Religion, Race and Politics: ASEAN’s Gordian Knot
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Religion, Race and Politics: ASEAN’s Gordian Knot

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Delivering an integrated economic community by 2015 is a long-cherished ASEAN dream. But events in recent weeks have shown just how difficult the task will be, driving home the complex realities facing the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), particularly on issues of race and creed.

Hardline Islamic militancy has surfaced again in Indonesia, while in the Southern Philippines ongoing tensions between Christians, Muslims and ethnic Moros in search of a homeland have spilled over into Sabah in East Malaysia. In Burma, anti-Muslim attacks have spread, while in Vietnam and Laos all religions must follow the lead of an atheist central government.

ASEAN has already witnessed unprecedented political divisions, which were well documented last year when Cambodia as the annual chair of ASEAN ignored regional responsibilities and sided with China over its stand on negotiations involving territorial claims in the South China Sea.

However, religious and ethnic animosities are more deeply rooted and pose the biggest obstacles to lowering the barriers for a 500-million strong population who will begin moving across borders in search of work and mingling like never before, once the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) becomes a reality.

Authorities have been coy about the launch date for the AEC, offering little and avoiding reporters’ questions on the subject. They usually respond by saying the community will become a reality by 2015, but the date has been pushed back to the end of that year.

During a recent meeting in Brunei, this year’s ASEAN chair, the Bruneian Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Pehin Hazair Abdullah emphasized time was running out and a review of the AEC was needed to assure all of its objectives were being met.

“We are two years away from 2015, when the ASEAN Community begins,” he said at the meeting. “The time is short and we need to act fast on this.”

His sense of urgency was refreshing.

From a fiscal and monetary policy perspective, the legislation is in place and the infrastructure – particularly for cross-border trade – has been built. The desire to make money and prosper has never been greater.

But critics argue that ASEAN – which uses the European Union as its role model for financial unity and stability – lacks the basic safeguards needed to ensure a fair and even approach to a workforce that is about to witness a massive upheaval in its traditions of organized labor.

Dave Welsh, from the American Center for International Labor Solidarity, said those safeguards should include a social security net, a process for collective bargaining and an independent labor tribunal to handle complaints.

“Nobody has told us the specifics, nor are they talking in terms of how to avoid the utter chaos that could arise. We don’t know which workers are going to which country,” he told The Diplomat, adding that worker choices, particularly among lower working classes, could be driven by religion.

Comments
13
David Swartzentruber
April 18, 2013 at 23:45

I find Mr. Welsh's comments about labor movement in continental Asean totally absurd. Burmese in Cambodia, Laotians in Malaysia, poppycock. Today, there are 1 million Burmese  working in Thailand. Tomorrow, Bloomberg projects Thailand to become  the world's 20th largest economy by 2050. There will be plenty of jobs in Thailand, there already is a labor shortage there. However, as Myanmar's economy develops, more Burmese will stay at home. Laotians are already flocking to Thailand with the nationwide 300 baht daily wage in place as of January. The Laos government is already complaining. As affluence hits the region, birthrates decline and so will the availability of cheap labor. Expect a regional labor shortage within 10 years in the region. No one knows who will replace the Burmese.

 

 

[...] D’après le communiqué, l’objectif consiste à consolider la visibilité du Royaume sur la scène cinématographique de la région d’ici à 2015, juste avant l’ intégration économique de l’ASEAN. [...]

Liang1a
April 3, 2013 at 08:34

@JohnX  March 28, 2013 at 11:55 am

Ti Ti, I guess you're trying to pass yourself off as Filipino.  Not surprising.

JohnX
March 28, 2013 at 11:55

Puki Puki,

 Its between "Don't give a **** about China" and "I am so over Chinese only caring about nations so they can use some racist diatribe to troll".

 

Whats it to you what country?, speak to most people from most countries and China only comes up as a topic of conversation when they are complaining that they bought something made in China and its already broke or that they bought something and its cheaper than if it was made in thier country.

 

 

JohnX
March 28, 2013 at 11:50

Ah naive. You have obviously never been a minority in China have you? Or spoken to those who gave been.

March 27, 2013 at 16:40

[...] It’s time for ASEAN to play a constructive role in tackling religious and racial tensions across the region. http://thediplomat.com/2013/03/26/religion-race-and-politics-aseans-gordian-knot/ [...]

Liang1a
March 27, 2013 at 14:30

JohnX wrote:

March 27, 2013 at 8:56 am

Liang1a wrote " There will be no racism and no anti-religious discriminations as China will be interested in preserving peace and prosperity and justice and equality."

JohnX's response:

You are naive or you are selling B/S.

————————

There is no racism inside China.  Personally, I think religions must ultimately be eradicated inside China as they are false and create serious harms to mislead people.  But I don't care if other countries have religions so long as they try to sneak them into China.  China should ban religions like dangerous drugs such as opium, cocaine, etc.

Therefore, with China playing the dominant role, SEA will be very peaceful and prosperous without any racism and religious strifes.  This is perfectly possible.  There are many racist antagonisms and all of them are instigated by the West, particularly the US, EU and Japan.

Liang1a
March 27, 2013 at 13:19

@ JohnX

Oh by the way, most people don't give two hoots about China in my country and never have. You would probably find the same in all these other countries as well.

——————

And what is your country?

baby duncan
March 27, 2013 at 10:08

Asean nations (most of the members) are just like having a Mexico in Asia but one with a far more volatile local mix than that central American country. In my place, for example, there are daily run-of-the-mill exhortations about race, religion, community and country, reminding the citizenry about their roots, their need for "survival" and their obligations about their expected allegiance. The reasons for this garbage are many but two stand out – theoverall  immaturity of the inhabitants and the inherent crooked nature of local ruling politicians.

Kevin
March 27, 2013 at 09:32

Wow. So much flawed information. I stopped reading at "ASEAN is an American device created during the height of Vietnam War to encricle China." Yup, your first sentence just emits the fact that you're a dog of the CCP and need no attention to be given whatsoever. Other commenters, just move along.

JohnX
March 27, 2013 at 08:56

Liang1a wrote "  There will be no racism and no anti-religious discriminations as China will be interested in preserving peace and prosperity and justice and equality."

 

You are naive or you are selling B/S.

JohnX
March 27, 2013 at 08:54

"The motivations for the birth of ASEAN were so that its members’ governing elite could concentrate on nation building, the common fear of communism, reduced faith in or mistrust of external powers in the 1960s, and a desire for economic development."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asean

 

Its probably B/S as well, but hey it didn't take as many words as you wrote.

 

Oh by the way, most people don't give two hoots about China in my country and never have. You would probably find the same in all these other countries as well.

 

China thinks everyone cares about it. So long as they aren't stealing my territory or my friends, I don't really care what they get up too.

 

Liang1a
March 27, 2013 at 07:37

Quote from the article:

ASEAN has already witnessed unprecedented political divisions, which were well documented last year when Cambodia as the annual chair of ASEAN ignored regional responsibilities and sided with China over its stand on negotiations involving territorial claims in the South China Sea.

——————–

ASEAN is an American device created during the height of Vietnam War to encricle China.  Since it is an anti-Chinese organization it has no place in the modern era.  It is not too much to call it the root of all evil in South East Asia.  China must ensure its disintegration as soon as possible.  The author said, "…Cambodia as the annual chair of ASEAN ignored regional responsibilities and sided with China …"  In other words, any support of China is automatically considered a "betrayal" of ASEAN.  What more evidence does anyone need that ASEAN is an anti-Chiese organization?  Therefore, ASEAN is not permissible to stand and should be disintegrated as soon as possible.

Indonesia, Laos and Cambodia should take the lead and withdraw from ASEAN and instead enter a new regional alliance with China based on the form of Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  Such an organization can be called Nanhai Cooperation Organization or NCO.  China is the sovereign owner of extensive territorial waters in the S. China Sea which touches the shores of every country except Laos and Burma.  And China has common borders with Laos and Burma.  Therefore, it has legitimate standing to be a full member of any organization in S. E. Asia.

Laos and Cambodia are already very closely linked to China.  Their security and economic development can be greatly enhanced by China and can only be enhanced by China since Japan and America are declining economically.  Indonesia had seen its economy collapsed in past years when it mistreated the ethnic Chinese in its country and they fled Indonesia with their assets and skills.  Indonesia now realizes that ethnic Chinese are indispensable for the continuing development of its economy.  Indonesia also feels the threat from the West and Japan.  So with increasing trade and investment with China, it is logical and imperative for Indonesia to increase its tie with China.  Therefore, these 3 countries would benefit most by joining China in a regional organization than remaining inside the useless anti-Chinese ASEAN.

Malaysia would also benefit by joining the Nanhai Cooperation Organization.  Malaysia has a 25% ethnic Chinese minority which are being marginalized by the Malays.  Malaysian economy is directly enhanced by the ethnic Chinese.  Those Malaysian states with the biggest Chinese majority are also the richest states.  The ethnic Malay majority went on a rampage and massacred ethnic Chinese on May 13, 1969 or 2 years following the formation of ASEAN.  Can anyone doubt the connection between ASEAN and anti-Chinese attacks all around SEA?  Since 1969 Malay dominated government of Malaysia has systematically marginalized the ethnic Chinese and robbed them of their UN mandated human rights.  Many moderate Malays now realize that it is wrong to commit such blatant and unethical racist crimes against the ethnic Chinese.  The moderate Malays have also realized that such anti-Chinese marginalization is holding back the economic development of Malaysia.  In order for Malaysia to become a modernized country there must be more Chinese in Malaysia with equal rights to fully develop Malaysia into a rich and prosperous and racially equal modern country.  Therefore, it behooves Malaysia to signal the end of its anti-Chinese racism by leaving ASEAN and join Nanhai Cooperation Organization.

Therefore, China with Laos, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia can form the core of NCO.  It can quickly expand with Thailand and Brunei.  And as China can provide the protection for Singapore, it too will join the NCO especially since Singapore is already 75% ethnic Chinese with increasing immigration of more ethnic Chinese from China and other SEA countries.  Inevitably Singapore's trade and investment with China will exceed those with Japan and the West if it hasn't already.  Even though Burma has just pivoted to the West, soon it will realize that the West cannot give it much of anything.  Then it will realize the folly of its rashness and pivot back to China.  In the end, out of 10 ASEAN countries only Vietnam and Philippines will not join China in the NCO.  Philippines will be forced by America to remain anti-Chinese.  Vietnam will be anti-Chinese due to its cultural hatred.  But these two countries will become the poorest in SEA as their economies sink lower due to the exploitation of the West and Japan and their own innate corruption.  The other 8 countries will grow rich and prosperous and secure within the NCO and their societies modernized and prosperous through trade and investment with China.  There will be no racism and no anti-religious discriminations as China will be interested in preserving peace and prosperity and justice and equality.  On the other hand, ASEAN is an evil organization created to perpetrate hatred and mutual antagonism among the SEA countries so that the West can divide and conquer SEA.  It is time for the S.E. Asian peoples to open their eyes and see the truth and realize where their own best interests lie.  They can ensure themselves peace, justice and prosperity in an alliance with China in NCO or they can continue to hate each other and be divided against each other and remain grindingly poor by staying inside a defunct ASEAN that was created in the first place to attack Chinese around SEA.    

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