Entries by akmal.muhammad.f

Press Release – Bincang ASEAN: “The Past and the Future of ASEAN Health Cooperation”

Yogyakarta, 5 May 2020

ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada held its first Bincang ASEAN Webinar on Tuesday, 5 May 2020, inviting Ahmad Rizky Mardathillah Umar, M.Sc, a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland, Australia and former Executive Secretary of the Center. Umar shares his take on the current COVID-19 pandemic focusing on the past and future of ASEAN Health Cooperation.

Looking closely at ASEAN’s collective response towards the pandemic, Umar highlights ASEAN’s constrained policies while analysing the history of ASEAN’s health cooperation to understand its nature and possible future trajectories of regional health cooperation. Its current dynamics in responding to the outbreak and its implications can be traced back to the SARS and avian flu crisis in 2000, where it was relatively reactionary and resulted in feedback which was insufficient to address a large-scaled outbreak. This precedence has further shaped ASEAN’s responses which leads us to today’s marginalised policies.

Nonetheless, ASEAN’s nature to over-rely on its non-interference policy, places the policy-making and response strongly under the sovereignty of each ASEAN Member State. The current ASEAN’ response and coordination is argued to be ‘too little too late’ and seemingly complicated. However, this is only an indication that ASEAN can still further collaborate to provide  a more comprehensive response to the crisis. Umar argued that ASEAN needs a collective health surveillance system where technical and sectoral cooperation are encouraged with the need for more funding on research and cooperation at the regional level.

“If we take a look at what ASEAN Member States have done to maintain this collective effort, it shows that it has been not promising enough because the initial effort to contain the pandemic was only undertaken in April, months away from the first reported case. Nonetheless, this seemingly late response is understandable as ASEAN has a complex decision-making process and its existing institutional frameworks are not designed to respond to crises,” Umar explained.

With the establishment of the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund which was officialised during the Special ASEAN Summit on COVID-19 held in April, it is hoped that ASEAN can boost greater future collaboration on regional health. It is also expected that ASEAN can result in more robust responses for critical matters not only in health security but in maintaining regional economic stability. “The fear is not only about the virus, but also the threat of an economic collapse in the future following the health crisis” Umar highlights.

A Growing Stigma: The Danger of Discriminating Against the Rights of Healthcare Workers

By Muhammad Diaz Kurniawan (Photo by: Lemparbatu)

Whether doctors, nurses, administrative officers, kitchen staff or janitors at quarantine centers, all are at the frontline of handling the COVID-19 pandemic that willing to take risks to save patients’ lives. Many out there play the ultimate role of fighting for the safety of those who are still healthy as those who recover will develop herd immunity once the recovered have been discharged from the hospital.

The success of those at the frontline of the COVID-19 is paramount in the handling of the pandemic, which was first reported at the end of 2019. Therefore, sustenance for them should be made priority by the government and private sectors with social support from the general public, as each party has a role to play in further preventing the spread of this virus.

However, instead of receiving this critical support which they require, health care workers face various difficulties in carrying out their duties. The situation is further complicated by the scarcity of essential Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as surgical masks and hazmat clothing which is causing an increase of exposure to healthcare workers. The Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) has announced that 24 doctors and 12 nurses have died so far during the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily because they did not use adequate PPE due to the scarcity caused by hoarding of the supplies and also panic buying by society despite the WHO regulations giving the right to PPE for health workers during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Additionally, healthcare workers are not able to exercise the freedom to carry out their duties. For example in Jakarta, doctors and nurses are not being allowed to enter houses because the community is worried that they will spread the virus. It has also been reported that communities have banned health workers who have died due to exposure from the coronavirus to be buried in the local cemeteries despite receiving guarantee that the condition of the bodies comply with health regulations. It is very clear that, at this point, even the right to be buried humanely has been deprived from those who have fought against this pandemic. An underlying cause of this is stigma.

Stigma in handling the COVID-19 pandemic could have implications for the decline in the performance of the healthcare system. Limiting the movement of healthcare workers, their rejection by the community and community selfishness in the form of hoarding and panic buying of PPE will adversely impact the availability of health facilities and the performance of healthcare workers in treating patients.

This situation almost resembles the social stigma which has been reported in the cases of HIV/AIDS. Stigmatization and discrimination not only occur from the surrounding community with which they intersect, but also from the healthcare workers who intensively interact with them.

From research conducted by the ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada in collaboration with SHAPE-SEA in 2018 on discrimination against the community living with HIV/AIDS, the stigma primarily arises from incomplete dissemination of information on what it means to be HIV/AIDS positive. Further this misinformation has encouraged assumptions-based understanding and a misjudgment of this health condition. The two are also present across cases of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paranoia is stoked by misleading news and media that highlights the numbers of infections, deaths and recoveries like some sort of competition. The panic created encourages people to resist restrictions and reject the healthcare workers, leading to the discrimination against them.

The key to this situation is to respond. More needs to be done to educate the community in order for this growing social stigma to be avoided. A social campaign such as #ClapForOurCarers, that brings people to appreciate the work of healthcare workers could be an example of alternative way to educate communities about the important role of healthcare worker and as well as maintaining a positive social psychology for everyone. By responding to this growing stigmatization, we are effectively addressing the discrimination against the rights of our healthcare workers, which is a much-needed form of support at the moment. It is time that the community work hand in hand and focus on playing their respective roles in battling the COVID-19 pandemic as it is the only way to bring it to an end and see the community out of the dark.

This Op-ed also appears under the COVID-19 Op-ed section of the Strengthening Human Rights and Peace Research and Education in ASEAN/Southeast Asia (SHAPE-SEA) site.


ASEAN, the Quad, and China: A Security Contestation for the Indo-Pacific Region

By Fadhil Haedar Sulaeman (Photo: The National Interest)

In June 2019, ASEAN leaders successfully adopted the “ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific” (AOIP) at the 34th ASEAN Summit. The outlook, formulated by the Republic of Indonesia, emphasizes the importance of ASEAN centrality, inclusivity, and complementarity in the Indo-Pacific region as its main principles (Singh and Henrick, 2020). These principles gave ASEAN much flexibility to utilizes its method of interaction, which is consultation and inclusive cooperation, to advance their prosperity in strategic sectors such as maritime, economics, cultural, and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Besides, the outlook also gave ASEAN a prominent role in shaping the discourses and development regarding the Indo-Pacific issue, which become increasingly more prominent throughout the years to come (He and Mingjiang, 2020). However, ASEAN was not the only major actor in the Indo-Pacific region, as other power with diverse motives also lurks to shape the region towards their interests. Currently, two great powers are reported to expand their power and influence in the region. The first great power, the United States of America, have increasingly increased their presence by devising their strategy in the Indo-Pacific, the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), and implements it by empowering the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the Quad) that includes lesser power such as India, Japan, and Australia (Misra, 2020). The other great power, the People’s Republic of China, has been courting Indo-Pacific states with their Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects while maintaining a hostile policy in the South China Sea (Cronin, 2020). With these two great powers implementing their policy in the Indo-Pacific, ASEAN is caught in the middle of a geopolitical contestation. Therefore, this essay believes that ASEAN should maintain the AOIP foreign policy and not to bandwagon with either power, as choosing sides between the two great powers and their blocs would be a disadvantageous policy for the security architecture of Southeast Asia.

On the one hand, ASEAN should also be critical of Chinese foreign policy in regards to the Indo-Pacific region. Even though Beijing has not yet to adopt the term “Indo-Pacific” due to its suspicion, several foreign policy such as the Chinese militarization of the South China Sea, the so-called “string of pearls” in the Indian Ocean, and the Belt and Road Initiative shows that China is an assertive player in the Indo-Pacific region (He and Li, 2020). In regards to the militarization of the South China Sea, China has been developing an Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) as a part of its national defense strategy to deter foreign aggression, in accordance to the Island Chain Theory (Liu, 2020). So far, the Chinese approach to the South China Sea dispute is based upon the strategy of bilateralism, and thus the international call to multilateralism dialogue has been deferred and not to mention their persistence in violating the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Gong, 2020). Therefore, Chinese foreign policy in the South China Sea contradicts the AOIP, in which the principle of inclusivity and international law is cast aside. Likewise, if ASEAN chose to align their Indo-Pacific policy with those of Beijing’s, the United States would not contend with accepting such adjustment. Reassessing previous American foreign policy in the region, the United States would not sit still to see that its adversaries were gaining such power to the extent of regional domination, such as the rollback or the regime change foreign policy doctrine (Litwak, 2007). In addition, the world has currently seen an increasing trend in the utilization of proxy warfare, and the United States’ support of the Kurdish rebellion in Syria is one of them (Thornton, 2015). At the same time, several intra-state conflicts still occur in Southeast Asia, such as the Myanmar Civil War and the Moro conflict. In the end, the United States would have more incentive to support armed rebellion or opposition in Southeast Asia if the region is to fall within the Chinese sphere of influence (Valencia, 2018). This outcome would be the opposite of what the AOIP envisioned, which is the principle of “complementarity” that could find a peaceful and diplomatic solution instead of armed hostilities.

On the other hand, the United States-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and their Free and Open Indo-Pacific is not a suitable policy to be taken by ASEAN either. First of all, The Quad was allegedly a bandwagon of states that seeks to curb China’s influence in the international community, and indeed, these countries possess a geopolitical obstacle for China (Liu, 2020). India would check Chinese power expansion in the Indian Ocean, while a concerted approach by Australia, Japan, and the United States would try to suppress Beijing’s influence in the Pacific Ocean following the Island Chain Theory (White, 2019). Hence, antagonizing China is not indeed a policy to be taken by ASEAN as it excludes the AOIP principle of “inclusiveness” by alienating Beijing as a significant power in the Indo-Pacific region. Furthermore, it would increase the pressure for Chinese policymakers to militarize the South China Sea further. If ASEAN decides to bandwagon with the Quad, it will prompt Beijing to increase its military capabilities in the South China Sea, as it would further envelop their geopolitical encirclement (Okuda, 2016). If the Chinese militarization of the South China Sea intensifies, then the United States and ASEAN member states would have the incentive to increase their military power in the region as a means to protect their national interests, and thus a security dilemma would arise in the region (Wuthnow, 2019). More importantly, the danger of a security dilemma in the region was not compartmented only to the ASEAN-China model or the U.S.-China model, but also a security dilemma between the ASEAN member itself (Casarini, 2018). It should be noted that Vietnam, the 2020 ASEAN Chairman, currently possesses the second most extensive Exclusive Economic Zones claims in the South China Sea and have multiple maritime disputes with ASEAN member states, such as Indonesia and Malaysia (Puspitawati and Rusli, 2020). Also, the tension between Singapore and Malaysia has had its ups and downs throughout history, and the former military power still poses some threat in the minds of Kuala Lumpur policymakers (Singh, 2015). If ASEAN did bandwagon with the United States and the Quad, then the threat of conflict in Southeast Asia was not limited to outside intervention, but also amongst ASEAN member states themselves. In comparison to the FOIP, the AOIP is a better alternative, in which a neutral regional organization that promotes state sovereignty, dialogue, and consensus decision-making is a better-suited mediator and facilitator in the Indo-Pacific region, rather than its superpower-led counterpart which allegedly involves a containment strategy aimed at another great power and could lead to a further escalation in the region.

Indeed, as an implementation of the AOIP, ASEAN should be engaged with both the U.S.-led the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue and China (Leong, 2020). At a glance, the FOIP documents contains many similarities with the AOIP and there were several prospects for a merge (Tan, 2020). However, ASEAN would be forced into an asymmetrical relationship with the U.S.,  and thus it would erase the “ASEAN Centrality” principle and replaced by a Washington-centric Indo-Pacific (Saha, 2018). Additionally, even as ASEAN has welcomed the Belt and Road Initiative by signing the ASEAN-China Joint Statement, ASEAN member states should not compromise its sovereignty at the expense of foreign investment and geo-economics strategy (Li, 2020). In other words, investment projects should be transparent, and none shall be a potential or imminent threat to national security. For instance, there were reports that Chinese-owned ports in Sri Lanka and Pakistan would be developed into a naval base, and such development would potentially incur negative feedbacks from India and the United States (Kanwal, 2018). In order to avoid such a scenario, it would be wise if the public maintains and improve their check and balances towards the government.

Even if the current situation still poses little security threat to ASEAN, the status quo would be changed if the two opposing great powers, the United States and China, increased their exchange of hostilities and escalate the situation. By 2025, the People Liberation Army Navy would be much more potent than it is today, and the United States would be induced to redeploy more of its forces into the Indo-Pacific region. Therefore, the United States and the Quad policy of containing China would make the latter feels like a cornered dragon, and nothing is more dangerous than a cornered animal. Similarly, Chinese economic expansion is followed by its naval build-up, and as a result, skepticism is arising among Southeast Asian states that China intends to make the region as its traditional sphere of influence. More than ever, the world needs ASEAN to be the leader in the Indo-Pacific discourses and seeks more influence in the international community.

Fadhil Haidar Sulaeman is an International Undergraduate Program student at Universitas Gadjah Mada, majoring in International Relations with a concentration on Global Politics and Security (GPS). Currently, he serves as a Research Division Intern at ASEAN Studies Center UGM. He could be contacted through email: fadhilf50@gmail.com.



Casarini, N. (2018). Southeast Asia’s security dilemma – How the west is responding. [online] CIMB ASEAN Research Institute – CARI. Available at: https://www.cariasean.org/publications/chinas-belt-and-road-initiative-bri-and-southeast-asia-publication/southeast-asias-security-dilemma-how-the-west-is-responding/#.XmQsUKj7REY [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020].

Cronin, P. (2020). China’s Bid for Maritime Primacy in the Indo-Pacific. [online] The Maritime Executive. Available at: https://www.maritime-executive.com/editorials/china-s-bid-for-maritime-primacy-in-the-indo-pacific [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020].

Gong, X. (2020). Non-traditional security cooperation between China and Southeast Asia: implications for Indo-Pacific geopolitics. International Affairs, 96(1), pp.29-48.

He, K. and Li, M. (2020). Understanding the dynamics of the Indo-Pacific: US-China strategic competition, regional actors, and beyond. International Affairs, 96(1), pp.1-7.

He, K. and Mingjiang, L. (2020). Four reasons why the Indo-Pacific matters in 2020 | OUPblog. [online] OUPblog. Available at: https://blog.oup.com/2020/02/four-reasons-why-the-indo-pacific-matters-in-2020/ [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020].

Kanwal, G. (2018). Pakistan’s Gwadar Port: A New Naval Base in China’s String of Pearls in the Indo-Pacific | Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative. [online] Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative. Available at: https://amti.csis.org/gwadar-port-naval-base-string-pearls/ [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020].

Leong, K. (2020). What to Expect from Indonesia’s Indo-Pacific Push in 2020?. [online] Thediplomat.com. Available at: https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/what-to-expect-from-indonesias-indo-pacific-push-in-2020/ [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020].

Li, M. (2020). The Belt and Road Initiative: geo-economics and Indo-Pacific security competition. International Affairs, 96(1), pp.169-187.

Litwak, R. (2007). Regime Change: U.S. Strategy Through the Prism of 9/11. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, p.109.

Liu, F. (2020). The recalibration of Chinese assertiveness: China’s responses to the Indo-Pacific challenge. International Affairs, 96(1), pp.9-27.

Misra, V. (2020). Trump’s visit: Indo-Pacific partnership in steadier waters. [online] Deccan Herald. Available at: https://www.deccanherald.com/opinion/panorama/trump-s-visit-indo-pacific-partnership-in-steadier-waters-808737.html [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020].

Okuda, H. (2016). China’s “peaceful rise/peaceful development”: A case study of media frames of the rise of China. Global Media and China, 1(1-2), pp.121-138.

Puspitawati, D. and Rusli, M. (2020). Territorial tussle over South China Sea. [online] The Jakarta Post. Available at: https://www.thejakartapost.com/academia/2020/01/14/territorial-tussle-over-south-china-sea.html [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020].

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Singh, B. (2015). Singapore’s Security in the Context of Singapore–Malaysia–Indonesia Relations. Perspectives on the Security of Singapore, pp.130-132.

Singh, B. and Henrick, T. (2020). ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific: Seizing the Narrative? | RSIS. [online] Rsis.edu.sg. Available at: https://www.rsis.edu.sg/rsis-publication/idss/asean-outlook-on-indo-pacific-seizing-the-narrative/#.XmQbsqj7REZ [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020].

Tan, S. (2020). Consigned to hedge: southeast Asia and America’s ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ strategy. International Affairs, 96(1), pp.131-148.

Thornton, R. (2015). Problems with the Kurds as proxies against Islamic State: insights from the siege of Kobane. Small Wars & Insurgencies, 26(6), pp.865-885.

Valencia, M. (2018). Should the Philippines fear a US-China proxy conflict?. [online] South China Morning Post. Available at: https://www.scmp.com/comment/insight-opinion/united-states/article/2178767/could-philippines-fall-victim-us-china-proxy [Accessed 7 Mar. 2020].

White, J. (2019). Navigating two Asias: how Washington deals with the Indo-Pacific’s rising powers. India Review, 18(4), pp.407-436.

Wuthnow, J. (2019). Contested strategies: China, the United States, and the Indo-Pacific security dilemma. China International Strategy Review, 1(1), pp.99-110.

Japan’s Free Vessels to Natuna: Is It Really Free?

By Rafyoga Jehan Pratama Irsadanar (Photo by Sizuru-commonswiki)

Japan started 2020 with foreign Minister Motegi Toshimitsu paying an official visit to Viet Nam, Thailand, Philippines, and Indonesia on January 5-11. On Japan-Indonesia Strategic Dialogue in Jakarta, Minister Retno welcomed Tokyo’s intention to strengthen the cooperation in various sectors as well as to donate patrol vessels in Natuna Islands, a recently disputed maritime domain against China. Even though many Indonesian media have seen this vessel transfer as a ‘grant’ from Japan, the defense equipment transfer shows a significant leap of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s agenda to further expand its security flex in Southeast Asia. For context, Japan’s foreign policy to Southeast Asia before Shinzo Abe second administration was driven by Fukuda Doctrine, emphasizing ‘heart to heart’ balanced economic cooperation and rejecting military role within the relationship. Since Shinzo Abe reelection in 2012, Japan has been escalating its security maneuver in international cooperation, in which Southeast Asian counterparts welcomed.

Japan Military Export and Transfer to Southeast Asia

Japan’s maritime and defense equipment transfer is not new to Southeast Asia. In 2014, Prime Minister Abe had lifted Japan’s long military export and transfer restriction, allowing Japan to do defense equipment transactions as well as to transfer them to other countries, replacing the self-imposed ban made in 1967. Indonesia did receive patrol vessel donation from Japan in the early 2000s during President Megawati era, but it was done under the Official Development Assistance (ODA) framework instead of any strategic partnership as one in 2020 since Japan was still under the restriction of military equipment transfer. Since the ban relaxation, Japan already leased six patrol boats to Vietnam and donated five units of T-90 patrol aircraft to Philippines, and recently patrol vessel to Indonesia’s Natuna. This article argues that the maritime equipment is not freely given to Indonesia but for an identical purpose; to foster stability in South China Sea, or in other words, to balance China’s power in the disputed area by clarifying Tokyo’s alignment with Jakarta as the biggest maritime power in Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and Abe’s FOIP

Japan invested a lot of its strategic capital in Southeast Asia for a specific return; to accelerate its Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision, initiated by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2016. This assertion emerged as Southeast Asia, with its disputed South China Sea, is the linchpin bridging Indian Ocean to Pacific Ocean. There are obvious reasons why Japan took an extra mile by fortifying its security bond with Indonesia, despite the robust economic multilayer partnerships among both countries. Besides the fact that Indonesia is the biggest maritime power in Southeast Asia, Indonesia also showed an influential leadership in ASEAN maritime policies. It was proven by the ability of Jakarta to lead other ASEAN counterparts to finally draft ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific, in harmony with Shinzo Abe Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy. By the declaration of ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific, Japan showed a great motivation to support the Outlook, as Minister Montegi stated. Seeing a similar vision in achieving maritime stability, Japan will likely escalate its strategic ventures in Southeast Asia. Alongside the point that Indonesia is not the only one receiving defense equipment donation, Indonesia is the only country in Southeast Asia that Japan has 2+2 ministerial meeting model with. Therefore, it is a clear signal to include a security element to the initially economic-driven cooperation among Jakarta and Tokyo.

In the context of Natuna, the remote island in the northern part of Indonesia, appeared to be one of strategic posts for Japan invested into balance China; a major threat to Japan’s maritime interest as well as to Free and Open Indo-Pacific vision. Geopolitically, Natuna is located next to Malacca Strait, the main shipping lane connecting Indian Ocean and South China Sea, and has an abundant resource of gas reserve. As Indonesia is currently attempting to improve the economic as well as defense infrastructure of Natuna, Japan invested in the development of integrated maritime affairs and fisheries center (SKPT). Minister Retno clarified that it has been a long discussion and has nothing to do with the recent stand-off with China. However, Japan’s follow-up plan to transfer defensive vessels showed its concern to balance China in South China Sea, as Tokyo did to other Southeast Asian countries.

Japan and Indonesia have been strong partners for decades, driven by the robust economic motivation of both states. Japan’s maritime defense donation to Indonesia then expanded the spectrum to an intensified security-driven bond to balance China as the source of threat in the maritime domain. Added by the fact that ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific is Jakarta-led initiative, Tokyo felt optimistic that both countries’ cooperation would be further strengthened prospectively both in economic and security sectors.

Rafyoga is Monbukagakusho Scholar at Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies (GSICS), Kobe University, Japan. Prior joining GSICS, he was a research intern and research assistant at ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia.

Indonesia, Making Sense of Coronavirus

By Yulida Nuraini Santoso (Photo: Agus Suparto)

As citizens of Indonesia carefully eyed the latest number of positive cases of the Coronavirus and death tolls, sad news struck. On Wednesday evening, 25 March 2020, officials announced the passing of Mrs. Sujiatmi Notomiharjo at the age of 77, the mother of the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo (Jokowi). Despite being safely sheltered from the radar of national news for years, for many the news of her passing still hit close to home. News outlets across the country broadcasted her funeral live and news of her passing for 48 consecutive hours.

This sudden passing concealed ongoing news in the country on the COVID-19 testing for lawmakers and their families despite the outpouring of public outrage, the severe lack of protective gear for medical personnel across the country forcing some to wear disposable plastic raincoats, the early home-bound exodus ahead of Idul Fitri despite government appeals to avoid travel, and the determination of the government to not impose any form of lockdown in the country. This, for Jokowi, was a storm in the making.

In facing the outbreak head-on, he opted for massive tracing, testing, and isolation of infected patients, as was the approach chosen by South Korea. This was in contrast to lockdown measures to contain the spread in Malaysia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. However, many criticise this as being ‘too little too late’. Even if the lockdown were to take place, Jokowi had wasted precious weeks convincing the world there were zero cases. On the same day that the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic, Indonesia confirmed its first death due to the Coronavirus. Ironically, it has even ranked first in highest death rate at 8.73%, as of 26 March 2020. This percentage is expected to increase exponentially in the months to come, if the spread cannot be effectively contained.

On the bright side, COVID-19 tests can now be performed at 12 labs across Indonesia, three of which are in Jakarta. This is, however, far from meeting the criteria and needs of massive tracing and testing, bearing in mind the 34 provinces spread across the archipelago, the rapid rate of the exponential growth, and the lack of government appetite to implement a thorough lockdown. Critics blame Jokowi’s reluctancy on the impact it will have on the exchange rate of the Rupiah. The Rupiah has inched ever closer to Rp 17.000,- against the US Dollar, which is the weakest the nation has seen since the 1998 crisis. Even the recent injection to financial markets by the Bank of Indonesia has not done much to alleviate tensions.

Notwithstanding the turbulence that the COVID-19 has caused, many have taken to the streets and online to launch humanitarian campaigns, public appeals, and social causes all of which are aimed at supporting the most vulnerable members of the society. These acts are aimed particularly towards those who cannot afford the luxury of ‘working from home’ despite the exponential growth of the virus and government appeal to adhere to ‘social distancing’. Many private sectors have joined, offering certain services free of charge for the weeks to come.

Right now, Jokowi is looking at a greater dilemma: whether to put medical front liners at further risk by sticking to a partial lockdown, or attempt to flatline the Coronavirus curve with a complete lockdown at severe economic and security cost — a luxury Indonesia cannot afford. Yet under this immense pressure, the nation managed to see humanity. A moving image of the President became viral that night. It depicted him wiping his tears, alone, in a corner, as if struggling to make sense of this loss and beaten by the battle which has yet to be fought. That Wednesday, for a split moment, Indonesia not only placed the pandemic into perspective, it saw the face of a son who lost his mother.

This Op-ed also appears under the COVID-19 Op-ed section of the Strengthening Human Rights and Peace Research and Education in ASEAN/Southeast Asia (SHAPE-SEA) site.


Press Release – Ambassadorial Lecture “After the Commemorative Summit, Future of ASEAN-Korea Strategic Partnership”

On Friday, March 6, 2020, ASEAN Studies Center UGM held an Ambassadorial Lecture by the Ambassador of The Republic of Korea to ASEAN, H.E. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Lim Sungnam, under the theme of “After the Commemorative Summit, Future of ASEAN-Korea Strategic Partnership”. The Ambassadorial Lecture was held at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM).

The Ambassadorial Lecture delivered four topics namely The Korean Miracle, The ASEAN Miracle, Current ASEAN-ROK Relations, and the Future of ASEAN-ROK Relations. During the first discussion, Ambassador Lim Sungnam explained how the Republic of Korea had endured the brutality of colonialism and evolved from the aftermath of the Second World War to become a developed nation in 1989. Ambassador Lim Sungnam referred to this development as the “Miracle of the Han River”. The next section of the Lecture, H.E. Lim Sungnam talked about the origin of ASEAN that had developed from a group of five Southeast Asian Foreign Ministers from Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines, into a formal organization today consisting of 10 ASEAN Member States and 10 Dialogue Partners . In the third discussion, Ambassador Lim Sungnam explained the relationship of ASEAN and the Republic of Korea which had developed from a sectoral dialogue partnership in 1989 toward the establishment of the first Korean Permanent Mission to ASEAN in 2019. Ambassador Lim Sungnam also emphasized the cultural relations between ASEAN and the Republic of Korea in the field of arts and gender equality, as well as the ASEAN-Korea Cooperation Fund aimed at funding scholars and scientists from ASEAN countries. Lastly, Ambassador Lim Sungnam reiterated President Moon Jae-In’s foreign policy of “New Southern Policy” as the future collaboration between ASEAN and the Republic of Korea which upholds three principles namely people-centered community, prosperity, and peace.

The Lecture was followed by a Questions and Answers session. The session was lively as participants were eager to raise questions on interesting topics. Among them were questions on the Republic of Korea’s stance on ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and Korean Wave (Hallyu) impact on ASEAN countries. Ambassador Lim Sungnam reaffirmed the Republic of Korea’s support for ASEAN on AOIP and empowered the notion of ASEAN countries’ art and culture industries to develop their products in keeping up with the Korean Wave.

In closing the Ambassadorial Lecture, Ambassador Lim Sungnam presented an antique map of Asia from the 18th century to UGM which was followed by an exchange of token of appreciation from the ASEAN Studies Center.

The Ambassadorial Lecture was attended by scholars from around Yogyakarta including Universitas Gadjah Mada, Universitas Islam Indonesia (UII), and Universitas Achmad Dahlan (UAD) and several notable institution and student organization from Yogyakarta.

Press Release: Working Conference – ASEAN-UK Relations in the Changing Regional Architecture

A Working Conference under the theme of “ASEAN-United Kingdom Relations in the Changing Regional Architecture” was held on 18-19 February 2020. It brought together experts from ASEAN Member States and Southeast Asian experts from the United Kingdom to exchange ideas on creating strategic partnership avenues between ASEAN and the United Kingdom with acknowledgement towards the rapidly changing regional architecture. The Conference was held at the recently inaugurated building of the ASEAN Secretariat, Jalan Sisingamangaraja, Jakarta, Indonesia. The two-day event covered presentations and discussions on various topics and was concluded by a site trip around the new and Heritage buildings of the ASEAN Secretariat. The panelists consisted of researchers from the ASEAN Member States, with the exception of representatives from Myanmar and the Philippines who were unable to attend, and the United Kingdom. The Ambassador of the United Kingdom to ASEAN, Deputy Secretary-General of Community and Corporate Affairs, and ASEAN entities also attended the event.

Prior to the Working Conference, a welcoming dinner was hosted on Monday, 17 February 2020, at the 1O1 Hotel Darmawangsa, at 19.00. The following day, Tuesday, 18 February 2020, participants arrived at 08.30 to register before the Conference commenced at 09.00. The Working Conference was officiated with opening remarks from the Executive Director of the ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to ASEAN, and the Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for Community & Corporate Affairs. The opening was followed by a photo session.

The first session took place after a brief coffee break. Discussions took place under the theme, “ASEAN in the Changing Geostrategic Theatre”. The presenting panelists were from Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, and United Kingdom. The discussion evolved around the institutional agility and internal cohesion of ASEAN’s Centrality, historical references of ASEAN and its present, and further extended to discuss Brexit, Britain, and the World. The first session was concluded with a Question & Answer session.

The second session reconvened after a brief coffee break, at 11.00. The discussions evolved around “ASEAN External Relations” highlighting proposed narratives of researchers from the United Kingdom and Singapore. The session looked into the impacts of Britain’s historical role in the Southeast Asian region, Brexit, United Kingdom’s engagement to ASEAN, and response to the changing regional politics. This session also delved into talks of the ways forward for both ASEAN and the United Kingdom post-Brexit. It proposed focusing on engaging the ASEAN Chairmanship, in effort of establishing a meaningful tie with the region. The session was also followed by a Question & Answer session, and a lunch break.

The third session highlghted the role that the ASEAN entities play in strengthening the ASEAN Communities. The theme of the discussion was an “Introductory Presentation by ASEAN Secretariat and Associated Entities” which brought the views of the ASEAN Secretariat, ASEAN Institute of Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR), ASEAN Foundation, and ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA). This session looked into the functions of the Secretariat, how Community building in the region is promoted through peace, stability, and understanding, as well as through the strengthening of the role of the youth.

Due to time constraint, the fourth session was held in conjunction with the fifth. The fourth session highlighted the views of researchers from Thailand, Cambodia, United Kingdom, on “ASEAN and Its People-Centeredness: Still Relevant?”. Participants looked at the challanges and ways forward of the people-centered ASEAN, questioned what bring people-centered and people-oriented means for the community-building effort of ASEAN, how the digital ambition of ASEAN looks like and what opportunities this leaves for the United Kingdom. Further, the panelists also looked into how the people-centered and people-oriented goal of ASEAN would play into the rapidly evolving regional security architecture. This lead to the fifth session under the theme of “ASEAN Regionalism”. Panelists from Vietnam, Malaysia and Lao PDR looked at sectors which provided greater opportunities for a stronger colaboration, namely in education, trade, and security. The Q&A for the fourth and fifth sessions were accommodated in conjuction. All five sessions of the Working Conference were moderated by the ASEAN Studies Centre. The Conference ended at 17.45 afterwhich the participants returned to 101 Hotel Darmawangsa.

Registration for the second day opened at 09.30 at the Video Conference Room, North Tower, ASEAN Secretariat. The session commenced at 10.00 to wrap-up the discussion from the previous day. Participants brainstormed possible outputs of the Working Conference, agreed on solidifying the Network of ASEAN-UK Think Tanks (NAUT) and looked into the possibilities of mainstreaming ASEAN studies in the UK. The discussion was held for two hours and was followed by a photo session. Participants were directed to the Lobby of the ASEAN Secretariat to have a photo session in front of ASEAN emblem, before enjoying the provided lunch. After lunch, participants were facilitated a site visit of public spaces within the new and Heritage ASEAN Secretariat building, by the ASEAN Secretariat. Participants visited the sky bridge connecting the North and South towers of the Secretariat, the Art Gallery, the Nusantara Hall, Library, the recently renovated Gift Shop, and the ASEAN Hall within the premise of the ASEAN Heritage Building. The visit to the ASEAN Heritage Building marked the end of the last day of “Working Conference on ASEAN-UK Relations in the Changing Regional Architecture”.

Internship at ASEAN Studies Center 2021

Greetings from the ASEAN Studies Center UGM!

This year,  ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada offers Undergraduate Students and Fresh Graduates from any majors and various universities in Indonesia to take part in our online internship program in three work divisions. The internship program will enable you to experience the dynamics of the ASEAN Community!

Internship period: September 2021 – November 2021

Required Documents:

  1. Cover Letter
  2. Latest Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  3. English Proficiency Certificate (TOEFL / IELTS / TOEFL Prediction)
  4. Other supporting documents  (Portfolio / Writing Examples / Project Experiences) *if available

General Requirements:

  1. Must be an active university student or fresh graduate from any majors and various universities in Indonesia
  2. Excellent written and verbal communication skill both in Bahasa and English
  3. Have an interest in the ASEAN or South-East Asia issues
  4. Ability to work effectively as a team member and independently with minimum supervision
  5. Commit to be available in working hours (3-4 hrs/day) during the internship program period (3 months)
  6. Able to access a good internet connection

Interns in Program Division

  1. Experience in managing national and international event (conference, seminar or public lectures)
  2. Knowledge of project funding procedures and guidelines
  3. Demonstrated experience in the formulation of cooperation and funding proposals

Interns in Research Division

  1. Experienced in assisting research and publication will be an added value
  2. Submitting 300 words of writing sample with a specific theme of “E-Commerce and ASEAN Regionalism
  3. Able to meet publication deadlines

Interns in Media Division

  1. Good analytical skills of content creation
  2. Maintain excellent writing skills in English
  3. Able to utilize design tools (Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe Illustrator) or video editing software (noncompulsory);


  1. Deadline of Application Submission – 13 August 2021
  2. Notification of Result for Interview – 16 August 2021
  3. Interview – 19 & 20 August 2021
  4. Notification of Final Result – 25 August 2021
  5. Internship Program – 1 September – 30 November 2021

Apply Here

Press Release: Sharing Seminar on Policy Research and Consultancy “Building an Inclusive Platform of Regional Policy-Making in ASEAN”

A one-day “Sharing Seminar on Policy Research and Consultancy: Building an Inclusive Platform of Regional Policy-Making in ASEAN” was held at Ashley Hotel, Jakarta, on Tuesday, 21 January 2020. The Seminar invited researchers from ASEAN Member States to participate in sharing their best practices of formulating strategic policy-making with the government and among think tanks. Also attending the Seminar were ASEAN entities, and government officials, etc.

The event commenced at 8.30 am and was followed by a Welcoming Speech and Keynote Speech, consecutively. After a brief coffee break, the event continued with presentations on “Linking Academic Research and Policy Making in Indonesia” and “Undertaking Policy Research” from Indonesian and United Kingdom facilitators. The first session discussed the nature of research and policy-making in Indonesia. It looked into the issues of bureaucracy, structural problems, government approaches, and lack of funding, etc. The speaker shared some tips on winning research grants including the involvement of agencies, building a firm reputation, and maintaining relations with stakeholders. The second session examined the various researches that are useful in achieving change in policy-making. It also discussed the various approaches in creating an impactful policy research including the importance of analysing stakeholders, appropriate timing, focusing on the solutions, and the importance of an engagement strategy.

In the sharing sessions which followed, best practices of conducting policy-oriented researches from the point of view of researchers were highlighted. Researchers from eight ASEAN Member States (representatives from Brunei Darussalam and Myanmar were unable to attend) shared their experiences in policy research, the difficulties met, achievements, and proposed way forward. The Seminar identified the similarities and differences in conducting policy-oriented research across the ASEAN Member States and saw merit in strengthening the network.

The sharing sessions were facilitated by a moderator to navigate the discussion and accommodate the Question and Answer session. The first sharing session invited researchers from Cambodia and Indonesia. The second session highlighted the experiences of researchers from Lao PDR, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The last session invited researchers from Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. A Permanent Representative of an ASEAN Member State to ASEAN shared their insight and observation of the discussion. After a brief wrap-up, the sharing session was concluded.


by Fara Sheila Azalia, Intern for Program Division of ASEAN Studies Centre, Universitas Gadjah Mada (Picture by ASEAN.org)

ASEAN which previously comprised of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei Darussalam, and the Philippines, received the newest four members at the end of 1990s: Vietnam in 1995, Lao PDR and Myanmar in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999. Referred to the CLMV (Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Vietnam) countries, these four countries have changed the scope of ASEAN. Its membership means that ASEAN’s efforts to integrate the economy of the whole region has another work on how to integrate such a diverse country with different economic stages.

When CLMV countries firstly joined ASEAN, there were benefits that go both ways, not only for the ASEAN as a regional organization but also for the development of the CLMV countries itself. To counter the rise of Chinese domination after the isolation of Beijing post-Tiananmen Square massacre, ASEAN needs the help of CLMV countries to be on their side so that CLMV’s support goes to ASEAN instead of China. With incorporating CLMV countries, ASEAN too could strengthen their position during multilateral cooperation. (Soja, 2017) Also, military cooperation of CLMV countries with external partners such as the US could be perceived as ‘threat’ by other member states and could lead to arm race, however, this could be reduced by CLMV accessions to ASEAN. For CLMV countries, pressure for economic development would transform their economy to reach growth. Gradual modernization for CLMV countries needed to make sure they could catch up with other ASEAN member states.

However, their presence also creates a concern of ‘development divide’ between integrating those fast-growing modern economy countries such as Singapore and Brunei Darussalam with those of inward-looking poor countries–CLMV countries. (Pomfret, 2013)

The four countries have different economic structures due to different history among them. Vietnam has undergone a lot of policy changes since its reunification between the Communist North and market-based South in 1975, with they are now currently pursuing privatization policy along with encouraging more foreign investment under the so-called doi moi reform. (Pomfret, 2013) On the other hand, Lao PDR as a landlocked country lack behind than Vietnam. Since the country has overthrew the Lao monarch in 1975, they have tried several programs such as financial reforms and privatization programs in 1988. (Pomfret, 2013) However, the progress is not as fast as those that Vietnam experience, since Laos is a landlocked agrarian country. Myanmar and Cambodia was experiencing almost similar situation with those of Lao PDR. (Pomfret, 2013)

To narrow the development divide, there has been a proposal to create the ASEAN Convergence Fund under the ASEAN Development Fund where the source of money comes from voluntary member states and managed by professionals. (ADBI 2012) However, Menon argued that this proposal might not work as the voluntary member states who is going to likely finance are Singapore and Brunei Darussalam (the richest member states among other ASEAN members) which is relatively small compared to the four countries they are going to finance. (Menon, 2012) Any kind of effort to give aid from these relatively small countries would converge the developmental divide, however, making CLMV countries dependent on the long run. Therefore, Menon argued that there has to be a policy from the countries itself to improve their economic development. How would ASEAN then could realize what they envision in ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) with the notion of ‘developmental divide’ with CLMV countries?

AEC itself has four pillars: single market with single production base where this included free flow of goods, free flow of investment, free flow of capital, and free flow of skilled labour, creating equitable economic development in the region, establishing a highly competitive economic region where this includes creating policies that foster competition among the member states, and having the region fully integrated with global economy. (Lim & Nyunt, 2010) How is CLMV’s situation so far? CLMV Countries are having economic developmental gap among them. They had yet to implement the whole AEC pillar. Not only they have gap with ASEAN older members, but they also have gap within themselves. The first prerequisite for CLMV countries to catch up with AEC is through tackling the ‘equitable economic development’ pillar first. This could be assessed through the income per capita in each country. A study by Fumitaka Furuoka (2018) found that CLMV countries’ income gap exists, although the four countries made progress to overcome their lackluster economic development. Cambodia succeeded in reaching the same income level with Indonesia, while Vietnam is currently catching up with Indonesia and Philippines. Myanmar and Lao PDR have remained income gap that is not reduced yet. (Furuoka, 2018) The concern for developmental divide has been discussed since the four countries joined ASEAN and thus they compete with each other on catching up with ASEAN older member states. Cambodia started first in 1985 by transforming its economy into a market-oriented one. Lao PDR’s transition to market-oriented economy started in 1986 through implementing the New Economic Mechanism. Vietnam’s economic opening to trade and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) as part of doi moi reforms started in 1986. (Menon, 2012) Vietnam’s economic development can be said to progress rapidly compared to the other three, as the country right now is focusing its export on rice and crude oil. The country is even bypassing the Philippines.

The result was outstanding as the four countries achieved rapid growth, however, this growth is creating another divide among them. The distribution of gains for each country are very different from one to another, thus creating another issue of uneven and income inequality within these countries. In other words, “inter-country differences in economic conditions are narrowing at the same time that intra-country differences are increasing’. (Menon, 2012). In the realm of trade openness, for example, Vietnam has reached a percentage of GDP above 100% while Cambodia lagged behind as a result of ban on log exports and the rise of new competitor–the US and the European Union (EU) as export destinations. (Menon, 2012) Vietnam then proceeded to pursue an increase in sub-regional trade with Thailand, through having more trade partners and leaving Myanmar, Lao PDR, and Cambodia in 2010. However, Cambodia showed a good result when they switch their raw commodity export into manufactured-goods exports due to changing demand. This is through garments exports which account for most of Cambodian exports. However, Myanmar and Lao PDR are still relying on labor-intensive and resource-based production when it comes to producing manufactured goods.

CLMV as a whole’s FDI has seen an increase over the last two decades as shown by its stock which amounted to $209bn. (Menon, 2012) As previously in the 1980s all the four countries were skeptical against FDI, now the four countries are very welcoming towards FDI. The two contributing countries for the increasing FDI in CLMV were Vietnam and Cambodia with both FDI’s stock-to-GDP ratios rose well above the sub-regional average. However, Myanmar’s openness to FDI experienced decline since 1998. Lao PDR managed to get opportunities of attracting FDI through its agriculture and forestry, along with its mining and hydropower projects. Therefore, the dilemma persists: when a country choose to switch to a market-oriented economy, they can have rapid growth. However, at the same time they also faced with more inequality among them.

One might ask whether the CLMV countries have to catch up as a whole or individually with ASEAN older member states? Should they then be grouped as ‘one’, newest member states of ASEAN that deserves attention since they came from Mekong region with predecessors of GMS which already handled them, long before coming to ASEAN? Or should they proceed with using ‘ASEAN Minus X’ formula to alter the gap among them?



Asian Development Bank Institute (2012). ASEAN 2030 Toward a Borderless Economic Community, Draft Highlights. [online] adb.org. ADBI. Available at: https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/159312/adbi-asean-2030-borderless-economic-community-draft-highlights.pdf [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Furuoka, F. (2018). Do CLMV countries catch up with the older ASEAN members in terms of income level? Applied Economics Letters, [online] 26(8), pp.690–697. Available at: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13504851.2018.1489494 [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Lim, H. and Nyunt, K.M. (2010). STUDY TO DETERMINE THE IMPACT OF ACCELERATING THE ASEAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY FROM 2020 TO 2015 ON CAMBODIA, LAO PDR, MYANMAR AND VIETNAM (CLMV). [online] asean.org, Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA) & Mae Fah Luang University, p.13. Available at: https://www.asean.org/wp-content/uploads/images/2012/Economic/IAI/Comm%20work/Impact%20of%20accelerating%20AEC%20on%20CLMV%20Report.pdf [Accessed 12 Dec. 2019].

Menon, J. (2012). Narrowing the development divide in ASEAN: the role of policy. Asian-Pacific Economic Literature, [online] 27(2), pp.25–51. Available at: https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/publication/30403/reiwp-100.pdf [Accessed 18 Dec. 2019].

Pomfret, R. (2013). ASEAN’s New Frontiers: Integrating the Newest Members into the ASEAN Economic Community. Asian Economic Policy Review, 8(1), pp.25–41.Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264663020_ASEAN’s_new_frontiers_Integrating_the_newest_members_into_the_ASEAN_economic_community

Soja, P. (2017). Integration of the CLMV Countries with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The Polish Quarterly of International Affairs, [online] 26(4), pp.44–69. Available at: https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P4-2052625144/integration-of-the-clmv-countries-with-the-association.