Is It Worth Going to War Over the South China Sea? Chinese and US’ Stakes in the Region

The South China Sea issue is currently one of the most evident aspects of the growing polarization between the world’s two major economies, China and the United States. Even though this question involves primarily actors from Northeast and Southeast Asia (hereafter East Asia), which includes ASEAN and its member-States, it still should not be forgotten that at the end of the day, China and the US still are the main decision-makers in the region, given their power-projection capabilities. Peace, or war for that matter, depends on the position of these Great Powers. The region has a systemic value because the US-led network of alliances is being challenged by an ongoing military and economic Chinese ascent.

The Southeast Asian countries are participants in a fragmented productive system in the region. This system has been historically led by Japanese investments. However, it is today facing a trend of increased Chinese presence, in industry, trade, and direct investments – more so with the Belt and Road Initiative. The faltering of the US leadership in the Trans-Pacific Partnership has strengthened this movement. This is a result of fundamentally different perspectives and interests in the region: while for China the local sea routes can be considered essential for its survival, for the US, it is “only” a way of both controlling Chinese behavior and positioning itself as a trustworthy hegemon.


Chinese Stakes and Strategy

The South China Sea connects the Indian and Pacific Oceans, and as such, it connects the main producers of oil in the Middle East and Africa to the industrialized economies of Northeast Asia. It also provides the main lanes of intermediary goods trade within East Asia. These sea-lanes are also used by China as one of its main possibilities of naval power projection. Estimates of 2017 put a total of 40% of Chinese international trade passing by the region, and 22% of the total trade of East Asia. For the US, it only represents 6%. The Malacca strait is its most famous chokepoint, through which 80% of oil imported by the Chinese passes by . A blockade in Malacca, Sunda and Lombok straits would imply the necessity of circumnavigating Australia, which would have an impact over the cost of transportation and, most importantly, would increase the insurance price for the tankers, as well as interrupting the regional productive network.

Through a vast process of economic modernization and industrialization prompted by Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, Chinese GDP grew by an average of ten percent from 1980 to 2010, maintaining an average of over seven percent in subsequent years. To support this profile, China needs to meet its energy demand, dependent on oil imported through the Malacca Strait. Thus, Chinese interests in the South China Sea are primarily energetic, which implies two initiatives: expanding its military presence in the region and strengthening political and economic interdependence between China and the Southeast Asian countries. It is noted that the importance of either initiative has varied over the years: in the early 2000s, China employed a regional foreign policy known as “Charm Offensive”, following the principles of safeguarding peace, promoting the development and broadening cooperation . According to Shambaugh , most nations in the region saw China as a good neighbor then and a non-threatening regional power.

The current assertive stance, employing skirmishes between fishing boats and coast guards, with the establishment and expansion of military bases at points that were once small rocks, constitutes a change in China’s insertion in the region. Nevertheless, China maintained the same strategic interest in the region: safeguarding its interests by having political force in its strategic surroundings, securing its supply and trade routes and preparing against possible assertive initiatives by the United States and its allies. China is gaining influence over Southeast Asian countries. It has maintained its partnership with China-aligned countries in the Region (Laos and Cambodia), maintained diplomatic channels with countries seeking a neutral profile in the region (such as Indonesia and Singapore), and has gradually been able to increase its influence over countries that directly challenge Chinese territorial claims (Philippines and Vietnam, besides becoming the main foreign investor in Thailand). The region is central to the Belt and Road Initiative Belt. While the United States withdrew from negotiations for the establishment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, negotiations for the ASEAN-centered RCEP with Chinese participation remain open.

One of the high points of the previous Chinese cooperative stance was the Declaration on the Code of Conduct for the South China Sea. Nonetheless, its main promise – the future signing of a Code of Conduct that would prevent the parties from resolving its territorial issues violently – evolved slowly, and indeed China has prevented its resolution. The change of attitude is logical if we analyze what was and is now at stake concerning the evolution of Chinese military modernization, both about the projection of maritime force and the strategic use of long-range nuclear weapons. The Chinese perception of the United States’ capacity for dialogue and its role in regional alliances also changed during this period.

From a strategic-nuclear standpoint, the main change was the process that led to the establishment of nuclear deterrence patrols of its new ballistic missile submarines, commissioned in 2007 and operating since 2010. The nuclear submarine armed with ballistic missiles is the main system for second-strike capability within the nuclear triad – meaning they are the ultimate dissuasion weapon. These submarines operate from Hainan Island in south China. This regional deployment is explained by the fact that on its east and north coasts, China is surrounded by US bases and its allies’ naval forces in Taiwan, the southern islands of the Japanese archipelago and South Korea. It becomes central to China’s ability to prevent detection of its nuclear submarines to fortify its position in the South China Sea. Besides, Japan and South Korea’s acquisition of ballistic missile interception capabilities starting in 2009 (through the AEGIS system), which although officially used as a defense against the North Korean nuclear program, also threatens Chinese dissuasory capability of a second-strike nuclear attack using land-based missile launchers.

From a military modernization standpoint, China started to invest heavily in its naval forces after they were shown to be thoroughly insufficient during the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis (1995-1996). Naval reform, as well as its growing economy, enabled China to become the world’s greatest shipbuilder. This enabled China to become more assertive both regarding Japan, concerning the Diaoyu/Senkaku, and the SCS, occupying Scarborough Shoal in 2012.


American Stakes and Strategy

As stated above, the US’ stakes in terms of commerce are relatively minimal when compared to China’s. Still, American stakes in the region are directly connected to its global strategy. Contemporary US strategic interests in the SCS can be explored by analyzing two key moments: the 2011 Asian pivot, and the 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategic Report. Both have the same foundation: that the US network of allies in East Asia is one of the main pillars for their international hegemony.

The 2011 Asian pivot meant that the US would refocus to the Pacific instead of the Middle East. The US had boosted its alliance with Australia through the establishment of a military presence in Darwin, through agreements with India and Vietnam, and the use of anti-missile systems in Japan. The economic basis of this initiative would be the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The US sought to strengthen its position as guarantor of regional security and by ensuring the possibility of intervention in defense of allies. A major threat to US hegemony is China’s acquisition of Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2AD) capabilities, challenging the US capacity of unrestricted access to the region. The concept evolved gradually from AirSea Battle in 2010 to the 2012 Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC), and finally to the Joint Commons Access and Maneuver in the Global Commons (JAM-GC) . Unrestricted access would mean the ability to attack the rearguard of the enemy’s defensive lines. However, by destroying the enemy’s (China’s) ability to command and control, it would also threaten the ability to coordinate a nuclear second-strike, and thus threatening credible nuclear deterrence. The Chinese response to the new US doctrine was the enactment of the Active Defense strategy in 2015, outlining a more assertive military stance.

Even if it is not as important to the US, the region has critical importance to their allies South Korea and Japan. About 90% of the oil imported by Japan and South Korea goes through the region, and both have the third and second-largest trade flows in the local straits, respectively . This is could be considered the basis of the US interest in proposing itself as the advocate of Global Commons.

Current US strategic interests for the region are presented in the US Department of Defense’s Indo-Pacific Strategy Report of 2019 . Even though it is based on the Obama administration’s pivot, it has the differential of accusing China of being a strategic competitor and revisionist power. It follows the 2017 National Security Strategy and the 2018 National Defense Strategy, which mention that the main threats for US interests abroad include competition between major powers (Russia and China) and conventional military threats (in other words, refocusing away from counter-insurgency). Contrary to the AirSea Battle concept, which focuses on the unique ability of the United States to employ combined forces (enabled by technological advancement), recent documents emphasize that such a factor will only be decisive if used at sufficient scale. The 2019 document concedes that conflict scenarios close to competitors are dangerous because in these cases the enemy would have a local military advantage at the start of a possibly short confrontation. To fight this, the active participation of their allies, committed to a joint confrontation of the revisionist power, is essential. The US would act differently depending on how close it is to countries in the region: Allies (Japan, South Korea, Australia, Philippines, Thailand), Strong Partners (Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, Mongolia), New Indian Ocean Partnerships (India, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal), new partnerships in Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia), dialogue partners (lowest level of engagement with Brunei, Laos and Cambodia). Thus, the US seeks above all to maintain a balance of power that gives credibility to its posture of guarantor of its allies and thus to maintain its hegemonic position.


Will there be a major war anytime soon?

Not likely. Indeed, the importance of the South China Sea straits – especially for mainland China, Japan, and South Korea – means that an embargo or blockade could threaten the entire productive system of the region. Although both Japan and China have strategic oil reserves in the event of shortages (100 and 40 to 50 days respectively ), the degree of productive interconnection means that any embargo can cause complete chain paralysis and consequently global shortages of certain industrialized products. Even threat perception can have increasing effects on the price and viability of production by increasing the price of vessel insurance. A prolonged interruption of maritime communication lines would threaten the survival of the State and thus lead to open conflict. Just as the United States realize the seriousness of imposing an embargo on China, Beijing understands that the sinking of an American aircraft carrier would require a US military response that could lead to total war. Besides, the SCS does not have the same symbolic importance for China as Taiwan has, for instance.

Will the US passively allow China to gradually surpass its economic and military power in the region? Also unlikely, but it does not mean that the SCS will be the theater of a major engagement. However, recent experience has shown that small naval encounters could lead to stalemates, which might bring winners and losers as one of the sides might have to concede to the adversary’s will. These stalemates could lead to limited skirmishes, which would contribute to the credibility of either Chinese or American military efficiency. Right now, the balance-of-power is shifting towards China. One of the key variables to assess future developments could be the possibility of change in Japanese and Indian initiatives. Even though they are giving signs that they are willing to play a bigger role in the region, as of now it still would not be enough to counter growing Chinese clout over the former American-led sphere-of-influence in Southeast Asia.

This article was written by Rômulo Barizon Pitt, a postgraduate student at Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, while working as a fellow researcher at Center for Southeast Asian Social Studies (CESASS).

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash


Best Practice of Talent Management and Skills in Industry 4.0 Era: The Case of Banking Industry

The fourth industrial revolution, commonly known as Industry 4.0, is bringing rapid technological advancements -powered by the rise of digital technologies: cloud, big data, Internet of Things, Analytics, and Machine Learning-, changing the nature of work and increasing demand for a skilled workforce. Technology’s impact on the workforce was inevitable, adding that the most important action was responding to digital developments to optimize the workforce and its talents. Hence, industry 4.0 is rapidly transforming not only IT but business in general, particularly in terms of human-technology relationships.

The demands of the employees in industry 4.0 have been slowly transformed. Technologically-skilled labor, critical thinker, and creative labor are the most preferable employee in industry 4.0. Meanwhile, basic skills are mostly not applicable in this industry. These led to the emergence of skill gap—the gap between expertise’ needs and the capacity of the workforce. Therefore, human resources contribute to the challenges towards IR4.0 that have been threatening the global business economy. As a reference, there was a survey involving 123 Human Resource senior managers, which revealed that 70% of the problem is due to incoming worker’s poor skills, 61% Baby Boomer retirements and 51% is due to the inability to retain key talents. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, it is estimated that 49 percent of the activities that people are paid to do in the global economy has the potential to be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technology.

Besides, the employee’s skills to cope with technology automation can be varied depending on the sectors and mix of activity types. Many business sectors apply the Augmented Reality Strategy, as the effort for business sectors to apply the automation for completing the working operation. The aims are to assist and support the human’s activity. The strategy will transform how we learn, make decisions, and interact with the physical world. It will also change how enterprises serve customers, train employees, design and create products, and manage their value chains, and, ultimately, how they compete.

This writing aims to elaborate best practice of talent management and skills in the case of Banking Industry. This sector is particularly important because, banks have been relying on technology for quite some time to reduce costs, optimize processes and speed up delivery time for products and services. Banks are also feeling more pressure from clients growing expectations to offer new digital options. Banking, from the perspective of industry 4.0, calls for an even greater level of digitalization. However, Banking is also an industry which relies heavily on human resources.

For instance, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported by McKinsey Global Institute analysis illustrated the degree of automation potential for the various industrial sector in the US. In particular, Finance and Insurance has 43% chance to be potentially automated, comprised of management (0-10%), expertise (10-20%), interface (10-20%), unpredictable physical (10-20%), collect data (40-50%), process data (60-70%), predictable physical (90-100%).

Meanwhile, the trend in the banking industry shows that in the digital era, customers tend to utilize transaction through the digital channel. In 2011, bank customers who made transactions in e-channels in Indonesia increased by about six times. Nevertheless, previously there were only 5% to 36%. Meanwhile, starting in 2017, the customers of Mandiri mobile banking reached 37%, 17% of internet banking, and 40% ATM users. Then, the customers who visited the branch offices were only around 6%. The changing pattern of business service highly depends on digital transformation, which affects the activity of human capital. However, industry 4.0 increase the level of competitiveness, and the possibility of the talent market in the global economy. For instance, globalization and issues of IR 4.0 have enabled talented employees not to limit the marketing of their skills within one region, but they can look for jobs in firms across the world with digital skill. Because of this, experts are mainly worried about the possibility of intense global competition for talents which may draw attention towards how talent is recruited, retained, developed and managed yet, the uncertainly of industrialization of 4. 0.

Despite the advancement of technology in Industry 4.0, human capital remains an important element to run the business sector. Hence, how banking creates effective talent management to ensure that employees can make use of their talent to achieve an absolute success of a business?

Besides, talent management and skill in industry 4.0 are closely linked to human-technology relationships. The idea behind talent management is built on the fact that business is run by people. Therefore, putting the right people in the right job positions is what constituted a good talent management and for future need. The employability, knowledge, and competence are indicators of talent which determine the success of a business. Talent identification and development help business in identifying employees that later been develop as a leader of the future that represents the combination of a cyber-physical system due to the diversification of Industry 4.0.

There are two main steps of mostly bank industry to manage talent management and skill in the fourth industrial revolution. Firstly, talent management should start with the business strategy and what signifies talent towards a business. Employee as a potential resource is the source of the influence of an organization because the employee moves the business. Also, vice versa, moving the business means having to move employee with competitive strategy.

The strategy is also needed to understand the know-how the business’s goals are achieved. The bank industry understands that employees move the business. Thus, in some reasons, banking sector prepares the employee candidates or newly employed to have a deep understanding regarding the business’s goal.

Secondly, it is important to enhance and maintain the skills of new and existing employees through training, career development, commitment, and rewards. The recruitment and selection of employees in finding talented employees to an appropriate position by providing an effective training program. Career development is a lifelong learning process that continuously adds work experience. The positive relationship to job satisfaction and retain employees increased productivity and performance of the business sector. Meanwhile, employee hopes to get a reward for what they have contributed to an organization; therefore rewards affect the performance of every employee and affect their commitment. Commitment is interdependent with emotions because employees need physical and emotional support.



The management of advanced technology still depends on human capital. The case of the banking industry illustrates that the significant role of human capital is to drive business move. Therefore, the competition of the global economy in Industry 4.0 relies on human’s skills and creativity to manage the digital transformation to reach organization’s success. In this regard, a certain incentive given by the business sector is significant to enhance and maintain employee’s performance. Indeed, the fourth industrial revolution does not always pose the risk of job loss. This article opens the upcoming research on how the comparison of each banking industry in Indonesia improves their performance perpetually towards Industry 4.0.



This article was written by Archita Nur Fitrian, an undergraduate student of International Relations Studies at the Universitas Gadjah Mada, while working as an intern at Center for Southeast Asian Social Studies (CESASS).

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

Crimes Against Humanity in the Philippines: How does ICC response towards Duterte’s War on Drugs?

Rodrigo Duterte was appointed as President of the Philippines on July 1, 2016. At the same time, he realized his political promise to catch up drug lords, through a war on drugs policy. War on drugs attempts to eliminate drug trafficking and use in the Philippines by arresting and/or killing dealers, both large dealers and small dealers, and drug users. In its implementation, Duterte hired police, paramilitaries, and assassins (BBC News, 2016).

The Philippines did suffer from drug emergencies as Duterte said in his speeches. According to data from the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) in 2016, drug users in the Philippines reached 1.8 million, equivalent to 1.8% of the total population of the Philippines which reached 100.98 million people. The data was collected from the age range of 10-69 years which at least had used drugs even once in his life (Gavilan, 2016).

In an interview with Russia Today, Duterte said that drugs were a threat that could destroy the young generation of Filipinos who became assets for the country. He repeatedly said that he would kill anyone who was caught in a drug case (Russia Today, 2017). Duterte gave an order to arrest drug addicts and dealers if possible. However, if they fight with violence that can threaten the lives of the police or security officers who arrest them, the police or security officers are allowed to kill (Al Jazeera English, 2016).

From July 1, 2016, to September 30, 2018, war on drugs has resulted in 4,948 people being killed in the operation. Moreover, data from the Philippines National Police (PNP) showed that 22,983  people were victims of murder since the implementation of the war on drugs. This number does not include thousands of others killed by gunmen (Human Rights Watch, 2018).


Human Rights Constitution in the Philippines

The Philippines has committed to the promotion of human rights, as evidenced by the ratification of several international agreements on human rights, namely the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on October 23, 1986. Furthermore, the ICCPR was instrumental in determining penalties for lawbreakers in the Philippines.

After ratifying the ICCPR, the Philippines then drafted its constitution by including human rights values in article 3 about Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution, which was ratified in 1987. Before that, the Philippines did not have a fixed constitution. Regulations imposed in his country are governed by the president in office at that time. That is what makes human rights regulations unclear in the Philippines before the Philippine constitution is ratified. Until now, the Philippine constitution has become the only law that underlies human rights regulation in the Philippines, excluding international agreements that are a source of international law.

In the same year, 1987, the Philippines became the first Asian country to abolish the death penalty. The Philippines abolished the death penalty twice, first abolished in 1987, and the second in 2006 (Armandhanu, 2016). After 2006, the Philippines did not apply the death penalty. Meanwhile, Duterte said he would re-implement the death penalty and direct shooting at drug dealers.

However, until 2018, the Philippine constitution has not been changed. Even though Duterte continued shooting at drug lords. Constitutionally, that cannot be justified. Plus, the Republic Act No. 9165 regarding drugs also does not write the death penalty, but a life sentence.


Violations against Human Rights in the War on Drugs Policy

The Philippine Constitution which specifically deals with human rights as contained in article 03 of the bill of rights. Article 03 consists of 22 sections that discuss the details of individual and community rights. War on drugs policy violated Article 03 Chapter 01, Chapter 14 (1), Chapter 19 (1), and Chapter 22 in the Philippine Constitution.

  • Chapter 01: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws” (The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, 1987, p. 3). It shows that every human being has the right to live and obtain freedom. Considering that part, President Duterte has violated the life rights of his citizens by killing without a court of law. This shows that the murder of drug dealers that he did was unfair to the community and violated the basic rules of the human rights constitution in the Philippines.
  • Chapter 14 (1): “No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process of law” (The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, 1987, p. 5). The Chapter clearly emphasizes that no individual can be asked for an answer to a criminal act without legal process. In other words, each individual has the right to undergo legal proceedings for his criminal actions. In the case of President Duterte, the state did not provide an opportunity for drug dealers to undergo regulated legal processes. The drug dealers were shot directly no matter where and whenever, without a court of law. This will be related to chapter 22 concerning the bill of attainder.
  • Chapter 19 (1): “Excessive fines shall not be imposed, nor cruel, degrading or inhuman punishment inflicted. Neither shall death penalty be imposed, unless, for compelling reasons involving heinous crimes, the Congress hereafter provides for it. Any death penalty already imposed shall be reduced to reclusion Perpetua” (The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, 1987, p. 6). The punishment given by the state must be humane by not harassing human dignity. If you have to be given a death sentence, it only applies to very violent crimes. While the war on drugs contradicted the Chapter. According to President Duterte, drug crime is the most heinous crime in the Philippines because it has damaged the young generation of Filipinos (Regencia, 2016). However, many dealers who were killed were small dealers and the days were increasingly out of control. Judging in chapter 14 (1), every violator of the law, whether a minor violation or a serious violation, is obliged to undergo legal proceedings at first. In this case, the Philippines must also provide clear boundaries regarding small-scale drug dealers and drug dealers on a large scale, so that there is a clear and fair law to try the case.
  • Chapter 22: “No ex post facto law or bill of attainder shall be enacted” (The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, 1987, p. 6). Ex post facto law is a law that is implemented after being given a sentence as a result of subsequent actions. Then the bill of attainder is an act that states someone is guilty and sentenced without trial at first. In chapter 22 states that ex post facto law or bill of attainder is not invited, which means that no sentence is given without a court. Reviewing President Duterte’s policies, the policy violates chapter 22 of the Philippine constitution. The killings committed did not take the court first, but immediately killed once the target was weak.

At its conclusion, President Duterte’s policy injured the Philippine constitution itself. Four Chapters of Article 03 have been violated. That was the reason for the Philippine Supreme Court to warner President Duterte to dismiss his policies (Al Jazeera, 2017). However, Duterte insisted on continuing this policy based on the emergency threat (Al Jazeera English, 2016).


Introduction to the International Criminal Court (ICC)

The International Criminal Court (ICC) is an international regime that focuses on handling crimes against humanity. The ICC was established on July 1, 2002, through the Rome Statute agreement, which gave legitimacy to the ICC to try perpetrators of crimes against humanity. Based on the elements of crime contained in the Rome Statute, four major crimes must be dealt with by the ICC, namely genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and crimes of aggression (International Criminal Court, 2011). These issues have similarities with the issue of crime handled by the UN Security Council. For this reason, the two institutions coordinate with each other in dealing with these issues.

The ICC will prosecute genocide perpetrators, crimes against humanity, or war crimes on and after July 1, 2002 – so that any crimes that occur before that time cannot be tried through the ICC. These three crimes can be tried by the ICC if carried out by nationals of ICC member countries, in the territories of ICC member countries, or in countries that accept ICC jurisdiction. Besides, as explained above regarding the coordination of the ICC and UNSC, the UNSC can refer criminal cases to the ICC Prosecutor to be tried under the resolution adopted under Chapter VII of the UN charter.

Meanwhile, for the case of a new crime of aggression, it will be regulated on July 17, 2018, on the recommendation of the UNSC. In this case, the ICC can try parties’ guilty outside of the ICC membership. If the UNSC does not propose an investigation of cases of aggression, then the ICC can conduct investigations independently or based on proposals from member countries. However, before conducting an investigation the ICC needs to check the status of the case at the Security Council, whether the case has been handled or not (International Criminal Court, n.d.).

In conducting the legal process, the ICC has several stages, namely as follows:

  1. Preliminary examinations
  2. Investigations
  3. Pre-Trial stage
  4. Trial stage
  5. Appeals stage
  6. Enforcement of sentence

Because the ICC upholds human rights values, the penalties applied are only imprisonment and fines, as stated in the Rome Statute Chapter 7, Article 77 (International Criminal Court, 2011). The ICC does not implement the death penalty.


ICC Action Plan on the Philippines’ War on Drugs

On February 8, 2018, the ICC announced the opening of preliminary examinations on the war on drugs case launched by the Government of the Philippines since July 1, 2016. The examination focuses on thousands of drug users who have been killed and extrajudicial killings in the context of anti-drug police operations (Gallaghera, Raffleb, & Maulanab, 2019). It should be emphasized that ICC conducted preliminary examinations, not yet at the investigation stage. Preliminary examinations are needed to observe the urgency of the case, jurisdictional power, and justice. If all components have been fulfilled and with careful consideration, this case can be raised towards the investigation phase (International Criminal Court, 2018).

The Philippines responds to the ICC’s actions by writing an official written statement stating that it left the Rome Statute on March 17, 2018. However, legal proceedings against the Philippines are still ongoing. The waiting period from exit statement to the official exit is one year. During this period, the ICC will continue to conduct examinations on the Philippine government for its war on drugs policy that killed many people.



The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.

Al Jazeera. (2017, January 15). Duterte: No One Can Stop Me From Declaring Martial Law. Dipetik April 29, 2019, from Al Jazeera:

Al Jazeera English. (2016, Oktober 15). Rodrigo Duterte on Drugs, Death, and Diplomacy | Talk to Al Jazeera. Dipetik April 25, 2019, from Al Jazeera English:

Armandhanu, D. (2016, Mei 16). Rodrigo Duterte Akan Terapkan Lagi Hukuman Mati di Filipina. Dipetik April 24, 2019, from CNN Indonesia:

BBC News. (2016, Agustus 26). Philippines Drugs War: The Woman Who Kills Dealers for A Living. Dipetik April 29, 2019, from BBC News:

Fehl, C. (2004). Explaining the International Criminal Court: A ‘Practice Test’ for Rationalist and Constructivist Approaches. European Consortium for Political Research, Vol. 10(3), 357-394.

Gallaghera, A., Raffleb, E., & Maulanab, Z. (2019). Failing to Fulfil the Responsibility to Protect: the War on Drugs As Crimes Against Humanity in the Philippines. The Pacific Review, 1-31.

Gavilan, J. (2016, September 19). DDB: the Philippines Has 1.8 Million Current Drug Users. Dipetik April 23, 2019, from Rappler:

Human Rights Watch. (2018). Philippines: Events of 2018. Dipetik April 25, 2019, from Human Rights Watch:

International Criminal Court. (2011). Elements of Crimes. The Hague: International Criminal Court.

International Criminal Court. (2011). Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Hague: International Criminal Court.

International Criminal Court. (2018, Maret 20). ICC Statement on The Philippines’ Notice of Withdrawal: State Participation in Rome Statute System Essential to International Rule of Law. Dipetik April 28, 2019, from International Criminal Court:

International Criminal Court. (t.thn.). How the Court works. Dipetik April 28, 2019, from International Criminal Court:

International Criminal Court. (t.thn.). The Philippines. Dipetik April 28, 2019, from International Criminal Court:

Regencia, T. (2016, Agustus 10). Duterte Threatens Martial Law If ‘Drug War’ Is Blocked. Dipetik April 29, 2019, from Al Jazeera:

Russia Today. (2017, Mei 22). ‘They want me to fight China. It’s gonna be a massacre!’ – Duterte to RT (FULL INTERVIEW). Dipetik April 25, 2019, from RT:



This article was written by Laras Ningrum Fatma Siwi, an undergraduate student of International Relations Studies at the Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta, while working as an intern at Center for Southeast Asian Social Studies (CESASS).

Photo by Aditya Joshi on Unsplash

Philippines’s Changing Approach to South China Sea Dispute: Duterte’s Administration, Two Years On

Rodrigo Duterte came into office as Philippines’s 15th President on June 30, 2016. His approach to South China Sea dispute and his overall foreign policy once shocked many in the region, and more around the world. As his approach to South China Sea dispute differs from his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III (in office 2010-2016), the world is watching what will come out of this diversion.

Under Benigno Aquino III’s presidency, Philippines was very assertive in emphasizing its claim upon the competing claims by several other countries in the South China Sea. During Aquino’s administration, the Philippines brought the case against China to the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2013. The decision came on July 12, 2016, about two weeks after Duterte assumed office.

Many predicted that Philippines would use the ruling from The Hague against China. However, Duterte used the award from the court in a different way. Instead of using it in multilateral forums to gain legitimacy, Duterte is willing to put aside the ruling in exchange of closer relations with China.

In forging closer relations with China, Duterte visited Beijing on October 2016, only months after he started his administration. He came back to the Philippines by bringing China’s promise to give investments worth of USD 24 billion to the Philippines (USD 9 billion of soft loans and USD 15 billion of direct investment).  However, before going deeper to further discussion, it is important to understand some buzzwords surrounding the issue.


What is the South China Sea Dispute?

There are currently at least five competing claims in the South China Sea. The Philippines puts its claim on the basis of 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, as it rules for Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to be demarcated as much as 200 miles from its baseline. This claim overlaps the Chinese claim, which is based on the “nine-dash line”. China claims that the “nine-dash line” has been historically recorded by China as part of its territory, shown in a map published in the 1940s. Other claimants include Vietnam, Malaysia, and tiny Brunei, with most of them referring their claim to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea while they also see that China’s claim is void before the international law. (source:


What are the rulings?

The Philippines initiated the arbitration in January 2013 by seeking rulings on several matters. In 2016, PCA rules that China’s claims of historic rights within the “nine-dash line” were without legal foundation. The panel also rules that Beijing’s activities within Philippines’s 200 nautical miles EEZ, such as illegal fishing and artificial island construction, violated the sovereign rights of the Philippines.

The arbitration, which was initiated by the Philippines in 2013, was filed under Benigno Aquino III’s administration. However, though, after Duterte assumed office, Philippines’ approach changed dramatically.


Shifting from the Traditional Ally

Not very fond of Former US President Barack Obama, Duterte dismissed a military cooperation with the United States soon after he started his administration. Duterte ended the joint military exercises between the United States and the Philippines through a statement delivered on September 2016, about two months after he was sworn to office.

Duterte’s dislike of Obama could be one of the contributing factors that fuel Philippines’s shift from its traditional ally to an unpredicted new friend at that time, each of them being the United States and China respectively. Duterte seemed to dislike Obama that much as he told Obama to “go to hell” in a statement he delivered in 2016.

The shift from the traditional ally indicates Philippines’ growing closeness with China. Duterte said that Philippines cannot afford war with China.  He also added that [the Philippines] ‘cannot win a battle against China’.  In a separate occasion, Duterte delivered a rhetorical question, which sounds more like a statement, asking ‘why will [Philippines’s] soldiers fight a war they would lose?’


Chinese Investment Promise: Two Years On

However, two years on, China’s investment that was promised earlier in 2016 has not yet come into reality.  Some like Alvin Camba (2018) would argue that the Philippines has not seen an increase in Chinese investment yet not because the investment from China has not actually increased, but instead because there is an error in the calculation, in which Hong Kong is excluded from the equation, even though ‘much of Chinese FDI coming to the Philippines is actually from Hong Kong’. He calls this error as “a fundamental accounting error” , and that the prevailing narrative in major newspaper reports that Chinese FDI in the Philippines has barely increased during the Duterte administration is a “misidentification” .

Whether the Chinese has indeed not delivered the promise or there is an error in the calculation, it is not wise to make a judgment only after two years since the promise was said. Besides the fact that some information on export-import and FDI might not be complete yet for collection and subsequent availability for public, a better outcome can be expected from an assessment after Duterte’s tenure finishes.


Hedging Amid Uncertainty

Anyhow, with growing uncertainty in the air, the current situation forces the Philippines to diversify its foreign policy strategy.

Came to office in 2017, current US President Donald Trump is forging a warm relationship with Duterte. This can be seen from the “warm rapport” between the two during his visit to the Philippines in 2017.  Trump even lauds his relationship with Duterte as a ‘great relationship’.

Bound by their dislike of former US President Barack Obama, they are having a very close relationship.  This warm relationship may be one of the reasons behind Philippines growing closeness with its traditional ally under Duterte, after Duterte himself severed the relationship with the United States under Obama administration.

Philippines is right to hedge in this uncertain situation. Hedging is defined by Hemmings (2013) as the action to “spread risk by pursuing opposite policies towards another state” and to “carry out two contradictory policy directions simultaneously: balancing and engagement”.

By balancing, Hemmings (2013) meant the maintenance of a strong military, building and strengthening alliances – as done by the Philippines through its re-engagement with US military.

On the other hand, by engaging, he meant building trade networks, increasing diplomatic links, and creating binding multilateral frameworks (Hemmings, 2013). This approach is taken by Duterte through his action to put aside The Hague ruling in exchange of closer relations with China. Additionally, the joint exploration for oil and natural gas between China and the Philippines  can be seen as another way to engage China.

This hedging strategy is also visible from Duterte’s remarks during his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2017. Duterte stated that eventually, he would eventually raise the arbitration ruling with Xi Jinping, but needed first to strengthen relations between the two countries, which the Philippines is hoping will yield billions of dollars in Chinese loans and infrastructure investments.

By putting its two legs on two grounds, Philippines is trying to play it safe. It is impossible to judge Duterte’s foreign approach only after two years of his leadership. He has another four years to serve, given the six years term in his presidency.

Duterte is wise to hedge in such uncertain situation. With the United States seeing the Philippines as an increasingly important ally in the region and with China’s unpredictable move, re-engagement with traditional ally and effort not to upset an increasingly dominant power in the region are not a bad idea after all.



  1. (2018). Philippines can’t afford war with China: Duterte. Retrieved from

ABS-CBN News. (2018). Duterte on South China Sea dispute: Why will soldiers fight a war they would lose? Retrieved from

BBC News. (2016). Philippines’ Duterte tells Obama to ‘go to hell’. Retrieved from

Bloomberg. (2017). Trump Bonds With Duterte Over Their Dislike of Obama, Avoids Human Rights. Retrieved from

Bloomberg. (2018). China Hasn’t Delivered on Its $24 Billion Philippines Promise. Retrieved from

Camba, A. (2018). Assessing Duterte’s China investment drive. Retrieved from

Camba, A. (2018). What happened to the billions China pledged the Philippines? Not what you think. Retrieved from

Graham, E. (2016). The Hague Tribunal’s South China Sea Ruling: Empty Provocation or Slow-Burning Influence? Retrieved from

Hemmings, J. (2013). Hedging: The Real U.S. Policy Towards China? Retrieved from

Manila Bulletin. (2018). Duterte: ‘We cannot win a battle against China’. Retrieved from

Rappler. (2018). China lost to PH in court. Will it win via joint exploration? Retrieved from

Reuters. (2017). Duterte says China’s Xi threatened war if Philippines drills for oil. Retrieved from

Reuters. (2017). Trump has ‘warm rapport’ with Philippines’ Duterte: official. Retrieved from

The Guardian. (2016). Rodrigo Duterte to end joint US and Philippine military drills. Retrieved from

The Japan Times. (2018). China’s $24 billion promise to the Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterter still hasn’t materialized. Retrieved from

The New York Times. (2017). Trump Lauds ‘Great Relationship’ With Duterte in Manila. Retrieved from

VOA. (2018). Distrust of China Sparks Philippines, US to Step up Joint Military Exercises. Retrieved from



This article was written by Angelo A. Wijaya, an undergraduate student at International Relations Universitas Gadjah Mada, while doing an internship at the Center for Southeast Asian Social Studies (CESASS).


51 Years of ASEAN: A Question for Human Rights System

The crisis in Rakhine State has been there since a long time. Since 1962, during the military regime, the violence on behalf of ethnic and religious has been occurred and caused a miserable tragedy in the Rakhine State, Myanmar. Around 2.000 people have been killed and more than 140.000, approximately, became homeless. Therefore, Myanmar government has violated Human Rights toward the Rohingya. (Human Rights Watch)

Recently, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, more than 650,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since the end of August year 2017 to escape violance and persecution in Myanmar. Previously, The Fact Finding Mission of the United Nations showed that approximately 1,3 million people have moved to the Bangladesh border. The rest of Rohingya refugees are trying to move out to another country such as Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. (United Nations, 2018)

Up to recent date, domestically, Myanmar government has lack of willingness to settle the conflict down. Regionally, ASEAN, with its very own AICHR (ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights), has a small power to manage the crisis. Willingness among its members is also weak toward the issue. At the highest level meeting of ASEAN, the ASEAN Summit, this issue has never been put on the table. Last week in Singapore, the ASEAN Leaders gathered and again there was no discussion on the issue. Solidarity of the ASEAN Member States is also far from harmony. It can be seen from a disunity of the ASEAN Member States on voting in the previous United Nations General Assembly Resolution L.48 on the situation of Human Rights in Myanmar. Five or half of the ASEAN Member States opposed the resolution. They are Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar of course, the Philippines, and Vietnam. Two ASEAN Member States abstained, Thailand and Singapore. Only three ASEAN Member States supported the resolution, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. This again challenges both development of Human Rights legal structure in ASEAN, political willingness to implement and enforce Human Rights law and regulation domestically and regionally, and its non-interference principal which is unavoidably limiting the actions from other ASEAN Member States. So, at the governmental level in general, there is no a big expectation and opportunity from the government to government cooperation in settling the crisis.

Thus, it is time for us as civil society to show our solidarity for our ASEAN family in Rakhine State, Myanmar. CSOs in ASEAN could cooperate closely with each other to resolve the problems from the grassroots level. It is also hoped that CSOs across the region could push and force its own government domestically to concentrate on this issue under its foreign policy agenda.



This article was written by Walid Ananti Dalimunthe from ASEAN Studies Forum.


Chinese Mega Projects: 21st Century Silk Road and ASEAN Connectivity

The Silk Road is an ancient trade route connecting the West and East, a German researcher named Von Richthofen named it The Silk Road in the 18th century CE. The name of the Silk Road is taken because Chinese commodities trade in a lot of silk. Frances Wood in his book The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia says  the path of the Silk Road has many branches from the Chinese Tang Dynasty capital in the east to Rome, the capital of Italy to the west. The line was opened by a general named Zhang Qian from the Han Dynasty. Tracing the road will pass through Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, and up to Alexandria Egypt. Also found other branches that pass through Pakistan, Kabul, Afghanistan to the Persian Gulf [1].

There is also the Silk Road by sea. The sea line originated from Guangzhou, southern China, to the Malacca Strait, and continued all the way to Sri Lanka, India and the east coast of Africa. The Sea Silk Road occurred during the Song Dynasty of China based on cultural objects found in Somalia. China has opened the Silk Road about 2000 years ago is one of the important path for dissemination of ancient Chinese culture to the West, as well as a liaison of economic exchange and culture of China-West [2]. Later this path did not reuse because of a split in the Mongol kingdom causing major political forces along the Silk Road to be separated, Turkmen troops seized the western part of the Silk Road and the destruction of the Byzantine Empire. The Silk Road stopped serving silk delivery routes in the 1400s [3].

The triumph of the ancient Silk Road instructed Chinese President Xi Jinping to reopen the path. China’s ambition to start this mega project has been announced since 2013. Chinese President Xi Jinping called it the ’21st Century New Silk Road’ or The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road. The purpose of this project is to create several economic corridors which connects more than 60 countries around the world [4]. The Silk Road project will be divided into two, land and sea. The land trade track is known as the Economic Belt Road, crossing from Europe to Central Asia and East Asia. Then the sea lane is known as the Maritime Silk Road, connecting Chinese ports with a number of ports along the route from the South China Sea, Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf, Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden [5].

In realizing the One Belt One Road (OBOR) program the Chinese government is ready to pour funds of US $ 124 billion or about Rp. 1649 trillion to support the New Silk Road program. The funds are ready to be channeled to build infrastructure to connectivity with countries along the Silk Road [6]. There are concerns from some Western states about the summit titled Belt and Road held in Beijing on May 14, is a Chinese effort to master the economy globally [7]. However, Xi Jinping dismissed the allegations. Through Foreign Minister Wang Yi said, OBOR is a product of inclusive cooperation, not a geopolitical tool, and should not be viewed using an old-fashioned Cold War mentality [8].

ASEAN countries hold important positions in the Maritime Silk Road, especially Indonesia which was chosen as the first place to operate the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. This situation also coincides with President Joko Widodo’s policy of making Indonesia the World Maritime Shaft [9]. The vision of Indonesia into a World Maritime Ax synergizes with the idea of One Belt One Road initiated by China [10]. The OBOR program discussed some time ago in Beijing, China. On that occasion President Jokowi and 30 heads of state participated in signing this program essentially promoting an open, multilateral trading system under the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) [11].

The New Silk Road Program in ASEAN is designed to be in line with the vision of ASEAN 2025 connectivity covering land and sea connections with Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia [12]. Mega Project China One Belt One Road which bridges the Western region of China with Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean and headed to Eurasia, demands a more active role of Indonesia as a leader in Southeast Asia, so that the centrality of ASEAN remains a priority in the synergy of the New China Silk Road with ASEAN Connectivity, whose development is quite slow [13].

ASEAN faces quite difficult challenges, among others, due to internal disagreements resulting from the unevenness of development policies among members as well as economic imbalances between northern and southern members. Like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam need help with infrastructure improvements to attract foreign investors, so it can catch up with other ASEAN members [14]. Therefore, Indonesia as a leader in Southeast Asia should be able to strengthen intra-ASEAN coordination in order to accelerate equitable economic growth, so as to harmonize ASEAN’s relationship with the New Silk Road.



[1] Heri Ruslan, ‘Menelusuri Jalur Sutra’, <…/mvova0-menelusuri-jalur-sutra> diakses pada 17 Juli 2017

[2] Hari, ‘Geopolitik : Mengenal Sejarah Jalur Sutra’,  <> diakses pada 17 Juli 2017

[3] ‘Silk Road’,  <…/Silk_Road.htm> diakses pada 17 Juli 2017

[4] Djony Edward, ‘Mengintip Peluang di Jalur Sutra Modern’, <> diakses pada 17 Juli 2017

[5] Denny Armandhanu, ‘Ambisi Tiongkok Menggarap Jalur Sutra’ <> diakses pada 17 Juli 2017

[6] Muhammad Idris, ‘Ambisi China Dominasi Ekonomi Dunia Lewat Jalur Sutra’ <> diakses pada 17 Juli 2017

[7] Ardan Adhi Chandra, ‘Xi Jinping Siapkan Rp 1649 T untuk Bangun Jalur Sutra <> diakses pada 17 Juli 2017

[8] Rini Utami, ‘Indonesia dan Jalur Sutra Abad Milenium’ <> diakses pada 17 Juli 2017

[9] Harian Nasional, <‘RI dan Jalur Sutra Abad Milenium’ <> diakses pada 17 Juli 2017

[10] Dimas Jarot Bayu, ‘Indonesia Dinilai Perlu Sinergikan Poros Maritim Dunia dengan Konsep “Jalur Sutra Maritim” China <…> diakses pada 18 Juli 2017

[11] Koran Sindo, ‘Jalur Rempah atau Sutra?’ <> diakses pada 18 Juli 2017

[12] Victor Maulana, ‘China Jelaskan Soal Jalur Sutera Modern pada Indonesia’ <> diakses pada 18 Juli 2017

[13] Ahmad Romadoni, ‘Jokowi : Peran ASEAN Kunci Terwujudnya Jalur Sutra Baru’ <> diakses pada 18 Juli 2017

[14] Dewan Editor, ‘ASEAN : Rapuhnya Perekonomian Kawasan Menjelang ASEAN Economic Community 2015’ <> diakses pada 18 Juli 2017

Ilustrasi : “Caravan on the Silk Road” (1375) dalam Katalanischer Weltatlas / P.M. History 2/2011 oleh Abraham Cresques.



This article was written by Tri Inov Haripa (in Indonesian), International Relations student, Islamic University of Indonesia, while working as an intern at Center for Southeast Asian Social Studies (CESASS).

ASEAN Way: The leap of the Economic Integration Theory Phase by the ASEAN Economic Community

Within Southeast Asia, regionalism is now a familiar concept. There are various regional bodies within Asia that have been formed, including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), Association for Southeast Asia (ASA), MAPHILINDO, and Asian and Pacific Council (ASPAC). However, regionalism has not always been present within the region. In 1979, Wong argued that there were a number of barriers preventing the formation of a regional unity in Southeast Asia. These factors included a strong presence of nationalism amongst states, a lack of regional trust and identity, territorial conflict, and differences in political perceptions between countries. These obstacles prevented unification until ASEAN was finally established.

In his session, Professor Tri Widodo discussed issues relating to the economy and welfare within Southeast Asia. Professor Tri Widodo gave an introduction about the history of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), the development of economic conditions in Southeast Asia, the theory of the establishment of ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), and  outlined some of ASEAN’s economic challenges in the future. According to Prof. Tri Widodo,  there are several macroeconomic challenges faced by Southeast Asia such as unemployment, balance of payments, fiscal expansion, and monetary policy.

It has been argued that the early establishment of ASEAN was motivated by political rather than economic factors. The formation of ASEAN was based around the reconciliation of ASEAN initiating countries. Furthermore, the motivations and objectives of ASEAN were initially focused on the integration of international politics. It has only been since 1970, that ASEAN has prioritized the evolution of its regional economic structure. This shift towards economics is demonstrated by an increased presence of economic elements within the ASEAN structure, in addition to a widespread campaign on economic integration.

The economic development of ASEAN can now be observed by its positioning as one of the largest economies in the world. In 2012, ASEAN had a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US $2.3 billion, establishing ASEAN as the world’s seventh largest economy behind the US, China, Japan, Germany, France and the UK. The average economic growth of ASEAN between 1989 to 1989 ranged from 3.8% to 7%. To strengthen its international economic repuation, ASEAN launched the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in 2016. The AEC’s main objectives include the unity of markets and production bases, enhancing regional economic competitiveness, equitable regional economic growth, and comprehensive regional economic integration with the world economy.

AEC is one form of regional economic integration. However, according to Prof. Tri Widodo,  the AEC has not met the requirements of the theory put forward by Balassa (1965) relating to economic integration. Balassa argues that to facilitate complete economic integration in a region, there are five stages that should be achieved by a nations’ economy, namely, (1) free trade (2) custom union, (3) common market, (4) economic union; and (5) complete integration. These five stages must be achieved in order to establish an integrated economy.

In practice, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is a common market form, but certain trade tarrifs exist for countries outside the ASEAN. The implication is that countries outside ASEAN can take advantage of this by entering the countries that provide the lowest rates, and trade from those countries without having to be exposed to tariffs.

The common market launched in the AEC results in the freedom of production to flow freely between countries, such as capital and labor. Despite the inconsistency with this theory, ASEAN countries have their own way of integrating the economy, and refer to this as the “ASEAN Way”. Questions arise regarding AEC’s ability to operate as a sufficient common market without tariff uniformity for countries outside ASEAN. However, Prof. Tri Widodo believes that Balassa’s theory has been well-tested, and uses the European Union (EU) as an example. The EU does not go through a single step in the theory. The outcome of ASEAN’s economic policy can only be answered by time.

Overall, there has been significant progress made since the establishment of ASEAN, and the creation of the AEC. Although there are inconsistencies with Balassa’s theory, the AEC will continue to operate in the ‘ASEAN Way’. The legitimacy of the theory of Balassa’s economic integration theory and its relationship with the ‘Asean Way’, can only be proved by its future development, and thus will be answered in time.



This article was written by Ruspratama Yudhawirawan (in Indonesian), an economics student, Faculty of Business and Economics, Universitas Gadjah Mada, while working as an intern at Center for Southeast Asian Social Studies (CESASS).

Muslim Rohingya and the Unending Crisis

Since the 1970s there have been hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing from Myanmar, most of them using sea routes to reach neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. However, the large number of refugees also cannot be welcomed easily by the targeted countries, due to concerns over uncontrolled influx of refugees. Indonesia is one of the few countries that can communicate directly with Myanmar on the escalation of the conflict. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said “Once again I conveyed Indonesia’s concerns to State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi regarding the situation in Rakhine state,” after being invited by Suu Kyi at her house for dinner while discussing openly the situation in Rakhine . [1] In addition to Indonesia, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak led a demonstration on 4 December 2016 on what he described as”genocide” of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar. Najib Razak also invites neighboring countries and the international world to move forward in suppressing the violence. [2]

Rohingya is a group of ethnic Muslim minorities who mostly live in western Myanmar, Rakhine region. It is estimated that this Rohingya ethnic group amounts to about 1 million people and adheres to Sunni Islam. This makes the ethnic Rohingya different from the dominant group that embraces Buddhism in Myanmar ethically, linguistically, and in religion. The origins of the Rohingyas can be traced from the fifteenth century when thousands of Muslims came to the kingdom of Arakan. After that there were many people who came again in the nineteenth and early twentieth century when Bengal and Rakhine were ruled by the colonial government as part of British India at that time. After gaining independence in 1948, the Burmese government changed its country’s name to Myanmar in 1989, and has since disputed Rohingya’s ethnic historical claims and denied its recognition as one of 135 ethnic groups in Myanmar. Rohingya was officially identified by the Burmese government as an illegal Bengali immigrant, despite the fact that many ethnic Rohingyas have been living in Myanmar for centuries. [3] The Myanmar government refused to grant citizenship status to the Rohingyas, and as a result most members of the group lacked legal documentation, effectively making them stateless. Although in the 1990s there was a “white card” as a temporary identity card for the Muslim community in Myanmar (mostly Rohingyas), but by 2015 this temporary identity card was abolished by President Thein Sein at the urging of the Nationalist Buddha. The ASEAN Parliament for Human Rights wrote in April 2015 that “the long persecution of Rohingyas has caused the highest outflow of marine asylum seekers (in the region) since the US war in Vietnam”. The persecution referred to is Myanmar’s government policy, including marriage restrictions, family planning, employment, education, religious choice, and freedom of movement have institutionalized systemic discrimination against the Rohingya ethnic group.

This discriminatory policy of the Burmese government is coupled with the condition of Rakhine state as Myanmar’s least developed state. World Bank estimates that 78% of households in Rakhine live below the poverty are also an additional reason why ethnic Rohingya want to get out of Myanmar. Widespread poverty, weak infrastructure, and a lack of job opportunities exacerbate the divisions between Buddhists and Muslims Rohingya. This tension is deepened by the religious differences that have been shown in many mass media several times. [4]

As the number of victims and refugee grew, indicating that the crisis will not be completed soon, and with a good ending. The first reason is ASEAN as a regional organization that includes Myanmar putting forward the principle of non-interference. This principle is the core foundation of the formation of cooperation among ASEAN member countries. This principle was first introduced in the Bangkok Declaration in 1967, which contained that ASEAN members did not want any parties outside the country to intervene in domestic affairs in order to create domestic and regional stability. [5] With this principle, ASEAN members that want to help resolve the Rohingya ethnic crisis are directly detained, and this situation is exacerbated by the Myanmar government which shows no desire to end the ongoing violence.

The second reason is Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand (including other ASEAN countries) as some of the main destinations of Rohingya refugees have not ratified the UN Convention and Protocol on Refugees. The Refugee Status Convention, also known as the Refugee Convention in 1951, is a multilateral treaty explaining who the refugees are and setting up the rights of an asylum seeker and the responsibility of a country that accepts the asylum seeker. [6] This is particularly crucial remembering that the domestic government of Myanmar cannot cope with the ever-increasing number of casualties, but outside parties such as ASEAN member countries are also unable to assist the refugees to the maximum level due to the Convention and Protocol on Refugees and Asylum Seekers has not been ratified.

The last reason why the crisis is still far to find its way is the closeness between the Myanmar government or the National League for Democracy Party and the nationalist Buddhists in Myanmar. The National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Aung San Suu Kyi is the party that won the election in 2015, and the majority of the party’s supporters come from nationalist Buddhist groups that make this condition so dilemmatic that there is hostility between the nationalist Buddhist side and the Rohingyas and other Muslims societies in Myanmar. Even UN Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said that the Myanmar government, led by Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi had taken a “superficial, counterproductive, even heartless” approach to the ongoing crisis. [7] He also said that reports of murder, incitement and burning of Rohingya ethnic homes every day.

The crisis that cannot be controlled by the government is already quite severe, but the government of Myanmar has not yet given access to the UN to enter the conflict area. Ravina Shamdasani as one of the spokespersons of the UN Human Rights section added “If the government (Myanmar) does not hide something, then why is there such reluctance to grant us access?  Remembering the continuing failure to grant access, we can only be afraid of the worst situation. “[8]



[1] Tama Salim, ‘Indonesia raises Rohingya concerns with Suu Kyi: Retno’, The Jakarta Post (daring), 8 Desember 2016, <>, diakses 13 Desember 2016.

[2] The Guardian, Malaysia PM urges world to act against ‘genocide’ of Myanmar’s Rohingya (daring), 4 Desember 2016, <>, diakses 13 Desember 2016.

[3] Eleanor Albert, ‘The Rohingya Migrant Crisis’, Council on Foreign Relations (daring), 9 Desember 2016, <>, diakses 13 Desember 2016.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mieke Molthof, ‘ASEAN and the Principle of Non-Interference’, E-International Relations Students (daring), 8 Februari 2012, <>, diakses 18 Desember 2016.

[6] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees (daring), <>, diakses 18 Desember 2016.

[7] Samuel Osborne, ‘UN getting daily reports of rapes, killings and other abuses against Rohingya Muslims in Burma’, Independent (daring), 18 Desember 2016, <>, diakses 19 Desember 2016.

[8] Ibid.



This article was written by Ilham Fauzi, research fellow at the Center for Southeast Asian Social Studies (CESASS).

Indonesia’s Strategic Role in South China Sea Crisis

The South China Sea (SCS) is waters area extending from the Southwest to the Northeast, bordering on the south by 3 degrees south between Sumatra Island and Kalimantan Island (Karimata Strait) and the North is bounded by the Taiwan Strait from the north end to the directions of Fukein beach, China. The area of SCS itself is estimated to reach 4 million square kilometers with four sub large islands namely Paracel, Spratly, Pratas and Macclesfield (Asnani Usman and Rizal Sukma, 1997). SCS which is estimated to have great potential in marine biota, tourism, fishery, oil, natural gas and even navigation makes many countries try hard to get legality over SCS.

The great potentials in SCS make countries around SCS to claim over the owner of SCS. In this context, there are six countries consist of four ASEAN countries and two countries outside ASEAN. The four ASEAN countries are Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Brunei Darussalam. While the two countries outside ASEAN are China and Taiwan. The six countries declared as the legal owner of SCS with various reasons.  Malaysia claimed of the ownership of SCS because of the closeness factor (proximity) with SCS, while Philippines claimed to have the rights over SCS because of the discovery and occupation. Besides, the Philippines also based its ownership of SCS because of the territory proximity factor. Vietnam feels to own SCS based on the historical factor. While Brunei feels the ownership of SCS because it based on the continent base and Exclusive Economic Zone.

Based on the above map it can be illustrated that China through its policies has unilaterally declared a nine-dash line which in the above map is marked with a dashed red line of nine, while Vietnam’s claim is marked with a blue line, Malaysia is marked by a light blue stripe and Philippines with brown color. While Brunei and Taiwan also claim that in the nine-dash line, both countries also have rights. Globally, the real territory that China claimed is actually also an area that is also claimed by five other countries. In the context of this sovereignty disputes which is very aggressive in opposing China’s nine-dash line is the Philippines and Vietnam. The nine-dash line concept was first introduced in 1914 and exploited in 1947 by the Chinese national government.

In order to resolve the SCS issue, the relevant parties have already made an agreement on the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in Cambodia. The purpose of this DOC are three namely to promote confidence-building measures, to foster cooperation in maritime affairs and to prepare a formal and binding code of conduct. Based on the three objectives of the DOC in particular the third objective is that the purpose of the DOC is to formulate a formal and binding COC. So starting from this point can be expected COC can be a document that can provide the implementation scheme, monitoring and sanctions. The process of making a COC document can be said to have many obstacles. One of the obstacles that have been faced is related to the drafting of COC which is done in the scope of ASEAN countries without involving China. Therefore it made China uncomfortable. In the context of drafting COC, it clearly possible there will be a difficult negotiation between the conflicted parties and will take a long time.(

The mechanism related to the process of COC has been delivered by China’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi in 2013. In essence Wang Yi asked that the process of COC must use negotiation and respect toward each country became the main thing. Then in the same year, the process of COC was started in Suzhou, China. The stage process of COC will clearly take energy and a long time because of the complexity problem of SCS and the interest of various actors playing in SCS.   In the middle process of COC agreement, Indonesia as an unrelated country in the conflict of SCS, at least can actively help to solve the conflict of SCS. This is in line with Indonesia’s “free and active” foreign policy. The meaning of “free” means Indonesia must act independently in the international arena, while “active” means Indonesia’s need to participate in creating world peace.(

As the implementation of the foreign policy, the Indonesian government can initiate the growth of more intense cooperation between the dispute parties. Actually, the cooperation between the dispute countries has been done after the signing of DOC in 2002. For example between 2005 until 2008, there has been cooperation in the seismic research between China, Vietnam and the Philippines. However, generally the cooperations that have been done can be said that many of them are not running. Therefore, Indonesia can facilitate a meeting involving the related parties. In the context of this cooperation there should be principles that must be obeyed by all the dispute parties so that the future cooperation can work well. These principles include

  1. The oceans should be used for peaceful purposes under UNCLOS, UN Charter and international law,
  2. Cooperation should start from a non-sensitive issue such as marine environmental protection,
  3. Profits must be shared equally to the parties related to SCS,
  4. Exploitations and living exploration and non-living resources cannot be charged to one country, but become a shared responsibility.

Some cooperation aspects that might be done are as follows:

  1. Joint development for oil and gas
  2. Joint management and conservation of fisheries
  3. Cooperation in navigational safety and search and rescue at sea
  4. Cooperation in combating transnational maritime crime
  5. Cooperation in marine scientific research and
  6. Marine environmental protection (Wu Shicun, 2013).

The cooperation in those areas can be done either bilateral or multilateral. For that, Indonesia is expected to encourage the realization of such cooperation to reduce tensions in SCS that currently there is a tendency to increase significantly.



This article was written by Fatkurrohman, researcher at the Center for Southeast Asian Social Studies (CESASS).

“Security Community” and the Way to ASEAN Community

Southeast Asia is in the spotlight when by the end of 2015 the region officially enforces the ASEAN economic community which is one of the three pillars of the ASEAN Community. But for the international community, Southeast Asia is a region which its knowledge is rarely studied, so that a question arises about what is meant by Southeast Asia? Is Southeast Asia merely an area consisting of countries that are rich in culture, rice-eaters, electronic appliances lovers, and prioritizing family values?

The countries in the region belong to a group called The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional group that promotes economic, political and security cooperation among its ten members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. ASEAN countries have population of more than 662 million people and combined GDP of US $ 2.6 trillion based on the number in 2014. Prof. Mochtar Mas’oed during Teaching and Researching Southeast Asia (TRSA) held on 17-19 October 2016 explained the basic concept of ASEAN community. He used Karl Deustch concept that defines Security Community as a group of tightly integrated people, therefore later appear a guarantee that the members of the community will not solve a problem with fight, but will find another solution. In addition, he also explained that the hallmark of the creation of the security community appears when the group has developed a ‘sense of community’, embodied in formal and informal institutions and practices that are strong and widespread, so it can be guaranteed that any change among members can take place peacefully.

Prof. Mochtar Mas’oed also explaining that the Security Community is in line with how ASEAN has a line of problem solving which called “the ASEAN way”. The line is stressed in the sovereign of each country and the principal of non-intervention among countries members. Additionally, ASEAN is strengthen the cooperation among its countries members by arranging the ASEAN Community which consist of 3 main pillars (economic, political security, and socio-cultural). However, ASEAN efforts to continue the integrated process is encountering some obstacles such as the difference of economic and technological capability, the belief/religion difference, as well as regional-based conflicts among ASEAN member countries, for example South China Sea conflict that involve seven countries.

He also explained how to create “region-ness” in Southeast Asia in order the plan of ASEAN Community can work well. There are two approaches that can be used: first is the logical approach of “Problem-solving”. The approach clarifies the problem finding which can push Southeast Asian countries to create “Problem-solving” mechanism together that can fulfill their mutual interests. With many experiences & habits of solving problems together and with the enactment of an institutional framework to solve the problem, we can expect the development of “region-ness” in Southeast Asia. While the second approach, Logic “Community” argues that to create a “political community” there must be a serious effort among leaders and the general public to create “a sense of regional identity.” The discourse of “region” & “region-building” of Southeast Asia must be encouraged, especially among the educated leaders and societies.

There are two messages delivered by Prof. Mochtar to every supporter of “community-building” in Southeast Asia, and also to everyone that agree to the application of the two approaches. Firstly, as an educated society should try to create the “Southeast Asian Identity” by promoting the discourse on the significance meaning of “region building” and its institutionalization. Secondly, there must be an attempt to find the most basic issue for the welfare of the nations in the region (Indonesia). The more accustomed these nations to solve the problems of their lives together, the stronger the impetus for regional cooperation.



This article was written by Ilham Fauzi, research fellow at the Center for Southeast Asian Social Studies (CESASS).