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Behind Indonesia’s illiberal turn

Behind Indonesia’s illiberal turn by Vedi Hadiz, 20/10/2017, New Mandala

The past year or so has seen conspicuous setbacks to Indonesian democracy’s capacity to protect many social rights, including of some of the more vulnerable members of society—most notably women, religious and sexual minorities, and victims of the 1965–66 mass killings. Ironically, this has occurred under a government whose declared agenda of extending access to social services has been a celebrated and defining characteristic, not to mention the presumption that its establishment had deflected a prior possible reassertion of authoritarian-like politics.

By 2015, a wide-ranging survey had offered the proposition that Indonesia’s hard-won democracy had stagnated. However, many of the more sombre assessments of this condition were to come in the wake of the second round of the Jakarta gubernatorial election in April 2017, and the farcical blasphemy case that saw the defeated Basuki Tjahaja Purnama (“Ahok”) sentenced to jail. The mood of these analyses could not be more different from the upbeat tone that characterised those that immediately followed the victory of Ahok’s close ally Jokowi over Prabowo Subianto in the 2014 election. That result had spared most Australia-based analysts—and many of the people of Indonesia—from the pain of having to contend with what might have been an overwhelmingly clear signal of democratic regression.

But the manner of Ahok’s downfall is merely symptomatic of much deeper problems within Indonesia democracy, which have never been resolved since the fall of Soeharto. These problems are intertwined with continuing oligarchic dominance and the manner in which intra-oligarchic conflict now occurs. The mobilisation of identity politics has become a more salient feature of conflicts over power and resources. In fact, we may be entering a new phase in which conservative takes on Islamic morality, and the hyper-nationalism which is being positioned against them, become the most important cultural resource pools from which the ideational aspects of intra-oligarchic struggles are forged—thus accentuating the illiberalism of Indonesian democracy. Indeed, the relative absence of organised social forces that would drive an agenda of liberal political reform is more palpable than ever before.

Lire la suite sur : http://www.newmandala.org/indonesia-illiberal/

Lineage and Legitimacy: Exploring Royal-Familial Visual Configurations in Cambodia

Lineage and Legitimacy: Exploring Royal-Familial Visual Configurations in Cambodia by Joanna Wolfarth in Trans-Asia Photography Review, vol. 8, n° 1, Fall 2017 : Art and Vernacular Photographies in Asia

As with those of many other rulers, the portrait of Norodom Sihanouk (1922–2012), the former king of Cambodia, has been used at various times in order to convey his sovereign status. This was particularly true of his official portrait, which remains a common presence in both public and private spaces throughout Cambodia. This portrait and multiple versions of it were put to work with press photographs and newsreels of Sihanouk engaged with everyday life, along with the king’s own cinematic oeuvre, to create a visual landscape that reinforced his central presence in Cambodia’s spiritual, social, and political life. All versions of Sihanouk’s official portrait comprise a head and shoulder shot, with his face slightly angled to the side and his gaze focused on a space beyond the frame. He wears a suit and tie, although their colors vary. In some versions the digital manipulation is minimal and lines are visible on his face; in others, the portrait has been more obviously altered and his face becomes shadow-less and wrinkle-free, his hair a solid gray mass. The official portrait is often accompanied by those of his wife, Monineath, and his son, King Sihamoni, presenting a royal-familial triad expressing kingship, past and present.

This paper explores this royal-familial portrait-triad by probing how and why legitimacy and lineage are expressed through visual representations of family ties. Consideration will be given to examples of historical antecedents and the particulars of their resurrection in twentieth-century Cambodia. I suggest that there is a structural power inherent within triadic configurations and that such an arrangement reinforces dynamics of legitimacy. Indeed, longstanding notions of political order in Cambodia are grounded within the triune of Nation, Religion, and King.[1] Often more complex, multidirectional flows of power are expressed in these visual configurations, whereby the authority of the sovereign son strengthens that of his parents, which enables the son to retroactively inherit the power conferred upon his ancestors. Although the right to royal inheritance is “in the blood,” royal succession in Cambodia is not tied strictly to primogeniture and thus there are often competing heirs to the throne, meaning lineage and legitimacy must be more forcefully articulated. This paper will also consider the materiality of the images in question: how such portraits are replicated, disseminated, and displayed.

Lire la suite sur : https://quod.lib.umich.edu/t/tap/7977573.0008.104?view=text;rgn=main

Goods and ethnicity : Trade and Bazaars from a Gift Perspective

Heidelberg Ethnology : Occasional Paper N° 6 (2017) : Goods and Ethnicity : Trade and Bazaars from a Gift Perspective; A Discusssion

Guido Sprenger, with commentaries from Chris Gregory, Kostas Retsikas & Hans Peter Hahn

Drawing on ethnographic observations in Lao markets and bazaars, this article proposes a new and experimental framework for the analysis of multi-ethnic trading. It explores bazaars and trade as sites of the (re-)production of ethnicity through the perspective of gift exchange theory. On markets, transcultural differences can be identified and stabilized through the exchange of goods and money. This draws attention to the role of trade items as foci – and perhaps even as non-human agents – in the emergence of ethnicity and other forms of local identity. The value of items’ specific origins is thus linked to social structure. This helps us to see how the shaping of group identity can be better understood by considering how the goods they bring to market carry with them some features of the gift.

Occasional Paper N° 5 (2017) : Studying Sites of Buddhist Leisure : A Discussion of Justin Thomas McDaniel’s Architects of Buddhist Leisure

Thomas N. Patton, David Morgan, Anne Hansen, Thomas Borchert, Richard Fox & Justin Thomas McDaniel

Occasional Paper N° 4 (2016) : The Other Side of the Gift: Soliciting in Java – A Discussion

Konstantinos Retsikas, with commentaries from Carla Jones, Daromir Rudnyckyj and Guido Sprenger

Occasional Paper N° 3 (2015) : Islam and the Perception of Islam in Contemporary Indonesia

Vincent Houben

Occasional Paper N° 2 (2015) : Optical Allusions: Looking at Looking, in Balinese and Dutch Encounters

Margaret Wiener

Occasional Paper N° 1 (2015) : Beyond the Whorfs of Dover: A Study of Balinese Interpretive Practices

Mark Hobart

Télécharger les PDF sur : http://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/hdethn

 

 

 

 

Book Review : Living with Myths in Singapore

Book Review : Loh Kah Seng, Pingtjin Thum & Jack Chia Meng-That (eds), Living with Myths in Singapore, Ethos Books, Singapore 2017 by Serina Rahman, 23/10/2017, New Mandala

Living with Myths in Singapore is an eye-opener for anyone who has grown up on the institutionalised Singapore stories.

From a young age, the average Singaporean is exposed to tales of the island’s catapulting itself from third world to first, and then fed a constant stream of pride-inducing narratives designed to demonstrate the nation’s success in overcoming abandonment by Malaysia, racial strife, economic struggles, and a constant siege by unfriendly neighbours. To be a citizen of Singapore was to delight in the tiny state’s ability to overtake others in the region in terms of development, economic progress, and “civilisation”. The larger and more unwieldy members of ASEAN were always depicted as those who were envious of Singapore’s progress, and constantly in need of assistance and advice from the island’s growing pool of local and resident international experts in countless fields.

Philip Holden (in Chapter 7) defines myths as “our way of telling a common sense story of the past”. The editors cite Roland Barthes as they point out that the distinguishing mark of myths are their “naturalness”—in other words, myths are stories that are taken as true and “historical”. But “history”, whether people realise it or not, is man-made. Singaporean stories taken as “history” seem to dangle off the edge of reality—and once unpacked, are revealed to be nothing more than myths created, embellished, and perpetuated for whichever use best suits national institutions, the state, and the media at the time.

I was born in Singapore but didn’t grow up there. Instead I travelled the world in a Singaporean bubble, perpetuating the national myths that engendered respect and awe. The occasional holiday in the homeland had the same impact on me as it did any foreigner. We were taken in by the sheen and shine; the spotlessness, safety and efficiency—and we all believed the myths. As an adult, spending my work hours in the “star” of Southeast Asia after decades abroad, the sparkle seems to dull a little. Murmurs on the ground help peel away the layers of flawless cling wrap to reveal the wrinkles and scars of those who lived all their lives in the Little Red Dot.

Living with Myths in Singapore cleared all the doubts that couldn’t be publicly proclaimed and confronted. The book unpacks the myths to reveal the reality hidden beyond the singular “history” that is perpetually propagated. It fills in the fissures of the fables that niggled because the “common sense” didn’t quite make sense—but couldn’t be questioned. The book’s use of researched, academic histories based on multiple sources, facts, and evidence counters the myths and provides previously obscured insight into the truth behind the tales.

Lire la suite sur : http://www.newmandala.org/book-review/living-myths-singapore/

 

Indonesia for Sale

Indonesia for Sale: in-depth series on corruption, palm oil and rainforests launches, by Mongabay

  • The investigative series Indonesia for Sale, launching this week, shines new light on the corruption behind Indonesia’s deforestation and land rights crisis.
  • In-depth stories, to be released over the coming months, will expose the role of collusion between palm oil firms and politicians in subverting Indonesia’s democracy. They will be published in English and Indonesian.
  • The series is the product of nine months’ reporting across the country, interviewing fixers, middlemen, lawyers and companies involved in land deals, and those most affected by them.
  • Indonesia for Sale is a collaboration between Mongabay and The Gecko Project, an investigative reporting initiative established by UK-based nonprofit Earthsight. 

Lire la suite sur : https://news.mongabay.com/2017/10/indonesia-for-sale-in-depth-series-on-corruption-palm-oil-and-rainforests-starts-tomorrow/

Premier épisode de la série : The palm oil fiefdom

A politician in Borneo turned his district into a sea of oil palm. Did it benefit the people who elected him, or the members of his family?

A lire sur : https://news.mongabay.com/2017/10/the-palm-oil-fiefdom/

 

 

Bonnie Brereton: finding democracy in Buddhist murals

Bonnie Brereton: Finding democracy in Buddhist murals, interview by Peera Songkünnatham, 20/10/2017, The Isaan Record

Old temple murals, known as hup taem in Lao, are going through a cultural renaissance in the Northeast, after decades of being neglected and demolished in favor of Bangkok-style murals. Dating back to the early twentieth century, murals on the walls of ordination halls, or sim, depict popular stories like the life of the Buddha, Vessantara Jataka, and religious imageries like heaven and hell. They also feature local landscapes and everyday activities like farming in a uniquely vernacular style.

This form of people’s art is only now beginning to be recognized, both locally and nationally. The Tourism Authority of Thailand is finally promoting visiting sim – and not just bat caves and snake farms in central Isaan, as it has done for many years. In 2015, a nonfiction book tracing the Lao epic Sang Sinxay on murals in Isaan won a national prize.

This past August, a seminar in Khon Kaen, organized by the Faculty of Fine Arts of Khon Kaen University (KKU) and the Isan Writers Association, brought together experts on literature, visual arts, and community development, to explore and discuss hup taem on both sides of the Mekong. Several Laotian experts participated in the seminar as well.

One of the presenters was Dr. Bonnie Pacala Brereton, an American art historian and Buddhist studies scholar who specializes in vernacular forms of cultural expression in Isaan and the North.

Since 2004 she has been a researcher at the Center for Research on Plurality in the Mekong Region, Khon Kaen University. Along with Somroay Yencheuy, she is a co-author of a 2010 book Buddhist Murals of Northeast Thailand: Reflections of the Isan Heartland. An earlier book, Thai Tellings of Phra Malai, (1995) was a  study of the different regional versions of the Phra Malai story.

In this interview Brereton talks about her interpretation of the murals as a “democratic vision of society,” and the growing recognition of the shared culture in a region stretching from central Isaan to Laos.

Lire l’interview sur : http://isaanrecord.com/2017/10/20/bonnie-brereton-finding-democracy-buddhist-murals/

 

 

Getting out of Thailand’s political cul-de-sac

« Getting out of Thailand’s political cul-de-sac » by Thitinan Pongsudhirak, 06/10/2017, Nikkei Asian Review

For ruling elites, quest for legitimacy could prove a trap of their own making

Thailand has come full circle again. The kingdom’s 12-year pattern of a political juggernaut being elected to office and later abusing power before being ousted by his or her opponents still holds. This time, as determined by the country’s highest court, the outcome is a five-year jail term for former Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on charges of negligence over her government’s flawed rice subsidy scheme that ran from Thailand’s last poll in July 2011 until the latest military coup in May 2014.

While this cycle of a popular mandate being overturned by judicial and military maneuvers repeats itself, the persistent conundrum for Thailand is whether those who rule without electoral legitimacy will perform well enough to stay in power — or whether calling the shots from the sidelines will lead to another (and possibly more damaging) round of internal conflict and turmoil.

First, it is instructive to put the Yingluck trial in perspective. Like her eldest brother and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was re-elected by a landslide in 2005 only to be toppled by a putsch the following year, Yingluck led the Pheu Thai party to a resounding win in parliamentary elections and became the country’s first female head of government. The Shinawatras’ popularity derived from concrete policies that pandered to poorer rungs of society, particularly rural constituencies. When Thaksin had his turn earlier, his platform featured a universal health care that guaranteed treatment for just 30 baht, or about $1 — and a microcredit scheme that bestowed 1 million baht on each of about 77,000 villages. For Yingluck, Thaksin’s inner sanctum on policy contrivance similarly decided on numbers that are easy to remember. Farmers were guaranteed 15,000 baht per ton of rice, undergraduate degree holders 15,000 baht monthly salary, and wage earners 300 baht a day.

These numbers were designed to woo the electorate, and were not based on rationally calculated policy programs with logical and longer-term policy objectives. But whether and how much the rice-pledging led to billions of dollars in fiscal losses — as claimed in the legal charge leveled against Yingluck — is a different matter. Thaksin’s policy bet through the Yingluck premiership was premised on cornering the world rice market by accumulating Thai rice and paying farmers handsomely right away. If the accumulated rice could be sold on world markets with higher prices, then a handsome profit would accrue. If not, corresponding losses would be incurred. As it turned out, Thailand quickly discovered it was no longer the only major rice exporter. The rice-pledging scheme was a profligate gamble and a policy disaster. Its exact losses can only be valued when all the stored rice is sold with proceeds compared with originally purchased prices.

Lire la suite sur : https://asia.nikkei.com/Viewpoints/Thitinan-Pongsudhirak/Getting-out-of-Thailand-s-political-cul-de-sac

Is Indonesia sliding towards a ‘Neo-New Order’?

Joko Widodo watches Soeharto-era anti-communist film Pengkhianatan G30S/PKI with senior military and police figures on 29 September. Photo by Laily Rachev for Antara.

« Is Indonesia sliding towards a ‘Neo-New Order’? » by Tim Lindsey, 04/10/2017, Indonesia at Melbourne

On 16 September, police broke up an academic discussion at the offices of renowned activist NGO the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (LBH). The topic was the killings of alleged leftists in 1965 and 1966 in the wake of the failed coup that brought former president Soeharto to power, public discussion of which has often raised the ire of anti-communist mobs.

This event was more significant than it seems at first glance. LBH has always been critical of government and unafraid to address highly controversial issues. Despite this, security forces have never before broken up a meeting at its offices – not even under Soeharto’s authoritarian New Order, when LBH was often the most vocal opposition voice in the country.

The trouble started when protesters gathered outside LBH, claiming the meeting supported communism. They included prominent Islamist ginger groups like the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and others involved in recent mass rallies against former Jakarta governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama. As is so often the case, the police gave in to the mob. They surrounded LBH, forced their way in and closed the event down.

Discussion of the mass killing or imprisonment in 1965 and 1966 of Indonesians supposedly associated with the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) may still be controversial in Indonesia but it is hardly novel. There have been many similar events in recent years (including at LBH) and even public conferences, some endorsed by the government. Likewise, Joshua Oppenheimer’s dramatic documentary about the killings, “The Act of Killing” has been screened in Indonesia and covered widely in the media. Every Thursday, survivors and supporters protest outside the palace to remind President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) of his broken election promise to resolve past violations of human rights, including the massacres of 1965/6.

In this context, having police break into LBH to halt a private meeting seemed extreme and heavy-handed, so LBH organised an artistic event the next day to protest. The mob gathered again, using social media to spread rumours it was a secret congress of the PKI, and pelted those trying to enter with stones. This time, police held protesters off but activists were trapped inside LBH for hours before being evacuated to the National Commission on Human Rights (Komnas HAM).

The idea that communism might be resurgent is ridiculous in a country that doesn’t even have a leftist political party. Although the PKI was violently obliterated in the mid-sixties, and communism is a dead letter globally with has no popular support in Indonesia, it is alive and well as Indonesia’s No. 1 bogeyman. Jokowi helped legitimise this in May, responding to claims that he is from a former PKI family by calling for communism to be “crushed” if it rose again. Communism remains the label of choice to smear progressive opponents, as Islamist groups showed in their highly effective attack on LBH.

Civil society leaders like those at LBH are, in fact, the intellectual engine of the reform movement that delivered democratisation in the years immediately following Soeharto’s fall in 1998. For them, the attacks on LBH are another marker of what they see as Indonesia’s slow slide away from liberal democratic reform, towards what they are now calling the “Neo-New Order”.

Lire la suite sur : http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/is-indonesia-sliding-towards-a-neo-new-order/

Pattana Kitiarsa on Thai boxing

Pattana Kitiarsa, « Of Men and Monks: The Boxing-Buddhism Nexus and the Production of National Manhood in Contemporary Thailand », 02/10/2013, New Mandala

Introduced by Peter Vail, The National University of Singapore.

Dr. Pattana Kitiarsa, Assistant Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore, pursued a wide range of research interests before his untimely passing in January 2013. Chief among these were transnational labor migration, in particular the lives of Thai migrant construction workers in Singapore. He connected this work to other facets of life in rural northeastern Thailand, the region from which he himself originated. He examined popular Thai cinema, vernacular Buddhism, and maintained an avid interest in Muay Thai, i.e. Thai-style boxing, the national sport ubiquitous among Thailand’s lower classes.

The son of an avid boxer and thus someone exposed to boxing since early childhood, Pattana studied Muay Thai in a way that was at once passionately humanistic and anthropologically informed. He strove to understand the cultural meanings that Muay Thai embodies for rural Thais, in particular how it functions to construct masculinity. He understood the Muay Thai boxer as a key cultural archetype that connects Thai men to other pervasive masculine models–especially monks–and more broadly to the imagined nation at large. Pattana argued that Muay Thai boxing provides a narrative in which poor Thai men can imagine themselves simultaneously as dedicated breadwinners and as national heroes. It is this embodied perspective–boxing and mobility through the eyes of its everyday practitioners–that constitutes the greatest contribution of his work in this area and clearly connects his research on Muay to his other interests in labor migration and popular Buddhism. The paper below, unfinished at the time of his death, was presented in the International Conference on “Mega-Sporting Event in the Age of New Developmentalism: Perspectives from Asia” at the Enyuu Gakusya, Hokkaido University, held on 28-29 July 2012. It represents an early version of ideas and arguments pertaining to Muay Thai that Pattana was formulating and refining, and which he was intent on developing further. With the help of Pattana’s widow Aj Rungnapa Kitiarsa and his long-time collaborator and dear friend Aj Suriya Smutkupt, Michael Montesano prepared this paper for its publication on New Mandala, incorporating material from the notes that Pattana had prepared for his presentation at Hokkaido University.

Lire la suite de l’article sur : http://www.newmandala.org/pattana-kitiarsa-on-thai-boxing/

Continuer la lecture de Pattana Kitiarsa on Thai boxing

Le Vénérable W., portrait d’une figure birmane de la provocation : un troisième volet à la « Trilogie du mal » de Barbet Shroeder

Le Vénérable W., portrait d’une figure birmane de la provocation : un troisième volet à la « Trilogie du mal » de Barbet Shroeder par Bénédicte Brac de la Perrière, 26/09/2017, Carnets de Terrain

Provocante, l’image que l’on a vue cet été à l’affiche des cinémas parisiens l’est tout autant que celle à la une du Time Asie de juillet 2013 et dont la violence a suscité alors, en Birmanie,  le retrait à la vente du magazine. La première image montre un moine bouddhiste à la face d’ange méditant sur fond de mosquées calcinées. La seconde qui figure le même moine illustre un dossier intitulé « The Face of Buddhist Terror ». Les deux jouent sur le choc provoqué par l’association du bouddhisme à la terreur, renforcé par l’apparence angélique du religieux. Le public assez dispersé qui sort de la salle de cinéma parisienne en ce mois de juin caniculaire, sonné après ce document « glaçant », donne libre cours à sa consternation : « les bouddhistes aussi peuvent être haineux ! » peinant à comprendre qu’une partie de leur effarement tient à la force de l’illusion occidentale selon laquelle le bouddhisme ne serait pas une religion tout à fait comme les autres. Le documentaire de Barbet Shroeder éclaire crûment ce malentendu de la réception occidentale du bouddhisme comme philosophie pacifiste plutôt que comme religion inscrite dans des histoires particulières non dépourvues de violence. Ne ferait-il que cela, il servirait déjà notre discernement.

Mais s’il joue de ce malentendu, le cinéaste suisse poursuit un autre but, autopsier le « mal » dans ses ramifications, ses agissements et ses conséquences funestes à travers le portrait de Wirathu, moine appartenant à l’ordre bouddhiste de Birmanie qui s’est illustré depuis 2012 par ses discours islamophobes radicaux. Shroeder explique qu’essayant de se débarrasser d’un sentiment de rage qu’il éprouvait lui-même, en se réfugiant dans le bouddhisme, « sa dernière illusion », il avait découvert en Birmanie cet exemple bouddhiste de haine raciste et avait décidé d’en faire le troisième volet de sa « Trilogie du mal ». Inaugurée en 1974 avec son film Le Général Amin Dada. Autoportrait, poursuivie avec l’Avocat de la terreur qui date de 2007 et porte sur l’ambiguïté du personnage de Jacques Vergès, la trilogie est constituée d’une galerie de portraits dont la force tient à ce que son auteur « laisse la parole » à ses monstres, « il ne les juge pas, il les laisse dire des horreurs… qui les révèlent ». Shroeder a convaincu Wirathu de se laisser filmer en flattant ses tendances mégalomaniaques: il lui a seulement dit « que les Français qui allaient bientôt élire Marine Le Pen, étaient très intéressés par ce qu’il faisait de son côté en Birmanie ». Le fond d’islamophobie sur lequel surfe Wirathu en Birmanie n’est, on le sait, pas isolé et sa réactivation virulente résonne avec le discours planétaire rejetant la religion du prophète au nom de ses épigones radicalisés. Wirathu en utilisateur averti de tous les outils médiatiques et maître dans l’art de la provocation n’a pas hésité à répondre à la proposition du cinéaste.

Lire la suite sur : https://blogterrain.hypotheses.org/9816

If Indonesia wants to combat hoaxes it must fix its public broadcasters

If Indonesia wants to combat hoaxes it must fix its public broadcasters by Ross Tapsell, 25/09/2017, Indonesia at Melbourne

On election night in 2014, Indonesians tuned in to two 24-hour news stations to see who won. On TVOne, Prabowo Subianto was touted as the winner. Over on MetroTV, Joko “Jokowi” Widodo was declared the winner. Given the partisan coverage of both stations throughout the election, it was not surprising that many viewers had no idea who actually won. Few bothered to check TVRI, Indonesia’s state-run television station.

Since then, citizens have become increasingly wary of partisan mainstream news sites, and are turning to a swathe of alternative online sources of information, some of which are deliberately produced to encourage sectarianism.

One solution to this problem is an independent, fearless, public media that could provide a serious alternative to privately owned conglomerates and the increasing spread of hoax news and disinformation online. Indonesia is in dire need of a robust publicly owned media in the digital era. Unfortunately, public broadcasting in Indonesia is ‘dying’ and needing ‘revitalisation’.

 In countries such as the United Kingdom (BBC), Australia (ABC), and Japan (NHK), nation-wide public broadcasters produce news and information across a variety of platforms, including the internet. In Australia, for example, the ABC has three digital television stations, a 24-hour news station that can be live-streamed online, and hundreds of local radio stations (which are also available online), as well as a growing online news and information presence through abc.net.au.

Indonesia’s public media looks more like the United States model, where television station PBS is underfunded and ignored by viewers, overpowered by privately owned cable news stations like Fox and CNN.

Lire la suite : http://indonesiaatmelbourne.unimelb.edu.au/if-indonesia-wants-to-combat-hoaxes-it-must-fix-its-public-broadcasters/

 

Reflecting on the Saffron Revolution, In Poetry and Prose

Reflecting on the Saffron Revolution, in Poetry and Prose by Courtney Wittekind, 20/09/2017

This week’s posts on Tea Circle represent the start of our forum on the “Saffron Revolution,” during which we will feature submissions by those analyzing, debating, and reflecting upon the impact of Myanmar’s 2007 demonstrations, 10 years on. We will continue to accept submissions through the start of the forum, so if you would like to add your voice, whether in your own post or in the form of a response to another, please see our Call for Submissions or write to our editors at: editor@teacircleoxford.com.

We begin with a poem by celebrated Burmese journalist, activist, writer, and poet Khet Mar, “The Wound.” It was written in 2012 following the release of 651 political prisoners, many of whom were members of the 88 Generation Students’ Group and sentenced following their participation in the 2007 demonstrations. In it, Khet Mar reflects on the struggle for political change in Burma/Myanmar, the country’s resultant legacies of activism, and the experience of witnessing upheaval from afar— an experience all too common for those in exile.

Courtney Wittekind and Khet Mar connected earlier this week to discuss the poem’s representation of the Saffron Revolution’s leaders, its relation to political change writ large, and how its words relate to the present moment, as we now look back upon past events. Their conversation follows the poem in English and in Burmese.

Continuer la lecture de Reflecting on the Saffron Revolution, In Poetry and Prose

Will democracy in the Philippines go the way of Thailand?

Will democracy in the Philippines go the way of Thailand? by Michael Vatikiotis, 14/09/2017, The Economist

Rodrigo Duterte bears many similarities to Thaksin Shinawatra

WHEN Filipinos attempt to explain the political success of their tough-guy president, Rodrigo Duterte, they tend to point to local precursors. Joseph Estrada, a former matinée idol who had often played Robin Hood types, rose to the presidency by promising to be hard on bad guys and good to the poor. And then there is Ferdinand Marcos, who cultivated an image as a war hero to win election before assuming dictatorial powers, and whose reputation Mr Duterte is doing his best to restore.

Both these comparisons make Mr Duterte’s knack of casting himself as a friend of the people while giving short shrift to the niceties of democracy seem like a function of Philippine politics, in which populists occasionally attempt to stir up resentment against the hereditary caste of landowners who dominate government and the economy. After all, despite regular elections and much talk of reform, the 40 best-connected families still control about three-quarters of the Philippines’ wealth. Poverty is equally entrenched, as a visit to Manila’s slums or the southern, partly Muslim island of Mindanao makes clear.

But the Philippines is not the only country in South-East Asia with an entrenched establishment presiding over profound inequality. Most are blighted by single-party rule, or by a political churn which does not seem to have much impact on local power structures. Thailand, with a monarchy manipulated by the elites, is a case in point. The purpose of 12 military coups, two in the past 12 years, has been, as Michael Vatikiotis argues in “Blood and Silk”, a perceptive new book on the region, to maintain “an imposing if arcane edifice of power and [cultivate] a conservative mindset that has prevented the devolution of power and autonomy to ordinary people.”

Lire la suite sur : https://www.economist.com/news/asia/21728953-rodrigo-duterte-bears-many-similarities-thaksin-shinawatra-will-democracy-philippines-go?frsc=dg%7Ce

Rohingya identity and the limits to history

Rohingya identity and the limits to history by Jonathan Saha, 17/09/2017, New Mandala

Public discussions around Rohingya people currently fleeing violence in Rakhine state, Myanmar, have often involved arguments about history. While critical historical analysis is useful in offering insights into conflicts, History—if treated as a single, knowable past—is not. This is especially true when dealing with ethnicity. Whatever the past was, no amount of historical research can justify the current violence against Rohingya people.

The debate around Rohingya ethnicity lacks awareness of wider historiography (the history of historical research). On the one side, those denying that this is ethnic cleansing argue that there is no such thing as a Rohingya ethnic group. It is claimed that these people are actually Bengali Muslim migrants. The writings of historians such as Jacques Lieder have been used, by some, to support this position. He argues that the use of the term Rohingya to connote this Muslim population, although noted by eighteenth-century European travelers, is a modern one. For him, Rohingya is primarily a political identity. On the other side, Rohingya activists have resisted this characterisation. They have countered that there is evidence of Muslims living in the Rakhine region for centuries, and that these groups have periodically been called Rohingya.

Writing in The Diplomat last year, one commentator attempted to disentangle these debates by arguing that “the Rohingya are not an ethnic, but rather a political construction. [emphasis in original]”. This is wrong. Not only wrong in the sense of it being inaccurate, but wrong in two other ways: 1) in that it relies on a false division between the categories “political” and “ethnic”, and then treats the two as if they are mutually exclusive; and 2) in that it assumes that we can definitively know people’s ethnic identification in the past.

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Alexandra de Mersan  » Retour en Arakan ou comment comprendre la lente exclusion des Rohingyas « 

Zones de conflits au Myanmar depuis 1995 (carte datée de 2016). CentreLeftRight, Aoetearoa/Wikimedia

 

 

Le 25 août dernier, des membres d’une organisation armée dénommée l’Armée de libération des Rohingyas de l’Arakan (ARSA) ont mené une série d’attaques contre des postes de police dans l’État d’Arakan (ou Rakhine), à l’ouest de la Birmanie, afin de « défendre et de protéger la communauté musulmane d’Arakan ».

En octobre 2016, ce groupe avait déjà attaqué trois postes frontière dans la région. La réponse de l’armée birmane et les affrontements qui ont suivi ont provoqué en l’espace de deux semaines, un nouvel exode de musulmans dans le Bangladesh voisin. Quelques 300 000 réfugiés sont alors venus s’ajouter à d’autres dizaines de milliers, installés dans des camps, ou alentours, près de la frontière, tandis que les autres populations civiles d’Arakan non musulmanes, bouddhistes et hindoues surtout, se réfugiaient vers le sud de la région.

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