The Logics of Separatism in Southeast Asia and Beyond: Geography, Demography, Economics and Politics Dr Graham K. Brown Research Officer, Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE) University of Oxford
The Cases Mindanao Pattani Aceh Sabah • Malay/Muslim minority concentrated in 3 provinces • Relatively poor area • Historic links with the Malay peninsula • Muslim minority concentrated in four regions • Relatively poor area • Historic links with Borneo and Brunei • Ethnic Acehnese minority concentrated in province • Oil/gas reserves • Historic links with Malay peninsular & Ottoman Empire • Non-Malay, mostly Christian minorities • Relatively poor area • Historic links with Mindanao and the Brunei Sultanate
Four Logics • Geography: Historical processes of state formation and border-drawing • Demography: State migration policies and ‘minoritization’ • Economics: Inter- and intra-regional horizontal inequalities • Politics: Politicization of resentment
Measuring Ethnic Difference (i) • Subnational Group Difference (SGD): In a population of n ethnic groups, which constitute proportion si of the subnational region S in question and proportion piof the rest of the population P
Ethnic Peripheries Inter-Regional Difference (SGD), 20 quantiles
Non-Separatist Regions in Q20 COUNTRY REGION DIFF FRAC COUNTRY REGION DIFF FRAC Kenya Western Region 0.737 0.433 Guinea Central Region 0.572 0.121 Indonesia W. Java 0.654 0.360 Indonesia C. Java 0.562 0.062 Philippines W. Visayas 0.675 0.376 Laos Sekong 0.675 0.168 Ethiopia Amhara 0.625 0.303 India Himachal Pr. 0.659 0.089 Pakistan NWFP 0.743 0.410 Indonesia Bali 0.872 0.224 Uganda West Nile 0.924 0.521 Indonesia W. Sumatra 0.869 0.215 Indonesia W. Nusateng. 0.911 0.510 Indonesia Gorontalo 0.909 0.181 Indonesia Bangka-Belitung 0.812 0.437 Ethiopia Tigray 0.913 0.122 Indonesia S. Kalimantan 0.761 0.398 India Lakshadweep 0.886 0.087 Indonesia Yogyakarta 0.551 0.154 Pakistan FATA 0.837 0.018 Namibia Caprivi 0.854 0.448 Kenya North East 0.958 0.012
Geographic Logic: Fuzzy Borders and Ethnic Peripheries • Precolonial maṇḍala ‘states’: Porous borders, ‘spheres of influence’, mountain boundaries • Colonial state formation: Hard borders, centre-periphery relations, water boundaries • Postcolonial state formation: Geo-politics
Ethnohistories • Our fatherland, Acheh, Sumatra, had always been a free and independent sovereign State since the world begun. Holland was the first foreign power to attempt to colonize us when it declared war against the sovereign State of Acheh, on March 26, 1873, and on the same day invaded our territory, aided by Javanese mercenaries… [After World War II] our fatherland was turned over by the Dutch to the Javanese by hasty fiat. (ASNLF, 1976) • For many centuries, the Bangsamoro people were a free, sovereign and independent nation. In the early 15th century no less than the reigning Emperor of China had written with his own hand an epitaph on the Mausoleum of one of our Kings, saying: "That he was a brave King and he was the Master of the East!" But owing to the centuries of war and turmoil wrought by endless waves of foreign conspiracy and aggressions, we've lost our freedom. Consequently, our sovereignty is being exercised by people other than the Bangsamoro people themselves. (Nur Misuari, 2000) • Patani, Jala, Narathiwat have always been Malay territory, as long as history goes back and even before the establishment of Bangkok.(Che Man, 2005) • Throughout the centuries from the dawn of history the Sinhalese and Tamil nations have divided between them the possession of Ceylon, the Sinhalese inhabiting the interior of the country in its Southern and Western parts from the river Walawe to that of Chilaw and the Tamils possessing the Northern and Eastern districts (TULF, 1976)
Ethnohistories • Contrast from Sabah: Sabah was a land of freedom until the middle of the nineteenth century in the sense that there was no organised form of government and a state did not exist until 1881. Before that, geographically Sabah had existed since time immemorial. But there was no community, no overall administration, no state economy, no state government; only mountains, jungles, rivers, the surrounding seas, and isolated villages scattered over the more than 29,000 square miles of tropical and warm equatorial land. (Ongkili 1981)
The discourse of ‘decolonization’ • The question of Acheh-Sumatra is not a question of "separatism" - as alleged by the Indonesian Javanese neo-colonialists - but a question of self-determination of the people of Acheh-Sumatra and a question of decolonization of the former Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) which has not been decolonized legally and properly in accordance with the purpose and the meaning of the Charter of the United Nations, and with the United Nations Resolution on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. (Hassan di Tiro, 1976) • Petition for the Decolonization of the Bangsamoro Homeland in Southern Philippines, and Request for United Nations Assistance in its Establishment as the Independent Bangsamoro Republic Of Mindanao… those who continued to tenaciously pursue their demand for independence have been discredited as international ‘terrorists’ or ‘secessionists’ or ‘separatists’. (MNLF, 2001) • Before a succession of western nations (including the Portuguese, Dutch and the British) ruled the island, there were two distinct kingdoms on the island, the Tamil Kingdom in the north and the Sinhala kingdom in the South. Sinhala colonisation of traditional Tamil areas was started in the fifties, and was intensified in the eighties... Colonisation continues unabated. (LTTE, n.d.)
Atavism, Mobilization and Islam • Many scholars, particularly Westerners and particularly recently (i.e. post 9/11), tend to focus on the Islamic dimension in separatist movements, drawing purported links between various regional groups and ‘Al-Qaeda’ (Chalk, Gunaratna, Abuza, etc.). • Problematic nature of these claims: myopic, ahistorical, based on poor or simply inaccurate data (Hamilton-Hart 2006; Brown 2007; Connors 2007; Sidel 2007). • Alternative explanation may focus on the historical role of Islam in early pre-colonial state formation in SE Asia and its concomitant atavistic appeal.
Demographic Logic Many of the post-second world war states of Southeast Asia faced ethnic peripheries, left over from the mismatch between colonial border-drawing and the patterns of pre-colonial settlement and state-formation. A typical response of these newly independent states and, in some cases their colonial predecessors, to the potential problems was to encourage in-migration to the ethnic peripheries by more ‘loyal’ representative of the putative nation-state, often in the name of development. Far from undermining the likelihood of secession, such policies typically exacerbated local grievances by adding to the sense of marginalization among peripheral communities.
Population of Southern Region of Thailand, 1960 & 2000 78.2% 82.0% 77.8% 80.7% 82.9% 67.8% 61.1% 68.9%
Economic Logic: Horizontal Inequalities • Horizontal inequalities (HI) defined as socio-economic inequalities between ethnic, religious, or regionally-defined groups. • Strong econometric evidence of link between HI and conflict, both in terms of regional disaggregation of conflict intensity in specific case studies, e.g. Indonesia (Mancini 2007) and Nepal (Gates & Murshed 2005), and of incidence of conflict in cross-country datasets, e.g. Østby 2007.
Economic Logic: Horizontal Inequalities • Focus here on two dimensions: • ‘Inter-regional HIs’: Disparities in regional socio-economic performance between (would-be) separatist region and the rest of the country • ‘Intra-regional HIs’: Disparities in ethno-reigious socio-economic performance within (would-be) separatist region
Effect of relative GDP per capita conditional on group difference Notes: Logistic regression, N=21,343; pseudo-R2=0.3200. Other variables, including political system (Polity index; federal dummy) and national economic performance (GDP per capita; GDP per capita growth), held at mean values.
Economic Logic (i): Inter-Regional Horizontal Inequalities - Mindanao • 1972: GDP per capita at outbreak of conflict (1972) >20% lower than national average and barely half that of Luzon • 1990: Mindanao as a whole remains at around 80% of national rate but ARMM much worse, barely 30% of national rate. ARMM provinces bottom of every national HDR since 1992; further decline in late 1990s precedes resumption of violence.
Economic Logic (i): Inter-Regional Horizontal Inequalities - Aceh • 1970s: Discovery of oil and natural gas keeps provincial GDP per capita well above national average. Low poverty: in 1980, Aceh ranked 24 out of 26 provinces in terms of poverty • 1990: poverty rate increased over 200%, now ranked 8 out of 26; GDP per capita remains among the highest
Economic Logic (ii): Intra-Regional Horizontal Inequalities – Thailand Rural &Urban Rural
Economic Logic (ii): Intra-Regional Horizontal Inequalities – Aceh • Two ‘types’ of Javanese in-migrants – urban professionals; rural settlers (transmigration) • Lhokseumawe Industrial Zone ‘came to assume the obtrusive character of a high-income, capital-intensive, urban, non-Muslim, non-Acehnese enclave in a basically low-income, labor-intensive, rural, Muslim, Acehnese province’ (Emmerson 1983) • 1990: Urban unemployment rate among ethnic Acehnese twice that of Javanese; among those educated to Senior High or above, Acehnese unemployment stands at 13.1%; Javanese at 2.7%. • 1990: Among rural population, Javanese landholdings significantly larger than Acehnese; 50% of Javanese in agricultural occupations have landholdings larger than 2 Hectares; equivalent rate among ethnic Acehnese less than 30%
Political Logic: The role of the state (i) • Aceh: Initial, relatively small scale insurgency easily dealt with by the military but ushers in a period of high repression and discrimination (including preferential in-migration) which fosters wider resentment • Mindanao: Inter-religious land conflicts emerge in the 1960s; turn to explicitly separatist violence comes after Jabidah Massacre, biased police intervention in land conflicts and declaration of Martial Law
Political Logic: The role of the state (ii) • Thailand: First wave of insurgency comes after Phibul virtually outlaws Malay language, customs and practices; Recent wave linked to disestablishment of bodies for Muslim grievances and harsh police response to Muslim protests. • Sabah: 1985 state election focal point for non-Muslim grievances; Muslims parties ‘steal’ the election; protest rallies, bombings; Federal government intervenes, accepting non-Muslim victory, despite political antipathy
Three tenses of separatism: Past perfect • Separatism (unsurprisingly) is associated with ethnic peripheries, often ‘left over’ from colonial state formation. But this is insufficient to explain the incidence of separatism: necessary but not sufficient? • Pre-colonial (ethno)histories can provide strong mobilizing potential through atavistic (and often glamourized or sanitized) depictions of a past ‘Glorious Age’
Three tenses of separatism: Present imperfect • Demographic minoritization and socio-economic marginalization and/or perceptions of exploitation provide substantial ‘fuel’ for separatist discontent • ‘During these last thirty years the people of Acheh, Sumatra, have witnessed how our fatherland has been exploited and driven into ruinous conditions by the Javanese neo-colonialists: they have stolen our properties… Acheh, Sumatra, has been producing a revenue of over 15 billion US dollars yearly for the Javanese neo-colonialists, which they used totally for the benefit of Java and the Javanese’ (ASNLF Declaration of Independence, 4/12/1976).
Three tenses of separatism: Future progressive • These conditions have tended to create localized discontent and low-level violence. But it has been the intervention of the state in ways perceived as directly and deliberately discriminatory that have prefigured the emergence of mass-based movements seeking a separate future from the existing nation state.
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