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear spiraled into an armed skirmish, which claimed dozens of casualties and displaced tens of thousands villagers. The significance of this clash lays in the fact that it revealed the overlooked and often underestimated weakness of ASEAN, i.e. a multitude of unresolved border, land and maritime disputes. While the attention of Southeast Asian states has been focused mainly on resolving the South China Sea dispute between China and ASEAN members, many other (still dormant) disputes continue to linger and can possibly not only mar relations among the states, but also threaten the stability and cohesion of the Association. Border conflicts undoubtedly represent a complex issue, as there is a myriad of historical, psychological and nationalist factors at play. The proposed panel seeks to address these often dormant and overlooked disputes in Southeast Asia. Academics are invited to present papers focusing either on the roots, development and current situation of border, land, and maritime disputes in mainland and littoral Southeast Asia as well as on the prospects of their resolution. Topics may cover territorial disputes between the PRC and Vietnam, Vietnam and Cambodia, Cambodia and Thailand, etc.);  or maritime disputes among littoral states (e.g. Indonesia and Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines over the Celebes Sea…) However, other related themes are also welcome.

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Paper 1: Borders and Frontiers in South East Asia

Petra Andělová
Metropolitan University Prague
andelova@mup.cz

Political maps of South East Asia resemble mosaics or puzzles, in many ways similar to the European ones. However, while in Europe border significance has gradually receded, in SEA it is on the rise. Moreover, frontiers within Europe have started assuming their former role as a connecting space between two or among three states. On the contrary, frontiers in South East Asia remain divided by politically drawn and mostly contested borders.  Although a lot of attention has been paid to the inter-states relations in the region and their economic cooperation, the role of borders remains partly neglected in academic debate.

This paper is based on a neorealist approach and its aims are to define new [or changed] functions of borders and border conflicts in South East Asia, as all kinds of borders as well as almost all types of border conflicts can be found in the region.  Moreover, since the Sino-Vietnamese War in 1979 it seems that certain border wars and conflicts (both maritime and terrestrial) have been used rather as a means of political pressure or „punishment“ whereas territorial gains have been irrelevant. Borders in South East Asia have also been fulfilling the function of a hedge containing unwelcome immigration from neighboring states or a conventional security function. For example the Mekong as a boundary river has a unique position among most of the continental South East Asian states and creates its own kind of border conflicts comparable with Danube River in Europe.

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Paper 2: Border Disputes in Southeast Asia and Their Impact on the Regional Integration Process 

Filip Kraus
National Chiao Tung University
kraus.filip@yahoo.com

The paper aims to understand the roots, development and impact of the border disputes in  Southeast Asia. The analysis is not only focused on the regional integration process within the ASEAN, but also on the impact of the disputes on Inter-Asia state to state relationships. The main focus will be on the mainland members of ASEAN and their relationships with the PRC. Within the work, the author will trace the roots of the territorial disputes back to the colonial and the pre-colonial times, with special emphasis on  how this colonial legacy had been conserved and even exacerbated during the Cold-war era. Finally, the paper will show how the territorial disputes jeopardize the process the Southeast Asia integration. The author aims to identify the main sources of the tensions such as: the colonial legacy in form of unjust territorial conquest and uncongenial administrative division of the colonial space; the modern standards of international law that were implemented mainly by western powers without desirable attention to its possible negative impacts on political situation in various parts of the world; and a lack of willingness to resolve those problems stemming mainly from strong nationalist feelings in involved countries, a political calculation on future advantages in usage of these problems, or simply from lack of the means for the resolution of the problem. The border disputes thus lead into the situation where state to state relationships are charged and the integration process of the Southeast Asia is slowed down. In this situation some states have become a Trojan horse in the process while others are utilizing the existence of the disputes for their own benefits.

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Paper 3: The internal and external dimensions of the South China Sea conflict for ASEAN

Alfred Gerstl
University of Vienna
alfred.gertsl@univie.ac.at

For the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the territorial dispute in the South China Sea poses profound internal and external challenges: The failure to find a consensus among its directly involved members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei and pro-Beijing positions of certain members, notably Cambodia, undermine the cohesion of the Association. Externally, in particular the United States pressure the Association to play a stronger role in resolving the conflict, claiming that otherwise ASEAN would lose its centrality in East Asian regionalism.  The aim of this paper is to examine the territorial disputes between Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei and how they affect ASEAN internally and externally. It will, firstly, analyze why so far a resolution based on bilateral conflict resolution mechanisms has failed. Secondly, it will examine why ASEAN has refused to foster a compromise among its members. Thirdly, it will discuss possible conflict resolution approaches. They range from Indonesia´s mediation efforts that include China, a verdict of the International Court of Justice, a moratorium of oil drilling to the collective exploitation of the resources. The thesis poses that only a broad, multilateral policy that involves all littoral states and key external actors can succeed. A prerequisite, though, is that ASEAN does not promote the position of one or more of its affected members but act as a neutral facilitator, providing multilateral dialogue mechanisms for direct negotiations of the conflict parties. The international community would have to guarantee any outcome the conflict parties have agreed upon.

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Paper 4: Phu Quoc (Koh Tral): a Bone of Contention in Vietnam-Cambodia Relations?

Maria Strasakova
Metropolitan University Prague
strasakova@mup.cz

Phu Quoc (Koh Tral) is the largest island in the South China Sea; nonetheless most of the attention of the ASEAN member states has been focused on the Paracel and Spratly island dispute. However, on 2 September 2012 in the run up for the July 2013 Cambodian general election, Kem Sokha, the opposition leader to Hun Sen´s ruling Cambodian People´s Party brought the issue of Phu Quoc to the fore again by pledging to return the island to Cambodia. In spite of stressing a resolution through legal and peaceful means, he uncovered a dormant wound in the historically asymmetrical (and traditionally distrustful) relationship of Cambodia and Vietnam. Furthermore, he unleashed a heated domestic debate, in which Hun Sen was accused by the opposition leaders of being responsible for relinquishing the island to the Vietnamese. The objective of this paper is to first analyze the history of the Phu Quoc territorial dispute dating back to the infamous Brévié Line demarcated by the French colonial rule. Secondly, the aim is to seek an answer to what extent is the dispute over Phu Quoc “an anachronistic political debate” (quoting historian Henri Locard) or a political calculation of Cambodian parties (especially Cambodian National Rescue Party) in their quest for power and public support through stirring strong nationalist feelings against the Vietnamese. Thirdly, the paper seeks to investigate the main turning points in the attempts of both the countries to resolve this sensitive issue as well as prospects for future development and resolution of the dispute.

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Paper 5: Thai-Cambodian Conflict: Approaching the Final Stage at Preah Vihear?

Richard Turcsányi
Masaryk University Brno
turcsanyi.ias@cenaa.org

The proposed article deals with the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia over Preah Vihear temple and surrounding areas. Firstly, historical legacies of the conflict are shortly presented as a background to the dispute, including the original judgment of ICJ in 1962. Secondly, it is established that the escalation of conflict in 2008 was not the result of a mutual misunderstanding rather than of deliberate policies of politicians at both sides to exploit the case for domestic political goals. Thirdly, the expected final decision on interpretation of original judgment by ICJ (supposed to come in October 2013) will be analyzed in depth as it is widely expected to put an end to the argumentative part of the dispute. In the paper I will discuss the possible outcomes and their impacts on the relations between the two countries and the dispute, itself. Furthermore, I will analyze the role of ASEAN, which has been widely criticized for failing to address the conflict between its two member states. At present, it has  been proposed that from the ASEAN perspective, the scenario of judgment without resolution of the disputed territory should be preferred as the organization would get the second chance to deal with it. However, there are serious concerns whether ASEAN would be able to handle the issue as both countries are undergoing domestic troubles, which may lead to the mounting willingness of their respective leaders to use the conflict for domestic purposes.

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Paper 6: Southeast Asia and its Contemporary Territorial Concern: The Prospects of the Development of the Sea Code of Conduct over the Disputed Spratly Islands

Jonathan Eli Libut
University of Santo Tomas
libut.8942@gmail.com

This paper observes the increasing relevance of the tensions between the claimants of the Spratly Islands; Brunei, China, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, in the maintenance of peace and order in the Southeast Asian region. The dispute is projected to have an impulsive situation that may lead to unwanted consequences in the region. The Spratly Islands, located in the South China Sea, is one of the most disputed places in the planet due to its strategic importance politically and economically. This paper’s methodology and sources of literature are anchored from primary academic journals, past andcontemporary news reports (both in print and on-line), tertiary copy of conference proceedings, and secondary government policy reports. This paper aims to explain the rationale of the development of the Sea Code of Conduct through multi-lateral arbitration, as such development, at present, is deemed to be the most practical way to ensure a stable atmosphere of cooperation in the region. Moreover, the paper leaves fundamental projections regarding the capacity of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in dealing with this concern as an organization, and lastly, how this concern may shape the future of Southeast Asia amid the region’s goal toward social, cultural, and economic integration.
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Paper 7: Rethinking the relevance of preventive diplomacy in ASEAN and policy responses

Khoun Theara
Cambodian Institute of Cooperation and Peace
khoun.theara2010@gmail.com

ASEAN Security Community which aims at harmonizing regional security cooperation and peaceful settlement of conflict will come into effect by 2015.However, against this backdrop, its attempts to solve its remaining regional conflicts among its members become lesser relevant with application of its traditional tool of preventive diplomacy such as non-interference, non-use of force, Musyawarah and Muafakat.

This research paper concludes that in the early stage of its formation, ASEAN could effectively and timely prevent the eruption of inter-state conflicts among its members with application of its informal and non-legalistic preventive diplomacy mechanisms. However, changing dynamics of regional and global security environment including the détente of two super power polarities, emergence of China as a regional hegemon and US’s pivot to Asia, and most prominent of which, the end of Cold War, has made ASEAN gradually lose its relevancy in prevention of its intra-mural conflicts.

A deeper investigation into these ASEAN conflict management experiences provides three fundamental common grounds for this adverse development, that is, strict adherence to non-interference principle, deficiency of the sense of regionalism in conflict prevention, and available yet inapplicable regional conflict resolution measure. Therefore, fixing these fault lines will make a stronger and more secured ASEAN.

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Paper 8: Great powers and international institutions: China, DOC/COC and the South China Sea disputes 

Truong-Minh Vu
University of Bonn
truongminhhuyvu@gmail.com 

Nguyen The Phuong
Vietnam National University

Great powers and international institutions are often considered as opposite phenomena in world politics: powerful states often use power as a mean to exert their influence, while international institutions set up norms and principles as a political control over the states’ power. An emerging power, hence, is not willing to limit its powers within the institutions. However, the use of international institutions may help a nation reserve its power over the long term. A great power creating or joining a particular institution can be viewed as a trade-off between its short-term and long-term interests, in which it constrains its own power for an acceptance of lesser states of a durable order. Our paper applies this argument to test the Chinese behaviors in the South China Sea territorial disputes. The two approaches of China to the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) and the Code of Conduct (COC) between 2002 and 2012 offer us a typical example of a great power using institutions to serve for its interests. Furthermore, the choices of China to apply COC and DOC point out the effects of utilizing international institutions of great powers. The fact that Beijing signed the DOC with ASEAN countries in 2002 limited the balance of power against China, the regional environment thus became friendly for this Middle Kingdom. However, when China broke the rules and “returned to power” by conducting aggressive actions against its neighbors, attempts to check the China’s growing power started to be observed. Compared to the previous years, the South China Sea structure after 2009 was characterized by not only the role and influence of China but also involvement of other great powers such as the US, India and Japan.