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Rethinking Human Security in Southeast Asia

Organiser:
Dr Alice Nah
Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York
alice.nah@york.ac.uk

Chair:
Dr Anja K. Franck
School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg
anja.franck@globalstudies.gu.se

Discussant:
Dr Alice Nah
Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York
alice.nah@york.ac.uk

 

Although the human security paradigm – in which the referent for security is the individual rather than the state – has been developed and discussed since the 1990s, critical scholarship demonstrates its limited application amongst ASEAN states. At the national level, governments continue to operate with the national security paradigm, and at the regional level, the ‘ASEAN Way’ inhibits the full exploration of policies and practices based on human security. The papers in this panel start with the experiences and vulnerabilities of peoples in Southeast Asia, and examine how a human security paradigm provides a different lens by which to analyse the relationship between people and states. These papers focus on different aspects of human security, including ‘freedom from fear’ and ‘freedom from want’. They explore the issues that affect the daily lives of people, in particular those categorised as ‘non-traditional security’.

 

Paper 1: Community organisations shaping refugees’ security: the Chin in Aizawl

Dr Kirsten McConnachie
University of Warwick
k.mcconnachie.1@warwick.ac.uk

For several decades Myanmar has been the largest generator of refugees in the ASEAN region. This paper is drawn from a comparative project examining the experiences of refugees from Myanmar in three cities: Aizawl (India), New Delhi (India) and Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia). The overall project seeks to understand refugees’ self-governance strategies (i.e. how they organise in the different urban environments) and the ways in which those organisational tactics have been shaped by security concerns. ‘Security’ is understood not simply as national law but as a broad governance climate that is shaped by a multiple processes, from local to international. This paper will focus on the case study of Aizawl, which has hosted many thousands of Chin from Myanmar. The reception of the Chin in Aizawl has been shaped by national policies of the Indian government, by policies of Mizoram’s state level government, but above all by Mizo community organisations. The paper will examine the ways in which Mizo organisations have mobilised for and against Chin refugees and migrants, and how this community mobilisation has shaped their security.

 

Paper 2: The securitized and fearful ’Other’: Migration and human security in Malaysia

Dr Anja K. Franck
School of Global Studies, University of Gothenburg
anja.franck@globalstudies.gu.se

Migrants in Malaysia have become increasingly securitized subjects – blamed for rising levels of crime, moral degradation and the spreading of infectious diseases. Through reoccurring internal border controls and highly publicized crackdowns the government of Malaysia reinforces this securitization – publicly announcing that ‘unwanted foreigners’ will be ‘hunted down’ and ‘flushed out’. The following paper takes an interest in the relationship between the securitization of migration and the high levels of fear in migrant communities in Malaysia. As such, it directs attention towards the fear of those who are constructed as a ‘threat’: towards the human security of those who are securitized. Based upon ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the Burmese migrant community in Penang, the paper examines the reasons and consequences of fear in migrants’ everyday lives and, in particular, for their ability to exercise basic rights and freedoms. But the paper also highlights some of the strategies devised to counter and overcome securitization, repression and exclusion.

 

Paper 3: The Security and Protection of Human Rights Defenders in Southeast Asia

Dr Alice Nah
Centre for Applied Human Rights, University of York
alice.nah@york.ac.uk

Since the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders in 1998, there has been increasing attention by states and civil society on the importance of protecting human rights defenders at risk. Over time, a multi-level, multi-actor international protection regime has emerged, aimed at strengthening the security of human rights defenders. This paper assesses the extent to which states and civil society in Southeast Asia have responded to the emergence of this protection regime, with a special focus on civil society in Indonesia and Malaysia. It also examines the ways in which states and civil society respond to the human security paradigm upon which this protection regime is built.