Can the Subaltern Speak in ASEAN?

Ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are transported to a temporary shelter in Krueng Raya in Aceh Besar in 2013. Photo: Reuters

Ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are transported to a temporary shelter in Krueng Raya in Aceh Besar in 2013. Photo: Reuters

Ahmad Rizky M Umar, Postgraduate Student at Department of Politics, University of Sheffield and formerly a Research Assistant at ASEAN Studies Centre, Universitas Gadjah Mada

Can the subaltern speak? Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, a prominent postcolonial and Indian scholar, raised this question in her popular article (1985). She attempted to draw an analysis of the subaltern, those who were excluded from existing power-relations and thus unable to speak of themselves.

Drawing an analysis through the lens of postcolonial India, Spivak concerned with how the ‘elite’, ‘intellectuals’, and other kind of people in power has failed to make the subaltern speak of themselves. Rather than make the subaltern speaks, intellectuals has attempted to speak about the subaltern as if they were subaltern themselves. 

This creates something like ‘camera obscura’ –to quote Marx— in seeing the subaltern. There were some biases over the construction of subaltern in dominant view. This view has made a subordinate relation between the Colonizers and the Colony. When the Colony has been proclaimed independent, this colonial view has been preserved. In many postcolonial states, including those in Southeast Asia, it is somehow believed that only ‘elite’ or ‘intellectuals’ –those who are educated in modern system— are legitimate to speak representing the country, and thus speak of the ‘subaltern’ in their countries.

Against this backdrop, we can raise the same question: can the Subaltern speak in Southeast Asia, where ten states have been agreed to form a new regional community –namely Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)— to maintain peace and stability in the region?

ASEAN was formed in 1967 in a meeting of 5 leading states in Southeast Asia: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and Phillippines. Its primary objective was actually simple: to maintain peace and security in the region. Those states have agreed to take ‘non-intervention’ position to reach that goal. At the end of the Cold War, its membership was expanded to five other states: Myanmar, Laos, Brunei, Cambodia, and Vietnam.

It is important to take a look at the region’s historical conjuncture. Before 1945, Southeast Asia has been divided by four big colonial states –Spain (Phillippines), Dutch (Indonesia), British (Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei), and French (Indochina States). Thailand becomes the only state that is free from colonialism –it was becoming a boundary that separated British and French.

Given such a context, politically. geographical construction of Southeast Asia is thus a colonial construction. Indonesia could only be a united nation-state when the Dutch, with its ‘ethical politics’, allowing the Indonesians to get some educations and subsequently awaken nationalism in Indonesian pribumi.

The Malay identity, which is central in the sovereign state of Malaysia, is also in fact British-constructed. The Malaysian state was inherited by British Colonial Sdministrations that had been in power since the 19th century. French colonialism in Indochina divided the region in some ethnic-based countries.

In this context, Southeast Asian identity should be traced in its colonial origins. We cannot simply identify Southeast Asia merely on its existing state –since it has been constructed by the colonizers. We have to critically re-identify Southeast Asia by acknowledging the ‘subaltern’ –those who are marginalized due to their few numbers or apolitical positions.

Nowadays, several ‘subaltern’ communities exist in Southeast Asia. There are some minority ethnic groups such as Papuans in Indonesia, Dayaks in Malaysia, Pattani and Mons in Thailand, or Rohings and Karens in Myanmar.

Many of them have resisted. We have witnessed some groups who are attempting to express their form of resistance through separatism or political insurgency. There are, for example, Komite Nasional Papua Barat in Indonesia or Moro Islamic Liberation Front who have been accused as national threat by each national authority.

In another prominent case, there are Rohing people in Myanmar, who were externally displaced and taken refugees and hence leaving new problems in other Southeast Asian Countries.

These subalterns remain with their own problems in each country. But as we are getting closer with the upcoming ASEAN Community, which is aimed at gathering all Southeast Asian countries to a ‘people-oriented’ regionalism, we have to ask the same question as Spivak did: can those subalterns speak in the upcoming ASEAN Community?

Since its establishment, ASEAN tends to be very state-centric. It has been formed as a place to negotiate state’s interest. There is a weakness in this state-centric tendency: ASEAN only serve as ‘arena of negotiation’ from state’s elite who have been, by Law, acclaimed as representative as the State.

ASEAN governing structure also proves this argument. ASEAN Structure acknowledges the ASEAN Summit as the highest structure that can produce legally-binding decision for each member states. The Summit is obviously attended only by State’s representatives. It is proven to be very elitist, and thus left not enough room for the subalterns to speak of themselves in front of ASEAN People.

Thus, instead of giving rooms for the subaltern to speak, the ASEAN State’s representatives seem to acclaim themselves as the representation of the Subalterns, which was rarely discussed in the Summit.

Indeed, it is very problematic. ASEAN has been entrapped by its ‘colonial legacy’ which perceives the state as the only subject who can speak and articulates their interests in political arena. They have repressed voices of the Subaltern in the making of ASEAN –which only makes the ASEAN States as the reincarnation of the colonizers in Southeast Asian skin.

Thus, it is therefore important for the ASEAN State’s representatives, who will be representing their states in the upcoming ASEAN Summit, to reflect its nature of regionalism. If the upcoming ASEAN Summit can’t address this problem, it is likely that the idea of ‘ASEAN Community’ has not yet ready to be faced by both people and the state.

Is Jokowi Turning His Back to ASEAN?

25th ASEAN Summit, Myanmar. Photo Credits: Strait Times

25th ASEAN Summit, Myanmar. Photo Credits: Strait Times

Dr. Avery Poole
Lecturer at the School of Social and Political Sciences, the University of Melbourne and 2013 Visiting Fellow at ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada


Under President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, Indonesia appears less oriented toward the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). While this may true, the explanation is more nuanced than proposed by many regional analyses. Many observers see Jokowi as more inward looking than his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, and point to his lack of foreign policy experience. I would argue that Jokowi is, in fact, not less oriented than Yudhoyono to Indonesia’s foreign relations as a policy priority; rather, he approaches it differently, for reasons that reflect a distinct approach to contemporary East Asia.

Indonesia under Jokowi is less oriented towards multilateralism in general. Yudhoyono emphasised Indonesia’s role in international organisations, including the G20 (in which Indonesia is the only Southeast Asian member), the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations. He also sought to advanceIndonesia’s role in regional forums, including ASEAN, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Bali Democracy Forum. His Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, pointed to the importance of Indonesian diplomacy in “high-level forums” to address challenges that require international cooperation (such as food security, natural disasters and transnational crime).

In contrast, Jokowi criticised the UN, World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank at the Asian-African Conference in April this year, for failing to deliver solutions for global economic woes.

Jokowi, in fact, appears to see greater value in Indonesia’s bilateral relations than in multilateralism. He and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi have indicated that they will concentrate on strategic bilateral relationships that benefit the Indonesian people. While it is to be expected that political leaders would emphasise national interests and benefits to citizens, it is notable that multilateralism – assumed by many to be the preferred setting for international cooperation in the interests of mutual gains and addressing common challenges – is no longer depicted as the means to that end. For example, while the current government regards trade as facilitating Indonesia’s economic growth, it does not appear to see ASEAN as the preferred forum in which to pursue beneficial trade arrangements.

Analysts such as Felix Utama Kosasih have expressed concern that Indonesia will suffer from its lack of commitment to the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). A recent editorial in The Jakarta Post argued that unwillingness to prepare for the AEC “will greatly impact the effectiveness of economic integrity. In the end it will be Indonesia itself that has to pay the price for its reluctance to accept reality.” Certainly the AEC could create the potential for gains through freer trade and investment among ASEAN member states. But it is not at all certain that it will actually form a “bloc” with a combined population and GDP of approximately 620 million and $4.7 trillion. It is therefore not clear that deprioritising the AEC will be harmful to Indonesia’s economic interests. In fact, Jokowi’s state visits early in his presidency to Japan and China – Indonesia’s largest and second largest export markets respectively – reflect the importance of states outside ASEAN to Indonesia’s economy.

Of course, it is not only economic relations that shape Indonesia’s evolving approach to ASEAN. There is a general frustration among some key officials with ASEAN’s inability to provide substantive outcomes and benefits for Indonesia – and there were rumblings about this in influential quarters long before Jokowi took office.

In 2009, the executive director of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, Rizal Sukma, wrote an oft-cited piece in The Jakarta Post arguing that Indonesia needs a “post-ASEAN foreign policy”. Indonesia has always, he wrote, been “forced into compromise”, and its initiatives on human rights, democracy and peacekeeping have “fallen on deaf ears” or been ridiculed. In late 2014, he argued that ASEAN is now just a cornerstone – no longer the cornerstone – of Indonesia’s foreign policy.

Should Jokowi be concerned about possible damage to Indonesia’s reputation as a regional and global player by a move away from ASEAN? It could be argued that it will demonstrate that he has a distinct foreign policy strategy. He also may feel a political need to respond to the nationalist sentiment that was highlighted during the presidential race against Prabowo Subianto in 2014. But Jokowi’s deprioritisation of ASEAN is not just driven by domestic political concerns. He also seems less concerned with satisfying the expectations of other states.

As a major regional power, Indonesia is expected to play a central role in engaging in regional dialogue and addressing common challenges. It has traditionally been seen as the default leader of ASEAN, particularly because it has the largest population, land mass and GDP (in absolute terms). But as Dr Evi Fitriani recently noted (in a podcast for Indonesia at Melbourne), Jokowi’s government seems less concerned with the expectations of foreign countries, and with wanting to be seen as a “good citizen”.

Jokowi has been depicted in regional news media as tending towards nationalism, but the image of him as simply “inward-looking” is inaccurate. Rather, his administration has moved away from liberal internationalism in its foreign policy. For example, he is more reticent about the notion that Indonesia might facilitate a resolution in ASEAN dialogue to the South China Sea disputes, claiming: “that is a problem for other countries”.

Instead, Jokowi emphasises the idea of Indonesia as a “global maritime fulcrum” and seeks to strengthen bilateral ties with other states in the Indian Ocean, such as India and South Africa. Rather than lacking interest in foreign policy, Jokowi is forging his own path. This raises concerns about the future of ASEAN, but it is not yet clear whether it is particularly problematic for Indonesia.

This piece was previously published at Indonesia at Melbourne website:

ASEAN dan Penanggulangan Terorisme: Beberapa Catatan

Feature - Terrorist

Oleh Agung Hidayat, Staf Intern di ASEAN Studies Center UGM, Mahasiswa Ilmu Komunikasi UGM

Aksi ektremisme, terorisme serta militansi Islam menjadi ancaman nyata bagi keberagaman masyarakat ASEAN. Baru-baru ini, kasus Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) di Irak-Suriah diyakini mampu membangkitkan dan menginspirasi makar maupun aksi teror di regional Asia Tenggara. Pihak berwenang di setiap negara ASEAN harus mulai menyadari potensi tumbuhnya bibit-bibit radikalisme Islam di area masing-masing. Sebab kali ini, ISIS sangat masif, kreatif, serta menarik minat pemuda melakukan propaganda dibandingkan Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) ataupun al-Qaeda pada satu dekade yang lalu.

Ada beberapa opini yang berkembang terkait isu ini. Menurut penasihat senior International Crisis Group Sidney Jones, Warga Negara Indonesia yang akan bergabung dalam perang di Irak-Suriah melampaui jumlah yang pernah pergi ke Afghanistan paruh 1985-1994 (Brennan 2015). Pada Desember 2014 Kepala Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Terorisme (BNPT) mengatakan, 514 orang Indonesia telah melakukan perjalanan ke Irak dan Suriah ( Namun tidak menerangkan berapa banyak yang bergabung dengan ISIS.

Di Malaysia sendiri jumlah warga negara yang direkrut ISIS sekitar 40 dan di Filipina sekitar 200 (Hashim 2015). The New Straits Times menerbitkan laporan, kelompok teror yang independen seperti JI, al-Qaeda dan ISIS berlangganan ideologi serupa. Ideologi itu direproduksi ulang dan ditawarkan kembali kepada kelompok-kelompok milisi lainnya. Seperti pendahulunya, ISIS pun mengadakan kontak dengan militan di Filipina Selatan, Abu Sayyaf.

Sementara itu, ISIS juga terlihat gencar melakukan propaganda di media sosial. Pemimpin senior ISIS Abu Muthanna al Yaman menyiarkan video berjudul There Is No Life Without Jihad di youtube ( 2014). Dalam video tersebut, warga negara Inggris itu mengklaim, ISIS telah mengumpulkan milisi-milisi muslim dari seluruh dunia. Mulai dari Bangladesh, Irak, Kamboja, Australia, UK. Namun para pemimpin Muslim di Kamboja menolak klaim tersebut. Meskipun denukian, diplomat mereka mencatat bahwa ratusan siswa maupun mahasiswa dari Kamboja yang belajar di madrasah di Timur Tengah turut bergabung.

Pengalaman-Pengalaman Menghadapi Terorisme

Bagaimana ASEAN merespons masalah-masalah semacam ini? Jika melihat konteks historisnya, ancaman ekstrimisme dan radikalisme yang berujung pada aksi-aksi teror mulai mendapat tanggapan besar dari ASEAN pasca peristiwa 11 September di Amerika Serikat (AS) dan bom Bali 12 Oktober (Emmers 2003). Beberapa pengamat melihat Asia Tenggara sebagai ‘front kedua’ dalam proyek global melawan terorisme yang diusung oleh Amerika Serikat (lihat Choiruzzad, 2003; Gunaratna, 2002). Respons terhadap terorisme tersebut mencapai puncaknya pada November 2001 saat para pemimpin ASEAN mendeklarasikan perang terhadap terorisme.

Namun demikian, terlihat bahwa deklarasi tersebut tidak berasal dari konsensus nyata di antara negara-negara anggota. Adanya kepentingan domestik yang berbeda-beda antara Indonesia, Malaysia, Filipina dan Singapura  membuat pencapaian kesepakatan regional dan perumusan langkah-langkah nyata tidak berjalan dengan baik (Emmers 2003).

Di sisi lain, dimensi politik domestik juga sangat kental dalam respons ini. Sebagai contoh, Perdana Menteri Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad dan Presiden Filipina Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo dengan cepat mendukung perang Amerika melawan terorisme dan menggunakannya untuk keuntungan politik. Mahathir mengambil keuntungan 11 September untuk mendiskreditkan Partai Islam se-Malaysia dengan menggambarkannya sebagai partai militan Islam. Arroyo yang menggambarkan Abu Sayyaf sebagai gerakan teroris internasional bersedia menerima bantuan militer AS untuk menumpas anggotanya di Pulau Basilan. Singapura, yang semenjak pasca perang dingin sudah menjadi bagian dari sekutu AS (Hafiz ed. 2006), memberikan kontribusi langsung untuk mendukung proyek tersebut.

Sebaliknya, Presiden Indonesia saat itu Megawati Soekarnoputri menghadapi situasi yang sulit. Indonesia bergantung pada organisasi-organisasi muslim moderat yang menentang respon politik terhadap kelompok-kelompok teror yang diidentikkan dengan islam tersebut. Tidak adanya langkah-langkah anti-teroris di Indonesia, seperti tidak melakukan penangkapan terhadap pimpinan Jamaah Islamiyah (JI), menyebabkan Menteri Senior Singapura Lee Kuan Yew meresponnya dalam bentuk pidato pada Februari 2002 (Emmers 2003). Yew menyatakan bahwa Singapura akan beresiko terkena serangan terorisme selama pemimpin ekstremis itu tidak ditangkap. Hal ini tentu saja membawa sedikit ketegangan pada hubungan kedua negara di kawasan.

Beberapa Catatan tentang Respons ASEAN

Dengan demikian, terlihat bahwa sebagai sebuah entitas regional, pendekatan yang digunakan oleh ASEAN masih bertmpu pada inisiatif negara-negara anggotanya. Hal ini dapat dipahami, sebagaimana kritik dari beberapa analis, kelahiran ASEAN tidak dilatari oleh fondasi institusional yang kokoh (tidak seperti Uni Eropa, misalnya), oleh karenanya stabilitas bukan hal yang dapat dijelaskan secara objektif apakah mampu bertahan lama atau tidak (Kivimäki 2012). ASEAN juga dikritik punya kelemahan karena sebagai organisasi internasional memiliki sumberdaya yang minim yang secara kelembagaan tidak efisien (Kivimäki 2001; (Jasudasen 2010).

Namun demikian ASEAN sebetulnya masih memiliki cita-cita regional dalam memandang realitas masa depan. Oleh karena itu ASEAN masih harus terus mengembangkan konstruksi sosial dalam masyarakat, pentingnya ASEAN dan kekuatannya di ranah global.

Sementara itu, dampak utama propaganda ISIS di Asia Tenggara diyakini menjadi inspirasi bagi gerakan Islam ekstrimis secara langsung. Potensi ini mendatangkan ancaman serta menyinggung masalah keamanan regional. Propaganda ISIS juga harus ditangani dengan hati-hati dan efektif. Sebab, prioritas mereka untuk menghadirkan tenaga dan sumberdaya militan mulai melirik ke daerah non-inti konflik, yakni kawasan ASEAN ini mulai besar. Pengalaman kelompok militan dan ekstrimis di Indonesia, Malaysia, Filipina dan Thailand menyimpan potensi besar guna memasok kebutuhan calon yang direkrut.

Aksi radikalisme dan teror dalam regional tentunya dapat mengganggu prospek stabilitas ASEAN kedepannya. Namun, prospek tersebut tidak sebegitu mudah runtuh jika norma-norma dalam ASEAN Way diresapi. Poin-poin dari ASEAN Way (Kivimäki 2012) yaitu, (1) non-intervensi urusan dan penggunaan militer; (2) Berfokus pada hal-hal yang menyatukan ketimbang memisahkan musuh potensial; (3) Prioritas pada pembangunan (developmentalisme); (4) Praktek personalistik, berbasis konsensus, dan negosiasi yang menjunjung martabat semua pihak, menyimpan potensi besar untuk mengoptimalisasi arah kebijakan keamanan nantinya.

Respon ASEAN menanggapi aksi teror dan radikal ini seringkali hanya berupa perangkat retoris belaka. Sejauh ini, negara-negara anggota ASEAN lebih banyak berfokus pada tindakan-tindakan yang tidak mengikat, tidak spesifik, dan tanpa membangun mekanisme monitoring kemajuan melawan tindakan-tindakan teror tersebut. Masyarakat modern ASEAN perlu melepaskan diri dari kecenderungan untuk mengeluarkan statement tanpa ada aksi afirmatif yang serius di tingkat regional.

Dengan mendefinisikan ulang ASEAN Way, norma ditingkat regional dalam menghindari radikalisme mampu membangun semangat demokrasi dan ekonomi lebih baik. Fokus pada isu-isu yang lebih dapat menyatukan semangat regional seperti kesamaan menjaga budaya lokal, pertumbuhan menjadi negara yang modern, demokratis serta developmentalis mampu membuat ASEAN bertaji dan menggalang kekuatan internalnya memupus radikalisme sempit tersebut. ASEAN belum kehilangan kemampuan menghela kasus-kasus tersebut. Hanya saja instrumen pendekatan kebijakan dan strategi penanganan radikalisme perlu dikerucutkan: apakah sudah membawa semangat satu ASEAN atau masih suka berjalan sendiri-sendiri? mari kita lihat dalam konstruksi regionalisme di masa depan.


Brennan, Elliot (2015) How Southeast Asia is responding to ISIS, Lowy Institute for International Policy, Artikel dapat dibaca:

Emmers, Ralf (2003) ASEAN and the securitization of transnational crime in Southeast Asia, The Pacific Review, 16:3, 419-438, DOI: 10.1080/0951274032000085653, diunduh pada

Hadiz, Vedi R (2006) Empire and Neoliberalism in Asia (ed.), Routledge: New York.

Hashim, Ahmed S. (2015) The Impact of The Islamic State In Asia (Policy Report), S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, diunduh pada

Jasudasen, T. (2010) ASEAN’s legal framework: lost its stripes or back with a roar?, Address by Singapore Ambassador to Malaysia, before the ASEAN Law Association of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, 9 March 2010; diunduh pada

Kivimäki, Timo (2012) Southeast Asia and conflict prevention. Is ASEAN running out of steam?, The Pacific Review, 25:4, 403-427, DOI: 10.1080/09512748.2012.685094, diunduh pada

ASEAN People’s Forum 2015: Menuju ASEAN yang People-Centred dan People-Oriented?

Content - Porto - Research Aparatur

Nitia Agustini, Research Intern di ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada


Salah satu isu penting yang agak terabaikan dalam perkembangan Masyarakat ASEAN dewasa ini adalah keterlibatan Masyarakat Sipil di ASEAN. Bersamaan dengan penyelenggaraan ASEAN Summit di Kuala Lumpur,  ASEAN People’s Forum (APF) diselenggarakan di Wisma MCA Kuala Lumpur Malaysia pada 21-24 April 2015.

Pelaksanaan APF tahun ini bukan saja menandai kiprah 10 tahun masyarakat sipil dalam proses regionalisme di ASEAN (pertama kali APF/ACSC digelar di Malaysia, satu dasawarsa silam), tetapi juga menandai beberapa peningkatan keterlibatan. Antara lain, sebagaimana nanti akan dijelaskan, adanya kesempatan bertemu kepala negara ASEAN melalui interface meeting.

Pertemuan ASEAN People’ Forum tahun ini dihadiri sekitar 1400 orang yang merupakan perwakilan civil society di ASEAN dengan berbagai isu. Walaupun memiliki bidang yang berbeda-beda, peserta dalam forum ini sepakat untuk mendorong keterlibatan masyarakat dalam pembuatan kebijakan-kebijakan ASEAN.

Isu ini penting, karena sejauh ini ruang partisipasi masyarakat sipil di ASEAN memang tidak banyak terakomodasi di struktur formal. Kajian ASEAN Studies Center tahun 2014 melihat bahwa baik di isu HAM dan UKM, keterlibatan aktor non-negara dalam proses regionalisme belum sekuat negara. ASEAN masih menjadi bagian dari skema besar ‘kepentingan negara’.

Meng-address keterlibatan masyarakat sipil ini menjadi penting agar Masyarakat ASEAN tidak diidentikkan hanya pada sektor ekonomi. Selama beberapa tahun terakhir, kebijakan ASEAN lebih fokus pada pembangunan ekonomi dan liberalisasi sektor perdagangan. Konsekuensinya, ASEAN hanya menjadi domain dari kepentingan pemerintah serta pemaim bisnis besar. Hal ini berakibat pada kesenjangan pendapatan, problem pembangunan, hingga kesejahteraan yang tidak terdistribusi dengan merata.


Problem HAM

Dalam forum tersebut, muncul kegelisahan dari peserta bahwa walaupun ASEAN telah membuat Komisi ASEAN untuk Hak Asasi Manusia (AICHR) dan Deklarasi HAM ASEAN (AHRD) yang ditandatangani pada tahun 2012 silam, pelanggaran HAM masih terus terjadi. ASEAN sebagai sebuah asosiasi regional dinilai belum mampu melakukan intervensi untuk menyelesaikan itu.

Kita bisa lihat beberapa kasus, Misalnya, beberapa waktu lalu terjadi penangkapan oleh pemerintah Myanmar terhadap mahasiswa yang berdemo. Problem lain adalah yang baru-baru ini terjadi: statelessness yang menimpa beberapa kelompok etnis di Myanmar , terutama Rohingya. Di Malaysia, Laos dan Thailand, beberapa aktivis oposisi pemerintah yang menghilang, ditangkap dan direpresi. Ini belum termasuk kasus-kasus pelanggaran HAM lain di negara-negara ASEAN.

Dalam rangka mendorong percepatan pemenuhan hak masyarakat ASEAN, peserta ASEAN People’s Forum 2015 membuat sebuah rekomendasi yang berjudul “Reclaiming The ASEAN Community For The People”. Rekomendasi ini menyoroti beberapa priotitas yang penting untuk dilakukan yaitu, (1) Menjamin Keadilan dalam Pembangunan; (2) Melindungi Proses Demokrasi, Pemerintahan, serta pemenuhan Hak dasar dan Kebebasan; (3) Komitmen dalam mewujudkan Perdamaian dan Keamanan; dan (4) Mengakhiri Diskriminasi dan ketidaksetaraan.

Peserta ASEAN People’s Forum 2015 berharap adanya dialog terbuka yang konstruktif antara pemerintah dan perwakilan civil society. Hal ini agar rekomendasi yang telah dibuat dapat dipahami oleh pemerintah. Serta dapat mempengaruhi kebijakan ASEAN.

Salah satu perkembangan menarik dari ASEAN People’s Forum 2015 adalah adanya interface meeting antara perwakilan NGO, Business Advisory Council, Pemuda, dan Think-Tank dengan perwakilan Kepala Negara di ASEAN. Kendati dihadiri oleh hampir semua Kepala Negara (termasuk Presiden Joko Widodo), tidak banyak pembicaraan yang bisa dilakukan dalam forum ini.

Ada statement menarik tentang hal ini. Wathslah Naidu dari Organisasi Perempuan Malaysia pun mengatakan bahwa “Kami berharap melalui pernyataan ini, suara-suara dari semua orang akan didengar oleh para pemimpin ASEAN. Kebijakan ASEAN harus menguntungkan masyarakat yang paling terpinggirkan, tidak bekerja melawan mereka”. Hal ini menunjukan bahwa sudah saatnya pembangunan ASEAN mendengarkan aspirasi masyarakat.

Dengan demikian, prinsip ASEAN yaitu people-centred oriented tidak hanya sebuah “simbol” atau jargon yang diulang-ulang setiap kali Summit, namun benar-benar terwujud dalam proses-proses formal yang ada.


Tantangan Regionalisme ASEAN

Apa pelajaran yang bisa diambil dari keterlibatan masyarakat sipil ini?

Setidaknya, APF 2015 memperlihatkan pada kita bahwa regionalisme ASEAN dengan pendekatan people-centred oriented masih mengalami banyak kendala. Kritik banyak pihak bahwa kebijakan ASEAN selama ini berbasis kepentingan elit ASEAN, belum menemukan solusi yang benar-benar bisa dilaksakan.

Melihat pola relasi antara negara dan aktor-aktor non-negara saat inji, Mewujudkan ASEAN yang lebih inklusif dan berdampak langsung pada masyarakat masih belum bisa diwujudkan dalam waktu dekat. Alex Chandra (2009:11) menjelaskan alternatif strategi untuk mewujudkan ASEAN yang lebih “membumi”. Menurutnya, People-Centred dan People-Oriented ASEAN berarti bahwa organisasi non pemerintah (LSM) yang ada di ASEAN harus dilibatkan dalam pembuatan keputusan.

Alexander Chandra memberikan rekomendasi menarik terkait hal ini. Menurutnya, dalam proses pembuatan keputusan,. pembuat kebijakan harus memfasilitasi masuknya aspirasi konstituennya (civil society) dalam menyusun rencana kebijakan. Selanjutnya saat final drafting kebijakan, konsultasi antara negara dan perwakilan non-negara menjadi penting.

Hal ini dimungkinkan dalam format kelembagaan ASEAN, mengingat Konsultasi adalah salah satu dari dua mekanisme pengambilan keputusan di ASEAN (selain ‘Konsensus’). Ironisnya, dalam praktiknya, hal ini cukup sering diabaikan.

Jika model perumusan kebijakan dapat lebih ‘konsultatif’, kita bisa mengharapkan kebijakan-kebijakan ASEAN akan berdampak pada kesejahteraan masyarakat ASEAN. Terpenting, kebijakan ASEAN dapat bermanfaat bagi seluruh elemen masyarakat, transparan, merangkum kepentingan bersama, partisipatif dan inklusif.

Mari mengawalnya di KTT ASEAN Kuala Lumpur yang akan datang.

Refugee Crisis Meeting Should Learn from Indochinese Solution


Ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are transported to a temporary shelter in Krueng Raya in Aceh Besar in 2013. Photo: Reuters

Ethnic Rohingya refugees from Myanmar are transported to a temporary shelter in Krueng Raya in Aceh Besar in 2013. Photo: Reuters

Atin Prabandari, Researcher at ASEAN Studies Center and Lecturer at Department of International Relations, Universitas Gadjah Mada

Representatives from 17 countries and three international organisations meeting in Bangkok to discuss South-East Asia’s migrant crisis may learn from the previous refugee crisis that hit the region during the Indochina war.

Last week, after having played a game of human water polo at sea, the Indonesian and Malaysian governments agreed to temporarily shelter 3000 boat people who had been rescued – mostly by fishermen – and taken ashore. Around 4000 people are believed to still be languishing at sea, waiting to be rescued.

Most of the migrants are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshi people migrating for largely economic reasons.

Learning from the Indochinese refugee crisis

The two most pressing issues to discuss are the safety of the thousands of people at sea and refugee resettlement.

South-East Asia has faced such a crisis before. As a result of the Indochina war, 1,436,566 refugees fled Cambodia and Vietnam and arrived in South-East Asian countries looking for asylum between 1975 and 1995.

The United Nations sponsored two international conferences on the Indochinese refugee crisis in 1979 and 1989. The latter produced the “Comprehensive Plan of Action”.

Under this agreement, South-East Asian countries agreed to provide temporary asylum. The US, Australia and several European countries provided resettlement for the refugees. The Vietnamese government also cracked down on fleeing boats, halting the exodus.

Up to 1995, 1,311,183 asylum seekers were resettled. The rest were repatriated.

Several countries have sent positive signals about resettling refugees. Representatives at Friday’s meeting can model the solution for the current crisis on how the international community solved the Indochinese refugee crisis.

The US has declared its willingness to accept Rohingya refugees. The Philippines, one of two countries in South-East Asia that has signed the 1951 Refugee Convention, is also willing to take some of the refugees.

Gambia, a not-so-wealthy country in West Africa, has offered permanent asylum to the Rohingya as “fellow Muslims”. Gambia, however, still requests financial assistance from international organisations and developed nations to support its effort.

Yet Australia, a signatory to the Refugee Convention, has refused to accept any refugees from the current crisis. Prime Minister Tony Abbott said his government:

… will do absolutely nothing that gives any encouragement to anyone to think that they can get on a boat, that they can work with people smugglers to start a new life.

As party to the convention, Australia should grant asylum to some of the refugees, ensuring their rights are protected in accordance with legal and humanitarian standard.

Addressing ‘root causes’

To provide a lasting solution, the meeting should address the root problems that compel the migrants to flee their countries and take the arduous and dangerous journey on boats.

For people from Bangladesh, extreme poverty and lack of jobs have motivated them to migrate. Rohingya people from the Burmese Rakhine state have been denied citizenship by the government, resulting in multiple human rights violations and discrimination by both the government and Myanmar’s Buddhist fundamentalists.

The meeting should discuss how to ensure Myanmar’s government stops its prolonged discrimination against Rohingya people. The government should acknowledge the Rohingya as their ethnic minority and grant them citizenship.

To this end, ASEAN should continue its “constructive engagement”, the organisation’s way of using political dialogue instead of coercive measures such as economic sanction or diplomatic isolation, with Myanmar.

Meanwhile, countries such as the United States and Australia should continue to pressure Myanmar to end its human rights violations. Governments may use trade or aid as an incentive to improve human rights in the country.

The meeting should also discuss other, related causes of the crisis. Human traffickers target stateless and devastated Rohingya people. Many have ended up being enslaved, such as those forced to work in the Thai fishing industry or held for ransom in jungle camps in Thailand and Malaysia.

In this regard, Australia’s efforts in combating human trafficking and smuggling in South-East Asia – through the Bali Processon People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime – should be applied in this crisis too. Since 2002, Australia together with Indonesia has been co-chairing the voluntary forum, now joined by 45 members, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN Office of Drugs and Crimes (UNODC).

The Rohingya people are caught between persecution at home and human traffickers. Members of the international community should do all they can to end their misery.


This article was previously published at The Conversation.


Masyarakat Ekonomi ASEAN dan Tantangan Reformasi Birokrasi

Feature - Yoga

Muhammad Prayoga Permana, MPP
Kepala ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada

Masyarakat Ekonomi ASEAN (selanjutnya disingkat EA) akan segera diluncurkan akhir tahun 2015 ini. Disadari atau tidak, MEA akan sangat terkait dengan kompetisi yang makin tajam di kawasan Asia Tenggara. Kendati idealnya MEA dirancang untuk memberikan manfaat bagi semua negara anggota ASEAN, Presiden Joko Widodo dalam beberapa kesempatan memaparkan bahwa MEA merupakan persaingan antar negara.

Dalam hal ini, negara dan segenap aparatur birokrasi di dalamnya akan menjadi katalisator. Mereka akan menentukan nasib setelah MEA efektif diberlakukan per 31 Desember 2015.

Pertanyaan yang perlu diajukan, apakah Indonesia akan menjadi pemenang bersama dengan kesepuluh anggota ASEAN lainnya ataukah justru Indonesia hanya akan menjadi pasar? Berbagai pendekatan telah dilakukan dalam mengukur kesiapan masyarakat menjelang MEA. Namun, ironisnya, belum ada yang berhasil menggambarkan secara komprehensif kesiapan pemerintah sendiri.

Dalam menghadapi MEA, cara bekerja birokrasi harus berubah. Catatan ASEAN Community Progress Monitoring System (ACPMS) 2012 memaparkan proporsi ekspor Indonesia dalam produk berteknologi tinggi berada jauh di bawah rata-rata ASEAN. Artinya, kapabilitas pengembangan teknologi Indonesia masih cukup rendah dan hanya mengandalkan ekspor bahan mentah. Selain itu, ongkos ekspor Indonesia menduduki posisi ke-3 termahal di ASEAN dan untuk impor justru termurah ke-3 di ASEAN. Tanpa intervensi yang tepat dari pemerintah, MEA hanya akan menguntungkan importir untuk pasar domestik dan eksportir komoditas tanpa nilai tambah.

Memenangkan Peluang

Memenangkan peluang MEA membutuhkan adaptasi dan ketangkasan (operational agility). Ketangkasan yang dimaksud adalah bagaimana merespon perubahan lansekap ekonomi maupun ketidakpastian dengan pergerakan cepat (Kasali, 2013). Berbeda dengan sebelumnya, birokrasi publik di era baru MEA dihadapkan pada situasi yang bersifat VOCA (Volatility (bergejolak), Uncertainty (memiliki tingkat ketidakpastian yang tinggi), Complexity (saling berhubungan, saling tergantung dan rumit) dan Ambiguity (menimbulkan keragu-raguan). Oleh karena itu capaian kinerja birokrasi tidak lagi harus bersifat rule based namun harus bergerak maju ke arah yang lebih dinamis.

Situasi dalam VOCA membutuhkan setidaknya pendekatan berpikir ke depan (thinking ahead) yakni kapabilitas untuk mengidentifikasi perkembangan, memahami implikasi perubahan sosial ekonomi dan menentukan investasi kebijakan strategis maupun menciptakan lingkungan yang memungkinkan bagi masyarakat untuk memanfaatkan peluang dan meminimalisasi ancaman (Neo & Chen, 2007).

Secara fundamental, arah pengembangan birokrasi pasca-2015 perlu untuk memahami dinamika relasi antara birokrasi dan pasar misalnya. Paradigma lama yang menekankan pada minimalisasi peran birokrasi untuk merespon globalisasi telah usang. Shin (2005) menjelaskan fenomena integrasi ekonomi, seperti MEA, memiliki 2 dimensi utama yakni mobile factors dan non-mobile factors.

Dimensi pertama terfokus pada pilar investasi. Kemudahan teknologi dan integrasi perbankan membuat modal dengan cepat berpindah. Sementara itu, pada dimensi kedua, kualitas non-mobile factors seperti respon sektor publik terhadap tantangan perbaikan pelayanan, percepatan infrastruktur dan harmonisasi regulasi menjadi hal krusial yang menentukan kemana mobile factors tadi berpindah.

Dalam kasus ini, Indonesia merupakan negara dengan proses pengurusan investasi terburuk di ASEAN. Indonesia juga tercatat sangat restriktif dalam memfasilitasi mobilitas investor dalam wilayah domestiknya (Soesastro & Atje dalam Basu Das, 2012). Kondisi ini, disadari atau tidak, kan menurunkan daya tarik Indonesia dalam sektor investasi.

Competitive and Representative Government

Bagaimana menyikapi beberapa tantangan  tersebut? Selama ini, reformasi birokrasi cenderung hanya dipahami dalam tataran teknis. Meskipun penting, kitat patut mempersoalkan bagaimana arah dan cara kerja reformasi birokrasi yang berjalan selama ini terkait dengan tantangan eksternal yang muncul. Artinya, dalam menghadapi MEA, perlu adanya pembenahan paradigma aparatur birokrasi agar mampu bersiap menghadapi dan merespons transformasi ekonomi kawasan.

Pembenahan paradigma tersebut dapat dilakukan dengan memperkenalkan cara pandang competitive and representative government sebagai bagian dari Reformasi Birokrasi di Indonesia. Cara pandang tersebut menghadirkan kembali negara pada pemerintahan yang kompetitif, namun tetap memiliki kapasitas untuik merepresentasi kepentingan publik. Pemerintahan yang kompetitif berarti pemerintaan yang mampu beradaptasi dengan konstelasi global maupun regiona. Sementara itu, pemerintahan yang representatif berarti pemerintahan yang yang konsisten mengutamakan kepentingan masyarakat dan mendorong partisipasi publik di dalam penyelenggaraan pemerintahan (lihat Hameiri, 2010).

Tantangan bagi birokrasi Indonesia, dalam konteks ini, tidak hanya bekerja untuk merespon tuntutan regionalisasi ekonomi ASEAN. Pada dasarnya, birokrasi juga dituntut untuk hadir meminimalisasi ekses pasar. Dengan kata lain, birokrasi perlu menyeimbangkan antara tuntutan scorecard liberalisasi di tingkat regional dengan implementasi paket-paket kebijakan untuk mencegah eksternalitas pasar.

Berkaca pada pendekatan yang dianut pemerintah saat ini, perlu adanya evaluasi menyeluruh terhadap kecenderungan pendekatan mekanis yang berujung pada birokratisasi reformasi birokrasi perlu. Reformasi birokrasi harus mampu lepas dari kekangan tumpukan dokumen bukti kinerja. Lebih dari itu, birokrasi perlu baham betul apa sebenarnya titik peluang, tantangan dan kerawanan MEA bagi unit kerjanya masing-masing.

Masyarakat Ekonomi ASEAN merupakan titik tolak bagi birokrasi untuk berani keluar dari pakemnya. Inovasi, dengan demikian, menjadi sangat penting. Sudah saatnya standar pelayanan birokrasi mengakomodasi input dan ekspektasi sektor privat.

A Paradox of Multitrack Diplomacy

Special Meeting of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission (AICHR) » Special Meeting March 2015 KL -

Special Meeting of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission (AICHR) » Special Meeting March 2015 KL –

Ahmad Rizky Mardhatillah Umar, Researcher at ASEAN Studies Center UGM

In 1996, John MacDonald and Louise Diamond wrote the book, Multi-track Diplomacy, which promoted the role of non-state actors in diplomatic theory. This concept is now considered an alternative way of doing diplomacy.

Diplomacy is perceived as a simultaneous system of interaction between the state and non-state actor in order to gain peace. Previously, diplomacy was understood only as a matter of “politics among nations” where the state was the only actor in international relations.

Since the 1990s, the world has witnessed shifts in international politics, mainly the emergence of non-state actors, such as NGOs, multinational corporations and transnational networks of think-tanks.

MacDonald cofounded the Institute of Multi-Track Diplomacy in 1992, which was influential in endorsing the concept to many stakeholders, particularly the UN.

ASEAN also recognizes “track two” diplomacy through ASEAN-ISIS (Institutes of Strategic and International Studies) Network and its endorsement of the ASEAN People’s Assembly, now the ASEAN People’s Forum.

However, this concept has limits in addressing contemporary problems in international politics.

As an illustration, I was once invited to attend a dialogue with the ASEAN Committee of Permanent Representatives and ASEAN Secretariat. Several participants highlighted the importance of dialogue between the state, the ASEAN Secretariat and NGOs.

However, civil society members were reminded that they could come up with ideas, but they had to be delivered through the existing channels established in ASEAN to accommodate civil society’s voices. So such dialogue does not necessarily reflect negotiation between state and non-state actors.

Similarly, at the latest ASEAN People’s Forum in Kuala Lumpur, activists were disappointed because of a lack of dialogue between state representatives in discussing prominent issues in the region. Cambodian civil society organizations, for example, expressed disappointment because their expected representatives for interface meeting were replaced with lower-level officials.

These illustrations reflect a paradox in multitrack diplomacy in the political reality. Two lessons can be learned. First, multitrack diplomacy can be turned into a form of cooption or “corporatism” when perceived by non-democratic states.

Instead of endorsing stakeholder participation, this concept was used to prevent transnational networks of NGOs from advocating their interests at the international level.

Second, multitrack diplomacy can prevent dialogue and negotiations with non-state organizations that are critical of states. Through “diplomatic tracks”, every demand would be responded to based on state-defined national interests and potentials for negotiation could be reduced.

In ASEAN, which still includes states with authoritarian backgrounds, states used multitrack diplomacy as a political tool to conserve state hegemony in ASEAN and a pretext for the state to avoid negotiation and talks with non-state actors.

These lessons have led us to search for more comprehensive approaches and solutions for state-non state relations in diplomatic theories. Multitrack diplomacy should also be an arena of negotiation between all stakeholders. Participation in a separate, partial track is not enough. Stakeholders should be given enough space to negotiate with the state.

In ASEAN, radicalizing multitrack diplomacy means giving a wider place for civil society to express their interests with their leaders. So far civil society’s engagement with the state, in several countries, was primarily conducted only informally.

Before the ASEAN Community comes into effect at the end of this year, a challenge lies for every stakeholder. ASEAN is not a community of diplomats or businesspeople. ASEAN belongs to its people. Thus, every voice should be heard ; they should be given an opportunity to express their voices.

To go beyond multitrack diplomacy and propose a people-oriented diplomacy is a necessary task for every ASEAN stakeholder in the future.

This article was published at The Jakarta Post,

China and The ASEAN: A Need for Shifting Paradigm

Feature - China and ASEAN

Dedi Dinarto – Research Intern at ASEAN Studies Center Universitas Gadjah Mada (

Even though China has successfully controlled the entire Spratlys on January 1974, the discourse on China’s presence in South China Sea remains the most debated issue in Southeast Asia. Accordingly the economic, strategic and political interests of involved ASEAN member countries cannot be separeaed with this problematic issue. China’s presence in the South China Sea cannot be separated from the historical trajectory, which is claimed as its own territory. However, the establishment of the ASEAN consequently resulted the demarcation of South China Sea by several ASEAN countries, such as Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei Darussalam, claimed the South China Sea as their territory. Soon afterwards, this complexity of interest sparked the border dispute among them, which until now, has not been able to be resolved.

There are some scholarly discussions over this issue. For example, Ralf Emmers explained his main argument justifying the China’s naval position in the Spratlys has continue to be weak due to its limited power projection (Emmers, 2007:53). At that time, China naval capability did not arrange the external mission instead of remaining stay at its mainland bases. However, the transformation of China’s foreign policy, particularly during the leadership of Hu Jintao and Xi Jinping, triggered anxiety and caution of its neighbor countries, in which its action is predicted to control over some disputed border through assertive behavior.

In the sense of China’s past behavior, many diplomatic efforts have been done politically despite of military projection. But the current condition seems to be very different and any attempts to involve in the conflict will be regarded as a threat to the balance of power in South China Sea dispute. since the rise of China’s military budget has correspondingly shown its assertive behavior due to the naval presence in South China Sea. From 2013 to 2015, China’s military budget is rising year-to-year approximately US$ 114.3 billion in 2013, US$ 131.57 billion in 2014, and US$ 141.5 billion in 2015 (Erickson, 2013, 2015; Keck, 2014). Having Hua Chunying as the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, she underlined the reason behind the extensive presence of China’s naval in South China Sea with the statement to maintain the military personnel, safeguard the maritime and territorial integrity, respond the maritime search and rescue, and increase the observation and research, as well as enhance fishery production (Tiezzi, 2015).

This statement has also been revealed as the main reason of China’s reclamation projects in the conflicting area. These projects remains debatable because they have larger political functions, particularly for military bases. Nevertheless, the most important thing that we can see is all about the diplomatic way endorsed by Hua Chunying, in some purpose to hide the more political and assertive behavior toward this issue, as explained by Fareed Zakaria as an effort of Chinese to hide consciously the ‘bully’ action from international view (Li, 2009:2). In the sense, this kind of political issue is successfully reframed by Chinese using soft power approach despite of military intervention.

Understanding Regional Security in ASEAN

In general, it is worth necessary to understand how the ASEAN member countries manage their conflict or dispute internally and externally. The ‘ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea’ stated ASEAN’s position toward the disputed area by means of peaceful way, without resort to force, and to be concerned on exercise restraint (Morse, 1992:2-3). Hence, the ASEAN Way as the basic principal of member countries shows its essence to solve every bilateral or regional disputes using consultation and consensus despite of forces.

Besides that, since 1967, the ASEAN member countries have built the principle of non-interference, which means of no military conflict in every internal affairs. This principle has long to affect the relationship of ASEAN member countries. On the other hand, results some prominent principles to understand ASEAN, which are the respect of sovereignty, and the high acknowledgement on freedom, independence, and integrity.

Basically, the ASEAN member countries also stated on the Bangkok Declaration 1967 about how they should dealt with external interference, especially several Great Powers after World War II, which are Uni Soviet, United States of America, and China as the nearest and biggest neighbor. They seek to defend their regional stability by ensuring the security of ASEAN territory from external interference in any form or manifestation. Therefore, it is necessarily important to underline the framework of regional security in ASEAN which do not acknowledge the use of force and military action.

A Need for Shifting Paradigm?

Accordingly, the old understanding of regional security framework in ASEAN is justified to set aside the material purposes in which the cooperation was basically made through value and norms as the product of inter-subjectivity. It is worth to say that the construction of security community in ASEAN is non-sense and rhetorical instead of developing the substantive cooperation (Acharya, 2001:63). The unconsciousness of ASEAN member countries to accept the nature of materialismm in one hand, has been used by China to expand its military presence in the South China Sea. In the other hand, China is not only to use its soft approach getting closer to the South China Sea, but also taking some materialistic advantage in this situation, which according to the ASEAN member countries as the irrelevant factor in term of regional security.

In terms of South China Sea conflict issue, the ASEAN member countries shall re-understand the behavior of China over some disputed areas. Giulio M. Gallarotti promoted the cosmopolitanism power as the new framework to understand the current international politics. It acknowledges the possibility of soft power and hard power being practiced simultaneously. To maintain good relationship and image with all possible countries and to concern on military capability development are the two most prominent elements to define cosmopolitan power. Hence, what has China has shown to the world, particularly in the South China Sea, is worth to be described as the practice of such power. Expanding its economic cooperation is included as the practice of soft power. On the contrary, the increasing of military budget, and spreading of military presence are the concrete action of China to practice its hard power.

ASEAN member countries should also seek a new paradigm to handle the South China Sea dispute. The consciousness over the military expansion needs to be discussed further for a new strategy balancing the Chinese military presence. Not to be collided with the ASEAN Political Security Community Blueprint 2009-2015, it is important for ASEAN member countries to address their common interests on the military cooperation, particularly on the provision of common military equipment and personnel for regional integrity despites of the exclusive cooperation among disputed ASEAN member. With the notion of ASEAN centrality, a ‘common interest’ will overcome ASEAN’s passive attitudes towards Chinese military development in the South China Sea.

What Does Myanmar Student Protests Mean for ASEAN?

 Feature - Myanmar Student

Rizky Alif Alvian and Tadzkia Nurshafira

Board of Chairman and Head of Advocacy Committee at the Student Council of Faculty of Social and Politicial Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada

Justice is at stake in Burma. Two weeks ago, hundreds of student activists were detained by security forces for protesting the new National Education Law this month. Waves of solidarity has been sent to Burma as well as critics to the newly semi–democratic government to end the repression for student protest in the country. It is now a moment for student activists across ASEAN to share supports and solidarity for Myanmar students for their rights to participate in the decision-making processes, particularly in education.

The repression of student protest in Burma poses a challenge for the regional economic integration that has been planned by all ASEAN member states since 2003. What is happening now in Burma will not only harm the internal development of economic integration in the region but also prop up to some agreements regarding the establishment of ASEAN Community.

The Neglected Issue: Human Rights and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community

Flashed back to the moment when ASEAN Leaders ratified the Bali Concord II (2003) and the Cebu Declaration (2007), ASEAN leaders acknowledged that all of the member states have been admitted “ realize an integrated, stable, knowledgeable, and caring community in order to strengthen their economic competitiveness…’ [1] The ASEAN Charter (2009) also acknowledge participation and people-oriented ASEAN in order to make sure that all of integration process benefit all elements in the society.

However, we have also witnessed a fact that almost all workshops, trainings, and seminars regarding the ASEAN Community were only focusing the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). Aimed to increase people’s consiousness and knowledge instantly about ASEAN, these serials of workshops and seminars have neglected two other pillars in the ASEAN Community, particularly the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC). It is ironic because the ASCC is the most important pillar to maintain cohesivity and justice in the community. The neglection of ASCC in ASEAN discussions will lead to neglection of many problems related to social justice and conflict in the region.

Therefore, it is important for us to take a deeper look to Myanmar student protests. So far the protests have shown close connections with ASEAN integration project in social and cultural pillars. Even though all ASEAN member states have already signed the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, we still witness the violation of student’s rights to participate and express their political interests peacefully in the decision making process in a states which now should have promoted the value of democracy. This problem poses a question whether ASEAN member state’s commitment towards ASEAN Community establishment is still preserved or not___specifically for the protection of human rights which is embodied clearly in ASCC.

The ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) has basically established to realise an ASEAN Community that is people-centred and socially responsible by forging an inclusive, harmonious, and common identity[2]ASCC has two basic concerns regarding the Human Rights: Human Development and Social Justice[3].

According to the Blueprint of ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, ASEAN shall provide an equitable access to the opportunities of human development by investing education in many methods. This point is aimed to maximize efforts in enhancing the quality of human resources. In this context, the term ‘access’ should be taken into account. The blueprint does not clearly mentioned the meaning of ‘access’ in terms of higher education. Instead, the document only mentioned that ‘people shall get all of their rights only when they are able to start participating in some levels of education”.

Nevertheless, the concept of ‘access’ should not only understood merely as opportunities to enter or enjoy educational facilities, but also to involve the whole processes education, including participation in decision-making processes. An access without rights to participate in every processes is not enough to ensure human development in ASEAN.

Samuel Ku (2011) stated that this concern means that society must be engaged in providing inputes for policy choices, including the educational policy. [4] Therefore, rights to ‘access’ in terms of participation in decision-making processes as well as ‘access’ to education regardless economic ability shall also taken into consideration in understanding Human Development in ASEAN. It is quite inappropriate for the state to deny any potential from students t to think, supervise, and evaluate any educational policy in the country

Besides that, social justice and rights has also been mentioned as one of the pillar in the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community. This point is committed to ensure social justice as well as to mainstream people’s equal rights in every social aspect, including the rights and welfare of disadvantaged, vulnerable and marginalised group such as women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities and migrant workers.[5] There are some important points that shall be noted by all ASEAN member states, including; (1) ASEAN state members will definetely support any efforts to enforce the fulfillment of human rights in all levels, (2) the targeted people are all elements of society whose rights are taken by the other, (3) the efforts must be compatible with the policy in each states member

These points shall be reconsidered by the States in dealing with student protests, including what has been happened in Myanmar. A more progressive approach that consider Human Rights principles shall be undertaken by Myanmar government in dealing with their student’s demands on democratic education in the country.

The Importance of Solidarity

But what was happening in Myanmar apparently shown the opposite trends. With the repressive and violent acts, Myanmar’s commitment as ASEAN member state is now at stake. As stated in the blueprint, ASCC aimed to protect an equitable access towards human development. In Myanmar student protest, student’s demands for access to education as well as participation in decision making process shall be dealt with peaceful approach by the Government.

What is at stake here is Myanmar Government’s responses to the protests. Government must take a high stake to student’s capability of thinking and evaluating, as well as their potentials in maintaining democracy and development in the country. Thus, it is important to note that violence is not the way to resolve student protests in Myanmar. Instead violent and repressive act will only prevent Myanmar’s inclusion to ASEAN Community.

Repressive acts undertaken by Myanmar government will only harm Myanmar’s progress towards ASEAN Community. For ASEAN, this case means that progress of democratization and human rights protection that was endorsed by ASEAN shall be strengthened in regonal level. The task to strengthen human rights and democratization lies not only to Myanmar government, but also to all ASEAN member states.

It will be such a contradiction if ASEAN try to show its regional governance capacity by establishing economic liberalization through ASEAN Economic Community while at the same time put the Human Rights problem away from the dialogue. In the name of humanity and people-oriented regionalism, ASEAN must embolden some efforts to show commitment to their values in protecting student’s rights in politics.

The Student Council of Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Gadjah Mada, has expressed a solidarity for Myanmar students in an open letter. Therefore, we urge all ASEAN leaders to take all necessary action to ensure that this problem can be resolved by Myanmar Government as soon as possible.

– – –

[1]Shaun Narine, “Forty Years of ASEAN: A Historical Review,” The Pacific Review 21.4 (2008): 418

[2]ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint, p 1.

[3]Ibid, p 3.

[4]Samual C.Y. Ku, ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community: Development and Prospect, presented at International Conference on ASEAN Vision 2015: Moving Towards One Community, held by Taiwan ASEAN Studies Center, Taipei, May 24 2011

[5]Mid-Term Review on ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community

Malaysia’s Chairmanship and Civil Society Engagement in ASEAN

Malaysia Prime Minister's Palace

Malaysia Prime Minister’s Palace

Ahmad Rizky M. Umar, Researcher, ASEAN Studies Centre, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia

As Myanmar’s chairmanship in ASEAN will be ended this year, we are now looking forward to transfer the chairmanship to Malaysia next year. Malaysia will host ASEAN Summit as well as most of regional forum in ASEAN.

In line with the ‘formal’ processes, Malaysia will also host the annual ASEAN People’s Forum/ASEAN Civil Society Conference (APF/ACSC). In this forum, many civil society organisation will gather, discuss, and announce their positions on emerging regional issues in Southeast Asia, including ASEAN.

Nect year’s ASEAN People Forum will be important for two reasons. First, we are getting closer to ASEAN Community, which will be established by 2015. The forum will determine how ASEAN civil society consolidate themselves to respond the upcoming ASEAN Community.

Second, this forum is important to prove whether ASEAN can be a ‘people-oriented’ organisation, as recently acclaimed by the Charter since 2007. If ASEAN want to be consistent with this jargon, it should be able to connect its people with the state and widening participation from grass-roots in the formal decision-making processes.

Since 2003, ASEAN has been institutionalised into a more complex form of regionalism. There has been three community inside ASEAN, which are aimed to be established by 2015 –ASEAN Political Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community, and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.

From year to year, the institutionalisation is getting more complex. For example, ASEAN has made a new regional Human Rights regime with the establishment of ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. This similar trend has also happens in other sectors, particularly in economic sectors.

However, in the other side, recent institutionalisations in ASEAN have also created a bureaucratic-technocratic tendency within the Association, particularly in the form of ASEAN Secretariat. Within this institution, ASEAN decision-making process is incorporated in a bureaucratic platform, which leaves only a little room for people’s participation.

This phenomenon leaves a critical question: is there any room for civil society to participate and getting involved in ASEAN decision-making process? If ASEAN is acclaimed as ‘people-oriented’ organisation, how ‘people-oriented’ is it in terms of people’s participation?

The ‘people-oriented ASEAN’ will be proven true if it open chances to speak, participate in decision-making process. In terms of participation, we have to consider participation not only in terms of ‘formal’ or ‘instituionalized’ participation, but also how the ‘subaltern’ –those who are marginalized and not able to politically express themselves— speak.

As we are getting nearer with the upcoming ASEAN Community, which is aimed at gathering all Southeast Asian countries to a ‘people-oriented’ regionalism, this problem should be taken into account.  Without creating spaces for any interest group to speak, we will only have an ‘elite-driven’ ASEAN which is, of course, not ‘people-oriented’ at all.

The ASEAN People Forum (formerly ASEAN Civil Society Conference), which is held annually as side programs of the Summit, can be an alternative room for the people to speak. Firstly launched in 2005, this forum was organised by Non-Governmental Organisations under SAPA to create a new ‘alternative regionalism’ in Southeast Asia (Chandra, 2009).

At the beginning, the Conference has been greeted by ASEAN Leaders. Malaysia, as the host of ASEAN Summit 2005, facilitated the forum in Universiti Teknologi Mara and invited the Conference’s representative to the Summit to present the result before the Summit. It was a good beginning.

However, as the time slowly passes by, relations between NGOs and ASEAN leaders weakened. There is still no room allocated for civil society to engage in decision-making process, particularly at the summit.

For example, as has been pointed out by Kelly Gerard (2014), several civil society organisations from Cambodia and Myanmar has been rejected by the government. Many decisions also ended up as policy recommendation, because there is no room for civil society’s representative to engage at the summit.

Thus, there has been a paradox. While ASEAN aims to create a ‘people-oriented ASEAN’, or, according to Amitav Acharya, ‘creating a participatory regionalism’, the decision making process at ASEAN itself has been closed for its society.

It becomes a main problem in ASEAN today. If we still want to build a ‘people-oriented’ ASEAN, the upcoming ASEAN People Forum should be able to deal with that. ASEAN People Forum cannot be a ‘talk shop’ anymore; the result should be progressive. I hereby proposed two steps to resolve the problems.

Firstly, making the ASEAN People Forum as a place for dialogue between the ASEAN Leaders and the ASEAN People –not only civil society, but also other interest group or minority entity in Southeast Asia. The organiser should invite the ASEAN Leaders –or high-ranking officials in ASEAN Secretariat—to make sure that the result of this forum is heard by ASEAN Elite Ranks.

Secondly, building some institutional hubs to accommodate people’s aspiration in  ASEAN decision-making processes. The ASEAN People Forum is not enough to accommodate ASEAN People’s interest, so that it should be widened through the creation of an ASEAN Parliament, to make sure that the the people can speak and be represented in ASEAN.

Thus, we shall welcome Malaysia’s chairmanship in ASEAN with a homework to make sure that the ASEAN people, including the subalterns, can speak and be heard by ASEAN Leaders. This homework is left to the participant and should be advocated more seriously.

I believe that if ASEAN People Forum can be more inclusive and dialogic, the Forum will not be an annual ‘talk shop’ anymore; even we can optimistically see a more ‘people-oriented ASEAN’ in the future. However, to make it worth, the participant should be more aware with people’s participation in the upcoming ASEAN Community.

The ASEAN People Forum 2015 should deliver a message –that the ASEAN People wants to be heard in the upcoming ASEAN Community. Thus, let the ASEAN People speak in Malaysia next year!