Entries by syukron.subkhi

NACT Seminar “ASEAN Centrality and ASEAN-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”

On the same day of the NACT Country Coordinators’ Meeting, Thursday 7 April 2022, the Network of ASEAN China Think-Tanks held an online webinar entitled “ASEAN Centrality and ASEAN-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”. The webinar was co-chaired by the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace as the representative of NACT Cambodia and China Foreign Affairs University as the representative of NACT China. The webinar was conducted 2 hours after NACT Country Coordinators’ Meeting.

ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada as the focal point of NACT Indonesia, represented by Ms. Yulida Nuraini Santoso as the Managing Director of the center delivered a presentation on the topic “Understanding the ASEAN-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP): is Jakarta Steadily Warming up to Beijing?”. Mrs. Yulida highlighted several major points on how meaningful the partnership strategy for China and the ASEAN Member States is, with a minor focus on a case study on its implementation in Jakarta (Indonesia).


Report by:
Syukron Subkhi | Media and Publication Officer

#ASC #ASEANStudiesCenter #UGM #SoutheastAsia#BringingASEANCloserToYou #NACT#NetworkOfASEANChinaThinkTanks

Country Coordinator’s Meeting Network of ASEAN-China Think Tanks 2022

On Thursday, 7 April 2022 ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah joined to Network of ASEAN China Think-Tanks Country Coordinators’ Meeting through online platform. This Meeting was held annually with the purpose to discuss the general theme, sustainable development, and working group proposals for the upcoming NACT Working Group meetings.

The co-host for these meetings was NACT Cambodia. As the focal point for Indonesia, the ASEAN Studies Center was represented by Executive Director, Dr. Dafri Agussalim and Managing Director, Yulida Nuraini Santoso. After considering several themes proposed by the country coordinators, the meeting concluded that the general theme of the 2022 NACT Working Group (NACT WG) meeting will focus on ASEAN-China Partnership: Mainstreaming the ASEAN Blue Economy to Accelerate Post-pandemic Recovery, this theme was proposed by ASEAN Studies Center UGM as the representative of NACT Indonesia.

The “Blue Economy” has become a popular concept that is adopted in policymaking with an emerging focus on coasts and oceans as an essential driver for economic growth. Despite the impact of the pandemic, ASEAN continued to maintain its position as China’s largest trading partner. The establishment of the ASEAN-China partnership on Blue Economy was set during the ASEAN Summit, October 2021. The Blue Economy initiative is expected to prosper ASEAN- China relations while supporting SDG 14: Life Below Water and the Targets of the Paris Agreement.

The NACT Working Group Meeting will be held in the mid-year on 7th June 2022 through an online platform and will be coordinated by NACT Indonesia represented by ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada.

Report by:

Syukron Subkhi | Media and Publication Officer
#ASC #ASEANStudiesCenter #UGM #SoutheastAsia#BringingASEANCloserToYou #NACT#NetworkOfASEANChinaThinkTanks

ASC UGM Open House 2022 – The Engagement of Academia in Community Building

The existence of an academic approach to support community building in the ASEAN and the Southeast Asia region is essential. Academia has a role in engaging the regional development through critical and scientific research in maintaining the three ASEAN Pillars, and ASEAN Community Vision 2025. It is correlated with the development of the youth in the region, with about 20 million students in tertiary education, ASEAN may become a hotspot for higher education expansion and is expected to increase the number of young researchers and academia.

Since its establishment in 2013, ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada has supported and enabled the participation of academia and researchers in research and outreach projects targeted at strengthening ASEAN-People engagement. ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada seeks to improve the dialogue between researchers and academia in response to emerging challenges and underline their contribution to regional development as a hub for researchers and students.

With this idea, on Friday 25 February 2022, the ASEAN Studies Center successfully held an Open House event, that aimed to introduce the institution and its research, programs, and outreach initiatives. The event is expected to invite and attract the interest from academia, specifically researchers and students, as well as experts, to engage and provide their contribution in regional development through critical and scientific research with ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada. The involvement could be engaged by several forms such as collaborative research, scientific and critical writing in ASEAN Notes, Policy Brief, Working Paper, and joining an internship program for young researchers and students.

Aside from that, the Open House event hosted a series of webinars titled “Academic Engagement in Community Building.” The purpose of the webinar is to address how researchers and academics may contribute to and assist the above-mentioned concerns. The webinar invited Mr. Muhammad Takdir (Head for Policy Strategy for the Asia Pacific and Africa Region, MOFA RI) as a keynote speaker and was moderated by Ms. Yulida Nuraini Santoso (Managing Director at ASC UGM). Several panelists have also been invited to enliven the discussion and provide responses to Mr. Takdir’s explanation, they are Mr. Lee Yoong Yoong (Director of Community Affairs Directorate ASEAN Secretariat); Dr. Alan Chong (Associate Professor at the Centre for Multilateralism Studies, RSIS NTU); and Ms. Prodita Sabarini (Executive Editor at The Conversation Indonesia). To seek the point of view from the young researcher, the webinar also invited Felicitas Cahya from the student community UGM ASEAN Society.

The webinar came to a close with remarks from the keynote speaker and each panelist. Hopefully, the event would promote regional community-building awareness and bring the ASEAN Studies Center closer to researchers, academia, and students from various institutions and universities in ASEAN Countries and dialogue partners. Just as ASC UGM institution tagline -Bringing ASEAN Closer to You-.


*You can also watch the recorded webinar on our YouTube channel, ugm.id/youtubeascugm.

#ASEAN #SoutheastAsia #ASEANStudiesCenter #ASC #UGM #ThinkTanks #OpenHouse #TalkShow #ResearchCenter #bringingaseanclosertoyou


ASC Monograph 2021 – 1st Round Review Meeting.

Last week on Tuesday, 22 February 2022 the Research Division of ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada held the 1st Round Review meeting to the 10 selected research proposals. Moderated by Tunggul Wicaksono, Research Manager of ASC UGM, each author and co-author presented their proposals through the online platform. The editorial board, Ms. Yuyun Wahyuningrum, and Joel Mark Baysa delivered the feedback for the presented manuscript. Other authors also have opportunities to give feedback to each other.

The deadline for full paper submission will be on 29 March 2022.

Ambassadorial Lecture “Improving the Implementation of ASEAN Charter” with H.E. Amb. Noel Servigon

This year remarks the 15 years of implementation of the ASEAN Charter that was adopted at the 13th ASEAN Summit in November 2007. In fact, the draft of the ASEAN Charter as the constituent instrument of the association had been formally proposed in 2005 at the 11th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Until now, the ASEAN Charter remains strongly considered as the basic instrument for ASEAN and member countries informing policies and decisions on the regional contexts and issues.

ASEAN Studies Center UGM in cooperation with the Permanent Mission of the Philippines to ASEAN successfully held an Ambassadorial Lecture on Friday, 21st January 2022, entitled “Improving the Implementation of the ASEAN Charter”. The lecture was moderated by Ms. Yulida Nuraini Santoso, the Managing Director of the Center, and invited H.E. Ambassador Noel Servigon as the Permanent Representative of the Philippines to ASEAN to deliver the lecture as the main speaker.

In his speech and presentation, Ambassador Noel addressed, through the years the ASEAN Charter has guided the association in various activities. On its implementation, there were several attempts to review the implementation and the provisions of the ASEAN Charter and amend certain portions of the charter back in 2017 in Philippine ASEAN Chairmanship and 2020 in Vietnam ASEAN Chairmanship. Ambassador Noel stated that ASEAN Charter is a living document that must continuously be improved, both in its context as well as in its implementation.

Based on his experience, Ambassador Noel pointed out certain provisions of the charter that needs to be implemented further, he highlighted several provisions on ASEAN Summit, ASEAN Coordinating Council, ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, ASEAN Community Councils, ASEAN Sectoral Ministerial Bodies, ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting, ASEAN Committee of Permanent Representatives, ASEAN Secretary-General and the ASEAN Secretariat, and lastly is ASEAN Chairman.

The lecture was continued with the Q&A session with the participant and was moderated by Ms. Yulida. The session collected several questions to be addressed by Ambassador Noel, including the question from H.E. Ambassador Will Nankervis, the Ambassador of Australia to ASEAN.

At the end of the lecture, Ambassador Noel addressed the closing speech that he hopes through this kind of webinar and public lecture, ASEAN able to be brought closer to the people in ASEAN Member Countries. These kinds of events managed to raise the awareness and deeper understanding of ASEAN and its charter so that the ASEAN as a regional organization could fulfill the goal of behaving in a rules-based community.


Report by: 

  • Syukron Subkhi Media and Publication Officer

ASEAN Commitment on COP 26: Taking a Step Forward in Climate Action

After being delayed for a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the UNFCCC finally hosted its biggest climate conference, the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) from October 31 to November 13, 2021. The goal of COP 26 is to set greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets and strengthen national resilience frameworks against the climate crisis. Southeast Asia is one of the most vulnerable regions facing the consequences of climate change, and ASEAN, as one of the organizations that placed climate change as one of its main priorities, has welcomed the COP 26. For ASEAN Member States (AMS), COP26 is a stepping stone to enhance their climate promises under the Paris Agreement. The COP 26 also creates an opportunity for ASEAN to foster regional and global partnerships. Furthermore, ASEAN believes that the cooperation framework that is being offered by COP 26 could assist developing nations like AMS to overcome the “classical problem” from climate action. The existence of COP 26 is intended to encourage local capacity building, loosen investment, and facilitate the exchange of information and technology as key drivers for AMS to move toward low GHG emission and climate resiliency. 

At COP 26, ASEAN demonstrated its strong commitment to supporting the development of a global climate agenda. ASEAN declared The ASEAN Joint Statements on Climate Change to the UNFCCC COP 26 and restated its shared commitment and collective effort in pursuing energy security and energy transition in the region. The regional achievement of a 21% reduction in energy intensity in the energy sector, exceeding its aspirational aim, and a 13.9 percent contribution of renewable energy in the energy mix by 2018 is also highlighted in this joint statement. The joint statement also outlines The 2016 ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation (APAEC) 2025: Phase II (2021-2025) that provides updated regional targets for ASEAN’s energy transition to low GHG emissions (ASEAN, 2021). At the national level, as a signatory to the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement, AMS has revised and submitted its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) before COP26. The NCDs are designed based on the national circumstances of each country. Considerable improvements in GHG reduction objectives and mitigation goals, which are affirmed in numerical targets, unambiguous reference points, and political decision-making governance that is routed through a specialized working group, committee, or ministry could be seen from the NDCs that have been submitted by AMS. Through NDCs, AMS gave their overview of how far they have come in terms of climate change mitigation and adaptation and ensured that climate action progress is kept on track.  (Merdekawati, et.al., 2021).  

The NDCs and ASEAN joint statement certainly prove the region’s strong aspirations and commitment in achieving global climate goals, integrating themself into the global climate regimes, and enhancing regional initiatives under Brunei Darussalam’s leadership in 2021 that make climate change one of the main goals. However, it appears that the ASEAN decision-makers conveyed their contributions in a variety of ways at COP 26. Several ASEAN countries were conspicuously absent from a number of climate-related measures presented during COP26. Some of AMS, for example, are still hesitant to lend a hand in shifting away from an unabated coal power generation framework, particularly those who have been identified as large carbon emitters from their agricultural activities and energy usage. Several ASEAN countries, including Cambodia and the Philippines, have yet to demonstrate that they will meet their zero-emission targets (Safrina, 2021).  

Table Source:https://aseanenergy.org/cop26-aseans-commitment-in-the-energy-sector-economy/  

On the other hand, COP 26 underlines the climate change initiative based on the principle of equality and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities (CBDR-RC). This principle emphasizes that all countries share responsibility for global environmental degradation, but that responsibility is not shared equitably. This principle strikes a balance between the need for all countries to take responsibility for global environmental problems on the one hand, and the need to recognize the wide differences in terms of economic development among countries, which encourage differences in contributions and ability to cope with climate problems on the other. It seems that the CBDR-RC needs to be reconsidered since there are potential loopholes that might be used by AMS to evade responsibilities and suspend the regional efforts to mitigate climate change. ASEAN joint statement at COP26 may show AMS’ determination to go forward with regional collaboration and the COP26 may facilitate ASEAN to establish a long-term and more sustainable effort for climate cooperation in the future. However, ASEAN appears to be having various challenges in implementing its climate mitigation policies, especially in the form of the lack of unity of ASEAN countries in responding to climate change. ASEAN should be more focused on unifying climate action at the regional level and encouraging AMS to incorporate the COP 26 cooperation framework into their national policies. 


About Writer

  • Chusnul Mar’iyah was a Programme Division intern at ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada. She is currently an Undergraduate Student majoring in International Relations at Universitas Gadjah Mada.



  1. ASEAN. (2021). The ASEAN Joint Statements on Climate to the 26th Session of Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. ASEAN.org. https://asean.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/10.-ASEAN-Joint-Statement-to-COP26.pdf
  2. AWGCC. (2021). Can Southeast Asia : Statement to The ÀSEAN Working Group on Climate Change (AWGCC) by Civil Society in ASEAN Member States. Climatenetwork.org.  https://climatenetwork.org/resource/can-southeast-asia-statement-to-the-asean-working-group-on-climate-change-awgcc-by-civil-society-constituencies-in-asean-member-states/
  3. Merdekawati M., Suryadi B., Suwanto, Lenanto G. (2021). ASEAN Climate Action: A Review of Nationally Determined Contribution Submissions towards COP26 (Policy brief 1-6). Retrieved from https://aseanenergy.org/asean-climate-action-a-review-of-nationally-determined-contribution-submissions-towards-cop26/
  4. Safrina, R. (2021). COP26: ASEAN’s Commitment in The Energy Sector Economy – ASEAN Centre for Energy. Retrieved 8 December 2021, from https://aseanenergy.org/cop26-aseans-commitment-in-the-energy-sector-economy/

Efforts to Improve the ASEAN Football Levels Through Asian Eleven

ASEAN Football Track Record  

Football is one of the most popular sports in the world, and ASEAN is no exception. However, ASEAN football is considerably still at the developmental stage compared to football in other regions or countries, such as Europe. Such a view exists due to the fact that the achievements of football teams from ASEAN Countries are still relatively unimpressive within the Asian and world football scenes. The success of both national teams of Myanmar U-19 and Vietnam U-19 that reached the semifinals of the AFC Asian Cup U-19 in 2014 and 2016, has been a remarkable achievement for ASEAN football in the age-group tournament. These results finally made Myanmar and Vietnam national teams eligible for competing in the FIFA World Cup U-20, which was held in 2015 and 2017, respectively. But unfortunately, they did not perform impressively during each tournament and became caretakers in the final standings of the group. While in the senior football group, no ASEAN representative has ever qualified for the World Cup. So far, the best achievements of ASEAN representatives are shown through the success of several national teams that were able to advance to the third round of the Asian World Cup qualification, including Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers. Thailand for the second time managed to survive in the World Cup 2018 qualifiers, and now recently followed by Vietnam in 2022 World Cup qualification. 

Japan’s Football Achievement 

The achievements of ASEAN football today can be said to be very much different from the achievements of other Asian football countries, such as Japan. It is safe to say that Japanese football can be considered as one of the most advanced or even the best ones throughout Asia in recent days. This is evidenced by Japan’s success in winning the AFC Asia Cup four times, back then in 1992, 2000, 2004, and 2011. Aside from that, Japan has never missed out on any World Cup matches since 1998. In addition to making achievements in Asian Cup and World Cup competitions, Japanese national football also managed to score achievements at the London 2012 Olympics and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, by successfully occupying fourth place. Nowadays, there are many Japanese football players who are playing in the top European leagues. For instance, in the Premier League (England) there are Takumi Minamino and Takehiro Tomiyasu who join with Liverpool and Arsenal. While in La Liga (Spain), Takefusa Kubo and Gaku Shibasaki also joined RCD Mallorca and CD Leganes, respectively. In the Bundesliga (Germany), there are Makoto Hasebe and Daichi Kamada who both play for Eintracht Frankfurt. While other two Japanese football players, namely Maya Yoshida (U.C. Sampdoria) and Eiji Kawashima (RC Strasbourg), are playing in Serie A (Italy) and Ligue 1 (France). By this, it is not surprising if Japanese national football team is now considered 50% stronger than ever, as it eventually shows that Japanese football is very advanced compared to the ASEAN’s football league. 

 Asian Eleven for the Future of ASEAN Football 

Japan’s remarkable achievements in Asia –and even in the world– have encouraged this country to become the role model in Asian football (46 Asian Football Associations) scene by enhancing Japan’s football players’ skills. Southeast Asia is a region that received more attention from Japan, especially in the field of football. This could be seen through the Football Exchange Project which was established in November 2014. The project was formed based on a memorandum of understanding between The Japan Foundation Asia Center, the Japanese Football Association (JFA), and the Japan Professional Football League (J.League), which was also supported by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Within its implementation in 2019, the Football Exchange Project was later known as Asian Eleven. The Asian Eleven essentially intended to accommodate talented players under the age of 18 as well as local ASEAN coaches. The main objective of the program is to foster football talent among ASEAN countries and Japan, promote mutual understanding among people, especially among youth through football, and share experiences that Japanese football has learned and developed so far. 

In an attempt to achieve maximum results, there are two main projects carried out in the Asian Eleven collaboration, namely Project in the ASEAN Nations and Project in Japan. The Project in ASEAN Nations has two focal points that are of concern within the project’s implementation. First, the long-term deployment of personnel, namely Japanese coaches and staff who are sent to stay in one of the ASEAN countries for more than one year. The main goal is to raise the level of national football through engagement with local youth players and coaches. Second, the dispatch of short-term trainers. The coaching staff of each J.League club will be sent to an ASEAN country once to twice a year for a period of approximately one week. It aims to encourage the J.League club’s coaching staff to engage in player training and network with local football personnel. 


Photo source: jfac.jp 

The project in Japan has three focal points. Firstly, Invite Players, which allows players to concentrate on learning Japanese football in a period of approximately one month. The aim is to develop and increase their level and provide an opportunity to get to know Japan. Secondly, Invite Coaches, which aims to train coaching staff who are responsible for fostering player development, especially in improving national team football. Lastly, Invite Personnel related to the league, which provides a forum to share knowledge to develop and strengthen football leagues in ASEAN countries. 

Asian Eleven 2019 ended with the holding of two friendly matches as the highlight of the event. Asian Eleven 2019 ended with the holding of two friendly matches as the highlight of the event. The JapaFun Cup was the first friendly match to be held between Asian Eleven U-18 and the Tohoku U-18 Selection Team at J-Village Stadium, Fukushima on June 22, 2019. The Asian Eleven U-18 team was a combination of representatives from ASEAN countries and Timor Leste as a country observer (each country nominated 2 players). This match ended with a score of 0-0 and continued through a penalty shootout that was won by the Asian Eleven U-18 team. The second friendly match was the Japan Foundation Bangkok Cup Asian Eleven U-16 (which consists of representatives of Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and ASEAN observer country Timor-Leste) and the U-16 Thailand national football team, on November 3, 2019. This match ended with a score of 2-2, which then followed with the penalty shootouts that finally led the Asian Eleven U-16 team to victory. 

Asian Eleven 2019 has run very well and was expected to continue in 2020 and in the following years. As it is believed that the program will not only increase the level of ASEAN football but also can strengthen the relations between Japan and ASEAN countries (both regionally and bilaterally), especially through sports. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic, both ASEAN countries and Japan are now prioritizing the health conditions of the players, coaches, and all parties involved. This results in the postponement of the Asian Eleven program for an indefinite time, and it is hoped that as soon as the world gets better the Asian Eleven program could be held again. 


About Writer 

  • Munawar Wahid Sugiyarto is a Media and Publication Intern at ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Social Sciences majors in International Relations with particular focuses on Southeast Asian and European studies, and also about sports, especially football. He can be contacted through e-mail: munawarmws@gmail.com. 

Taliban and the Opium: Reviewing ASEAN’s Securitization of the Golden Triangle

Taliban’s recent victory in Afghanistan, marked by US troops withdrawal and the fall of Kabul, may present proof of its success in managing and dominating various strategic sectors that contribute to its victory, with no exception in finances. Taliban’s finances have often been associated with its involvement in the international illicit drug trade along the Golden Crescent, which also presented a possibility to be traced to the Golden Triangle. With such an assumption, it raised an urgency to review the securitization of the Golden Triangle, a region well-known for its vast history of the opium trade.   

Based on a study by the United States Institute of Peace, the Taliban finances its operation through the trade of opium poppy that prevails in the southern region of Afghanistan, which is later being processed into heroin as the final product (Peters, 2009). Both direct and indirect means of opium trade are being employed to finance the Taliban’s operation. Aside from being directly involved with the traffickers, the Taliban also taxed opium harvesters in the area it controlled. As supporting evidence, interestingly, the study shows how the Taliban made opium as local currency in the region amidst scarcity of cash, being bartered for commodities to support their cause such as weapons, construction materials, vehicles, electronics, etc. (Peters, 2009, p. 25) 

As a consequence of the Taliban’s dependence on opium to finance its operation, it is not a surprise if opium trade prevails around Afghanistan borders, not in exception with the influence of Afghan opiates in the Golden Triangle – a region where illicit drug trade prevails, just some approximately 3500km to the east of the Golden Crescent. Despite a decline in opiates production in the area in the 1990s, a record shows that Afghan-made heroin has met the rapidly increasing Chinese demand. And the inbound opiates to China from the Golden Triangle were traced to originated from Afghanistan (UNODC, 2010, p. 46). That proves that the Golden Triangle is still acting as an active route for the opium-based illicit drug trade and is linked to the Taliban. Thus, it signifies the urgency to review the securitization of the area.  

Before this discovery, in its effort to curb drug trafficking in the Southeast Asian region, ASEAN has established various securitization efforts through cooperation with various entities ranging from state to non-state actors. In 1976 it successfully agreed on the ASEAN Declaration on Principles to Combat the Abuse of Narcotics Drugs spearheaded by the ASOD (ASEAN Senior Officials on Drugs Matter), contributing to the decline of drug trafficking in the Golden Triangle area in the 1990s. Recently, in 2018, as a continuation of the ASEAN Cooperation Plan to Tackle Illicit Drug Production and Trafficking in the Golden Triangle 2017-2019, cross-border cooperation has increased to counter the illicit drug trade in the area. Bordering ASEAN member states (Lao PDR, Myanmar, and Thailand) alongside the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) established border liaison offices allowing the exchange of intelligence that on one occasion successfully seized 4.3 million tablets of methamphetamine (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2019, p. 17). 

Despite those established efforts, however, several new initiatives have to be made to consolidate the securitization of the area, considering the recent geopolitical update. Based on an assessment of the illicit drug trade supply chain: the producer, the distributor, and the consumer, three measures can be taken. First, it may be necessary for ASEAN to initiate communication channels with the Taliban regardless of formal recognition considering their current control of the status quo in Afghanistan. By initiating communication channels, ASEAN can spearhead international efforts to hold the Taliban accountable towards global efforts in countering illicit drug trade, particularly trafficking to the Southeast Asian region, and pressuring for its commitment to reduce its financial dependency on opium cultivation.   

Second, considering Myanmar is the leading supplier for East and Southeast Asia and the second-largest producer of opiates after Afghanistan despite the decline in production in the 1990s (Danastri, 2018, p. 31), ASEAN response towards the delicate situation in Myanmar should also touch on the issue of securitization of the Golden Triangle to tackle the chain of distribution and re-clarify the junta commitment in countering Myanmar’s domestic production of opiates. ASEAN’s approach to Myanmar regarding the securitization effort should result in an outcome where ASOD and UNODC’s agents gain safe access to the area to enforce actions in countering illicit drug trade, in which to a greater extent reviewing Myanmar’s opium production and trace its link to Afghan produced opium.    

Finally, as most heroin demands originate from China, cooperation with Chinese authorities to counter drug trafficking should be strengthened. Even though China has invested heavily in efforts to securitize the Golden Triangle from the non-traditional security threat (Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the United Nations and Other International Organizations in Vienna), ASEAN should still push China to be more proactive, notably in curbing its domestic heroin demand and in law enforcement towards potential re-distribution routes to the global supply chain. Moreover, ASEAN’s cooperation with China should explore the possibility of China becoming an intermediary to pressure the Taliban, considering that China has more engagement with the group. Thus, in its future engagement with China, ASEAN should address ASEAN’s position and interest regarding the Taliban’s victory implication to the illicit drug trade in the region.   

Taking all of this into account, the Taliban’s recent victory and the uncertainties in its commitment to reduce its dependence on the illicit drug trade to finance its activities has imposed regional actors around the Golden Triangle with uncertainties in efforts to counter the illicit trade. Despite it being too premature to conclude the Taliban’s victory implication towards the region’s anti-narcotic efforts, it may be necessary for ASEAN as a key actor in the Golden Triangle to remain vigilant and responsive to any development on the issue. This is very much necessary as the Taliban’s attachment towards illicit drug trade may disrupt ASEAN’s decades-long effort in securitizing the area, not to mention if the Taliban’s rule of Afghanistan strengthens the country’s position as a narco-state. Furthermore, securitization efforts should also address intra-ASEAN challenges and enhance cooperation with other parties at stake. Re-affirming Myanmar’s position would allow further action in enforcing the securitization effort in the area. At the same time, cooperation with China should result in a decline in opium-based substances demands and gateway to pressure the Taliban. 


About Writer

  • William Help is a fresh graduate from the Department of International Relations Universitas Gadjah Mada. Willam was a Research Intern for the ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada. His research interest includes political economy and Asian studies. He can be reached through his e-mail at wwilliam14@gmail.com.





Making Sense of Southeast Asia: Lessons learned from #ReaLISM (Reading, Learning and Investigating Southeast Asia through Movies)

Southeast Asia is a growing, full of potential, yet contested region. The population of Southeast Asian countries combined makes the world’s third-largest market. However, the region also struggles to address its economic, social, and political problems. The complexity of the region requires us to learn and understand issues facing the region more in-depth.  

ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada just concluded a series of online movie screening events, Bincang ASEAN, titled Reading, Learning, Investigating Southeast Asia through Movies (also known as ReaLISM). Through interesting engagements with filmmakers and experts in Southeast Asian countries, not only did ReaLISM deepen the audience’s understanding of the issues in the region, but it also enabled the audience to discuss the issues more critically. Acknowledging documentaries as a representational medium, audiences do not only take for granted the (re)construction of reality in the past as represented in documentaries. They also have the capacity to imagine the present and the future concerning realities (re)constructed in documentaries.

To have a closer look at the region’s issues, ReaLISM successfully screened three documentaries in three different Southeast Asian countries. The three screened documentaries are Standing on the Edge of a Thorn: A Family in Rural Indonesia (Robert Lamelson, Indonesia, 2012); SITTWE(Jeanne Hallacy, Myanmar, 2017); and An Online Citizen (Calum Stuart, Singapore, 2019), respectively. Considered participatory documentaries, while these three movies zoomed in to the reality of the documentary’s subjects, filmmakers are also included within the narratives.

These three movies represented the complexity and diversity of issues in the region. Lamelson (2012) through his documentary, represents the life of a family in rural Indonesia grappling with poverty, mental health, and the sex trade. Through SITTW, Hallacy (2017) exposed the dynamics of ethnic conflict in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state in Myanmar, through the lens of two youths representing both opposing sides. Meanwhile, Stuart’s (2019) an Online Citizen documented a story of an independent online journalist in Singapore fighting for freedom of the press amid the rise of authoritarianism

In this circumstance, making sense of Southeast Asia means looking at the everyday reality of individuals (re)constructed in each documentary and to the ways in which their reality reflects a broader picture of Southeast Asia. What did these movies tell us? At least there are three things we learned from the three movies.


In the past and local, yet now and regional

Documented within a certain timeframe in the past, we should recognize the temporal dimension of the issues represented in the three documentaries. Considering the temporal aspect of the realities of those individuals filmed in the movies, one might ask them what is happening now (or would happen in the future).  

In this case, one of the three filmmakers, Lamelson, recently came back to Indonesia and filmed the subjects of his documentary Standing on the Edge of a Thorn to discover what happened to the family in 2012. During the documentary discussion, Lamelson conveyed that what happened to the family in 2012 is something that he wouldn’t have thought of before. The mother (Tri) chose to leave her husband (Iman) for someone else; Iman remarried a 16-year-old girl in the village, and the daughter (Lisa) got married to a guy she met on social media. While Standing on the Edge of a Thorn captured the issues of poverty, poor mental health, and the sex trade which grappled by the family, the family appeared to be happier since 2012, although other issues such as divorce and child marriage occur.  

Not only should we take into account the temporal dimension of documentaries, but we should also consider their spatial dimension. Documented specifically in a particular geographical location within three Southeast Asian counties (Indonesia, Myanmar, and Singapore), the issues represented in the movies are situated locally. However, issues such as poverty, poor mental health, sex trade, ethnic conflicts, and declining freedom of the press are certainly not exclusive problems specific to these geographical locations. Rather, these issues are regional (or even global) issues. For instance, Stuart expressed that declining freedom of the press appears to be a global issue facing journalists worldwide. Budi Irawanto, one of the discussants in ReaLISM #3, compared the issue in the context of Indonesia. He explained that the Information and Electronic Transactions Law (also known as UU ITE) had been used to criminalize journalists 

Education for social change

The second lesson learned from ReaLISM to make sense of Southeast Asia is that education plays a key role in social change in the region. In discussing her documentary SITTWE, Hallacy pointed out that lack of education (read: illiteracy) became a prominent cause of ethnic conflicts in Myanmar. Thiha, a youth activist from Myanmar, discussed the conflict trajectories and explained how disseminating (mis/dis)information had triggered the conflict. Information literacy is therefore important to prevent conflicts in the future.  

Two young teenagers from both sides in SITTWE expressed how the conflict has changed their lives. While pointing out the devastating consequences of the conflict, Hallacy engaged with teenagers from opposing sides, asking what they wanted to be and the kinds of future they wanted to have. The documentary ends with a famous quote from Malala Yousafzai: “If you want to end the war, instead of sending guns, send books; instead of sending tanks, send pens; instead of sending soldiers, send teachers”. 

The importance of education for social change is also echoed in Standing on the Edge of a Thorn. Approaching the end of the documentary, the daughter (Lisa) voiced her hope of making a better future for herself and her family after pursuing higher education. 

Where is ASEAN?

A similar theme across the three documentaries that the audiences engaged with is a reflection on ASEAN’s presence (or absence) in addressing the issues. This critical assessment matters because ASEAN is well-known as an intergovernmental organization in the region. The role of ASEAN has been particularly explored in discussing SITTWE by Irawan Jati, a scholar in ASEAN studies. He claimed that with the fundamental principle of national sovereignty in ASEAN, such a regional institutional arrangement is difficult to play a key role in conflict resolution.  

Meanwhile, the exploration of ASEAN’s role appears to be lacking (or absent) in the discussion of two other movies. This, too, shows that ASEAN does not play a significant role in addressing the issues represented in the documentaries, although ASEAN has established, adopted, and developed institutional arrangements, declarations, conventions, regional plans of action in relations to poverty, child abuse, gender inequality, and even protection of human rights.  

To conclude, ReaLISM (Reading, Learning, and Investigating Southeast Asia through Movies) becomes an alternative way to make sense of Southeast Asia. Documentaries on Southeast Asian countries are a representational medium that enables those who watch them to engage with everyday realities in Southeast Asia that they generally cannot experience themselves. Three lessons learned discussed previously should be understood in the context of the three documentaries. We could learn different lessons and enrich our understanding of Southeast Asia from other Southeast Asian documentaries of which we witness growing in numbers.  


About Writer

  • Muhammad Ammar Hidayahtulloh is a PhD Student at School of Political Science and International Studies, the University of Queensland. He is also an initiator of Bincang ASEAN – ReaLISM. He can be reached at muhammadammarh@outlook.com 

Internship at ASEAN Studies Center UGM 2021

In early September, the ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada had accepted 7 students and new graduates to take part in the internship program offered by the Center for three months. The interns are separated into three divisions at the Center, namely the Research, Programs, and Media Division. The internship program was carried out with a hybrid system (online and offline), and was not only offered to students/graduates of the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences (FISPOL) Universitas Gadjah Mada, but also students from other faculties and/or universities.

During the internship period, interns are responsible for supporting and assisting the daily activities and work of each division. They were involved in most of the programs, research, and publications conducted by the Center, to experience the working atmosphere in a think-tank institution and get professional supervision from each division and the Managing Director of the ASEAN Studies Center UGM.

In addition, the interns were given several Capacity Building Classes held every 2 weeks, to enhance their skills and get more point of view from the experts, such as Project Management, Introduction to ASEAN, Career Development Pathways, Policy Brief Writing, and Photo Discussion. From this internship program at the ASEAN Studies Center UGM, interns are expected to be able to discover additional professional skills and knowledge to build their professional career paths.

In addition, the internship program also assigned several academic-research tasks that interns must complete, such as writing op-ed articles, creating podcasts, infographics, and working papers. These academic assignments aim to increase the awareness and knowledge of apprentices on issues in the ASEAN and Southeast Asia region.

See you at our next internship program next year! Keep an eye on our website and social media for more information!

– Alysia N. Dani (Research Intern)
– Veronica Ayu (Research Intern)
– William Help (Research Intern)
– Chusnul Mar’iyah (Program Intern)
– Lucky Kardanardi (Program Intern)
– Citta Azarine A. (Media Intern)
– Munawar Wahid S. (Media Intern)










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