Southeast Asia in a New Era: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN 9789812309587

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Southeast Asia in a New Era: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN

Table of contents :
About the Contributors
1. Southeast Asia: An Overview
2. Brunei Darussalam
3. Cambodia
4. Indonesia
5. Laos
6. Malaysia
7. Myanmar
8. The Philippines
9. Singapore
10. Thailand
11. Vietnam
12. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations
13. Afterword: Southeast Asia in a New Era

Citation preview

Southeast Asia •

New Era 1na

The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) was established as an autonomous organization in 1968. It is a regional centre dedicated to the study of socio-political, security and economic trends and developments in Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic and economic environment. The Institute’s research programmes are the Regional Economic Studies (RES, including ASEAN and APEC), Regional Strategic and Political Studies (RSPS), and Regional Social and Cultural Studies (RSCS). ISEAS Publishing, an established academic press, has issued almost 2,000 books and journals. It is the largest scholarly publisher of research about Southeast Asia from within the region. ISEAS Publishing works with many other academic and trade publishers and distributors to disseminate important research and analyses from and about Southeast Asia to the rest of the world.

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Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN Edited by

Rodolfo C. Severino, Elspeth Thomson and Mark Hong

Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Singapore

First published in Singapore in 2009 by ISEAS Publishing Institute of Southeast Asian Studies 30 Heng Mui Keng Terrace, Pasir Panjang Singapore 119614 E-mail: [email protected] Website: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. © 2009 Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore The responsibility for facts and opinions in this publication rests exclusively with the authors and their interpretations do not necessarily reflect the views or the policy of the publishers or their supporters. ISEAS Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data Southeast Asia in a new era : ten countries, one region in ASEAN / edited by Rodolfo C. Severino, Elspeth Thomson and Mark Hong. 1. ASEAN. 2. Southeast Asia. I. Severino, Rodolfo C. II. Thomson, Elspeth III. Hong, Mark. 2009 DS525 S72 ISBN 9978-981-230-957-0 (soft cover) ISBN 9978-981-230-958-7 (PDF)

This book is meant for educational and learning purposes. The authors of the book have taken all reasonable care to ensure that the contents of the book do not violate any existing copyright or other intellectual property rights of any person in any manner whatsoever. In the event the authors have been unable to track any source and if any copyright has been inadvertently infringed, please notify the publisher in writing for corrective action.

Typeset by International Typesetters Pte Ltd Printed in Singapore by International Press Softcom Ltd

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Contents Foreword Tan Tai Yong


Preface K. Kesavapany


About the Contributors


Acknowledgements 1. Southeast Asia: An Overview Daljit Singh

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xix 3

2. Brunei Darussalam P. Thambipillai


3. Cambodia Sorpong Peou


4. Indonesia J. Soedradjad Djiwandono and Leonard C. Sebastian


5. Laos Martin Stuart-Fox


6. Malaysia Johan Saravanamuttu and Ooi Kee Beng


7. Myanmar Tin Maung Maung Than and Kyaw Yin Hlaing


8. The Philippines Noel M. Morada


9. Singapore Ho Khai Leong


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10. Thailand Pavin Chachavalpongpun


11. Vietnam Le Dang Doanh and Pham Hoang Ha


12. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Rodolfo C. Severino


13. Afterword: Southeast Asia in a New Era Mark Hong



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Foreword Unlike most of the existing publications on ASEAN, this volume focuses not on ASEAN as a regional entity but on the ten countries that compose the whole. It is this approach that makes this an interesting and useful volume, and which complements well the recently published Know Your ASEAN (ISEAS, 2007) as up-to-date, informative and accessible resource materials suitable for students and the general public. With ten in-depth studies of the states that make up ASEAN, this volume offers the reader a useful groundlevel view of the different and distinct parts that constitute the region and the regional grouping. The country studies deal with historical evolution, development strategies, political systems and national characteristics (accompanied by useful statistical data and chronologies) of the member states of ASEAN. They reveal the similarities of regional environment and experience, as well as the commonness of purpose and challenges, that underpin the desirability of and, indeed, the need for tighter and deeper regional co-operation. At the same time, specific national interests and varying domestic priorities of the different states are the very factors that often come in the way of collective regional objectives. ASEAN has indeed come a long way since its establishment in 1967. At forty years, it is on the threshold of a new era. An ASEAN Charter has entered into effect, reflecting a greater sense of common purpose and belonging among its member states, and there is high expectation for Southeast Asia to collectively become an essential part of Asia’s inevitable economic and political ascendancy this century. Has ASEAN consolidated and defined Southeast Asia as one unified region? The answer lies not in the rhetorical expression for “ASEAN-ness” based on an imagined identity but in the realities embedded in the individual countries that make up ASEAN. Different levels of economic development, pace of liberalization and the state of governance of its members are challenges to the forging of a truly cohesive and effective ASEAN community. The fulfilment of effective regionalism will depend ultimately on finding congruence and complementarities among a range of sometimes incompatible economic and political structures, interests and priorities. To understand ASEAN and how it functions, one needs, therefore, to know its constituent parts. Herein lies the value of this compilation. vii

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ISEAS must be congratulated for publishing in quick succession a number of useful and accessible volumes that will surely enhance knowledge of ASEAN and its composite parts and support that indispensable educational process that will contribute to greater understanding and awareness of what it means to be a citizen of ASEAN.

Professor Tan Tai Yong Dean, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences National University of Singapore


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Preface This book arises out of the conjunction of several events and objectives. The events include the celebration of ASEAN’s fortieth anniversary as well as ISEAS’ own fortieth anniversary in 2008: what better way to commemorate these two significant anniversary years than a solid book on our region, published by ISEAS? The aims of this book include our desire to contribute to ASEAN community building, as expressed in the declared objective to construct the three ASEAN communities — security, socio-cultural and economic — by 2015. Communities need to be founded on solid understanding, cooperation and trust between the peoples who comprise these communities. For that to happen, mutual knowledge and understanding have to exist and to grow. This book aims to enhance knowledge, especially amongst the youth, of the ten countries that make up ASEAN. A second major aim, as stated by the Singapore Ministry of Education (MOE), is to teach our students about our neighbours. ISEAS has thus aimed at achieving this national objective through this book, which has benefited from tapping the expertise of ASEAN scholars and national perspectives in writing and producing an accessible and interesting book. Southeast Asia is a vibrant, rich and fast-developing region that dominates vital international sea-lanes. There are many fascinating stories to be told about each of the ten ASEAN members. This book delivers these narratives in a readable discourse about the struggles for independence, development, peace and prosperity undergone by each country. We hope that the public and the students will enjoy and learn from this user-friendly book. Finally, I wish to thank the three editors, Mark Hong, Visiting Research Fellow at ISEAS, Rodolfo C. Severino, Head of the ASEAN Studies Centre, ISEAS, and Dr Elspeth Thomson, Senior Fellow at the Energy Studies Institute and Visiting Research Fellow at ISEAS, for their hard work in editing this book, ably assisted by Miss Stasia Stanislava, ISEAS intern,


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and Benjamin Tang, ESI energy economist, as well as all the paper writers and the ISEAS Publications Unit.

K. Kesavapany Director, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies Singapore


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About the Contributors Pavin CHACHAVALPONGPUN ([email protected]) is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore. Prior to this, he served in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand in many capacities, including most recently at the Royal Thai Embassy in Singapore. He received his Honours BA in International Relations from Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science and his PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, Department of Political Studies, University of London. He is the author of A Plastic Nation: The Curse of Thainess in Thai-Burmese Relations (2005), and contributor to a number of forthcoming books, including Conflict and Legitimacy Crisis in Thailand and Political Change, Democratic Transitions and Security in Southeast Asia, to be released by end 2009. Pavin is also the author of Reinventing Thailand: Thaksin Shinawatra and His Foreign Policy, to be published in late 2009 by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. He is a regular contributor to The Nation, Bangkok Post, Straits Times, South China Morning Post, OpinionAsia and The Irrawaddy, writing mostly on topics relating to Thai politics, nationalism and national identity, Thai foreign policy, and international relations in general. J. Soedradjad DJIWANDONO ([email protected]) was Professor at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and member of the Pro-tem Advisory Board to the Provost of NTU. He is also Emeritus Professor of Economics at the University of Indonesia. He taught Economics at the Faculty of Economics, the University of Indonesia. He also had a long career, serving in different capacities in the Indonesian Government, including the Department of Finance and the Department of Trade and Industry, the National Planning Board (Bappenas) and the Office of the Minister Coordinator for Economics and Finance. He held cabinet posts: as Junior Minister for Trade and as Governor of Bank Indonesia, Indonesia’s central bank. All were in the Soeharto government. He earned his BA from Gajah Mada University, Yogyakarta, his MSc from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and his MA in Political Economy and PhD in Economics from Boston University. His research interests include the monetary, banking and trade policies of Indonesia and ASEAN. His publications include several books: Mengelola Bank Indonesia Dalam Masa Krisis (2001), xi

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About the Conributors

Bergulat Dengan Krisis (2001), and Bank Indonesia and the Crisis: An Insider’s View (2005). He was also editor and team leader of a six-volume book, Sejarah Bank Indonesia, 1945–2003 [History of Bank Indonesia], of which five were published in 2006 and 2007. He has contributed chapters in a number of books, as well as articles in journals and newspapers on monetary economics, international trade and development economics. HO Khai Leong ([email protected]) is Associate Professor, School of Humanities and Social Science, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and an Associate Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. He has a PhD from Ohio State University. His current research interests include Singapore and Malaysia politics, China-ASEAN relations, corporate governance and administrative reforms. His publications include The Politics of Policy-making in Singapore (2000) (The new edition is published as Shared Responsibilities, Unshared Power: The Politics of Policy-making in Singapore, 2003); Performance and Crisis of Governance of Mahathir’s Administration (co-editor, 2001); and China and Southeast Asia: Global Changes and Regional Challenges (coeditor, 2005). The latest works he has edited are Reforming Corporate Governance in Southeast Asia: Economics, Politics and Regulations (2005); Rethinking Administrative Reforms in Southeast Asia (2006); and Ensuring Interests: Dynamics of China-Taiwan Relations and Southeast Asia (co-editor) (2006). Mark HONG ([email protected]) is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore, and a ViceChairman of the International Committee of the Singapore Business Federation. He has a BA in Economics from Cambridge University and an MSc in International Relations from Georgetown University (Fulbright Scholarship). Hong joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1969. He served at the Singapore Embassy in Phnom Penh (1974 to 1975), at the Singapore Commission in Hong Kong (1975 to 1976), the Singapore Embassy in Paris (1982 to 1986) and the Singapore Permanent Mission to United Nations in New York (1988 to 1994). At the MFA headquarters, he served in various senior capacities. His last foreign posting was as Singapore Ambassador to Russia and Ukraine from November 1995 to March 2002. From 2002 to 2004, he was a visiting senior fellow in the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He has delivered over 200 conference papers and lectures to various international seminars and conferences and has edited four ISEAS books on energy issues, one on Southeast Asia and two on ASEAN-Russia relations. xii

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About the Contributors

LE Dang Doanh ([email protected]) is with the private, independent Institute for Development Studies in Hanoi. Before October 2007, he served as President of the Central Institute of Economic Management in Vietnam, Advisor to the Minister for Planning and Investment and Member of the Prime Minister’s Research Commission. Prior to this, he was a Senior Economist in the General Secretary Nguyen Van Linh’s Office of the Communist Party from 1988 to 1990. In 1967 he earned a degree with high distinction in Chemical Technology from the Technical University of Leuna-Merseburg in the German Democratic Republic. In 1984 he studied economics at the National Economy Academy in Moscow. From 1985 to1990 he was at the National Economic University and received his PhD in Economics in 1995. Le Dang Doanh has published extensively in Vietnamese and English on issues surrounding economic reform in Vietnam. He speaks German, English, French and Russian. KYAW Yin Hlaing ([email protected]) is Assistant Professor of Asian and International Studies at the City University of Hong Kong. He is currently conducting research on the “Political Economy of Rice in Burma” and on “Democracy, Social Movements and Dictatorship” in Myanmar. His area of specialization is mainland Southeast Asia. A native of Myanmar., he received a BA from the University of Mandalay and an MA and PhD from Cornell University. He is completing research for a book on Myanmar's post-socialist political economy. Noel MORADA ([email protected]) is Professor of Political Science, Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines. He was a Distinguished Visiting Professor, Southeast Asia Studies Program, at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) of the Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC in the Spring of 2008. He was also Visiting Professor at the Asia Europe Institute, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, in March 2009 and handled a course on ASEAN political and economic policy agenda in the Institute’s International Masters in ASEAN programme. Morada was Chair of the Department of Political Science (2003–07), College of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of the Philippines. He was recently awarded the University of the Philippines Diliman Centennial Professorial Chair 2008–09 for this contribution in the field of political science. His areas of specialization include Southeast Asian security, comparative politics of Southeast Asia, and ASEAN relations with China, Japan, and the United States. He is a member of the International Advisory Board of the Asia Pacific Centre for R2P (Responsibility to Protect) based in the University of Queensland in Australia. He is also on the Editorial xiii

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About the Conributors

Board of the Global Responsibility to Protect, an international refereed journal. Morada’s other publications include “The Philippines: State vs. The People?”, in Asian Security Practice: Material and Ideational Influences, edited by Muthiah Alagappa (1998); “The Revitalized Philippine-US Security Alliance: Exploring Mutuality of Interests in the Fight Against International Terrorism”, Southeast Asian Affairs 2003; “The Fight Against Terrorism in Southeast Asian After the Iraq War” (Panorama, 1/2003); and “After the Withdrawal from Iraq: Progress and Setbacks in Philippine-US Security relations”, in Controlling Arms and Terror: After Bali and Iraq, edited by Marika Vicziany (2007). OOI Kee Beng ([email protected]) is a Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore, where he coordinates the Malaysia Studies Programme. His PhD is in Sinology, from Stockholm University, where he lectured on Chinese Philosophy and Chinese History from 1995 to 2004. His books include Arrested Reform: The Undoing of Abdullah Badawi (2009); March 8: Eclipsing May 13 (2008, co-authored with Johan Saravanamuttu and Lee Hock Guan); Malaya’s First Year at the United Nations (2008, co-compiled with Tawfik Ismail); Lost in Transition: Malaysia under Abdullah (2008); The Era of Transition: Malaysia after Mahathir (2006); Chinese Strategists: Beyond Sun Zi’s Art of War (2006); The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Time (2006) and Continent, Coast and Ocean: Dynamics of Regionalism in Eastern Asia (2007, co-edited with Ding Choo Ming), Chinese Studies of the Malay World: A Comparative Approach (2003, co-edited with Ding Choo Ming), and HRD for Developing States and Companies (2005, co-edited with Abdul Ghani Metusin). His translations of Chinese classics into Swedish include Wei Liao Zis krigskonst (2001), Wu Zis krigskonst (2001) and Sunzis krigskonst (1997, with Bengt Pettersson). He writes regular commentaries on Malaysian politics and socioeconomics in regional newspapers. PHAM Hoang Ha ([email protected]) has been a Researcher in the Department of Economic Management at the Central Institute for Economic Management, Hanoi, since 1993. He writes primarily on Vietnam’s fiscal and monetary policies, financial institutions, business environment and competitiveness. He has done work-related stints in China, Australia, Sweden and the UK. He has a Bachelor of Economics from the National Economic University in Vietnam (1992), a Graduate Diploma in Development Economics from the Australian National University (1997) and an MSc in Economics from Birmingham University (2003).


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About the Contributors

Sorpong PEOU ([email protected]) is Professor of International Security (Political Science) in the Graduate Program on Global Studies and the Faculty of Liberal Arts, Sophia University, Tokyo. He has a PhD from York University, Toronto. Born in Cambodia, he is a Canadian citizen and has been working overseas for the past 15 years. He was a Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) before taking up a teaching position at Sophia University in 1999. He has authored three books: International Democracy Assistance for Peacebuilding: Cambodia and Beyond (2007), Intervention and Change in Cambodia: Toward Democracy? (2001), Conflict Neutralization in the Cambodia War: From Battlefield to Ballot-box (1997), and Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific: Theory and Practice (forthcoming). The edited volume, Human Security in East Asia: Challenges for Collaborative Action (2008), has just been published. His main research interests are security studies and democracy studies. He is working on several other projects in the field of international security. Johan SARAVANAMUTTU ([email protected]) is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore. He was formerly professor of political science at Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, where he served as Dean of the School of Social Sciences (1994–96) and as Dean of the Research Platform on Social Transformation (2003–06). In 1997, he was the Visiting Chair in ASEAN and International Studies at the University of Toronto. His published works include the first major study of Malaysia’s foreign policy (1983), ASEAN regional non-governmental organizations (1986) and the nexus between industrialization and the institutionalization of authoritarian regimes in Southeast Asia (1991). More recent publications include New Politics in Malaysia (co-edited with Francis Loh, 2003) and Political Islam in Southeast Asia, Special Issue (Guest Editor), Global Change Peace and Security (vol. 16, no. 2, June 2004). He is currently writing a book on Malaysia’s Foreign Policy: The First 50 Years. Leonard C. SEBASTIAN ([email protected]) is Associate Professor and Head, Undergraduate Studies and Coordinator of the Indonesia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS). He is a member of the Advisory Panel to the Singapore Government Parliamentary Committee on Defence and Foreign Affairs (GPC-DFA). Sebastian joined RSIS (previously known as the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies) as Senior Fellow in October 2000. From February 1995 to September 2000 he was a Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS). Prior to joining ISEAS,


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About the Conributors

he worked for the Current Affairs Division of the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (1988–89). Sebastian earned a BA in history from York University, in the process winning the Department of History’s International Churchill Society Award. His MA (with distinction) in political science and graduate diploma in strategic studies are also from York. In 1992, he was awarded an ISEAS scholarship and completed a PhD in politics and international relations from the Australian National University, where he was affiliated with the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies. He is the author of Realpolitik Ideology: Indonesia’s Use of Military Force (2006). His refereed articles have been published in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Cambridge Review of International Affairs and Contemporary Southeast Asia. His research interests include Indonesia’s politics, political economy, regional autonomy, foreign policy and civil-military relations; regional security in Southeast Asia; and international relations theory. Rodolfo C. SEVERINO ([email protected]) is the head of the ASEAN Studies Centre at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore and a frequent speaker at international conferences in Asia and Europe. Having been Secretary-General of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations from 1998 to 2002, he has completed a book, entitled Southeast Asia in Search of an ASEAN Community, published by ISEAS, on issues facing ASEAN, including the economic, security and other challenges confronting the region. He has also produced a book on ASEAN in ISEAS’ Southeast Asia Background Series. His views on ASEAN and Southeast Asia have been published in ASEAN Today and Tomorrow, a compilation of his speeches and other statements. Severino has completed a book on the ASEAN Regional Forum, and is currently working on one on the Philippine national territory. He writes articles for journals and for the press. Before assuming the position of ASEAN Secretary-General, Severino was Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines. In the Philippine Foreign Service, Severino was Ambassador to Malaysia from 1989 to 1992. He twice served as ASEAN Senior Official for the Philippines. Severino has a BA in the humanities from the Ateneo de Manila University and an MA in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. Daljit SINGH ([email protected]) is a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore. He read Philosophy and History at the then University of Malaya in Singapore, majoring in Philosophy, and then read Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford University. His career has spanned the public service in Singapore as well as the scholarly world at ISEAS. His research interests are Southeast Asian security and politics, including the policies and interests of the major powers xvi

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About the Contributors

in this region. He has written book chapters and articles on these issues and contributed opinion pieces in the local and international press. He has been editing or co-editing the ISEAS annual publication Southeast Asian Affairs for most of the past decade and was also editor for a number of years of ISEAS’ annual Regional Outlook. His most recent (edited) publications are Southeast Asian Affairs 2009 and The Political and Security Dynamics of South and Southeast Asia. Martin STUART-FOX ([email protected]) is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Queensland. After an early career in journalism, mostly in Asia, he completed his MA and PhD in the theory and philosophy of history, before joining the staff of the university. He became interested in Laos after the Pathet Lao seized power in 1975. Stuart-Fox has written more than fifty articles and book chapters and six books on Laos, including Laos: Politics, Economics, and Society, History (1986), The Lao Kingdom of Lan Xang: Rise and Decline (c1998), Buddhist Kingdom, Marxist State: The Making of Modern Laos (1996), and Historical Dictionary of Laos (1992, now in its third edition). His best-known work on Laos, however, is his History of Laos (Cambrige University Press, 1997). He has also written A Short History of China and Southeast Asia: Tribute, Trade and Influence (2003). He is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. Pushpa THAMBIPILLAI ([email protected]) is teaching at the Department of Public Policy and Administration, University of Brunei Darussalam. She has a BSc and MSc from Universiti Sains Malaysia and an MA and PhD in Political Science from the University of Hawaii. Her teaching and research interests include international organizations, ASEAN, and the Asia Pacific. She has contributed articles on Brunei to Southeast Asian Affairs, Regional Outlook and Asia Pacific Security Outlook. Elspeth THOMSON ([email protected]) is a Senior Fellow at the Energy Studies Institute (ESI), National University of Singapore. She received her PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her main research interests are Asian energy economics and security and Asian transport. She authored The Chinese Coal Industry: An Economic History (2003) and an edited volume, China’s Science & Technology Sector and the Forces of Globalisation (2008). She has published articles concerning various aspects of Asia’s energy sector in The China Quarterly, Pacific and Asian Journal of Energy, Journal of Applied Statistics, China Review, East Asia: An International Quarterly, and Perspectives. She has co-edited the East Asian Institute’s internationally refereed journal, China: An International Journal, xvii

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About the Conributors

since 2003. Through the 1990s she taught at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver and Lingnan University in Hong Kong. TIN Maung Maung Than ([email protected]), a Myanmar national, is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), Singapore. After completing a Masters in nuclear physics at the Rangoon Arts and Science University and a graduate diploma in economic planning at the Rangoon Institute of Economics, he later obtained a PhD in politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. A member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London) and the Association for Asian Studies (USA), he is currently the Associate Editor of the ISEAS journal Contemporary Southeast Asia and the series editor of ISEAS Working Papers. Over two decades, he has contributed more than ninety articles in newsletters, newspapers, journals and edited volumes. He is the author of State Dominance in Myanmar: The Political Economy of Industrialization (2007) and “Mapping the Contours of Human Security Challenges in Myanmar”, in Myanmar: State, Society and Ethnicity, edited by N. Ganesan and Kyaw Yin Hlaing (2007). His research interests include political economy of development, democratization and civil-military relations in developing countries, human security, nuclear proliferation, Myanmar politics and economics.


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Acknowledgements We are grateful to the following for granting us permission to reproduce the photographs listed below: Cover and p. 265: Laos performers dance during the closing ceremony of the Southeast-Asian (SEA) Games in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, 15 December 2007. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom. p. 1: A man looks at a screen outside a United Overseas Bank (UOB) branch in Singapore’s financial district, 31 October 2008. REUTERS/Vivek Prakash. p. 25: Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, 3 May 2007. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad. p. 45: Angkor Wat, parts of which are being restored in Siem Reap, Cambodia, 9 December 2007. REUTERS/Emma Goh. p. 65: Selamat Datang Monument in JI. MH Thamrin in Jakarta, Indonesia, 27 December 2008. TEMPO/Zulkarnain. p. 70: May 1973 — Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew scattering flowers on the graves of the two Indonesian marines hanged in October 1968 for exploding a bomb in 1965. United Press International. p. 72: A statue of the Buddha in the compound of Borobudur temple in Central Java, Indonesia, 3 June 2004. REUTERS/Dwi Oblo. p. 95: That Luang tower, Laos’ national Buddhist shrine, in Vientiane, 24 July 2005. REUTERS/Chaiwat Subprasom. p. 111: Malaysia’s landmark Petronas Twin Towers and Kuala Lumpur Tower are seen in the capital Kuala Lumpur, 24 December 2003. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad. p. 133: Buddhist monks walk around the compound of the Shwedagon pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar, 5 January 2002. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang. p. 159: The monument to national hero Jose Rizal, located in Luneta Park in the centre of Manila, Philippines. Two soldiers stand guard in front of the monument. Photo by Aidan O’Rourke . p. 179: The Esplanade and the uncompleted Marina Bay Sands casino resort in Singapore, 31 December 2008. REUTERS/Tim Chong.


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p. 195: Evening sets over Singapore’s Chinatown district, 18 November 2008. REUTERS/Dennis Owen. p. 199: A bridge crossing Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river in the western suburb of the Thai capital, 28 June 2006. REUTERS/Sukree Sukplang. p. 219: Pagoda in centre of Ho Hoan Kiem Lake, Vietnam. Hanoi Lonely Planet Images (Rights-managed). p. 239: A delegate reading documents in front of flags of ASEAN member countries in Singapore, 23 July 2008. REUTERS/Romeo Gacad.


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Southeast Asia: An Overview Daljit Singh

THE LAND, SEAS AND PEOPLE Lying between China and India to the north and northwest, respectively, and Australia to the south, Southeast Asia straddles 30 degrees of latitude and over 40 degrees of longitude at its widest in Indonesia. The distance from the northern tip of Aceh to the easternmost part of Papua is over 4,000 kilometres. It is as far from Mandalay to Jakarta as it is from Madrid to Moscow in Europe. Singapore to Jayapura in Papua is as far as Singapore to Shanghai. A significant part of this vast area is made up of seas, but the combined land area covers nearly 4.5 million square kilometres, which is larger than India. Southeast Asia is mostly a maritime region with waterways, islands and peninsulas forming a large part of its geography. Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore are island nations, with the first two comprising large archipelagos of thousands of islands. Malaysia has a peninsula in the west separated by a large expanse of the South China Sea from its territories on the island of Borneo. Even the three largest states of mainland or “continental” Southeast Asia — Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam — have long coastlines. Many of their people live near the coasts or on the banks and deltas of large rivers flowing south from the eastern Himalayas and the highlands of southwestern China into the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea. Only Laos is landlocked. Because of its maritime character, Southeast Asia as a region cannot close itself from the outside world the way large continental powers can, and, indeed, has from its early history been open to traders from many countries. 3

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SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN

The main sea routes between the Indian and Pacific oceans, vital for trade and commerce as well as for naval movements of the major powers, pass through narrow straits in Southeast Asia, making it a region of great strategic importance. The most important of these straits are the Strait of Malacca and the Strait of Singapore, through which pass half the world’s oil and the critical energy imports of Japan, China and Korea. The other important straits are the Sunda Strait, the Lombok Strait and the Makassar Strait between Indonesian islands. Southeast Asia is rich in natural resources. It is the world’s largest supplier of natural rubber and palm oil and also has minerals, such as oil, tin, copper, gold, bauxite and natural gas. The region has a population of over 560 million, nearly half the population of China or India, but almost twice that of the third most populous country in the world, the United States. Indonesia, which accounts for two-fifths of the population of Southeast Asia, is the fourth most populous country in the world. The Philippines and Vietnam each have more people than Germany, while Thailand has as many as France or Britain. Thus, the countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are not insignificant insofar as population size is concerned; most of them are large nations. The total gross domestic product (GDP) of Southeast Asia was just over US$1 trillion in 2007. While this makes it about the same size as that of India, which has double the population, it is only about 20 per cent more than the GDP of South Korea, which has less than 50 million people, and 30 per cent larger than that of Australia, which has only 21 million people. This shows that much of Southeast Asia is still part of the developing world, with much room for further development. The term Southeast Asia came to be frequently used only during the There are more Muslims Second World War, when it referred to the region as a theatre of war. in Southeast Subsequently it was accepted as a distinct geographical region. However, Asia than the label “Southeast Asia” should no more presuppose homogeneity of its in the Arab constituent parts than the term Europe can be taken to imply homogeneity world there. There is an enormous variety of peoples, cultures, languages, religions and more and political systems in Southeast Asia. Most of the world’s great religions are Christians found here. There are more Muslims in Southeast Asia than in the Arab world than in and more Christians than in France and Spain combined. Many Southeast France Asians may not be fully aware of the fact that they live in the midst of such and Spain a richly diverse and complex cultural environment. Still, until the colonial combined. powers changed the flows of trade from the seventeenth century onwards, maritime trade linked Southeast Asians more closely to one another than to any extra-regional power, whether India, China or the more distant countries of Europe, with the Malay language serving as the main lingua franca of trade. 4

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1 • Southeast Asia: An Overview

Two of the great centres of Asian civilization, China and India, had a significant influence upon Southeast Asia’s early history. However, it would be incorrect to regard Southeast Asia as just a product of Indian or Chinese culture and traditions. Contemporary scholars have recognized for some time that Southeast Asia had its own cultures and languages and its own trading patterns even before the impact of India began in the early part of the first millennium. Southeast Asian societies borrowed and adapted external influences and practices, just as many other societies, ancient and modern, have done in other parts of the world. The Western colonial period had a powerful impact on Southeast Asia, but this impact, too, should be seen in the proper historical perspective and not exaggerated. Southeast Asians were far from being primitive peoples before colonial rulers arrived. Large and powerful kingdoms flourished long before then. In the eleventh century when London was a town of just 35,000 people, with ill-kept streets, according to historian Milton Osborne, the city of Angkor in present-day Cambodia had more than a million people around it and could rival and surpass any city then existing in Europe in its architectural achievements, its water engineering and its capacity to regularly produce three rice harvests a year. Some of the most accomplished sailors of early Asian history were Malays from the region now occupied by Indonesia and Malaysia, who had the enterprise and navigational skills to sail to Africa across the Indian Ocean, hundreds of years before Vasco da Gama navigated the Cape of Good Hope to enter the same ocean. Also noteworthy is that women in pre-colonial Southeast Asia often enjoyed better autonomy and status in society than their sisters in India and China. There was high female participation in trade and business all over Southeast Asia, and early Chinese and European traders were always surprised to find themselves dealing with women. The value of daughters was never questioned as it was in India and China.1 Some kingdoms in Southeast Asia also had female rulers, including Patani and Aceh.

EARLY HISTORY: INDIAN AND CHINESE INFLUENCES AND THE ARRIVAL OF ISLAM Except for the Philippines and the northern part of what is now Vietnam, Southeast Asian kingdoms in the first millennium were influenced by India in religion, government, law, architecture and arts such as sculpture, dance and music. The Indian cultural impact took place for a period of over a thousand years, from about 300 to 1300, not through conquest or colonization, but peacefully through the spread of ideas by traders and religious teachers. Sanskrit words have enriched the vocabularies of languages in Southeast 5

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SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN

Kingdom of Srivijaya The Malay kingdom of Srivijaya, based in Palembang, Sumatra, dominated the Strait of Malacca and its environs for several centuries, controlling much of the regionʼs trade. During this period, Palembang became one of the most important Buddhist centres in Southeast Asia. Many Chinese Buddhist monks travelling by sea between China and India stopped at Palembang to learn Sanskrit and prepare themselves for the onward journey to the great university of Nalanda in India. One such Chinese monk, Yi-Tsing, described Palembang in the 8th century as a fortified city with more than a thousand Buddhist monks who studied the religion just as people did in India. “If a Chinese monk wants to travel to India to listen and read Buddhist laws, he must stay in Fo-che [Palembang] during one or two years to learn how to behave properly”, before proceeding to India, observed Yi-Tsing. Source: Paul Michel Manuz, Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula (Singapore: Didier Millet Pte Ltd, 2006), p. 123.

Asia. Hindu classics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana still have a significant place in the classical dances and shadow plays of the region. Great temples and religious monuments were built. Some of these, such as the Buddhist Angkor Wat in Cambodia and Borobudur in Java and the Hindu temple complex of Prambanan, also in Java, survive to this day. They have no equivalents in India, a fact that shows the creativity of the Southeast Asians in adapting and developing the Indian model. Southeast Asian kingdoms that creatively borrowed and adapted Indian ideas included Funan and Champa, established around AD 200 around the lower Mekong Valley and central Vietnam, respectively; the Khmer kingdoms between the sixth and fifteenth centuries culminating in the great Angkorian civilization; the Siamese Ayuthia founded in the fourteenth century; Bagan in Burma from the eleventh to the thirteenth century; the Sumatra-based Srivijaya, which lasted from the seventh century until the early thirteenth century, holding sway over much of Sumatra, west Java and the Malay Peninsula in its hey day; and Java-based kingdoms, including Majapahit. In Burma, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos, Theravada Buddhism, which came originally from south India and Ceylon, remains the predominant religion to this day, distinct from the more eclectic Mahayana Buddhism in China and Vietnam. However, in much of maritime Southeast Asia, Islam later replaced Hinduism and Buddhism, except on the Indonesian island of Bali, where Hinduism still remains the predominant religion. 6

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Chinese cultural influence was less extensive than Indiaʼs, confined mainly to Vietnam.

1 • Southeast Asia: An Overview

China too featured prominently in the early history of Southeast Asia. Its cultural influence was less extensive than India’s, confined mainly to Vietnam, the northern part of which was ruled by the Chinese for a thousand years. The Vietnamese imbibed important elements of Chinese culture, including Confucianism. However, Chinese communities that had settled in Southeast Asia for generations, some from pre-colonial times, interacted with indigenous cultures to produce pockets of hybrid Peranakan cultures all over Southeast Asia. Some Chinese intermarried with local elites or, as in Thailand, adopted local cultures and played important roles in the country’s business or political affairs. There were often strong Chinese trade links with Southeast Asia, with China providing products like ceramics and textiles, while Southeast Asians sold aromatics, wood products and raw materials. In the era before Western colonialism, China had a geopolitical impact on Southeast Asia in a way that India did not, except for a brief period in the eleventh century, when the Chola kings in South India attacked Srivijaya possessions, possibly to challenge its monopoly on China trade. China’s geopolitical reach was felt more directly in regions bordering China — for instance, Vietnam and Burma were invaded by the Chinese in the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. It was felt more loosely and intermittently in maritime Southeast Asia, where Southeast Asian rulers periodically paid tribute to the Chinese emperor and were given trade privileges in return. One period when the Chinese imperial power was felt more strongly in maritime Southeast Asia was during the early part of the fifteenth century in the Ming dynasty. China then maintained a diplomatic alliance with Malacca (which controlled the Strait of Malacca and trade with China) and acted as a counter-balance to potential threats to Malacca like the Javabased Majapahit empire. It was during this period that Admiral Zheng He’s naval expeditions visited Southeast Asia. They are often viewed as goodwill voyages, but more likely their purpose was to enforce recognition of Ming pre-eminence, especially since they intervened in conflicts in the region in support of local rulers deemed friendly to China.2 Although there were earlier contacts with Muslim Arab traders and some indications of small Muslim communities in the region, the large-scale spread of Islam in maritime Southeast Asia occurred only from the late thirteenth century. The religion was brought to this region by mainstream Sufi scholars, preachers, and traders from the Hadhramaut region of southern Arabia as well as from Gujerat and the Malabar region of India. Islam was also transmitted to the region by Muslims from China. Two features of this early period of the Islamization of Southeast Asia are noteworthy. Firstly, its syncretic character, with a strong Sufi mystical element, made it easily acceptable to the animist, Hindu and mystical 7

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traditions of much of maritime Southeast Asia. Secondly, the spread of Islam was peaceful. Starting from ports and coastal areas, it moved into the interiors until within a couple of centuries much of what is today Indonesia, the Malay Peninsula and southern Philippines were Muslim. Perhaps, its peaceful but swift spread had to do with the simplicity of the faith, its egalitarian appeal to the ordinary people, and the easy process of conversion into the religion. Today the approximately 250 million Muslims in Southeast Asia, about two-fifths of the region’s population, outnumber their co-religionists in the Arab world. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country. Most Southeast Asian Muslims live in multi-cultural societies. Democratic systems of government with free elections are rare in the Muslim world, but two Muslim-majority states in Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Malaysia, are democracies that regularly hold free elections. Islamist political parties, taken together, have received no more than 20 per cent of the total vote in national elections in Indonesia in recent years. In Malaysia, too, they remain a minority and are in no position to win power through national elections. In recent years, like in many other places in the world, terrorism has reared its ugly head in the region and caused violence, but those supporting radicalism and terrorism remain a tiny minority.

WESTERN COLONIALISM AND ITS IMPACT European colonial expansion into Asia was driven by the desire for commercial profit and, especially in the nineteenth century, imperial ambition. In some cases, the missionary drive to Christianize Asian societies was also a significant motive, as, for example, the Spanish in the Philippines. Because of their superior technology and weapons of war and their exploitation of rivalries and animosities among Asian rulers, small numbers of colonial soldiers, sailors and administrators were able to prevail and hold sway over much larger Asian populations. The Western impact on Southeast Asia began with the capture of Malacca by the Portuguese in 1511, before they went on to the Moluccas in present-day eastern Indonesia to control the sources of the lucrative spice trade. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the Spanish came from their empire in the Americas to begin the colonization of the Philippines. From the early seventeenth century the Dutch wrested control of the spice trade from the overextended and by now weaker Portuguese. The Dutch established their main base in Java at Batavia, now known as Jakarta, from where they expanded over the next three centuries over the whole of present-day Indonesia. 8

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1 • Southeast Asia: An Overview

The British established themselves on the Strait of Malacca, first in Penang in 1786, then from 1819 in Singapore, which was to expand rapidly as a free port and trading hub. Like the Dutch in the Indies, the British eventually acted to secure the hinterland of their trading ports by moving into the Malay Peninsula in the later half of the nineteenth century. Earlier in the same century, they had also expanded into lower Burma and by the 1880s had taken control of the entire country. The French secured what is now Indochina in the second half of the nineteenth century. Thus, by the end of the nineteenth century all of Southeast Asia, except Thailand, was under colonial rule. Thailand was spared in part because of an understanding between the British and the French to preserve it as a buffer state between their respective possessions, in part because of skilful Thai diplomacy. Western colonialism in Southeast Asia, as in many other places, resulted The colonial powers in the indignities of foreign domination and discrimination against the local also built people as well as the economic exploitation of the colonies for the benefit infrastructure of the colonial power. However, to derive economic benefits from their and possessions, the colonial powers also built infrastructure like roads, railways, developed ports and power stations and developed plantation agriculture like rubber and plantation modern mining operations to extract minerals and metals like oil, tin, copper, agriculture and gold. They set up schools for some local people in the English, French and modern or Dutch medium to man the lower rungs of the civil service, and a few mining colleges and universities to train local professionals like doctors, lawyers and operations engineers. They established Western systems of government, legal systems, to extract minerals and judiciaries and the rule of law, and generally maintained peace with law metals like oil, and order. Western education and access to the liberal political values of the colonial mother countries opened the eyes of the better educated among the tin, copper, and gold. subject races to the bitter ironies and injustices of colonialism and raised their political consciousness. Some of them were later to lead the nationalist anticolonial movements. The borders of present-day Southeast Asian states were drawn largely by the colonial powers to suit their interests. For instance, the boundaries between what is today Indonesia on one side and Malaysia and Singapore on the other were settled under the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 to demarcate British and Dutch spheres of influence and control in Southeast Asia. The boundary between peninsular Malaysia and Thailand was agreed to under the 1907 Anglo-Siamese treaty, while the boundaries between Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos and between the last two and Thailand were drawn by the French. These boundary demarcations often left ethnic or religious minorities on the wrong side of the border, as it were, cut off from their compatriots on the other side. For example, the 1907 border agreement between Britain and 9

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Siam, in which the British made the Siamese give up their claims to Kedah, Perlis and Kelantan, also left the Patani Muslim minority on the Siamese side of the border, in today’s southern Thailand. These were to cause problems of integration for Thailand later on. On the other hand, had it not been for colonial intervention, some peoples of Southeast Asia would not have had their Southeast Asians own country. Cambodia would probably have been swallowed by the westward absorbed and eastward expansion of the Vietnamese and the Thais, respectively, had and adapted not the French intervened and drawn its international frontiers. Likewise, many of the Laos would probably have been part of Thailand. Further, nation-states, such Western as Indonesia and Malaysia were essentially colonial creations. In pre-colonial influences times they were separate territories under different rulers. into their The Western impact on Southeast Asian peoples and cultures was more political and limited than is often assumed. During colonial rule, most Southeast Asians social cultures lived in rural areas where, by and large, life continued as before, governed by without local traditions, cultures and practices. Even in the cities and trading centres necessarily in more recent times, Southeast Asians absorbed and adapted many of the becoming Western influences into their political and social cultures without necessarily “Westernized”. becoming “Westernized”.

THE JAPANESE OCCUPATION The Japanese invasion and occupation of Southeast Asia in the Second World War lasted less than four years. However, it had a profound impact on these countries and set in motion forces that made Western colonial rule difficult to sustain after the war. The defeat of the European forces in war and their humiliation by the Japanese in captivity destroyed, in the eyes of Southeast Asians, the aura of invincibility that had surrounded their Western colonial masters. Most of the leaders of the post-war anti-colonial movement received their political education through their experience of the Japanese conquest and occupation. Japanese propaganda justified their invasion in terms of liberating Southeast Asians from Western colonial rule and held out the prospect of independence to the occupied territories, though it was soon seen by most of the local people as merely a tactic to enlist their support for the war effort. Still, nationalists in countries like Burma and Indonesia cooperated with the Japanese (the former only initially) and participated in Japanese-trained local military forces, which, in the case of Indonesia, were to play an important role in the post-war anti-colonial war. The demands of the war on their resources had also made the Japanese rely more on local people for middle- and lower-level administration of occupied countries, giving more indigenous people the experience and confidence of being involved in running their countries. 10

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1 • Southeast Asia: An Overview

Japanese Invasion The start of the Pacific War was first experienced by the people of Singapore in a Japanese air raid in the early hours of 8 December 1941, carried out from bases in Indochina. Bombs fell on Raffles Place and at the Seletar and Tengah airfields, killing 60 people and injuring over 700. On the previous day, 7 December, the Japanese had destroyed part of the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl harbour, invaded Hong Kong and the Philippines, and landed forces in Songkhla and Patani in southern Thailand and Kota Baru in northern Malaya. These three points were the launching pads for the invasion of the Malay peninsula. In less than two months the Japanese army overran Malaya, taking Kuala Lumpur on 11 January 1942 and Johore Bahru on 31 January. The British forces retreated all the way to Singapore, which was surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February 1942.

The war also accelerated the rise of communism in Asia, including Southeast Asia. Although clandestine Communist parties had been formed in most Southeast Asian countries before the war, the colonial authorities had kept a watchful eye on them and prevented them from gaining strength. However, during the Japanese occupation the Communists built up their strength as anti-Japanese resistance fighters, at times in alliance with nonCommunist nationalists. The stage was thus set for the post-war struggle between the returning colonial authorities, the Communists, and the nonCommunist nationalists in several Southeast Asian countries. The danger that the Communists might successfully exploit the anti-colonial movement to capture power, as indeed happened in Vietnam, became an additional factor weighing in favour of handing over the reins of power to the non-Communist national leaders without too much delay. There was a third factor that made colonialism difficult to sustain after the war. The United States emerged as the world’s strongest power after the war. With its liberal democratic ideals, it was not happy with the continuation of colonialism by the European powers, which had been much weakened by the war and were increasingly dependent on American economic support.

THE COLD WAR AND THE COMMUNIST CHALLENGE The United States gave independence to the Philippines in 1946, as it had promised a decade earlier. After Britain granted independence to its largest 11

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imperial possession, India, in 1947, and then to Burma (Myanmar from 1990) in 1948, it was only a matter of time before Western colonialism unravelled in Southeast Asia. The Dutch and the French tried to move against the tide of history, but to no avail. The Indonesian nationalists under Sukarno, the first President of independent Indonesia, resisted the Dutch strongly with a Japanese-trained armed force. The Dutch were finally forced to quit by international pressure, and Indonesia became an independent state in 1949. The French tried harder and longer to retain control of Vietnam but after a long, costly war went down in defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 to the Communist forces under Ho Chi Minh, supported from 1949 with financial and weapons aid from neighbouring China. By then the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Union and its allies, which began soon after the end of the Second World War, was having profound implications for Southeast Asia. The establishment of Communist rule in China in 1949 brought the Cold War more directly to the region. It was to create a division of the region between a Communist part in Indochina and a non-Communist part organized, from 1967, into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The division lasted until the end of the Cold War in 1989. Burma remained aloof from both sides until the 1990s. By 1975 Communist regimes had been established in all of the three countries of Indochina — a unified Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. They had the Soviet Union or China as their allies and supporters and for much of the Cold War period they had an antagonistic relationship with the ASEAN region. Indochina was the theatre of immensely destructive conflicts, part ideological and civil wars, part proxy conflicts of the Cold War between the major powers. They included the wars of the Vietnamese Communists with the French and then with the United States and its South Vietnamese allies, which lasted most of the years from 1946 to 1975; the almost continuing conflict in Laos during this period; the spillover of the Vietnam War into Cambodia followed by the genocidal excesses of the Khmer Rouge regime in 1975–78; the Vietnamese invasion and occupation of Cambodia starting in December 1978, followed by the Khmer Rouge insurgency against the proVietnamese government in Phnom Penh until the late 1980s. It took the Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, Communist parties mounted violent insurBritish gencies in Malaya, Indonesia, Burma, the Philippines and Thailand against the Commonnon-Communist governments. The establishment of Communist rule in China wealth and in 1949 under Mao Zedong was a great morale booster to these insurgents. Malayan security forces The insurgencies were defeated or contained, but often only after a long and bitter conflict. For example, it took the British Commonwealth and Malayan twelve years to defeat the security forces twelve years to defeat the insurgency of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM), which covered both Malaya and Singapore. Malaysia insurgency received its independence from the British in 1957, Singapore became of the CPM. 12

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1 • Southeast Asia: An Overview

The Communist Challenge Communist insurgencies in Southeast Asia were defeated or contained through a comprehensive strategy combining security action with civic, political and psychological measures to isolate the Communists and win the hearts and minds of the people. The collection and operational use of good human intelligence played a key part in the successful security operations. Bilateral intelligence and security cooperation between states was also important, especially in dealing with situations where the Communist guerillas straddled international borders, as the Communist Party of Malaya armed groups did on the Malaysian-Thai border and the guerillas of the North Kalimantan Communist Party straddled the Malaysia-Indonesia border in Borneo.

independent through joining Malaysia in 1963 and then as a separate state in 1965. Though defeated or contained on the battlefield, technically the insurgencies continued until 1979, when at last these Communist parties (except the Philippine party) abandoned their armed struggle in harmony with a shift in China’s foreign policy, which included an end to China’s support for Southeast Asian communist insurgencies. In Indonesia, after an unsuccessful Communist uprising in 1948, in the 1950s and 1960s the Indonesian Communist Party tried a different tack — a peaceful approach to gain power by building up its strength and influence with the connivance of an increasingly left-leaning President Sukarno. This effort ended in tragedy in the wake of the abortive leftist coup on 30 September 1965, which led to a right-wing military take-over of the country and the massacre in 1965 and 1966 of hundreds of thousands of Indonesians labelled as Communists and their sympathizers.

THE CHALLENGE OF NATIONAL UNITY After independence, most Southeast Asian states had two central preoccupations: national unity and economic development. The first required the forging of a common sense of belonging and identity in societies of different ethnic, linguistic or religious groups. The task was not easy. How does one make the different ethnic communities in Indonesia — the Javanese, Sundanese, Malays, Bataks, Acehnese, Buginese, Moluccans, and the different groups in Papua — identify themselves as Indonesians? How does one achieve something 13

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similar in Burma, where the largest community, the lowland Burmans, form just over half the population, while the highland minorities like the Karens, Kachins, Shans, Chins, Arakanese, Mons and others with their own languages and cultures and inhabiting their own territories form the rest? Even largely homogeneous societies like Thailand and Vietnam, with dominant ethnic groups, have faced the challenge of integrating ethnic or religious minorities into the nation-state system. In Malaya (Malaysia) large communities from outside Southeast Asia, namely the Chinese and the Indians, altered the demography to such an extent that by the time of independence they formed about half the population, posing difficult political and communal problems which have continued to this day. In Singapore, ethnic Chinese immigration expanded during colonial days until Chinese comprised over 70 per cent of the population. This large Chinese population was a major factor in the failure of the merger with Malaysia in just over two years after it was concluded in 1963. Another It is hardly surprising then that another source of political violence in source of post-colonial Southeast Asia has been incomplete or unsuccessful nationpolitical building and the political and socio-economic marginalization of minorities. violence in Witness the numerous ethnic insurgencies in Myanmar over the years, post-colonial the racial riots in Malaysia in 1969, the Acehnese and Papuan rebellions Southeast in Indonesia, the bitter Muslim separatist conflicts in southern Philippines Asia has been and southern Thailand, and the periodic violence in Cambodia against its incomplete or Vietnamese minority. unsuccessful As for the ethnic Chinese, apart from Malaysia and Singapore, they nationform a tiny minority in most Southeast Asian countries but control a building and disproportionate share of the economic wealth. Thailand has succeeded fairly the political well in assimilating the local Chinese, but in some other countries where and sociothis has not happened, the Chinese have often been viewed with envy, even economic marginalizaresentment, and periodically made scapegoats for other misfortunes. Indonesia, tion of for instance, has experienced bouts of anti-Chinese violence, the last as recently minorities. as 1998. Burma had the problem of the ethnic Indians, who had come with the British Raj in the nineteenth century and had acquired a dominant role in trade and commerce. Independent Burma’s “solution” to this “problem” was to confiscate their businesses and to evict them, at considerable cost to the Burmese economy. Successful management of plural societies divided by race, language or religion requires tolerance, respect, and fair treatment. It has been easy for states to celebrate diversity in word, but difficult to genuinely embrace it in practice. A willingness to compromise, instead of wanting to take all, is essential not just to settle conflicts with minority groups, as demonstrated by the Indonesian government and the Aceh Freedom Movement in the past few years, but also to prevent conflict in the first place. 14

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1 • Southeast Asia: An Overview

Finally, it must be borne in mind that conflict can arise from cleavages in society other than ethnic, religious or linguistic. Indeed, the two largest losses of life in post-colonial Southeast Asia occurred in internal conflicts rooted in ideology: the massacre of those accused of being Communists or their sympathizers in Indonesia in 1965–66, and Cambodia’s killing fields under the Pol Pot regime in 1975–78. The exodus of the “boat people” largely from Vietnam, starting in 1975 and totalling about a million people, was a source of contention and the subject for negotiation among Vietnam, ASEAN and some major powers, as well as a great human tragedy.


There are wide socioeconomic gaps among Southeast Asian states today.

The other pressing challenge for newly independent states was to lift their peoples out of poverty and raise their standards of living. In the race to achieve this, Southeast Asian countries’ starting points were different. Some, like Malaya and Singapore, were better off than the others, thanks to better developed natural resources and infrastructure, a relatively good system of administration left behind by the British, the good fortune of being spared too much destruction in the Second World War, and, in the case of Malaya, the absence of population pressures. The three Indochina countries were late starters. Although they escaped serious damage during the Second World War, they were handicapped by a long period of destructive post-war conflict which, with a few short respites, lasted until 1975 for Laos and until the late 1980s for Cambodia and Vietnam. Although Vietnam started opening up its economy in the 1980s, it did not make much headway until after the Cambodian conflict was settled in 1991, i.e., three to four decades after the ASEAN 5 (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) had started on their development marathon. Cambodia began relatively auspiciously in the 1950s but was soon to be swept into the maelstrom of the wars in Indochina and the genocidal Pol Pot regime which killed many educated people. Myanmar incurred much destruction in the Second World War, and then, within about a decade of independence, was sidetracked into economic nationalism, socialism and isolationism. Thus wrong policy choices from 1960 and their economic and political consequences have seriously hobbled Myanmar. It is, therefore, not surprising that there are wide socio-economic gaps among Southeast Asian states today. Singapore’s and Brunei’s per capita GDP in 2007 was over US$30,000, while at the other end of the scale those of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam (CLMV countries) in 2004 were US$503, US$567, US$230 and US$723, respectively, according to International 15

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One major challenge for Southeast Asia today is to make itself a more competitive destination for FDI.

Monetary Fund (IMF) statistics. Even allowing for the fact that Singapore and Brunei may be viewed as special cases because one is a rich city-state while the other a small oil-rich sultanate, the gap between the CLMV countries and the next on the development ladder after Singapore and Brunei, namely Malaysia (per capita GDP of US$5,700 in 2005), is still large. On the UNDP Human Development Index for 2005, Singapore and Brunei ranked twenty-fifth and thirtieth in the world, respectively, while Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar ranked 130, 131 and 132, respectively. Countries well endowed with natural resources have not necessarily succeeded economically because some have been unable to translate these gifts into sustainable development. Indonesia and Myanmar are blessed with an abundance of natural resources, but Indonesia still remains in the middle ranks of the Southeast Asian league, while Myanmar is at the bottom. It is clear that wise political leadership, stability, human resource development, avoidance of conflict, good governance, and sound, investor-friendly policies are among the most important ingredients for success. These also require trained and educated personnel, which highlights the need for good schools and universities and a good health care system run by trained professionals. Foreign direct investments (FDIs) and technology have played an important role in Southeast Asia’s economic development. FDI in manufacturing from Japan, America and Europe have provided jobs for societies with rapidly expanding populations and have boosted economic growth rates starting in the 1970s and 1980s. But Southeast Asia’s ability to retain its share of FDI began to change from about the mid-1990s, as large parts of the world which previously had closed or semi-closed economies were opening up, most notably China. Southeast Asia had to face the reality that the same products could be produced by multinational corporations (MNCs) more cheaply and just as efficiently in these new locations, which had much larger pools of workers as well as larger markets than individual Southeast Asian countries. The Asian financial crisis of 1997–98 occurred just when this was starting to happen. Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia were particularly severely affected. By the time these countries recovered from the crisis some years later, they found themselves in a changed world. Southeast Asia’s share of FDI in developing Asia fell from 34.3 per cent in 1995 to 10.1 per cent in 2000. One major challenge for Southeast Asia today is to make itself a more competitive destination for FDI.

SYSTEMS OF GOVERNMENT Southeast Asia’s pre-colonial rulers were chiefs or kings with absolute power. Such political systems existed in Burma and the countries of Indochina as 16

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Neither Marxian socialism nor multiparty liberal democracy has been entirely successful where tried in Southeast Asia.

1 • Southeast Asia: An Overview

recently as the second half of the nineteenth century, and in Thailand until 1932. Colonial rule itself was authoritarian. In countries administered by colonial rulers, some of the practices of traditional rule were maintained, at least in appearance, right up to the end of the colonial period, under a system of indirect rule that allowed native rulers to retain limited responsibilities together with the trappings of power. Brunei Darussalam, which became independent in 1984, remains an absolute monarchy even today. Political cultures take a long time to change, and these traditional systems still retain influence on the politics and political imagination of post-colonial Southeast Asia. Western political ideas have had a significant impact, but neither Marxian socialism nor multi-party liberal democracy has been entirely successful where tried in Southeast Asia. The Marxist-Leninist regimes in Vietnam and Laos at first established closed economies with state control over economic activity. However, when this course threatened economic failure, they chose to follow in the footsteps of China by liberalizing their economies and seeking gradual integration with the international economy. Politically they remain one-party states with the ruling Communist parties determined to maintain their monopoly of political power. Most of the other countries have experimented with liberal multi-party democracy. Burma started off with such a system after independence, but continuing ethnic and Communist insurgencies from 1948 and political infighting in the ruling party prompted the military to stage a coup in 1962 in the name of preventing national disintegration and restoring stability. It set up one-party rule under its Burma Socialist Programme Party, nationalized the economy and banned public political activity. As these policies brought the country to the verge of economic disaster, in 1988, the generals tried to move towards market economics and a political system more answerable to the people through elections. But they mismanaged the change they sought and, when faced with the spectre of loss of power in a national election in 1990, they quickly reverted to military rule, which has continued to this day despite international opprobrium and loss of legitimacy. Myanmar remains the most tragic example of the inability to establish a political system that works. Indonesia, a republic, tried liberal democracy from 1955 to 1958, but there was too much political infighting and a stable governing coalition could not be formed. This led President Sukarno to ban elections in 1959 and establish an authoritarian “guided democracy”. The New Order regime of his successor, President Suharto, from 1966 to 1998, was also authoritarian, with regulated political parties and elections to provide a degree of legitimacy to the regime and some voice to the main political interest groups. Development was clearly given priority. After the collapse of the Suharto regime in 1998, 17

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SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN

political democracy, with free elections, a multi-party system and guarantees of civil rights and freedoms, was restored. Indonesians are justly proud of their young democracy, but it needs to be consolidated with good governance and sound institutions, including effective legal and judicial systems that can ensure the rule of law and clean government. Liberal democratic multi-party systems inherited from the British have had only qualified success in Malaysia and Singapore. Free elections continue to be held, but restrictions on the media and freedom of assembly and sensitivity to political criticism have led some Western political scientists to classify these two countries as illiberal democracies. Stability and order have precedence. Singapore has become a one-party dominant state. Malaysia is a coalition-dominant one, in which one party has entrenched dominance, though opposition parties are represented in Parliament.3 In the Philippines too, democracy has had a rocky path. President Ferdinand Marcos set up a dictatorship under a martial law regime from 1972 to 1986. Freedoms were restored after his removal in 1986, but Philippine democracy has remained blemished by weak rule of law and the concentration of political and economic power in a conservative elite and provincial clans. Cambodia was a monarchy from independence in 1953 to 1970, a republic from 1970 to 1975, a one-party Communist state from 1975 to 1991, and, at least in form, a liberal democracy with a constitutional monarch under the new constitution that came into effect in 1993 under the supervision of the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia. Free elections continue to be held and there is a vibrant NGO (non-governmental organization) community, but the rule of law is still weak and corruption rampant. In Thailand, absolute monarchy was overthrown in 1932 by groups that wanted change. However, for most of the period since then, Thailand The many changes and has been ruled by military dictators or as a semi-democracy, with a few modifications short periods of democracy in 1944 to 1947, 1973 to 1976, 1988 to to the political 1991, and 2001 to 2006. Democratic governments were often weak and systems in unstable and elections marred by vote buying and corruption. The most Southeast liberal constitution, established in 1997 to remedy some of the shortcomings Asian of Thai democracy, came to grief in 2006, when the military staged countries another coup. since the end The many changes and modifications to the political systems in Southeast of the Second Asian countries since the end of the Second World War indicate that these World War systems are still works in progress. This is not surprising in view of their indicate that these systems relatively short span of post-colonial existence, the continuing influence of old are still works political cultures and the prevailing political, ethnic and religious cleavages in these societies. in progress. 18

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Daljit Singh

1 • Southeast Asia: An Overview

RELATIONS BETWEEN SOUTHEAST ASIAN STATES Southeast Asian kingdoms fought numerous bloody and destructive wars with one another over territory or commerce in the pre-colonial era. In the process, cities were sacked and torched and empires and kingdoms waxed and waned. Colonial rule ended such conflicts, with all these lands, except Thailand, coming under colonial control. The post-colonial independent Southeast Asian states live in a very different world. They now have internationally recognized borders and are members of the United Nations. Territorial expansion by one state at the expense of another through the use of armed force incurs international opprobrium and adverse consequences, whether political, economic or military. Even then, nationalism, ideology, legacies of colonialism, and the pressures of the Cold War between the great powers have caused conflict and tensions. A case in point was Konfrontasi or Confrontation, a euphemism for an irregular shooting war waged by Indonesia against the new state of Malaysia (including Singapore) from 1963 to 1966. Indonesia’s President Sukarno opposed the incorporation of British territories on Borneo Island into a proWestern Malaysian federation. The other shooting wars between post-colonial Southeast Asian states were those in Indochina. After Vietnam invaded and occupied Cambodia in 1978, there were border skirmishes between Vietnam and Thailand because of the latter’s support for the Khmer Rouge guerrillas in the border areas, but major conflict was avoided. There has been no armed conflict between Southeast Asian states since the end of the conflicts in Indochina in 1989, and none among the original five members of ASEAN since 1967. Membership in ASEAN commits them

Confrontation Confrontation included guerrilla warfare between Malaysian/British troops and Indonesian troops in the jungles of Sabah and Sarawak, armed Indonesian raids into peninsular Malaysia and sabotage operations in Singapore, including a bomb explosion on 10 March 1965 at MacDonald House, on Orchard Road, that killed three people and injured thirty-three. Confrontation ended in 1966 after the change of government in Indonesia following the abortive leftist coup of 30 September 1965. The new regime led by President Suharto changed the direction of Indonesiaʼs policies towards cooperative and friendly relations with neighbours and a focus on economic development at home.


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SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN

The absence of conflict does not necessarily mean that inter-state relations in post-colonial Southeast Asia are always cordial.

to the principle of avoiding the use of force to deal with inter-state disputes. Pragmatic common sense has taught policy-makers that war is just not a costeffective way of settling inter-state problems. However, the absence of conflict does not necessarily mean that interstate relations in post-colonial Southeast Asia are always cordial. Indeed they can be marked by suspicion and lack of trust even as Southeast Asian states try to cooperate bilaterally and in regional organizations. The factors behind this state of affairs are often nationalism, including economic nationalism, territorial claims, unpleasant historical memories, and poorly demarcated borders. Particularly important in the last category are maritime disputes after the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) was concluded in 1982, which allowed states to claim 200-mile exclusive economic zones beyond territorial seas. Countries often have complex overlapping claims to such zones. Still, much progress has been made in advancing cooperation both bilaterally and through ASEAN. It is easy to forget that Southeast Asian states are relatively new as independent states and that they were virtually isolated from one another under different colonial regimes, despite their geographic proximity. Colonial administration and education policies ensured that the educated classes knew much more about Holland, Britain, France or the United States than about their neighbours. It is hardly surprising, therefore, given the domestic challenges of maintaining national unity and achieving economic development, that sovereignty assumes great importance in the uncertain and unpredictable arena of international relations. There is clearly a need to further enhance trust and work more closely together if Southeast Asian countries want to deal more successfully with the economic and strategic challenges that they will face from outside the region.

RELATIONS WITH THE OUTSIDE WORLD There are powerful economic reasons for Southeast Asia to have good and cooperative relations with the outside world.

Economic realities have always been an important determinant of the region’s international relations. Today about 25 per cent of Southeast Asia’s trade is intra-regional, i.e., among Southeast Asian countries themselves, while the rest is with the outside world, mostly with the major industrialized countries of Europe, North America and Japan. Most of the FDI in Southeast Asia comes from these same regions. China and India, the two emerging major Asian powers, are also becoming economically more important to Southeast Asia. Thus there are powerful economic reasons for Southeast Asia to have good and cooperative relations with the outside world, especially the important markets for its exports and sources of investments and energy supplies, including the Middle East. Only Myanmar remains relatively isolated from the West, partly


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Daljit Singh

1 • Southeast Asia: An Overview

as a result of the sanctions applied against it mainly by the United States and the European Union. Security is another major determinant of foreign relations. The United States was the ultimate security provider to the non-Communist states of East Asia, including Southeast Asia, during the Cold War. Its military bases in East Asia and its Pacific Fleet maintained the balance of power and served as a deterrent against the major communist powers. Two Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines and Thailand, chose to have military alliances with the United States, which exist to this day. In the new post-Cold War environment, in which the rise of China and India is creating new strategic uncertainties, a number of Southeast Asian states, including Malaysia and Singapore, maintain security cooperation with the United States while also developing closer relations with China, India, Japan and Australia. Being separate, independent sovereign states, Southeast Asian states naturally conduct their own international relations. However, there is also an important regional dimension to Southeast Asia’s international relations through ASEAN, which has dialogue relationships with major outside countries as well as interactions with them in ASEAN-related groupings like the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Plus Three and the East Asia Summit. Southeast Asian countries exercise more clout when they deal with outside powers collectively than individually. In the ARF and through its dialogue partnerships, ASEAN tries to maintain a stable and cooperative regional security order so that the economic prospects of the region are enhanced by security stability. Southeast Asian states are active members of the United Nations and other international organizations. Seven are members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). All ASEAN countries take part in the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, predominantly Muslim countries, are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and pay special heed to their relations with the Islamic world for both political and economic reasons. All remain members of the Non-Aligned Movement to maintain their international networking and enhance their credentials as independent international actors. Like all other ASEAN countries, Myanmar is a member of the United Nations and its specialized agencies, and of the IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank. It is a founding member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

CONCLUSION As Southeast Asia looks to the future in this early phase of a new century, the familiar challenges of economic progress, national unity and domestic peace and stability will remain central concerns for its countries for some time. The 21

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SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN

Southeast Asiaʼs international environment promises to be different from that in the twentieth century.

strengthening of domestic governance and the rule of law should obviously be high priorities. With the shifting of global economic might towards Asia and the rise of new powers, Southeast Asia’s international environment promises to be different from that in the twentieth century. ASEAN will need to be more cohesive, politically and economically, to deal with the new strategic challenges. The cultures of the Southeast Asian region have been enriched in the past by many influences from the outside. This will continue. With the reemergence of Asia, Asian political, economic and cultural currents will lap more strongly once again on the shores of Southeast Asia. However, unlike in the pre-colonial period, in this era of globalization, the Western currents from North America, Europe and Australasia will also continue to flow. With wise policies, better unity and a measure of good luck, a multi-cultural Southeast Asia — with openness, accountability and democracy — should be able to take its place during this century in the ranks of the developed world.

CHRONOLOGY 2nd–15th century

The period of “Indianized” Kingdoms like Funan, Champa, Angkor, Srivijaya, Majapahit, etc

7th–13th century

Srivijaya predominance in region of Strait of Malacca

9th–14th century

Angkor kingdom

13th–15th century

Majapahit empire

13th–16th century

The spread of Islam


The Chola raids from south India into Southeast Asia


The voyages of Zheng He

16th–20th century

The period of Western intervention and colonialism


Capture of Malacca by the Portuguese


First Spanish settlement in Cebu, Philippines

Early 17th century

Arrival of the Dutch in the Indonesian archipelago


Fall of Malacca to the Dutch


Penang taken by the British


Founding of modern Singapore by the British


Anglo-Dutch Treaty which delineated the boundaries of British and Dutch possessions and interests in Southeast Asia


The Pacific War and Japanese Occupation of Southeast Asia*

*The Japanese had moved into Indochina in 1940, before the outbreak of the Pacific War.


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Daljit Singh

1 • Southeast Asia: An Overview


Decolonization phase


Independence of the Philippines


The Cold War and the Communist challenge


Outbreak of Communist insurgencies in Malaya, Burma, Philippines, Indonesia


Independence of Burma


Independence of Indonesia


French Defeat at Dien Bien Phu and division of Vietnam into a Communist North and a non-Communist South


Independence of Malaya


Formation of Malaysia


Separation of Singapore from Malaysia


Change of direction in Indonesia from a leftist to a right-wing government after abortive leftist coup.


American intervention in Vietnam with ground forces


Establishment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)


Unification of Vietnam under Communist rule


Laos and Cambodia become Communist


Deng Xiaoping changes China’s domestic and foreign policy direction and ends support for Communist revolutionary movements in Southeast Asia


Independence of Brunei Darussalem


Establishment of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum


Establishment of the Asean Regional Forum (ARF)


Asian financial crisis


Independence of Timor-Leste

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION 1. What kind of impact did India and China have on the cultures and societies of Southeast Asia? 2. What have been the negative and positive legacies of colonialism in Southeast Asia? 3. Why was Thailand not colonialized by the Western powers when every other country in Southeast Asia was?


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SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN

4. Why are there such different political systems in Southeast Asia? 5. How do you account for the very wide disparities in economic and social development between different countries of Southeast Asia?

SUGGESTED FURTHER READINGS Acharya, Amitav. The Quest for Identity: International Relations of Southeast Asia. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000. Funston, John, ed. Government and Politics in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2001. Hall, D.G.E. A History of Southeast Asia. 4th ed. London: Macmillan; New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1964. Ibrahim, Ahmad, Sharon Siddique, and Yasmin Hussain, eds. Readings on Islam in Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1986. Koh Wee Hock, David, ed. Legacies of World War II in South and Southeast Asia. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2007. Leifer, Michael. Dictionary of Modern Politics of Southeast Asia. London; New York: Routledge, 1995. Munoz, Paul Michel. Early Kingdoms of the Indonesian Archipelago and the Malay Peninsula. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet Publication, 2006. Osborne, Milton. Southeast Asia: An Introductory History. Crows Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 2004. Weatherbee, Donald E. International Relations in Southeast Asia: The Struggle for Autonomy. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2005.

NOTES 1. The observations in this paragraph on the status and role of women are derived from Anthony Reid’s Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450–1680, vol. 1, The Lands below the Winds (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), pp. 146–72. 2. Geoff Wade, “The Zheng He Voyages: A Reassessment”, Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 78, no. 1 (2005): 37–55 and Edward L. Dreyer, Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming, 1405–1433 (New York: Pearson Longman, 2006). 3. The 2008 general election saw the dominant coalition, the Barisan Nasional, for the first time losing its two-thirds majority in Parliament and the apparent emergence of a two-party system. However, it is too early to say how enduring this change will be.


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02 SEA NewEra.indd 25

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Brunei Darussalam P. Thambipillai

Brunei Darussalam, translated as Brunei Abode of Peace, is the smallest and youngest of the ASEAN states. Although it is new in terms of independent statehood, it has a long history. Its unique identity was emphasized in the Proclamation of Independence of Brunei Darussalam on 1 January 1984, after almost a century of being a protectorate of the United Kingdom. “Malay, Islamic, Monarchy” (Melayu, Islam, Beraja) or MIB has become the national philosophy that influences everyday life in the state. Since 1967, Brunei Darussalam (Brunei for short) has been under the rule of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the twentyninth ruler in an unbroken lineage of rulers that can be traced back 600 years.

HISTORY The ancient kingdom had links to the Buddhist empire of Srivijaya and the Hindu empire of Majapahit.

Records indicate that Brunei is one of the oldest kingdoms in Southeast Asia. It once controlled vast areas of Borneo (present-day Sarawak, Sabah and Kalimantan) and extended to parts of the islands of the Philippines. It was a prosperous state visited by traders from the neighbouring countries and from distant lands such as China, India and West Asia, coming to exchange goods on its shores. The ancient kingdom had links to the Buddhist empire of Srivijaya and the Hindu empire of Majapahit that extended influence over vast areas of Southeast Asia. Extensive Chinese records have referred to the country by several similarsounding names like “Poni” and “Poli”, indicating that Brunei was already well known.


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SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN

In 1841, Brunei ceded Sarawak to James Brooke.

It was the international trade and travel routes that brought Islam to Brunei in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Around 1371, its ruler converted to the new religion and became known as Sultan Muhammad, the first Muslim head of state of Brunei. Since then, all the rulers have been the head of the Muslim faith in the country, and Brunei has been a strong follower of the Islamic religion. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the Sultanate spread its Islamic influence and political control to neighbouring territories. The fifth sultan, Sultan Bolkiah or “Nahkhoda Ragam”, known for his maritime travels, has been credited with extending the sultanate’s rule to most of Borneo and to parts of modern-day Philippines. The extensive external influence of Brunei gradually decreased with the arrival of competing colonial powers in the Southeast Asian region from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries. The territorial possessions of the Brunei rulers decreased continually as a result of internal dissent and revolt, as well as external conquests. In 1841, Brunei ceded Sarawak to James Brooke, who established himself as the Rajah of Sarawak. In 1846, Brunei ceded Labuan Island to Britain, which had by then established its presence in Singapore and the Malay archipelago and was moving into Borneo. The presence of the British was actually welcomed, as Brunei felt threatened by political instability and the regional presence of new foreign powers. In 1847, Brunei and Britain signed a bilateral trade and friendship treaty. This led to even closer relations between Brunei and Britain, and following another treaty in 1888, Brunei became a British protectorate. Brunei felt more secure with the support of the British, who could take care of its external protection. That relationship was to remain a close one until 1984, when Brunei regained its full political independence and joined the community of states as a sovereign member. Some of the present-day practices, for example, in public administration and the education system, are based on the long association with Britain. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the bilateral relationship had entered a new phase. In 1906, according to an agreement between Britain and the Sultan of Brunei, a British official was appointed as Resident in Brunei. His task was officially recognized as advisor to the Sultan, but in effect the Resident was responsible for introducing several administrative and judicial practices. With the short break during the Second World War, when Brunei was occupied by Japan from 1941 to 1945, Britain continued to help administer the country together with the Sultan — Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin (1924–50) — and his State Council. The fate of Brunei changed with the discovery of oil in Seria in 1929; Brunei regained its significance, as foreign interests saw the potential wealth of the tiny state.


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P. Thambipillai

2 • Brunei Darussalam

Brunei experienced a renewed interest in internal development during the reign of Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien (1950–67), the brother of the previous sultan. For the first time, the revenue from oil was used to finance several development projects. Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien, the twentyeighth Sultan, was to be later recognized as the architect of modern Brunei. His assumption of leadership coincided with global changes following the Second World War, when issues of independence and the rise of several newly independent states dominated the international arena. The Sultan oversaw the 1959 Agreement with Britain, which paved the way for the written constitution of Brunei. The Constitution provided for internal self-government, while the Resident became the High Commissioner who could continue his role as advisor except on matters pertaining to the Islamic religion and local culture. In 1967, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien voluntarily abdicated in favour of his eldest son, the current Sultan, then aged twenty-one. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah ascended the throne on 5 October 1967, followed by the coronation ceremony in 1968, as the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam. With the help of his father and the British, who were still in charge of external relations and defence matters, the young ruler prepared his country in terms of social, economic and political developments that would eventually result in Brunei proclaiming its independence on 1 January 1984.

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Muʼizzaddin Waddaulah The Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussaslam is the Head of State and Government. He is the twenty-ninth sultan of the lineage that goes back to the fourteenth century. He was born on 15 July 1946. He became the Crown Prince in 1961 and ascended the throne on 5 October 1967 on the voluntary abdication of his father, al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Saʼadul Khairi Waddien. He was ceremoniously crowned as the Sultan on 1 August 1968. Every 15 July is a national holiday with parades and ceremonies to honour the Sultan, popularly known as the benevolent ruler. In 2006, he celebrated his sixtieth birthday with grand celebrations and attendance by foreign dignitaries. The Sultan is blessed with twelve princes and princesses. His eldest son, Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, was installed as the Crown Prince in 1998 and carries out his functions as the Deputy Sultan.


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Bruneiʼs population currently stands at 383,000 people.

Brunei is a green and clean country, with about 70 per cent of its area still covered by primary forests, including hard woods, mangrove swamps and peat lands. However, it is a small state: one can drive from one end of the country to the other along the coastal highway in about an hour and a half. Stretching along the northwest corner of Borneo, its area totals only 5,725 square kilometres. The state of Brunei is divided into two parts. The larger part has three districts: Brunei-Muara, Tutong and Belait. The smaller part is the Temburong district. The Sarawak territory of Limbang lies between the two main parts. Travel between the two parts is possible by river or a longer land route. The capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, is in the Brunei-Muara district and is well served by a modern airport, a sea port and road networks. Not only is Brunei small in size, it is also small in population, currently standing at about 383,000 people. In recent years, the annual population increase has been fairly steady at about 3.5 per cent. Of the total population, at least 80,000–90,000 could be foreigners, temporarily living and working in the sultanate. As a small state with an inadequate workforce of its own, Brunei, like its neighbour Singapore, welcomes foreigners of all occupations, be they domestic helpers, labourers or professionals. Their employment and residence are strictly regulated by the government through the Labour and Immigration departments, as preference in hiring will always be given to the citizens. As mentioned earlier, Brunei is a Malay, Muslim-majority country. More than 66 per cent of the population are Malays. There are also smaller indigenous groups like the Iban that account for less than 5 per cent. The Chinese are an important minority, comprising about 15 per cent of the population, or about 40,000–45,000 people. Some of them have been in the country for several generations and thus enjoy all the rights and privileges of citizenship, while others are permanent residents. The rest are temporary residents on work visas. There are a few hundred Indians who call Brunei their permanent home. Although Islam is the state religion, there is freedom for other communities to observe their own religious practices, as long as they are carried out in a modest and non-intrusive manner. Thus, in addition to the numerous mosques and suraus in the country, one can also find old Christian churches and Chinese and Hindu temples. Brunei is well known for two of its large and beautiful mosques: the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque built in 1958, and the more modern Jame’ Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque built in the mid-1990s. Their majestic columns and glittering domes add splendour to the capital.


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P. Thambipillai

About 40 per cent of the population is under the age of 19.

2 • Brunei Darussalam

Brunei has a “young” population, meaning that a large proportion of the citizens is young. In fact, about 40 per cent of the population is under the age of 19. This calls for more schools and other educational institutions, as well as health facilities geared for the welfare of the young people. It also implies that unemployment will be an issue, as more young people leave schools and colleges and are unable to find suitable jobs. Thus, the government is faced with the important task of not only running the country and keeping it safe and secure, but also ensuring that there are proper social services to take care of its people, both young and old, citizens and non-citizens, so that everyone can live together in the “Abode of Peace”. Educational institutions, from pre-schools to universities, aim to produce the much-needed citizens of the future. There are four universities: University of Brunei Darussalam (1985), Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (2007), the Seri Begawan Religious Teachers University College (upgraded to university status in 2007), and the Institute of Technology Brunei (upgraded to university in 2008). Education is free for citizens in all the government schools, institutes and universities. Higher education is also provided free for selected students at foreign universities in the important fields of law, medicine, engineering, and other technical fields. The universities in the United Kingdom and Egypt are popular with Brunei students, while Australia is becoming a new preference for certain fields of study. The government has set aside a special fund for human resource development to ensure that the country has well-trained personnel in the health, education and development sectors.

STRUCTURE OF THE GOVERNMENT The Sultan and his family are at the apex of the social and political hierarchy in the hereditary monarchy of Brunei. However, a written constitution acts as a guide for all national policies. The country and government are headed by the Sultan, that is, he is both Head of State and Head of Government (Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan). In running the country, he is assisted by a council of cabinet ministers selected by the Sultan. The cabinet is in charge of the ministries: Communications; Culture, Youth and Sports; Defence; Development; Education; Finance; Foreign Affairs and Trade; Health; Home Affairs; Industry and Primary Resources; Religious Affairs; and the heart of the state — the Prime Minister’s Office. The Prime Minister’s Office is headed by Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah. He is also the Minister of Defence and of Finance, as well as the Supreme Commander of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces, the Inspector General of the Royal Brunei Police Force and the head of the Islamic religion. Thus, he is 31

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SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN

Political System Brunei Darussalam is governed by a written constitution that first came into force in 1959. Since then amendments to the constitution have been made, most notably in 1971, 1984 and 2004. The constitution provides for the Sultan as the Head of State with full executive authority. He is assisted by five councils — the Council of Cabinet Ministers, the Legislative Council, the Privy Council, the Religious Council and the Council of Succession. There are 12 ministries, headed by Ministers, Second Ministers, and Deputy Ministers: Prime Ministerʼs Office, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Religious Affairs, Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, Ministry of Communications, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Development, and Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

a very busy leader. The Crown Prince (Deputy Sultan), Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, is the Senior Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. A brother of the Sultan, Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, is the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. A particularly significant ministerial post is that of the Minister of Energy. His office is located in the Prime Minister’s Office, together with that of the Attorney General and the “State Mufti” — the highest religious authority — who all hold ministerial rank. Some of the ministries have a Second Minister or a Deputy Minister. In addition to the Council of Cabinet Ministers, the Sultan is advised by other councils as provided for in the constitution. These are the Council of Succession, the Privy Council and the Religious Council. Public The administration of the state is carried out by the civil service. Each administrators ministry is headed by a Permanent Secretary and one or two Deputy Permanent undergo Secretaries. A typical ministry is usually divided into several departments, training in each headed by a Director. Each of the four districts within Brunei is headed Brunei and by a District Officer and officials of the District Office, which comes under abroad to the Ministry of Home Affairs. The public administrators undergo training in obtain skills Brunei and abroad in order to obtain the necessary skills for the implementation for the impleof policies. They have to follow certain national directives for effective and mentation of efficient administration. One of the campaigns initiated a few years ago on policies. Civil Service Day was the so-called Client Charter, “Tekad Pemedulian Orang Ramai” (TPOR), referring to the civil servants’ pledge to care for the people. 32

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P. Thambipillai

Brunei follows two forms of judicial practices.

2 • Brunei Darussalam

There are several opportunities for the people to interact with the leaders and administrators and to voice their opinions on general matters. One way is through the village-level Consultative Council, where they can meet their elected ketua kampong (village headman), penghulu (head of several villages) and visiting government officials. Their requests or comments are communicated to the District Office. Another way is through the letters column in the newspapers. Currently there are two English and one Malay dailies. In addition, the Sultan and the Crown Prince often visit government offices and different parts of the country to have direct contact with the people and thus hear their views. The Chinese community and other indigenous communities that live in long-houses in the interior of the country also elect their own leaders to represent their interests. In the future, the Legislative Assembly will be another venue for public discussion. Legislation and other major policies are issued by decree, signed by the Sultan. However, the constitution does provide for a Legislative Council. In 2004, the Sultan revived the Legislative Assembly, which had not met for over two decades. In 2005, amendments were introduced to the Constitution that increased the number of members from the original twenty-one to thirty. Currently, the Assembly is made up of the Sultan and appointed members. It has met a few times in the last three years to discuss and debate certain policy issues and the national budget. For the younger generation, which has never witnessed the working of a legislature, the recent sittings have provided new insights into the role and processes of the legislative body. The size of the assembly will be increased to forty-five once the details of the revisions are in order. There are plans to elect a third of the legislature’s representatives from the various districts according to certain eligibility criteria. The application of the laws of the state is undertaken by the judiciary. As an Islamic state, Brunei follows two forms of judicial practices. The Syariah Islamic courts deal with matters related to Islam-based family laws like marriage, divorce and inheritance. It also handles offences such as khalwat: it is forbidden for a man and a woman who are not married to each other to be in close proximity. The other legal system is based on English Common Law and deals with all other cases of criminal and civil law. The courts are divided into the Supreme Court, High Court and Magistrates’ Courts, while the Court of Appeal considers appeals from the High Court. The members of the judiciary are independent of political or administrative influences and carry out their tasks according to prescribed laws. As the country lacks experienced legal personnel, some of the senior judges at the highest levels are foreign experts employed on contract. 33

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As in other states, maintaining law and order is the main task of the police, known formally as the Royal Brunei Police Force. It is entrusted with duties ranging from enforcing traffic regulations to safeguarding the community from thefts and other illegal activities. Protecting the state against external threats is the duty of the defence forces, called the Royal Brunei Armed Forces. Although both the police and the armed forces are small in comparison to those of neighbouring countries, they are well trained and equipped to meet the needs of the state. Internal security is always a focus of attention, especially with cross-border issues like terrorism, drug peddling and smuggling of banned items like liquor, the sale of which is prohibited in Brunei. Another area of concern is the introduction of deviant religious practices that are contrary to the main Islamic teaching. In cases where there is a severe threat to the people and the state, the offenders can be arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows the detention of individuals without trial. Offenders are kept in isolation, sometimes for two years, sometimes more, until a time when the authorities are confident that the individuals will no longer pose a threat. Over the past thirty years, several individuals have been detained under the ISA for various offences, but released upon good behaviour and swearing allegiance to the state.

ECONOMY Brunei Darussalam is the only country in Southeast Asia that has a monetary agreement with another state (Singapore). Under this agreement, the Brunei dollar is on par with the Singapore dollar. The average exchange rate against the U.S. dollar in 2007 was around US$1:B$1.50. Brunei is a rich country. According to current data, per capita income is about US$32,000. It has not always been that high: it has recently averaged about US$18,000. However, the dramatic increase in oil prices over the last three years has been a bonanza for Brunei. For instance, in 2004 the price of oil jumped to US$50 a barrel from about US$20 at the beginning of the millennium; in most of 2008 it was US$95 or more. Brunei is a gas and oil exporter and has profited from the growing international demand for these commodities. While not a large global exporter, Brunei produces more than enough oil and gas for its small economy and is able to export these commodities to large consumers like China, India, Japan and the United States, as well as to some ASEAN countries. Crude petroleum and natural gas account for the major portion of its exports. Income earned from those two commodities makes up about 90 per cent of the country’s total foreign earnings each year. Another, smaller earner is textiles, which are exported primarily to the United States. Most of Brunei’s food items, industrial machinery, automobiles, electronic products 34

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2 • Brunei Darussalam

TABLE 2.1 Bruneiʼs Oil and Gas Profile Brunei




Petroleum (1,000 barrels per day, 2006) Total oil production





Crude oil production



































Consumption Net exports/imports Refinery capacity Reserve (billion barrels)

Natural Gas (billion cubic feet, 2005) Production Consumption Net exports/imports Reserves

Source: Energy Information Administration Accessed April 2008.

and household goods are imported from major sources like Japan, China, Australia, the European Union, Malaysia and Singapore. Since its exports are much larger than its imports, Brunei has a large net income, and its foreign reserves keep increasing. Thus, with a small population, the government has no problem paying its employees a relatively high wage (in relation to other ASEAN states, apart from Singapore), does not collect any personal income tax, is able to provide free social services such as education and health, and has resources for infrastructure such as buildings and roads. The government also provides to eligible citizens free or affordable housing, as well as the land for it. The disadvantage of a national economy based on oil and gas is that Brunei’s domestic economy is vulnerable to the global economy and the global demand for oil. Brunei experiences inflation as a result of increasing prices. However, personal incomes have not increased. To alleviate some of the decline in purchasing power, the government has added a special allowance to the public servants’ monthly salaries. However, the private sector pay is much lower 35

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Oil and gas supplies will last for at least another thirty years.

(except in the banking and energy sectors). As a result, not many Bruneians want to work in the smaller companies that offer only lower paying jobs. The private sector, therefore, has to employ foreign workers, who normally come from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Bangladesh and India. Most are in the construction, retail and restaurant sectors, and in small businesses. Brunei also employs foreigners to fill higher-end jobs when there is a lack of Bruneian personnel. A number of skilled foreigners are working in the health, education and technical sectors. Brunei’s small working population is the main reason it needs to import workers. The workforce numbers only about 170,000. About a third of this is workers from abroad. Nevertheless, with its young population, unemployment is a concern. Each year, on average there are about 5,500 individuals registered as unemployed with the Labour Office; but the actual number of unemployed could be higher than that. Most of them are young, especially in the 18–25 age group, school leavers and others with low skills who have difficulty finding permanent jobs in the public or private sector. The government has a number of schemes to provide skills training, motivational workshops and business exposure, so that a percentage of the unemployed can become self-employed. If left unchecked, unemployment may contribute to social problems. The government is quite concerned about the situation and tries to improve employment opportunities within the country. No one can predict how long the oil and gas supplies will last. Using existing wells and new discoveries as a basis, researchers estimate that the supply will last for at least another thirty years. The oil and gas related ventures are owned jointly by the government and foreign multinationals. The largest venture is the Brunei Shell Petroleum Company and the Brunei Liquefied Natural Gas Company (BLNG), in which the government has a 50 per cent share. In 2005, the government set up its own company called the Brunei National Petroleum Company (PetroleumBrunei) to participate in the energy sector. Government-approved companies continually search for new sources of oil and gas, both on land and below the sea. The oil and gas industry is a lifeline for the country, with the Minister of Energy overseeing related issues such as the consumption of electricity and petrol for vehicles in order to conserve the resources. Brunei does not yet have industries that use hydrocarbons to produce other products like plastics. However, under a major industrialization plan, an area in Sungei Liang has been selected for an industrial park, and some industries will be established to take advantage of the available raw materials. One of them is a methanol project undertaken by a large Japanese company. One of the main concerns of Brunei’s government is the need to diversify the economy. The Brunei Economic Development Board (BEDB) promotes the industrial development of the country by attracting foreign


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Brunei is well known for its ecotourism, parks and forests.

2 • Brunei Darussalam

investment that could boost the export sector and create employment, so that Bruneians are not dependent solely on the government for employment. Businesses most common in Brunei largely fall under the “small” and “micro” categories, each employing five to twenty workers. The agriculture, livestock, poultry, and fisheries sectors are gradually gaining importance, but their output is nowhere near self-sufficient. The small-scale rice cultivation meets about 10 per cent of domestic needs, while the production of vegetables, fruits, chicken and dairy products satisfies only part of the demand. Recently, Brunei’s aquaculture industry has gained prominence, thanks to the high demand for its farmed fish and prawns, some of which are exported to and fetch high prices in foreign markets. However, only a small number of Bruneians are engaged in such activities and thus foreign workers are also needed in these sectors. Tourism is also seen as having the potential to contribute to the diversification of the economy and increase employment. It is a fairly new area of business activity, but the government is enthusiastic about its potential. Tourist arrivals are definitely the fewest in the ASEAN region. However, the situation can be improved with more strategic planning and the building of new hotels and attractions. Brunei is already well known for its ecotourism, parks and forests. Currently, it is promoting itself, together with the neighbouring destinations of Sabah and Sarawak, which attract hundreds of tourists each year, with the slogan “The Green Heart of Borneo”. Foreign visitors are usually enchanted by Brunei’s mosques, Water Village, Sultan’s palace, the museums and the natural attractions. Most of all, they like the peaceful environment, the lack of crowds and clean, unpolluted air. Meanwhile, the Tourism Department is also promoting domestic tourism with the catch-phrase KNK, Kenali Negara Kitani, or Discover Our Country, in an effort to popularize interesting sites, local food and handicrafts in the different districts. Cultural performances also attract domestic and foreign visitors and create more awareness of Brunei’s heritage.

FOREIGN RELATIONS Brunei is strategically located in the middle of Southeast Asia and faces the busy South China Sea lanes of maritime communication. As such, Brunei has cultivated long-standing relations with countries near and far. Its main aim in establishing good international relations is to be recognized as a sovereign and independent state and to safeguard its territorial integrity, security and national economic and social development. As a peace-loving nation, it has not been engaged in any violent conflict with its neighbours. Any outstanding bilateral disagreements or territorial issues, for instance the disputes with 37

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Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is at the forefront of promoting Bruneiʼs foreign relations.

Malaysia over land and maritime claims, are addressed through bilateral negotiations. Thus, Brunei has friendly relations with all states, especially with states with which it has long-established historical ties, shares common cultural characteristics, or are fellow members of regional organizations. Brunei’s external affairs are handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, which deals with diplomacy as well as trade and economic ties. It practises cordial relations with all states and has established bilateral ties with more than 100 countries. However, Brunei has permanent diplomatic missions in only about thirty-five countries and hosts about thirty diplomatic and consular missions in the country. Although the total number of missions abroad is not large, the missions are located in the capitals of the more important partner countries and at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Through those missions, Brunei is able to extend its friendly relations and promote its interests in the areas of economics, tourism, education and culture. Some of Brunei’s important partners are the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Germany, Australia, Japan, China and neighbours Malaysia and Singapore, with which Brunei shares historical, cultural and economic ties. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is headed by Prince Mohamed Bolkiah, who has been the Foreign Minister since 1984, and thus has a wealth of experience with Brunei’s foreign policies. The most recognizable face and the best ambassador for Brunei is Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah. He himself is often at the forefront of promoting Brunei’s foreign relations as he often attends summit meetings with other world leaders, such as at the UN or at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, or undertakes official visits to other countries to forge stronger bilateral ties. Assisting him is the Crown Prince, Al-Muhtadee Billah, who fulfils his role as the emerging leader of the sultanate by undertaking official visits. ASEAN, which Brunei joined in January 1984, is an important arena for Brunei’s interactions with its Southeast Asian neighbours. As a small state, Brunei attaches great value to regional cooperation as a means of ensuring its political and economic interests, as well as its security. For example, in the educational field, it has joined the Southeast Asia Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO). Its sportsmen participate in the Southeast Asian Games. Brunei also takes part in other important international organizations like the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Asia Europe Meeting, the Commonwealth, World Trade Organization, World Health Organization, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Police Organisation. It also participates in international financial institutions, such as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and Asian Development Bank. They provide Brunei with a great deal of support in its economic planning and in the form of consultation and expert advice. Brunei


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2 • Brunei Darussalam

is financially secure and therefore does not need to borrow large sums for development projects from those institutions. Being small has not prevented Brunei from being an important and active member of the international community. It supports international efforts in world peace and the speedy settlement of the Palestinian homeland, global The environmental efforts for a sustainable and green world, and humanitarian population contributions to disaster relief. For instance, it was one of the contributors to has always the rebuilding of infrastructure in Aceh following the tsunami in December responded 2004. Cash donations were also forwarded to tsunami victims in the affected positively and supported the Indian Ocean countries. Other victims of natural disasters, like those of the governmentʼs earthquakes in Pakistan and in Java, were also extended assistance through their governments. Whenever there is a foreign disaster, the usual procedure international is for the Brunei government to set up a fund and appeal to Bruneians’ initiatives in alleviating the generosity for contributions. The population has always responded positively sufferings of and supported the government’s international initiatives in alleviating the others. sufferings of others. Brunei is also at the forefront of expanding interpersonal contacts with the people of other nations, especially amongst the youth. There are governmentsponsored youth camps for international students, an annual ASEAN youth football competition, regional Quran reading competitions, and various scholarships for foreign students under ASEAN, the OIC and the Commonwealth. Brunei has also offered language training programmes to young diplomats from China and executive development programmes to civil servants from Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam to facilitate the integration of the newer members with the rest of ASEAN. Brunei sponsors its own students and young officers in specialized education and training programmes in foreign venues and in regional exchange programmes, such as those organized by the Singapore International Foundation and Japan’s Ship for Southeast Asian Youth, which brings together young people from Japan and the ten Southeast Asian countries. The government feels that through interaction amongst the youth, better understanding and goodwill can be established amongst the potential leaders of tomorrow.

THE PEACEFUL ABODE Brunei Darussalam has been able to provide a positive economic, social, cultural and religious environment for its people. It is sometimes referred to as the “Shellfare” state, a play on the word “welfare” and the name of the Royal Dutch Shell Company which pumps “black gold”. With regular income earned from hydrocarbons, the population has enjoyed a high standard of living and been able to afford expensive consumer items, including new automobiles and 39

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SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN

the latest electronic gadgets. Although the country follows a strict religious code of practice, i.e., not allowing the sale of alcohol or the establishment of disco clubs, there are many other forms of entertainment and social activities that keep the residents busy and happy. The social fabric is very strong and there are many family-oriented activities that bring members of extended families and friends together on several occasions throughout the year; for example, during the month of Ramadan and the subsequent Eid festival, as well as during weddings and other celebrations. The people of Brunei enjoy driving trips for shopping and entertainment to parts of Bornean Malaysia, and flying to peninsular Malaysia as well as Singapore. The national carrier, Royal Brunei Airlines, flies regularly to the ASEAN capitals and to selected foreign capitals, such as London and Sydney, providing ample opportunities for travel for Bruneians and visitors. The Sultan enjoys considerable support and loyalty from his subjects. He is a fitting symbol for the only Malay kingdom in the world, peaceful and appreciative of its place in Southeast Asia where the other states accept and treat it well.

CHRONOLOGY Historical Period: AD 5th century to 14th century Brunei is a flourishing kingdom which establishes trade relations with other kingdoms in Southeast Asia, such as Siam, Champa, and Srivijaya. Commercial relations are particularly close with China until the 13th century, when the Mongols conquer China, establish the Yuan Dynasty, and relations wane. Brunei is reported to have paid yearly tribute to the Majapahit rulers. Around 1371

The King of Brunei, Alak Betatur, embraces Islam and adopts the name Sultan Muhammad Shah. He declares independence from Majapahit rule.


During the period of the Ming Dynasty, China re-establishes ties with Brunei. Chinese envoys marry into the royal family of the sultanate.


Sultan Abdul Majid Hasan and his family visit China and are received by the Emperor. He later died in China. His tomb with the inscription “King of Puni” can still be observed.

The Golden Years: 14th to 19th centuries After 1511

The first Western colonial power arrives with the conquest of Malacca by the Portuguese.


Magellan and his delegation visit Brunei. With the delegation is Pigafetta whose writings give a clear insight into the old Brunei. Trade begins to flourish at that time.


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2 • Brunei Darussalam

After 1571

When the Spaniards establish their rule in Manila, they undertake several attempts to conquer Brunei, but are unsuccessful.


British East India Company, which has established a trading post in Balambangan in northern Borneo, moved to Labuan when Balambangan falls to Sulu. From Labuan the English traders visit Brunei, but no close ties are established until several decades later.

19th century

The sultanate is reduced by domestic squabbles, external wars, piracy and the beginnings of colonial expansion.


Englishman James Brooke convinces the visiting Pengiran Muda Hashim to hand over the administration of Sarawak.


Brooke visited Brunei and practically secures the administration of Sarawak based on an agreement with the Sultan. Brooke is thus successful in establishing himself as the king of Sarawak


As a result of the clever conniving of James Brooke, Brunei cedes Labuan to the British.


Agreement of Friendship and Trade is signed with the British represented by Brooke.

The Colonial Legacy, from 1888 2nd half of 19th century

Brunei has fallen into desperate straits and has to lease land in the east and other traders in the north who later establish, by charter, the British North Borneo Company to Charles Brooke in 1881.


The Sultan proclaims a decree that no territory of Brunei should be leased or ceded to any other country. In return, the British government proposes British protection to stop further disintegration.


The Sultan signs the Agreement of Protection with the British.


Charles Brooke seizes Limbang, a territory of Brunei. The British government condons the annexation. Further leasing of Brunei territory is avoided even though the Sultan faces financial difficulties.


Oil discovered in Brunei. Brunei becomes an important country, especially in the eyes of the British government.


Brunei and Britain enter into a new Agreement, which provides for full British protection, and Brunei comes under the British Residential System. The Resident would advise the Sultan in all matters except in Malay customs and religion.


With the defeat of the allies, Brunei falls under Japanese administration.


Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien succeeds his brother, Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin, as the 28th Sultan.


An agreement is signed between Britain and Brunei, leading to the promulgation of a written constitution for Brunei. It gives Brunei internal self-government.


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SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN

CHRONOLOGY — continued 1961

The Prime Minister of Malaya proposes the formation of a Federation of Malaysia, to include Brunei. The Sultan later rejects the idea of joining Malaysia.

August 1962

First elections are held for the Brunei Legislative Council. Parti Rakyat Brunei (PRB) wins all but one seat.

December 1962

PRB stages a rebellion to overthrow the Sultan. They are defeated with the help of British troops flown in from Singapore. Emergency rule is announced.

October 1967

The Sultan abdicates in favour of his eldest son. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah ascends the throne as the 29th Sultan.

August 1968

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah is crowned.


The earlier agreement between Britain and Brunei is amended to give full internal independence, with the British in charge of defence and external matters.


Brunei and Britain sign the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation, paving the way for the resumption of political independence.

Independent Brunei 1 January 1984

Brunei Darussalam becomes a sovereign state, with the proclamation of independence. Amendments are made to the original constitution to recognize the new political developments. Brunei adopts a cabinet system of government with the Sultan as the Head of State and government, guided by the Malay Islamic Monarchy philosophy.

7 January 1984

Brunei Darussalam becomes the sixth member of ASEAN. It later joins the Commonwealth, the Organization of Islamic Conference and the United Nations.

23 February 1984

Designated as National Day.

August 1998

Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah, the eldest son of the Sultan, is installed as the Crown Prince.

November 2000

Brunei successfully hosts the APEC Summit.


Brunei hosts the ASEAN Summit. This coincided with the Visit Brunei Year, with the theme, “a kingdom of unexpected treasures”. Tourism is promoted as a way to diversify the economy away from oil and gas.


The suspended legislature is revived. The legislative council of 21 appointed members considers amendments to the constitution that will restructure the council. It is to be increased to 45, with 30 appointed and 15 elected from the four districts.

May 2005

A major cabinet reshuffle is carried out. The Crown Prince is appointed as the Senior Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office. The ministers are appointed for a five-year period.


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2 • Brunei Darussalam

August 2005

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is enlarged.

August 2005

New political party, the National Development Party, is registered.

September 2005

The Sultan dissolves the legislature by decree and appoints 30 new members that will meet the following year.

March 2006

The second legislative council meeting takes place. For the first time, the state budget is tabled by the Minister of Finance and discussed by the council.

July 2006

A second English daily, the Brunei Times, is launched.

March 2007

Brunei launches the Heart of Borneo Project, a conservation initiative, together with Indonesia and Malaysia.

March 2007 and March 2008

The third and fourth legislative sessions are held. The new Legislative Council building costing about B$70 million is ceremoniously opened before the fourth legislative session.

End 2007

The government issues the National Development Plan (2007–2012) and the Long-Term Development Plan known as Wawasan Brunei 2035.

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION 1. Why is Brunei Darussalam considered one of the oldest kingdoms in Southeast Asia? 2. What is the British “protectorate” period of Brunei? 3. What are the unique features of Brunei’s political system? 4. Why is the government concerned about the largely youthful population of the country? 5. What are the major sources of income? What measures can be adopted to diversify the economy?

SUGGESTED FURTHER READINGS Borneo Bulletin Brunei Yearbook. Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Press, 2008. Brunei Darussalam Long Term Development Plan 2001–2005. Bandar Seri Begawan: Government Printers, 2007. Lord Chalfont, By God’s Will: A Portrait of the Sultan of Brunei. London: George Weidenfeld & Nicholson Ltd, 1989. Hussainmiya, B.A. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin III and Britain: The Making of Brunei Darussalam. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1995. Pehin Haji Awang Mohd Jamil Al-Sufri. Brunei Darussalam. The Road to Independence. Bandar Seri Begawan: Brunei History Centre, 1998.


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———. Survival of Brunei: A Historical Perspective. Bandar Seri Begawan: Brunei History Centre, 2002. Prince Mohamed Bolkiah. Time and the River: Brunei Darussalam 1947–2000 — A Memoir. Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Press, 2000. Saunders, Graham. A History of Brunei. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1994. Singh, D.S. Ranjit. Brunei 1839–1983: The Problems of Political Survival. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1984. Tarling, Nicholas. Britain, the Brookes and Brunei. Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1971. (for current information and economic data).


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Cambodia Sorpong Peou

INTRODUCTION Bordering Thailand in the west, Laos in the north, and Vietnam in the east, Cambodia became a member of ASEAN in 1999. The country has a total population of 14,241,640 (2008 estimate) and a land area of 181,035 square kilometres. As one of the few remaining kingdoms left in the world, it has a long history and rich cultural traditions, but still faces numerous challenges on the socioeconomic and political fronts. Early in the 1990s, it institutionalized economic and political reforms by moving away from socialism and in the direction of capitalism and liberal democracy, i.e., a political regime based on a competitive multi-party electoral system. Cambodia remains one of ASEAN’s poorest members. In recent history, it has made remarkable progress as a young democracy and has contributed to regional peace and stability. However, it still has a long way to go before it can reach its potential as a stable democracy and a significant member of the envisioned ASEAN community defined in security, economic, and socio-cultural terms.

A NATION WITH A LONG HISTORY Cambodia was an ancient kingdom that reached its height during the Angkor era (802–1431). Prior to this period, it had not emerged as a united kingdom but remained a collection of small states or principalities that traded among themselves, but also invaded each other for spoils, such as slaves. The Chinese referred to Cambodia as Funan. This lasted until the sixth century, but Funan gave way to a new powerful state known as Chenla. 47

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SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN

In the tenth century, Cambodia finally emerged as a unified kingdom under a new name — “Kambuja” — the term first popularized abroad by the Portuguese.

ANGKOR The state of Angkor, which later adopted the name Kambuja, emerged in the early ninth century, when it became renowned under King Jayavarman II (r.802–850), who started to build a unified kingdom. He and his twelve Angkorean successors built numerous temple-mountains. King Suryavarman II (r.1113–c.1150) built the most famous of these, known today as Angkor Wat. He ruled over a unified kingdom and was the first Angkorean king to establish diplomatic relations with China. Angkor’s glory did not last, however. The empire failed to build effective institutions, including an army. Zhou Daguan observed, “The soldiers … go naked and barefoot. In their right hand they carry a lance, and in their left hand a shield. They have nothing that could be called bows and arrows, trebuchets, body armor, helmets, or the like … when the Siamese attacked, all the ordinary people were ordered out to do battle, often with no good strategy

Zhou Daguanʼs Record of Cambodia During his visit to Cambodia from 1296 to 1297, a young Chinese envoy by the name of Zhou Daguan (1270–1350) wrote a detailed account of Angkorʼs everyday life. He found a mighty ecclesiastic capital called Angkor Thom in the centre of Bayon, a great gold tower, and Bapuon, an even taller bronze tower. According to one translation, “In the centre of the kingdom is a gold tower [Bayon]. … To the east of it is a golden bridge flanked by two gold lions, one on the left and one on the right. Eight gold Buddhas are laid out in a row at the lowest level of stone chambers. About a li north of the gold tower there is a bronze tower [Bapuon]. It is even taller than the gold tower, and an exquisite site. At the foot there are, again, several dozen stone chambers.” Observing one marvel after another during his stay in the kingdom, Zhou put down these words in his record: “I suppose all this explains why from the start there have been merchant seamen who speak glowingly about ʻrich, noble Cambodiaʼ.”1


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3 • Cambodia

or preparation.”2 Wars between Cambodia and Siam (Thailand) broke out frequently in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The most important of the Siamese invasions occurred in 1431. Then came the fall of Cambodia’s first capital, Yasodharapura, when it was razed by the Siamese army. The Khmer migrated southward to the vicinity of a place known as Phnom Penh, which has remained the capital until today. Conflict among Khmer rulers developed, often leading them to seek protection and support from their two neighbours, Siam and Vietnam.

FRENCH PROTECTORATE French naturalist Henri Mouhot discovered the ruins when he arrived at Angkor in 1860.

The Khmer empire continued to decline and often lost its independence to its neighbours. Angkor lay in ruins for centuries, and the ruins did not come to light until the French naturalist Henri Mouhot discovered them when he arrived at Angkor in 1860. Then in 1863, the kingdom became a protectorate of France, and the French called it “Cambodge”. A new colonial era began in Cambodia that extended until 1953. French hegemony over the kingdom lasted about ninety years. During the latter period of French colonial rule, the colony launched rebellions against its rulers. The French then tightened their control over the country and began to regard the latter as part of French administration in Indochina. They also institutionalized communes, whose officials responded directly to the French authorities and later to handpicked Cambodian kings. According to historian David Chandler, “until 1953, except for a few months in the summer of 1945, Cambodian officials of high rank played a subordinate, ceremonial role, and those at lower levels of the administration were underpaid servants of a colonial power. At no point in the chain of command was initiative rewarded.”3

INDEPENDENCE Anti-French nationalism began to grow in intensity in the early 1940s, after the Second World War broke out. As Japanese forces advanced on Southeast Asia and occupied most countries in the region, and as the French began to lose control after the Japanese jailed French officials and ruled through local leaders, Cambodian nationalism grew. Cambodian intellectuals did not fail to observe the realities of French military weakness then and may have drawn strength from Japanese sympathy for their anti-French sentiments. During this period, the hand-picked king of Cambodia, Norodom Sihanouk, responded to a formal request from the Japanese and declared Cambodian independence on 13 March 1945. Sihanouk then changed the French name for 49

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King Norodom Sihanouk Cambodia eventually gained its independence in 1953. No other Cambodian deserves credit for this historical event than King Sihanouk, who intensified his diplomatic efforts at home and overseas in his push for his countryʼs independence. He travelled to France, Canada, the United States, and Japan. According to David Chandler, the king “arrived back in Phnom Penh in May and dramatically offered his life in exchange for Cambodiaʼs independence”.4 Finally in October 1953, France agreed to grant him authority over the key fields of government, most notably the judiciary, foreign affairs and defence. After the 1954 Geneva Conference, Cambodia gained military autonomy. King Sihanouk then became known as “Father of Independence”.

Cambodia, “Cambodge”, to “Kampuchea”, issued a decree that invalidated Franco-Cambodian agreements, and pledged his country’s cooperation with the Japanese. However, Cambodia did not gain its independence from France then: the colonial power came back following Japan’s defeat and resumed its colonial rule in the summer of 1945. The French soon loosened their hold on the colony, but still maintained control over key areas of government, most notably finance, foreign affairs and national defence. As a newly independent state, Cambodia enjoyed more than a decade of political stability. This fragile stability resulted from the authoritarian politics of Prince Sihanouk, who abdicated the throne in March 1955 and founded a national political movement known as the Sangkum Reastr Niyum (People’s Socialist Community). Cambodia’s newly introduced liberal democracy gave way to “paternalistic authoritarianism”. As the father of Cambodian independence, the Prince regarded himself as the “natural ruler” of his country. Although his regime first brought about stability, it faced growing opposition from the left and right, subsequently ran into trouble, and eventually collapsed when his Minister for Defence, General Lon Nol, ousted him in a bloodless coup in 1970.

KHMER REPUBLIC The Khmer Republic under the leadership of Lon Nol emerged into a new era of authoritarianism. Soon afterwards, the new regime faced growing challenges, most notably a civil war launched by a leftist movement known 50

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as the Khmer Rouge (Red Khmer or Communist Khmer) led by Pol Pot and other Cambodian intellectuals. The war spread across the country in a short period of time and came to an end in April 1975, when the Khmer Rouge army defeated the republican forces.

KHMER ROUGE ERA The end of the civil war did not usher in a new era of freedom, peace and security for Cambodians, however. The new Khmer Rouge regime under the radical leadership of Prime Minister Pol Pot quickly began its reign of terror, turning the entire country into “killing fields”. The totalitarian regime proved far more ruthless than any other regime the country had ever known: in just a few years, between one and two million Cambodians are believed to have perished. In view of its responsibility for the deaths of its own people and the destruction of its political enemies and the nation as a whole, the Pol Pot regime did not last long. In December 1978, Vietnam invaded Cambodia and ousted this most brutal government.

CIVIL WAR AND RESISTANCE The new socialist regime offered Cambodians more freedom and security, but could not put an end to the war.

The Vietnamese military invasion did not bring peace to Cambodia, either. In fact, the war — known as the Third Indochina War — became internationalized and continued through the 1980s. A new puppet regime — the People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) — was set up in Phnom Penh, led by a group of former Khmer Rouge officials who enjoyed the support of their Vietnamese and other allies in the Soviet bloc. The new socialist regime offered Cambodians more freedom and security, but could not put an end to the war. The ten-year struggle to find a peaceful solution to the Cambodian problem included ASEAN’s leadership of the diplomatic opposition to the Vietnamese occupation of the country, the resistance struggle by the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea and ASEAN, and Indonesia-led efforts, notably at the Jakarta Informal Meetings, to find a political settlement of the situation. Under growing pressure from members of the international community, especially from the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the PRK (later renamed the State of Cambodia or SOC) finally signed the Paris Peace Agreements on 23 October 1991 with the three resistance forces. The three resistance factions were the United National Front for an Independent, Neutral, Peaceful, and Co-operative Cambodia (FUNCINPEC) founded and led by Prince Sihanouk, the Khmer People’s National Liberation 51

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Front (KPNLF) led by former Prime Minister Son Sann, and the Democratic Kampuchea (DK) led by Khmer Rouge remnants, including Pol Pot, his senior ministers and military commanders.


Cambodia entered ASEAN in April 1999.

The Paris Peace Agreements offered Cambodia a new lease on life by enabling the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) to undertake a massive UN peace-keeping operation and later supervise general elections in 1993. The fighting did not end until 1998, however. The Khmer Rouge turned its back on the Agreements, defying the international community and continuing its rebellion until its final disintegration, after internal fighting within the movement and especially after Pol Pot’s death. Ever since, Cambodia has enjoyed peace and stability, having overcome difficulties, notably the system of two Prime Ministers or shared power. The end of the system, devised after the 1993 elections, followed disagreements between the two leaders, Prince Ranariddh and Hun Sen, resulting in the ouster of Prince Ranariddh in 1997. Taking place less than a month before the country’s scheduled admission into ASEAN, the turmoil led to the postponement of Cambodia’s membership. Cambodia would have entered ASEAN together with Laos and Myanmar in July 1997. Instead, the country’s admission finally took place in April 1999. Cambodia thus has had a long history of alternating between glory and tragedy, and war and peace.

SOCIO-CULTURAL AND ECONOMIC SITUATION Cambodia now has a fast-growing population made up of different ethnic groups: Khmer, Chinese, Cham, Vietnamese, Thai, and various tribes. However, the country remains largely homogeneous in that the Khmer make up the largest ethnic group, with its own language and cultural traditions.

LANGUAGE AND KHMER IDENTITY The Khmer have their own unique cultural history in terms of language. History reveals the Khmer as a distinct cultural identity amongst the inhabitants of Cambodia. Before the Angkor period, they spoke languages related to that spoken by contemporary Cambodians — known as 52

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Cambodiaʼs Linguistic Background According to David Chandler, “pre-Angkorean Cambodia was not an integrated despotic state … [but] a collection and a sequence of principalities sharing a despotic language of politics and control”. Although Chinese descriptions regarded the inhabitants of this kingdom as “barbarians”, they recognized them as having “their own history and books … even have archives for their texts”.5 Zhou Daguan further observed that this country had its own language: “Everyday writing and official documents are all done on the skin of muntjaks, deer, etc., that is dyed in black … People use a kind of powder like Chinese chalk … The writing is always from left to right, not from top to bottom”.6 He also noted, “The countryʼs language consists of sounds that are its own, and despite being nearby, neither the Chams nor the Siamese can make themselves understood.”7 This does not mean that the language remained pure over the centuries. For instance, the Thai and Khmer languages share some similar words based on a common source, be it Khmer, Thai, Pali, or Sanskrit. Because of French colonial rule, the Khmer people absorbed some French words, especially technical ones, into their language. The Khmer language also has traces of Chinese and Vietnamese. Still, the Khmer language remains distinct from others: for instance, Thai is tonal, but Khmer is not. Cambodians continue to use their language to describe themselves as “Khmer”, identify themselves as a collective group (“Khmer Yoeung”), and refer to their country as “Srok Khmer”.

Khmer. These languages belonged to the Mon-Khmer family, found scattered widely over mainland Southeast Asia and even some parts of India.

TRADITIONS The Khmer remain proud of their cultural traditions. Their proverbs provide some clues to their conservative attitude. One proverb, for instance, admonishes them: “Don’t reject the crooked road and don’t take the straight one; instead, take the road travelled by the ancestors.” Another says: “Don’t brag about yourself; you may be shamed by traditional wisdom.” According to one scholar, these Khmer proverbs provide a theme highlighting “the importance of tradition, including respect for the ways things have always been done. Trying something new is not encouraged”.8 53

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Angkor Wat Although not known for their philosophical sophistication, the Khmer identify themselves as a people whose ancestors built many magnificent temples, most notably Angkor Wat — their cultural home. Still the largest temple on our planet and regarded as the supreme masterpiece of Khmer architecture, the temple remains one of the architectural wonders of the world and the pinnacle of a great ancient civilization — often compared to the architecture of ancient Greece and Rome. In the fifteenth century, some European missionaries even mistakenly referred to “the ruins of an ancient city … built by the Romans or Alexander the Great”. According to Henri Mouhot, Angkor (with its more than 100 temples and remarkable carvings) was “grander than anything left by Greece or Rome”. One Portuguese traveller, who passed through Angkor between 1585 and 1588, wrote: “The temple … is such a strange construction that it cannot be described with the pen, nor can one compare it to any other building in the world … the roof of their vaults is lavishly decorated and terminates in a very high pointed dome, built on innumerable columns with all the refinement that human genius can conceive.”9 Western visitors even questioned whether the Khmer could build such a temple. Cambodians themselves used to wonder if angels or a vanished army of giants built it.

CULTURAL REVIVAL Moreover, Cambodians consider themselves bound by a common form of fine arts. Three Western scholars have pointed out that “the arts … are often taken as the hallmarks of Khmer culture”.10 Khmer traditional culture includes masked dance, shadow play, basãk and yike theatres, and alternate singing called “ayai”. According to one Cambodian scholar, Sam-Ang Sam, “presentday Khmer musical forms are the living continuation of the musical tradition of the ancient Khmer … Before 1975 the arts reached audiences of every class in society; the University of Fine Arts … had organized several performing tours each year, taking artistic productions to villages throughout the country, even to remote areas”.11 The Khmer Rouge regime destroyed much of the fine arts, killing most Cambodian artists and musicians, both performers and teachers (approximately 90 per cent of them), who fell victim to its “cultural revolution” between 1975 and 1978. According to a Cambodian 54

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scholar, “We have lost our most able musicians, artists who have devoted their entire lives to gaining knowledge and ability.”12 During the 1980s, however, Cambodians tried to revive their art and music. Those living overseas have contributed greatly to the restoration of their traditions. They hold traditional wedding ceremonies and participate in major cultural events (for example, the New Year in April), often accompanied by traditional dance, theatre performances and traditional Khmer music. One cannot fully understand Cambodian culture without an understanding of religious influence, however. Cambodians are now allowed to practise different religions. Christian churches enjoy freedom of worship. At the end of the 1990s, there were 376 churches (with 49,026 followers) and 85 Christian schools. Christians freely exercise their faith. A few churches have antagonized angry villagers, but this type of threat has been isolated and died down quickly. Muslims enjoy the same religious freedom. By the end of the 1990s, they had built at least 202 mosques and 150 Muslim schools. In 2003, about 500,000 Cham Muslims lived in Cambodia. Other religions permitted to operate include Bahai, Kao Dai, Khong Moeng, Kong Si Im, Mahayana Buddhism, and Miloeuk.

CENTRALITY OF BUDDHISM Buddhism, however, remains Cambodia’s most dominant religion. Initially, in the pre-Angkor period, Mahayana Buddhism was dominant but then gave way to Theravada Buddhism in the fourteenth century. Jayavarman VII was a Mahayana Buddhist, but his death around 1220 led most Cambodians to convert to Theravada Buddhism. The Khmer Rouge regime completely destroyed Buddhism (and other religions), but the People’s Republic of Kampuchea subsequently restored it. At the end of the 1990s, Cambodia had approximately 3,685 pagodas (of which 3,588 belonged to the Mohanikay). Cambodians living in Australia, North America and Europe have also built Buddhist monasteries or temples, trying to revive and maintain the religious rituals and ceremonies familiar to them. Today, approximately 95 per cent of Cambodians practise Buddhism. For Cambodian Buddhists in general, “to be Khmer is to be Buddhist”. They hold their deep belief in the law of karma evident in the notion of selfreliance, the consequences of human actions, reincarnation, redemption, and non-violence. Cambodian Buddhism acknowledges the inevitability of human suffering, but advocates pacifism on the basis of the norms of non-violence and respect for all forms of life on earth. Besides this, Cambodian Buddhists do not share one single religious doctrine that unifies the different aspects of their beliefs. For instance, they 55

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share no common understanding of what caused them to suffer so much under the Khmer Rouge. Some believe that individuals bore the consequences of their actions in their previous lives. Some put blame on the Khmer as a collective nation and their leaders for having sinned (Tveu Bab). Some believe in the fulfilment of an old prophecy (Puˇtth tuˇmneay) predicting the coming of “enemies of religion” called tmil (referring to the Khmer Rouge). Some rely on folk tales to explain the suffering, and still others prefer other explanations.


Buddhist socialism favoured coexistence between the ruler and the ruled.

Throughout Cambodia’s history, Buddhism was a subject of political manipulation by Cambodian leaders. After gaining independence for his country, Sihanouk began to rely on Buddhism as a way to mobilize popular support for his rule. Most Cambodians believed that “without a king, the kingdom will shatter”. Sihanouk adopted the concept of “Buddhist socialism” based on his vision to establish social equality, promote the well-being of his people and create a national identity. His “socialism” rejected Marxism and Leninism, but had its roots in religious traditions. In fact, he used this ideology to combat Marxist socialism (regarded as the way to make it impossible for the strong and the weak to coexist). Buddhist socialism favoured coexistence between the ruler and the ruled, although the former must treat the people with empathy and goodness. Change towards equality must come from charity, rather than from violent revolution. But this religious socialism failed allegedly because of his violence against his political enemies. As president of the Khmer Republic, Lon Nol also used Buddhism to help boost his new political regime. He promoted the concept of peace and justice based on Buddhist teachings, such as the law of karma. This concept offered his overthrow of Sihanouk some religious justification: the Prince’s downfall resulted from his bad deeds or sinful behaviour or crimes against Buddhism, rather than from his opponents’ political ambitions and methods. Like Sihanouk, however, Lon Nol used Buddhism to combat communism as advocated by the Khmer Rouge movement. He regarded the war against the Communists as a “holy war” against an enemy without religion. A triumph by the Communists would mean the end of Buddhism. The Republican traditionalists’ fears then materialized. Their Buddhist ideology fell quickly into a dark age when the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975. Although the new Communist constitution recognized religious freedom, the new regime violently abolished it in practice. The revolutionaries in fact acted upon what Karl Marx said about religion: “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feelings of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of unspiritual conditions. It is the opium of the people.” The Khmer Rouge


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revolutionaries emptied the pagodas by force and purged Buddhist monks, who numbered approximately 65,000 at the time. They did this by defrocking and executing the monks or working them to death, having regarded them as a political threat to their regime and thus seeking to depoliticize them once and for all. Buddhism still remains politicized in modern Cambodia. The Buddhist clergy divides itself into two major contending denominations: one led by Venerable Tep Vong of the Mohanikay denomination, which has lent support to the Cambodia People’s Party (CPP); the other — led by Venerable Bou Kry of the tiny Thommayut denomination — which has so far identified itself with the royalists.

THE ECONOMY Growth rates in recent years have remained strong: 10.5 per cent in 2006, 9.5 per cent in 2007, and 7.5 per cent in 2008.

Although its economy suffered badly from many years of war and poor policies (especially during the Khmer Rouge period), Cambodia has experienced good economic growth over the past decade. In 2004, the World Bank offered an optimistic assessment of the national economy, viewing its growth rate from 1993 to 1994 as rapid: about 7.1 per cent per annum. The growth rates in recent years have remained strong: 10 per cent in 2004, 13.4 per cent in 2005, 10.5 per cent in 2006, 9.5 per cent in 2007, and 7.5 per cent in 2008. Still, Cambodia remains one of Southeast Asia’s poorest countries. The percentage of people living below the poverty line has declined, from between 40 and 50 per cent in 1994 to 36.1 per cent in 1997 and to 35 per cent in 2004. Overall, growth of per capita gross national income (GNI) between 1998 and 2005 appears to have occurred very slowly from $247 in 1998 to $320 in 2005, and could reach US$340 in 2008. In 2005, the monthly income of a soldier was about $15, of a public school teacher no more than $30, and of a factory worker about $45. Socio-economic inequalities persist and continue to widen. When measured in terms of the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Index (HDI), social exclusion on the basis of poverty, education or gender discrimination remains both quantitatively and qualitatively extensive and structurally ingrained. The HDI score stood at 0.541 in 2001, ranking Cambodia 121st among 174 countries. In 2002, it ranked 131st out of 175 nations. The Gender-related Development Index (GDI) of 0.514 stood among the lowest in Asia. The Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) score was only 0.283 in 2007, while the score on the Human Poverty Index (HPI) was 42.53, high in relation to the country’s per capita income. When measured against the increase in socio-economic inequality, which 57

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rose from a Gini coefficient of 0.35 in 1994 to 0.40 in 2004 (a Gini of 1 represents perfect inequality, whereas a Gini of 0 represents perfect equality), per capita GNI reveals that the poor have made no significant improvement. Cambodia still faces a growing unemployment problem, as the labour force continues to rise, because of rapid demographic growth. In 2005, the industrial sector — particularly agri-business and garments — employed only 8 per cent of the labour force (the most dynamic sector, the garment industry, employed only about 250,000 workers). Garment exports were highly dependent on developed countries’ markets. Construction employed about 2.4 per cent of the total employed population. The economy remains uncompetitive and based on a few sectors (tourism, textiles and construction), which have not generated enough jobs for the unemployed. The discovery of major offshore oil and gas fields has helped improve the economic prospects of Cambodia, provided the revenues from such resources are not squandered through corruption. The exploitation of timber resources is an environmental challenge facing the country.


King Norodom Sihamoni took over the throne from his father on 14 October 2004.

Cambodia’s 1993 Constitution, regarded as the “Supreme Law of the Kingdom of Cambodia”, opened a new chapter in the country’s long history. Its Preamble reminds the people of the “grand civilisation of a prosperous, powerful, and glorious nation whose prestige radiates like a diamond” and the need to defend “the prestige of Angkor civilisation”. The Preamble also states the aim to “restore Cambodia as a ‘Land of Peace’ based on a multiparty liberal democratic regime guaranteeing human rights and the respect of law, and responsible for the destiny of the nationals always evolving toward progress, development, prosperity, and glory”. In 1993, Cambodia re-emerged as a kingdom, whose motto “Nation, Religion, and King” appears in the Constitution, and established itself as a constitutional monarchy. Following King Sihanouk’s abdication, King Norodom Sihamoni (born on 14 May 1953) took over the throne from his father on 14 October 2004. The monarch serves as Head of State. A number of articles in the Constitution make it appear as if the monarchy is a very powerful institution. Despite his constitutional roles as Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces (Article 23) and as Chairman of the Supreme Council of National Defence with the power to declare war (Article 24) and the right to grant partial or complete amnesty (Article 27), the King has limited powers as a constitutional monarch. The role of chief executive lies with the Prime Minister.


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Cambodia has a bicameral legislature, made up of a National Assembly and a Senate. The Constitution states that the Assembly is the only organ with legislative power, which is not transferable to any other organ or individual. The 1993 Constitution provides for no senate. However, after the elections in 1998, the Senate came into existence (in March 1999), apparently in response to the need for a better checks-and-balance system. Actually, it was to make sure that Chea Sim, a Hun Sen ally, as Senate President would be Acting Prime Minister in Hun Sen’s absence, rather than Prince Ranariddh, Hun Sen’s enemy, as Speaker of the Assembly. Cambodia adopted a parliamentary system based on the principle of a “fusion of powers”. Although in theory, all powers are concentrated in the Parliament, executive power remains in the hands of Prime Minister Hun Sen. Cambodia is fundamentally a unitary state. The administrative structure operates at different levels: national, provincial, municipal, district, and communal. There are twenty provinces and four municipalities (Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Kep, and Pailin). Each municipality contains its own sections (khan) and each section has its own quarters (sangkat). The central government controls the state bureaucracy, whose administrative personnel and those of the military and security apparatuses implement public policies. The post-1993 governments have committed themselves in principle to building an independent judiciary. Article 128 of the Constitution stipulates that the judicial body “shall be an independent power” and “shall guarantee and uphold impartiality and protect the rights and freedoms of the citizens”. The judiciary has the following courts: a Supreme Court with nine judges and four prosecutors, one Appeal Court with nine judges and four prosecutors, lower courts located in each province and municipality, and military courts under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of National Defence. The judiciary depends on a special police force to carry out its decisions. Known as the Gendarmerie, this special police force (which differs from the National Police under the Ministry of Interior) was formally established in 1994 as an autonomous unit within the National Armed Forces. Recently Cambodia and the United Nations established a mixed criminal court made up of different Extraordinary Chambers responsible for bringing to justice surviving Khmer Rouge leaders charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity. Cambodian judges and prosecutors work with their international counterparts. It started operations in July 2006. Today, Cambodia has a large number of political parties. The major ones are the CPP, FUNCINPEC, and the Sam Rainsy Party (SRP). The 59

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CPP and FUNCINPEC still share power in government, but the latter has weakened and split into factions. The SRP remains the only credible opposition party. The extent to which Cambodia has become democratic remains a matter The ruling party, the CPP, of debate. The ruling party, the CPP, regards the country as a democracy, regards the but the opposition parties continue to challenge this label. The truth lies country as a somewhere in between. On the positive side, Cambodians have witnessed democracy, the regular holding of national and communal elections. National elections but the took place in 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2008. In the last national election, opposition the CPP won 90 seats, the Human Rights Party 3, FUNCINPEC 2, and the parties Norodom Ranariddh Party 2. In 2006, the government remained large, with continue to 334 senior ministers and 186 cabinet positions. Two commune elections were challenge this held in 2001 and 2007. label. On the negative side, however, the CPP has always dominated the political arena. It lost in the 1993 election, but Hun Sen managed to be elected Second Prime Minister. The CPP has won the subsequent elections. Prime Minister Hun Sen has thus managed to stay in power since 1985, when he emerged as the world’s youngest prime minister at the age of thirty-three, having won all votes cast in a secret ballot in the National Assembly. Since 1985, he has remained as Prime Minister, except for the brief period from 1993 to 1997 (when he served as Second Prime Minister). Since the parliamentary system does not impose limits on the tenure of the Prime Minister (as long as the people vote in elections to keep his party in power), Hun Sen has proved far more successful in consolidating power in Cambodia than anyone else. None of the opposition parties now enjoys any prospects of electoral victory. Thus, although the transition towards democracy in Cambodia began in 1991, when the warring factions signed the Paris Peace Agreements, democracy remains unconsolidated.

FOREIGN RELATIONS Vietnam remained Cambodiaʼs most important regional military ally.

As Cambodia experienced peace and political stability, it began to expand its relations with other states in Southeast Asia and outside the region. Until the early 1990s, it maintained diplomatic ties with states within the socialist bloc led by the former Soviet Union. Vietnam remained Cambodia’s most important regional military ally. After the 1993 election, however, the new government restored its diplomatic relations with non-socialist states. The 1991 Paris Peace Agreements paved the way for the UN to intervene in Cambodia. UNTAC began the deployment of its civilian and military personnel in 1992 and then prepared a national election that took place in 1993.


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Some of the signatories to the Paris Peace Agreement and the UN also became donors, providing Cambodia with much-needed international assistance. The major bilateral donors include the developed states, China and Russia. The major multilateral donors include UN agencies (such as the United Nations Development Programme), the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Asian Development Bank. Between 1992 and 2006, the donor community pledged billions of dollars and claimed to have disbursed US$6.947 billion. With international support, Cambodia has now joined several major international organizations apart from the UN. In October 2004, Cambodia became the 148th member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the first “least-developed” country to join it. Cambodia joined ASEAN in April 1999, after a two-year delay because of the domestic political turmoil, and has since become active in regional affairs. In 2002–2003, for instance, the government hosted three major international meetings. In November 2002, Cambodia hosted the eighth ASEAN Summit meeting, attended by the leaders of the ten ASEAN members, later joined by those of China, Japan, India, South Korea and South Africa. Prime Minister Hun Sen then reaffirmed his support for ASEAN’s commitment to the “Initiative for ASEAN Integration”, which aims to close the development gap between the older and newer members of ASEAN. In June 2003, as Chair of ASEAN, Cambodia organized both the thirtysixth ASEAN meeting of ministers responsible for foreign affairs, the tenth ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), attended by ministers responsible for foreign affairs and senior officials from its twenty-two members, including China, India, Japan, Russia, and the United States, and the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conferences with ASEAN Dialogue Partners. Overall, Cambodia has rejoined the international community.

CONCLUSION As one of the oldest nations in Southeast Asia, Cambodia has a long history of glory and tragedy. It provides a good case study for this truth: victory by war, other violent means or colonial rule does not last. War or violent conflict perpetuated the miseries of Cambodians for centuries, but only peaceful means provided them a way out. The Paris Peace Agreements offer a partial testament to this reality: they provided a new exit out of war and violence and opened a new door for peaceful co-existence among former foes. Peace in this war-torn nation has now prevailed, but remains unconsolidated, because democracy still stands on an uncertain foundation. To ensure durable peace, its national leaders must consolidate the democratic gains 61

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they have made in recent years and do their best to achieve more equitable economic development for their people. Cambodia and other states in ASEAN — enemies that became members of the same organization — now share one great understanding in common: the use of military force for self-defence remains legitimate, but the war of conquest and domination no longer pays. Upon this truth Cambodia and other ASEAN member states can now together build their common vision based on peace and guarantee freedom and liberty for their peoples. Only when they prove able to stand together as stable democracies and responsible members of a regional community can they hope to move closer towards stable peace instead of war. Other challenges facing Cambodia include overcoming corruption, balancing between powerful neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam, coping with the rise of China, and learning how to deal wisely with the new wealth generated by oil and gas.


Angkorean Era, Khmer Empire


Cambodia becomes a French protectorate


Norodom Sihanouk becomes King


Cambodia gains independence


Norodom Sihanouk abdicates to involve himself in politics


Norodom Sihanouk is overthrown, the Khmer Republic emerges


The Khmer Rouge regime takes over Cambodia; Pol Pot becomes Prime Minister

1978 (late December)

Vietnam invades Cambodia


The People’s Republic of Kampuchea (PRK) is installed in Phnom Penh


Hun Sen becomes Prime Minister


Vietnam withdraws its troops from Cambodia; the PRK is renamed State of Cambodia (SOC)


The Paris Peace Agreements are signed


United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) intervenes in Cambodia


The first National Election takes place: Norodom Ranariddh becomes First Prime Minister; Hun Sen becomes Second Prime Minister.


Prince Norodom Sihanouk becomes King for the second time


Conflict between Ranariddh and Hun Sen leads to the overthrow of the former


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Pol Pot dies; Khmer Rouge rebellion ends


The second National Assembly election takes place; Hun Sen emerges as the only Prime Minister of Cambodia


Cambodia joins ASEAN


The third National Assembly election takes place; Hun Sen wins and remains Prime Minister


Norodom Sihamoni becomes King


The Khmer Rouge trials begin


The fourth National Assembly election takes place

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION 1. When did the state of Angkor emerge and how long did it last? 2. How long did French colonial rule in Cambodia last? Who was the key political figure in the fight against French colonialism? 3. When did the Khmer Rouge reign of terror — known as “killing fields” — begin and end? How did it end and why? 4. Did the Paris Peace Agreements signed in 1991 help promote peace in Cambodia? Why did the United Nations intervene in Cambodia? 5. When did Cambodia join ASEAN and why?

SUGGESTED FURTHER READINGS Chandler, David. A History of Cambodia. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993. ———. Brother Number One. Crow’s Nest, NSW: Allen & Unwin, 1993. Ebihara, May M., Carol A. Mortland, and Judy Ledgerwood, eds. Cambodian Culture since 1975: Homeland and Exile. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1994. Finot, Louis. “The Temple of Angkor Wat”. In The Customs of Cambodia, by Zhou Daguan, edited and translated by Michael Smithies. Bangkok: The Siam Society under Royal Patronage, 2001. Jackson, Karl D., ed. Cambodia: 1975–1978 Rendezvous with Death. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1989. Peou, Sorpong. International Democracy Assistance for Peacebuilding: Cambodia and Beyond. New York and Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.


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Samboon Suksamran. “Buddhism, Political Authority, and Legitimacy in Thailand and Cambodia”. In Buddhist Trends in Southeast Asia, edited by Trevor Ling. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 1993. Tonkin, Derek. “Modern Cambodian Writing”. Culture et Civilisation Khmer, no. 5, December 1962. Zhou Daguan. A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People, translated with an introduction by Peter Harris. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2007.

NOTES 1. Zhou Daguan, A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People (Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2007), p. 48. 2. Ibid., p. 39. 3. David Chandler, A History of Cambodia (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1993), p. 148. 4. Ibid., p. 185. 5. Ibid., p. 15. 6. Zhou Daguan, A Record of Cambodia, pp. 61, 62. 7. Ibid., p. 60. 8. Karen Fisher-Nguyen, “Khmer Proverbs: Images and Rules”, in Cambodian Culture since 1975, edited by May M. Ebihara, Carol A. Mortland, and Judy Ledgerwood (Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 1994), p. 97. 9. Cited in Louis Finot, “The Temple of Angkor Wat”, pp. 141–42. 10. Ledgerwood, Ebihara and Mortland, “Introduction”, in Cambodian Culture since 1975. 11. Sam-Ang Sam, “Khmer Traditional Music Today”, in Cambodian Culture since 1975, pp. 41–42. 12. Ibid., p. 47.


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Malaysia Johan Saravanamuttu and Ooi Kee Beng

INTRODUCTION Like most countries in Southeast Asia, the Federation of Malaysia that we see today gained its contours through colonial contingencies. Apparently, the first contact that the peninsula had with Europeans was made in August 1511, when the Portuguese attacked the port of Malacca as part of a campaign to divert the spice trade away from routes controlled by Arab traders. The peninsula soon experienced the political power of Dutch and English merchants and officials. English influence also came to cover the northern areas of the island of Borneo, which are now parts of Malaysia except for the rich but tiny sultanate of Brunei. The modern nation of Malaysia is, therefore, very much the result of British control over the trade routes between East Asia on the one hand and the Indian sub-continent, the Middle East and Europe on the other. Today, Malaysia is composed of thirteen states, nine having sultans or rajas, one of whom is chosen every fifth year to serve as the constitutional monarch or Yang di-Pertuan Agong of all of Malaysia. The population structure of Peninsular Malaysia is Malays (50 per cent), Chinese (24 per cent) and Indians (7 per cent), with other minority communities, such as the Eurasians, forming the rest. Sabah and Sarawak have large numbers of indigenous communities such as the Iban, Kadazan, Melanau and Orang Ulu, besides the Malays and the Chinese. Malays are invariably Muslims (indeed, the constitution defines them as such), while the Chinese and Indians are mostly Buddhists and Hindus, respectively. There are also large numbers of Christians in Sabah and Sarawak. It is controversially said that the 1957 Constitution, based on the work of the Reid Commission, constituted a “social contract” among the major 113

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ethnic communities. This pact granted citizen rights to all on the principle of jus soli, by virtue of birth in the country, not on the basis of the citizenship of one’s parent or parents. Article 153 guarantees the special position of the Malays (or later in 1963, Bumiputeras [sons of the soil]). Article 152 establishes Malay (Bahasa Malaysia) as the National Language, and Article 11 guarantees religious freedom with Islam as the “religion of the federation” (Article 3). The British had rejected an alternative constitution in 1947, which was proposed by the PUTERA-AMCJA coalition of multi-ethnic and multi-religious forces. This “People’s Constitution” called for all Malayans to be recognized as “Melayu”, and gave no special status to the Malays.

EARLY HISTORY Political entities and trading settlements have existed in the region for over 1,700 years. Westerly winds blew seafaring Indian traders to sail to the northern end of the Strait of Malacca, and to land at the mouth of the Kedah River, guided as they were by the mountain in the backdrop known today as Kedah Peak. They moved further into the archipelago, coming into close contact with peoples living throughout the region, and influenced them with their civilization, religions, ways of thought and their political and cultural structures. The cultural impact of the Indian sub-continent on Southeast Asia is therefore undeniable. Chinese presence in the area was apparent after the fifth century, when the overland silk route was closed by non-Chinese or semi-Chinese kingdoms in the north, and the demand for Persian goods led the Chinese to make full use of the maritime silk route. As was the case with the Turkic peoples in Central Asia, who benefited greatly as middlemen from trade between China and the Middle East and India, entrepreneurial seafarers of Southeast Asia helped to bridge the distance between Persia and China. Trading ports thus evolved as the standard form of political and economic life in maritime Southeast Asia. Some of the polities that mushroomed in the area were large, powerful, and long lasting. While others were not, their successive rise and fall provided the rhythm for human existence in the archipelago. Malacca, traditionally said to have been founded around 1400 by Parameswara, a prince fleeing the sacking of his kingdom of Palembang, was one of the most influential of these entrepôt kingdoms. This port lay halfway down the Malay Peninsula. For over a century, it exerted such sway over the political, economic, cultural and religious life of the region that it became the model for subsequent sultanates to emulate, and defined Malay culture and statecraft until modern times. 114

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It was with the placing of a British Adviser in the Trengganu court in 1918, and with the inclusion in 1914 of Johor in the Unfederated Malay States (consisting also of Kelantan, Trengganu, Kedah and Perlis), that British power — though limited in many ways — was established throughout the peninsula and northern Borneo. The British The British gained their first foothold on the peninsula in August 1786, gained their when Kedah’s Sultan Abdullah offered to lease them the island of Penang first foothold (Pulau Pinang), at the northern entrance to the Strait of Malacca. This was on the purportedly a tactical move on his part to deal with pressure from the Siamese peninsula in and Burmese and to discourage uprisings among his relatives. August 1786. The British accepted the offer gladly. Francis Light took possession of the island, and, in the process, the East India Company and the British Crown became key players in the territory. Sultans hoping for a substantial political alliance with the British quickly grew disappointed upon discovering that the newcomers were not willing to get too deeply drawn into local power struggles. When Holland was occupied by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1795, its possessions in the Far East were handed over to the British for safekeeping. This included Malacca, which the Dutch had taken from the Portuguese in 1641. The piece of land opposite Penang, the district of Prai (Province Wellesley), was leased to the British in 1800. With the end of the Napoleonic Wars in Europe in 1815, an elbowing for spheres of influence in maritime Southeast Asia became apparent between the British and the Dutch. The Dutch re-established themselves in Riau in 1818, causing the British to search for their own stronghold at the southern end of the Malacca Strait. In January 1819 they found Singapore, which turned out to be so well positioned as a port that its prosperity overshadowed all others, including Penang. In 1826, these two islands, together with Malacca, which had come under full British control two years earlier as part of a deal with the Dutch to define separate spheres of influence, formed the Straits Settlements, with Singapore as the centre. After the British East India Company was dissolved in 1858, these areas came under the India Office, and from 1867 were jointly declared a Crown Colony. Throughout the nineteenth century, Malay sultanates developed on the peninsula in the shadow of British might. British administrators finally succumbed to pressure from the business sector to play a greater role in peninsular politics with the signing of the Pangkor Treaty in 1874. Fear that the latecomer colonialists, the Germans, would gain a foothold in the region was a major motivator for this turn of events. Over the next four decades, “British Malaya” developed through the Residential System of advisers placed at the various courts. It came to consist of the Straits Settlements, the Federated Malay States (Perak, Selangor, 115

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Pahang and Negri Sembilan) created in July 1896, and the Unfederated Malay States, formed in 1914. In northern Borneo, British influence was exercised in the steadily growing state of Sarawak by the “White Rajas” of the Brooke family from 1842 onwards, and in Sabah by the North Borneo Trading Company after 1881. In line with the commercial interests that spurred its colonialism, the British administration sought to develop a system conducive to the exploitation of local wealth. The maintenance of law and order was a major concern, especially when the objective proclaimed for British intrusion into the peninsula in 1874 was to end strife and chaos. An enviable infrastructure came into being, which included telecommunications, wharves, roads and railways. Effective administrative and judicial systems were also put into place. Different More dubious an achievement was the colonial structuring of labour. The ethnic groups tin mines that continued to be a major income-earner in the early 1900s were tended to joined by lucrative rubber plantations. Immigration from India, China and excel at other parts of the archipelago was not restricted until the depression of the separate 1930s, and different ethnic groups tended to excel at separate levels in the levels in various export industries that made up the colonial economy. the various British-Malay political arrangements remained relevant despite the export large inflow of migrants. Throughout the nineteenth century, the Chinese industries that made up population was administered under the Chinese Protectorate and, for the colonial political structure to be maintained, the Chinese were perceived as the colonial temporary sojourners. With the influx of large numbers of Indians in the early economy. twentieth century to work the rubber estates, the ethno-political equation became decidedly more complicated. The census of 1931 showed that the Chinese outnumbered the Malays by 50,000.

DECENTRALIZATION Colonial centralization of peninsular territories went into apparent reversal with the depression that followed the end of the First World War. The greatest concerns were excessive and ineffective administrative expenditure and the loss of power by the sultans, which threatened to be destabilizing in the end. Paradoxically, decentralization was deemed a necessary first step in attaining a single government in British Malaya. As things turned out, no single central government had materialized by the time the Japanese invaded the peninsula, with Singapore falling to them on 15 February 1942. The main resistance was mounted by the Chinese-led guerrilla movement, the Malayan Peoples’ Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), spearheaded by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP). As part of their policy of occupation, the Japanese encouraged nationalism amongst the Malays. This further 116

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The Federation of Malaya Agreement was a compromise worked out among the British, the Malay rulers and UMNO.

6 • Malaysia

encouraged the already emerging nationalists who would soon replace the sultans as effective representatives of the community. The inter-ethnic tensions that had been worsening since the depression of the 1930s were thus further aggravated by the Japanese occupation. Retribution sought by the MPAJA on alleged “collaborators” following the sudden end of the war in 1945, quickly turned into an inter-ethnic war that manifested itself sporadically over the subsequent years. Fuelled by the British perception that the Chinese and Indians had remained largely loyal to the empire, a Malayan Union plan was formulated and accepted in London in 1944 to unite all the Malay states, plus Penang and Malacca, into a centralized polity. This was also meant to facilitate the eventual granting of self-determination to the colonies after the war in deference to American foreign policy demands at the time. Singapore was to be maintained separately as a crown colony. It was considered safer to keep Sarawak and Sabah, where the ethnic and political situation was more complex, out of the equation. These became crown colonies in July 1946. The Malayan Union came into being on 1 April 1946, and immediately met with strong opposition from Malay organizations, which had come together the month before to form the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) to resist the plan. UMNO officially came into being in May 1946, led by the Chief Minister of Johor State, Onn Ja’afar. What the British envisaged at this point was a united colony under a central government, run by a governor and equipped with legislative and executive councils. Malayan citizenship would be generously given to all inhabitants, and all would enjoy equal rights. This union was never effectively implemented, although it officially lasted until 1 February 1948. What took its place was the Federation of Malaya Agreement, which was a compromise worked out among the British, the Malay rulers and UMNO. The British achieved the central government they wanted, but the states retained sovereignty. The special position of the Malays was accepted and citizenship was made much more restrictive. After the war, the MCP had established the General Labour Unions (GLU) in Singapore and, subsequently, in all states on the peninsula. Although it did not control the union movement fully, its influence over it was evident. Internal quarrels in the MCP, egged on by growing activism among Communists worldwide, led to tactical changes that saw attacks on Europeans in the estates. On 18 June 1948, the government decided to declare a State of Emergency throughout the colony. As its most innovative tactic, the British implemented what was called the Briggs Plan in 1950. By 1952, about 400 “New Villages” had been founded into which rural settlers were moved. This effectively cut off supplies vital to the guerrillas. They nevertheless gained one sensational victory on 6 October 117

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Onn Jaʼafar sought to open UMNO to non-Malay membership.

1951, when they managed to ambush and kill High Commissioner Henry Gurney on the jungle road to Fraser’s Hill. In the meantime, opposition to the Federation of Malaya Agreement was making itself felt. Organizations such as the Pan-Malayan Council of Joint Action (PMCJA) led by Tan Cheng Lock and the Malay-supported Pusat Tenaga Rakyat (Putera) managed a successful work stoppage on 20 October 1947. With encouragement from the British, the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) was formed on 27 February 1949, partly as a counterweight to the MCP and the Malayan Kuomintang, both founded in response to the political battles in Mainland China. The Malayan Kuomintang was banned soon after. Throughout 1949 and early 1950, dialogues were held between leaders of the major ethnic groups such as UMNO president Onn Ja’afar and MCA founder Tan Cheng Lock in what was known as the Communities Liaison Committee (CLC). What the CLC finally agreed upon was that some concession had to be given to the non-Malays for them to take part in the public life of the country. Realizing that a working relationship between the major ethnic groups was vital before self-determination could be granted by the British, Onn Ja’afar sought to open UMNO to non-Malay membership. UMNO resisted him, leading him to resign from the party he had founded. He immediately founded another — the non-communal Independence for Malaya Party (IMP) — only to discover that few UMNO members left with him and few Chinese would join his new party. Greatly disappointed, he began hitting out in his speeches at the Chinese, alienating himself further from any potential support he might have had. In the Kuala Lumpur municipal elections of February 1952, MCA Selangor led by H.S. Lee and UMNO’s Kuala Lumpur Branch under Yahya Abdul Razak made the fateful decision to contest jointly against the IMP. This electoral tactic proved highly successful, and both the new president of UMNO, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, and MCA leader Tan Cheng Lock agreed to set up UMNO-MCA liaison committees throughout the federation on 16 March 1953. Onn Ja’afar went on to found the Malay-based Parti Negara in early 1954. The Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) joined the Alliance in April 1954 after failing to form a coalition with Onn. The first federal elections were held on 27 July 1955. The Alliance won all but one of the 52 seats being contested.

TOWARDS INDEPENDENCE Buoyed by this success, UMNO decided later that year to press for independence by 1957. The MCP had been sending out feelers before the elections 118

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to negotiate an end to the Emergency. The newly elected government under the Tunku finally met MCP representatives led by Chin Peng on 28–29 December 1955 in Baling, in Perak State. The dialogue did not lead to any agreement, but nevertheless served to heighten the Tunku’s status in the eyes of the British as a leader capable of resisting Communist demands. Three days after the Baling Talks, the leaders of the Alliance — the Tunku, Abdul Razak Hussein, Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman and Colonel H.S. Lee — left for England for talks with the British. Negotiations flowed smoothly, and final agreement was reached on 8 February. Self-government became a reality in April 1956. On 19 June 1956, the Reid Commission, consisting of experts from the Commonwealth, began gathering opinions from the Malayan population on the future Constitution of the country. Final compromises to allay inter-ethnic distrust were worked out at a conference held on 13 May 1957 in London, where the Reid Commission’s The remaining report was discussed. In the end, the principle of jus soli (citizenship by place colonies of of birth) was adopted for migrant groups, the Malay’s special position was Singapore, expressed through the institution of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, and the Sarawak and future review of the Malays’ special position suggested by the Commission Sabah joined was refused along with the limited use of Chinese and Tamil in the federal the peninsular legislature. Malay would be the sole official and national language, and states to English would be phased out after ten years. form the Full independence for the Federation of Malaya was achieved on 31 August Federation 1957. The rush meant that new federal elections could not be held until two of Malaysia years after independence. The remaining colonies of Singapore, Sarawak and only on 16 September Sabah joined the peninsular states to form the Federation of Malaysia only on 16 September 1963. 1963.

ETHNIC RELATIONS The various ethnic communities in the newly formed country related uncomfortably with each other. It would be disingenuous to suggest that Malaysia’s history was otherwise, as can be surmised from the many major ethnic altercations or conflicts that pepper its history. Among such events were the 1957 Chingay riot in Penang; the 1964 racial riots in Singapore; the Hartal riots of Penang in 1967; the 13 May 1969 riots of Kuala Lumpur; the Operasi Lalang event of 1987; the Kampong Rawa Incident of 1998; the Kampong Medan incident of 2001, and most recently, in 2007, the mass rally of some 30,000 Indians in Kuala Lumpur. Let us just briefly examine some of these events so as to highlight the contentious nature of ethic relations in Malaysia. On 2 January 1957, a clash between Malays and Chinese occurred in George Town during a Chinese chingay procession held to celebrate Penang’s 119

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TABLE 6.1 Ethnic and Religious Distribution of Malaysian Population (% estimates) Malay Chinese Indigenous Indian Other

50.4 23.7 11.0 7.1 7.8



Muslim Buddhist Christian Hindu Confucian, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions Other or unknown None Total

60.4 19.2 9.1 6.3 2.6

1.5 0.8 100**

Note: * 2004 estimates; ** based on 2000 Census. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook at (Accessed 1 September 2008).

centenary. The chingay is a Chinese cultural event in which a procession carries a large number of banners in Chinese, and acrobatic groups twirl banners, accompanied by loud drumming. The 1957 Chingay riot may be said to have presaged the modern-day Malaysian communal riots that one has come to expect in this plural society. Trouble began when ten to fifteen Malays were understood to have tried to stop one chingay section. Apparently a Chinese lion troupe turned on the Malays after one of the group’s boys had been injured. Further outbreaks occurred later, forcing the authorities to close schools and impose curfews in various parts of George Town. The conflict lasted ten days, and abated only after Chief Minister Wong Pow Nee and multi-ethnic goodwill committees appealed for calm and distributed relief to the families of victims. Five died in the clashes. The 1964 racial riots in Singapore, when it was still part of Malaysia, also began during a procession, on the occasion of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad on 21 July 1964. It occurred at the peak of acrimonious politicking between Malayan and Singaporean politicians. An estimated 20,000 Malays and Muslims from some seventy-three organizations had assembled for the traditional parade in the heart of the city. Inflammatory speeches by leaders of the Singapore UMNO preceded the riots and the situation deteriorated as the procession went through the city, and groups of Malays broke ranks, clashed with police and attacked Chinese civilians. This sparked retaliatory attacks on Malays. By midnight, 220 incidents had been reported, 178 persons had 120

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The May 1969 tragedy was undoubtedly the most traumatic event in Malaysiaʼs political history to date.

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been injured, 32 of whom were admitted to the hospital; 4 people had been killed. Some houses were razed. A second riot broke out on September 2 the same year, which left 13 persons dead and 106 injured after lasting for 11 days. Some 1,439 arrests were made. Another incident of great significance was the Penang “hartal” riots. On 24 November 1967, riots broke out in George Town following a hartal (a general strike with boycott of retailing business) against the Malaysian government’s devaluation of its currency. Five people were reported killed and 92 injured, 32 of them seriously. Cases of arson were reported, and a 24hour curfew was imposed. The conflicts spread to three other states — Perak, Kedah and Perlis — where curfews were also enforced in specified areas. Ethnic tensions lasted a month, and the final death toll reached 27, with over 200 injured. Schools were closed in Penang for a week and banks shut down their services. Some 1,600 people were arrested, mostly curfew-breakers and those whom the police described as hooligans and gangsters. The government also detained several leaders and members of political parties, which included those from the opposition parties, the Labour Party and the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), and also from UMNO, the major member of the ruling coalition. Then there was the May 1969 tragedy. This was undoubtedly the most traumatic event in Malaysia’s political history to date. The riots began after “victory” parades in Kuala Lumpur. The “victory” was on the part of opposition political parties after the general election of 10 May, which saw the Alliance Party losing its two-thirds majority in parliament. NonMalays turned out in droves and hurled insults and taunts at Malays. On 13 May, Selangor UMNO organized a similar parade, which turned into a racial riot. On 14 May a state of national emergency was declared throughout the country and on 16 May the National Operations Council (NOC) was established and parliament was suspended. According to the NOC, 196 persons died (25 Malays, 143 Chinese, 13 Indians and 15 others), hundreds more were injured, and some 5,561 arrests were made. There were 753 cases of arson and 211 vehicles were destroyed or damaged. An estimated 6,000 Kuala Lumpur residents — 90 per cent of them Chinese — were made homeless. The 1987 Operasi Lalang — or “weeding” operation — was a series of mass arrests carried out after Malay-Chinese ethnic tensions had almost reached breaking point in a situation almost mimicking 13 May. Chinese unhappiness had been growing over the appointment of non-Mandarinspeaking senior assistants to Chinese vernacular schools. Some 106 prominent politicians and social activists were detained on 27 October under the Internal Security Act (ISA), although one Chinese minister was able to flee to Australia. At the height of the episode, a massive gathering of about 10,000 Malays 121

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congregated at the TPCA stadium with UMNO speakers condemning Chinese educationists and politicians. The next two events had different complexions in terms of ethnic relations. The Kampong Rawa incident in Penang was more of a conflict between mostly “Indian” Muslims and Hindus from a mosque and an adjoining temple in a semi-urban locale. It saw the desecration or destruction of some Hindu shrines in Penang. Reportedly, some 5,000 persons came from outside Penang to support their Muslim brethren. The incident was defused through the mediation of then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. As for the March 2001 Kampong Medan story, still veiled in secrecy despite an investigation by the government, one may safely surmise that it was a conflict that involved Indians and Malays. The episode, confined largely to an urban slum of Indian and Malay residents, was sparked by a misperceived altercation between the two sets of dwellers. In the event, six Indians were killed and many more injured. Hundreds were detained. The British On 25 November 2007, thousands of Indians were spurred by certain were also political developments to converge on the streets of Kuala Lumpur in a charged with peaceful show of force. What was surprising about the event was that no abandoning such collective public demonstration of Indian frustration and unhappiness the Indian had ever taken place in Malaysian history. The Hindu Rights Action Force minority to (Hindraf) formed earlier in the year called for a show of mass support for the Malays what were termed Indian rights. This non-government organization (NGO) when Malaya had been initiated by several lawyers who, through class action, were seeking gained independence compensation from the British Crown for the colonial enslavement of Indian indentured labour in Malaya during 150 years of British rule. The British in 1957. were also charged with abandoning the Indian minority to the Malays when Malaya gained independence in 1957. Hindraf also held that the Malaysian Constitution, embedding Malay supremacy and Malay special privileges, was unconstitutional. It demanded that the British government recompense each Malaysian Indian with a million pounds for “pain, suffering, humiliation, discrimination and continuous colonisation”. The Sunday event was planned as a demonstration before the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur to publicize the organization’s cause.

MALAY SUPREMACY Paradoxically, Malaysia’s contentious ethnic relations have led to a re-emphasis on Malay or Bumiputera rights, or as some call it, Malay supremacy. After the 13 May 1969 tragedy, the government under Abdul Razak Hussein 122

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promulgated the New Economic Policy (NEP), buttressed by various pieces of legislation. Razak and his advisers virtually overturned the formula of Malaysian multicultural politics, putting the accent instead on Bumiputera rights. This has remained fairly intact, with perhaps one further development after Razak — Islamization — which is discussed further below. A national ideology, the Rukunegara, was proclaimed, with broad tenets acceptable to all communities, namely, belief in God, loyalty to king and country, and upholding of the constitution, the rule of law, good behaviour and morality. Malaysia’s policy of Bumiputera rights may be considered the obverse of the contemporary multicultural discourse that puts the accent on minority rights. The accent in the NEP is on the rights of the majority community or communities which are socially constructed as Bumiputera. Unlike the usual quest for minority rights, the NEP uniquely argues that the economic backwardness of the Bumiputera confers a privilege and right to receive affirmative action in broad areas ranging from holding administrative posts and scholarships to placement in educational institutions. The impact of this right arises from the fact that it comes with the de facto political hegemony of Malays. After 1969, Razak’s team also put into place a political framework that has delimited ethnic mobilization and politics until the present day. Where multiculturalism was concerned, it was a step in the opposite direction. Contentious issues have remained unresolved and are deemed “sensitive” and proscribed from political debate. Through the Constitutional (Amendment) Act of 1970 and the Sedition Act of 1971, provisions of citizenship, the status of the national language, the special position of the Bumiputeras and the legitimate interests of other communities, and the sovereignty of the rulers were sealed from public debate. To allow the government to act firmly on these matters, Article 10 of the Constitution guaranteeing basic freedoms of the individual was amended to give parliament the power to pass laws prohibiting discussions on the matters listed above. Under the Mahathir Mohamad tenure from 1981 to 2003, a further profound political development that occurred was Islamization. Islam is arguably the most contentious issue in Malaysia today. Contestation over Islamization reached a peak in the aftermath of the 1999 general election, when PAS captured the state of Terengganu while retaining control of Kelantan. Both state governments passed legislation to introduce Hudud and Qisas (criminal) enactments under the syariah (Islamic) system of law, which is currently largely confined to family law and inheritance. The Kelantan and Terengganu state enactments have been thwarted by the refusal of the federal government to endorse the legislation. 123

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Article 153 of Malaysian Constitution (Excerpts) (1)

It shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article.


Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution, but subject to the provisions of Article 40 and of this Article, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong shall exercise his functions under this Constitution and federal law in such manner as may be necessary to safeguard the special provision of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and to ensure the reservation for Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak of such proportion as he may deem reasonable of positions in the public service (other than the public service of a State) and of scholarships, exhibitions and other similar educational or training privileges or special facilities given or accorded by the Federal Government and, when any permit or licence for the operation of any trade or business is required by federal law, then, subject to the provisions of that law and this Article, of such permits and licences.


The Yang di-Pertuan Agong may, in order to ensure in accordance with Clause 2 the reservation to Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak of positions in the public service and of scholarships, exhibitions and other educational or training privileges or special facilities, give such general directions as may be required for that purpose to any Commission to which Part X applies or to any authority charged with responsibility for the grant of such scholarships, exhibitions or other educational or training privileges or special facilities; and the Commission or authority shall duly comply with the directions.

This has, however, not prevented either state from introducing a number of Islamic practices, such as compulsory veiling for Muslim women and the ban on alcohol in some places, including hotels. In late 2001, after the 11 September events in the United States, the Islamic state issue captured centre stage in political debates in Malaysia. Mahathir got into the fray by suggesting that Malaysia was already a practising Islamic State 124

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6 • Malaysia

(“Negara Islam”). Governmental ideologue and then Law Minister Rais Yatim echoed him. PAS called for the matter to be openly debated, as did the Democratic Action Party (DAP), although for diametrically opposite reasons. DAP left the Alternative Front of opposition forces in August 2001 because of disagreement with PAS over the Islamic state issue. Meanwhile, a spokesperson of PAS and former Chief Justice Salleh Abbas argued that Malaysia will not be an Islamic state until it introduces comprehensive syariah law for all Muslims in the country.

ECONOMY AND FINANCIAL CRISIS Since the 1970s, the Malaysian economy has based itself on natural resources and manufacturing. By the mid-1990s Malaysia had become the developing world’s sixth largest exporter of manufactures, just behind the East Asian newly industrialized countries (NICs) and China. More significantly, Malaysia had evidently moved up the technological division of labour, with the manufacturing of products (not necessarily of Malaysian design) becoming increasingly sophisticated. Malaysia’s industrialization drive was marked in the 1990s by the government’s promotion of the manufacturing sector and a strategic shift to technology-intensive and knowledge-driven industries and the use of automation and robotics, nurturing of homegrown trading companies with global marketing capabilities, export-oriented small and medium industries (SMIs), expanding research and development and privatization in technology-related industries. Malaysia’s poverty rate fell to about 6 per cent and manufacturing was growing by over 12 per cent at the end by 1997. Given its apparent economic success, by 1990, with the formal end of the NEP, the Malaysian government had proclaimed its 2020 vision which anticipated Malaysia becoming a “developed country” by that year by doubling its growth every year. Such a vision met with a rude shock in the form of the Asian financial crisis and meltdown of 1997–98. All of Malaysia’s economic numbers went negative for the next couple of years, and while the financial crisis was brought under rein through a number of measures such as capital control and the pegging of the ringgit to the U.S. dollar, the aftermath of the meltdown provided a much less optimist frame for the economic future of the country. The meltdown exposed an insidious economic cronyism and showed that a large part of the economy was afflicted by a “rentier capitalism” spawned by the NEP. Be that as it may, by the early 2000s, economic growth was again in positive territory, thanks to the country’s strong resource base of oil production and agricultural products such as oil palm. However, the economic bailouts of UMNO-related companies and 125

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SOUTHEAST ASIA IN A NEW ERA: Ten Countries, One Region in ASEAN

TABLE 6.2 Basic Economic Indicators GNI per capita, 2006 GDP per capita average annual growth rate, 1970–90 GDP per capita average annual growth rate, 1990–2006 Average annual rate of inflation, 1990–2006 % of population below US$1 a day, 1995–2005* % of central government expenditure (1995–2005*) allocated to health

US$5,490 4% 3.2% 3%