chapter  2
Illicit drugs as a human security threat in East Asia
Pages 24

The Cold War ended abruptly in 1989 followed by the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. Instead of focusing on weapons of mass destruction, the world now gave deeper and broader attention to the survival and well-being of individual human beings. Threats to the people have attracted greater attention among scholars, especially after the concept of “human security” was introduced in a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) publication in 1994. Since then, the UNDP has continued to refine the concept, and in its Human Development 1997 report, it called attention to human development as part of human security, and spoke of this as a “people-centred approach” to security (UNDP 1997). The UNDP defines human security as, “First, safety from such chronic threats

as hunger, disease and repression. Second, as protection from sudden and hurtful disruption in the pattern of daily life – whether in homes, in jobs or communities” (UNDP 1997). It divides overall security into seven categories: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political. Further, the UNDP lists numerous factors that can become a threat to human security – famine, ethnic conflict, terrorism, pollution and illicit drug trafficking, to name just a few. Based on this definition, human security suggests a concern with quality of life, including economic growth and access to resources, rather than a concern with weapons and defence against outside forces. In short, human security does indeed mean putting the people first (Daud et al. 2015). Food, jobs and income insecurity, human rights violations, ethnic and religious

“cleansing”, inequality and ratio of military spending are among those factors proposed as useful indicators for early warning of threats to human security. It describes a condition of existence in which basic material needs are met and in which human dignity, including meaningful participation in the life and governance of the community, can be realised. One definition refers to human security as “freedom from fear and freedom from want” (UNDP 1997, 16-17). In Northeast Asia, Japan’s initiatives helped to launch the United Nations Trust

Fund for Human Security in 1999. The funding goes to components of human development such as education, health and small-scale infrastructure development

for Human its emphasised “protecting people from critical and pervasive threats and situations, building on their strengths and aspirations. It also means creating systems that give people the building blocks of survival, dignity and livelihood.” Meanwhile in Southeast Asia, the human security discourse at first appeared as

part of a critique of comprehensive security (Caballero-Anthony 2002). Closer assessment revealed that while many non-traditional issues were being newly considered as threats, there still appeared to be no common understanding of what human security is all about. Thailand remains the only East Asian member of the Human Security Network, an informal group of countries that encourages the resolution of international issues that present immediate threat to human beings. Following the Asian Economic Crisis in the late 1990s, Thailand established what is known as itsMinistry of Social Development andHuman Security, which is in charge of the country’s social and economic affairs, including such goals as eradicating poverty (Daud and Othman 2005, 193). At the regional level, at the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference (PMC) in

Manila, ASEAN created an ASEAN-PMC Caucus on Human Security in 1998. Later, another ASEAN-PMC Caucus was established on Social Safety Nets (Capie and Evans 2002, 44), and ASEAN further took a proactive approach when it announced its ASEAN Vision 2020, focusing on human security within a context of societal security. ASEAN continued to assimilate the human security approach when it included it in its Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Bangkok in 2003 (Othman 2009a). These East Asian efforts all suggest that the acknowledgement and concern with threats to human life has become more important among policy makers. The purpose of this chapter is to better understand one specific transnational

threat to human security: illicit drug trafficking. Focusing on the selected cases of several East Asian countries – Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand and China – this chapter is an attempt to understand why East Asia is increasingly vulnerable to illicit drug trafficking, and what has been done. Although the root causes of the problem may originate in one country, the impact of illicit drug trafficking is transnational in nature. In this chapter, we contend that illicit drug trafficking threatens human security – the health, freedom and overall well-being – even the very survival – of the individual citizens of a state. With insights derived from studying this threat, it is hoped that new strategies can be designed to address this and other threats to human security that should be seen as a common problem not only to all peoples within the states involved, but also a threat to the entity of the state itself, in the traditional sense.