|Title||Separatism Movement and Conflict Management in Southeast Asia: with Focus on the ASEAN’s Regional Cooperation|
|Author||Dong-Yoon Lee, Young-Il Kim|
|Series||Policy References 10-50|
In today's international relations, there seem to be less wars and conflicts caused by ideological differences and confrontations in the past cold war system. Another new form of conflicts and confrontations mostly deriving from ethnic, tribal, and religious diversities within a boundary of each individual nation-state. There seems to be no exception with most of the Southeast Asian countries - except for Thailand - which shared a bitter experience of cruel colonial rule by Western powers. They also have serious internal problems such as intra-national conflicts based upon their own ethnic, religious, historical and economic peculiarities and diversities and increasing demands from separatist movement groups. In particular, the international community suspects that some of specific regional conflicts and separatist movements recently escalating in part of the Southeast Asian countries have kept a close connection with trans-national terrorist activities since the 9․11 terrorist attack occurred at the heart of the U.S. territory. Thus, members of the international community have tried to search various solutions to solve conflictual problems of these nations in the intra-national level as well as in the international and inter-regional level.
If so, what basically caused such separatist movement and regional conflicts occurring within these Southeast Asian countries? How have they developed historically? How have the ASEAN as a body for regional cooperation treated those impending problems and what is wrong with its treatment? What sort of role have the ASEAN been playing for controling and managing those problems? What are relevant alternatives that ASEAN finally chose to overcome such problems? Dealing with those questions, this study in a comprehensive scale analyzes separatist movement and regional conflicts occurring in the Aceh region of Indonesia, southern border of Thailand, southern area of the Philippines. By doing so, it will try to explore the historical background and evolving process and to find a way of managing and solving problems in a regional dimension. It will also make an effort to propose political and diplomatic implications that separatist movement and regional conflicts in the Southeast Asian region provides for Korea.
In reality, conflict is a phenomena in which a certain group consciously or unconsciously confronts with at least one or more groups by pursuing some goals incompatible with one another and thus both groups' interest and ideological identity collide. In particular it seems to be very important the way of solving and managing conflicts and confrontations between minority and majority in a nation-building process in which the import of nation building and state integration are often considered primary that means the integration of intra-national heterogeneity and the establishment of national identity as a nation state. Southeast Asian separatist movement and regional conflicts have considerably long historical backgrounds, seems to be never ended and very escalating, and repetition of dramatic violence and potential conflicts. As a result, not only domestic actors or contracting parties in conflict but also ASEAN who can play an important role as a regional cooperative body need to make more aggressive effort for intervention and mediation.
In Indonesia, one of the largest multi-ethnic nations among Southeast Asian countries, separatist movement began to take off since people Aceh, Papua, Maluku protested in opposition to Indonesia's declaration of independence in 1945. In particular, Aceh area had long been ruled by small-scale kingdoms and incessantly campaigned the resistance movement against Dutch colonialism. It had announced the independence of Negara Bagian Aceh(NBA) under the Islamic law, 'Sharia,' and launched its resistance movement against Indonesian government when Indonesian government declared Indonesia's subjugation of Aceh after its independence from Netherlands. Acehnese people led by Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) began to start armed protest against central government when central government began to discriminate Aceh in economic distribution by buckling to natural gas exploitation business since 1974. However, Indonesian government brutally repressed Aceh separatist movement by taking a massive military operation in opposition to Aceh separatist movement. Especially the bloody suppression of Indonesian military against Aceh separatist movement in the 1998 democratization process was heavily criticized by international society since it costed numerous toll of dead and injured.
Though Kingdom of Thailand had never been colonized by Western powers until the end of the World War II, it does not necessarily mean that Thailand could easily and peacefully establish its modern form of nation-state. There existed numerous problems including the problem of ethnic minority and communist anti-government guerilla movement in its Northern mountain area, problems with ethnic discrimination and identity of Isanese people in its Northeast area, Islamic separatist movement in its Southern border area. In particular, Islamic separatist movement in its Southern border area started with the domination of contemporary Chakri dynasty since this area was by force amalgamated since the period of Kingdom of Sukhothai. From the 1930's, Pan-Thai nationalism began to be reinforced and thus Islamic identity in Southern border area was in peril. People in those areas launched their own resistance campaign against compulsory and violent integration policy undertaken by central government. They claimed Islamic law, Sharia-based separatism since the 1960's and organized Barisan Nasional Pembebasan Patani (BNPP) and Pattani United Liberation Organization (PULO) in order to commit armed protest. Central government responded to their armed protests with powerful and brutal military repression. Separatist movements in these areas began to be toned down when Thai government adopted flexible engagement policy with the advent of the semi-democracy period in the 1980's. However, Thai nationalism once again reinforced when Thai Rak Thai Party and prime minister Thaksin seized power in 2001. Especially international community began to criticize again the Thai government immediately after Thai government brutally crashed a series of violent uprisings in southern border areas and caused large-scale or small-scale casualties.
The Philippines has also experienced some separatist movements such as communist guerilla activities in northern mountain area and separatist movement in southern Islamic area since its establishment of independent nation state in 1946. In particular, Islamic separatist movement in southern area was closely related to various resistance activities for the protection of Islamic identity based upon Sharia, which is Islamic law, since the past Spanish and American colonial rule. Such separatist movement began to spread out when central government decided to reinforce immigration policy for outsiders in pursuit of national integration. Muslim Independence Movement that began to be wider spreaded with the event of ‘Jabidah’ stared its armed protest by organizing Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) when F. E. Marcos tightened his authoritarian rule. It was once momentarily stopped when the peace agreement that allowed Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was signed. However, Moro Islam Liberation Front (MILF) and Abu Sayyaf continued fighting against central government and thus separatist conflicts has lasted so far. In particular, the Philippine government stipulated their movements as terrorist activities and has been proceeding coalitional operations with the U.S. miliary since the 9.11 terrorist attack against the U.S. in 2001 and thus such a hard-line policy caused innocent casualties and serious violations of human rights in those areas.
Though large- and small-scale separatist movements and regional conflicts had been proliferated in the Southeast Asian region, ASEAN has yet taken a substantive humanitarian intervention policy or mediatory effort in order to manage human rights problems and conflict resolution. it results not only from a unique ‘ASEAN’ way of decision-making and non-intervention principle over domestic issues among member states, but also from the peculiarity of Southeast Asian countries that each country sensitively react with sovereignty-related matters. The weakness of the degree of institutionalization and the absence of compelling force not only cause intra-regional separatist movements and regional conflicts but also regional cooperation and integration among and between ASEAN member states in various issue domains. However, ASEAN recently began to change its policy from non-intervention principle to 'constructive intervention' or 'flexible engagement' over domestic issues. In particular, various types of intra-regional civic organizations started to reinforce the so-called 'engagement as the second track' in conjunction with human rights issue, human security, or regional development issue after intra-regional economic cooperations precipitously increased by ASEAN Free Trade Agreement.
As a consequence, a mission for the resolution of all the problems caused by separatist movements and regional conflicts in Southeast Asian countries and the establishment of intra-regional peace and stability in the dimension of conflict management become a preliminary mission for new regional cooperation between ASEAN and East Asian countries. In particular, since Southeast Asian countries tend to avoid intervention and coordination committed by superpower or external power because most of separatist movements and regional conflicts in Southeast Asian region was derived from their historical peculiarities inherited from their bitter experience of colonial rule in the past, mediation and coordination by the third-party country like Korea that shared same historical experience could be more effective. Korea has reinforced economic exchange and cooperation with Southeast Asian countries since the approval of 'Korea-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement' in 2007. Considering the 'New Asia Plan' announced by Korean government in 2009, Southeast Asian region was regarded as top-priority region in its policy-making. Therefore, based upon Korean experiences of economic development and conflict management as a divided nation, and the recent expansion of ODA (Official Development Asistace), Korea must actively participate in all the activities for relieving regional conflicts and reinforcing regional cooperations in Southeast Asian region.