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Southeast Asia: Domestic Protests

WithYing Hooi Khoo

Southeast Asia is a region with a distinctive heterogeneous identity. Its diverse historical and geopolitical circumstances created a wide range of political structures and institutional polity. Geographically, Southeast Asia comprises 11 countries. However, as of 2014, East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste (formerly part of Indonesia), is yet to be formally admitted as a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Against the backdrop of globalization and social transformation, some of the Southeast Asian countries have adopted democratic systems. However, many more remain as authoritarian or communist regimes. During the Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s, several mass protests took place, which led to the fall of some authoritarian regimes, such as Indonesia under President Suharto and the Philippines under President Ferdinand Marcos. When the protest waves of Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street occurred in the 2010s, mass protests in Southeast Asia were renewed with some interesting developments. The domestic protests in Southeast Asia not only revolve around issues such as political and democratic reforms, but also issues such as minorities, environment, and human rights. A remarkable political transformation has been taking place in the region with its old political establishments being challenged by the emergence of opposition forces and civil society.