Facebook and Armed Groups in Myanmar

Pretending to be States: The Use of Facebook by Armed Groups in Myanmar” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.1905865) is a new article by Stein Tønnesson of the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) in Norway and Min Zaw Oo and Ne Lynn Aung, both of the Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security in Yangon, Myanmar.

The abstract for the paper states:

Which functions do social media fill for non-state armed groups in countries with internal armed conflict? Building on conflict data, interviews and media monitoring, we have reviewed the use of social media by Myanmar’s nine most powerful armed groups. The first finding is that they act like states, using social media primarily to communicate with their constituents. Second, they also use social media as a tool of armed struggle, for command and control, intelligence, denunciation of traitors, and attacks against adversaries. Third, social media serves for national and international outreach. Like Myanmar’s national army, the armed groups have combined prudent official pages with an underworld of more reckless profiles and closed groups that often breach Facebook’s official community standards. In February 2019, when Facebook excluded four groups from its platform, they lost much of their ability to reach out and act like states. Yet they kept a capacity to communicate with their constituents through closed groups, individual profiles and sophisticated use of links and shares. Finally, the article affirms that the Facebook company, in the years 2018–2020,took upon itself a role as an arbiter within Myanmar’s internal conflicts, deciding what information was allowed and disallowed.

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Radicalisation and Public Responses in Hong Kong

Dynamics of Tactical Radicalisation and Public Receptiveness in Hong Kong’s Anti-Extradition Bill Movement” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.1910330) is a new article for JCA by Francis L. F. Lee of the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Edmund W. Cheng of the Department of Public Policy at the City University of Hong Kong, Hai Liang of the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Gary K. Y. Tang of the Department of Social Science at the Hang Seng University of Hong Kong, and Samson Yuen of the Department of Government and International Studies at Hong Kong Baptist University.

The abstract for the paper states:

The Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill (Anti-ELAB) movement in Hong Kong was marked by a significant degree of tactical radicalisation in its first six months. Yet the movement also succeeded in maintaining a high degree of solidarity and public support. This article explains how tactical radicalisation and public receptiveness toward radical actions was achieved. It does this by drawing upon protest onsite survey data, public opinion poll data, analysis of digital media contents and field observations. Theoretically, it combines a relational approach with an emphasis on the role of discursive negotiation. The article first reconstructs the trend of movement radicalisation in Hong Kong since the late 2000s. It then examines the interactional dynamics that drove the process of radicalisation along multiple pathways during the first six months of the Anti-ELAB movement. The articulation of justifications and discursive negotiation of collective restraints is then examined. Overall, the analysis reconstructs the process of stepwise and constrained radicalisation in the Anti-ELAB movement. General theoretical implications of the analysis are discussed.

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Duterte’s Violent Populism

Duterte’s Violent Populism: Mass Murder, Political Legitimacy and the ‘Death of Development’ in the Philippines” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.1910859) is a new article by Mark R. Thompson of the Department of Asian and International Studies, City University of Hong Kong.

The abstract for the paper states:

Among contemporary illiberal populist leaders, only Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte has instigated mass murder under the guise of a “war on drugs.” Attributed to “penal populism,” it must be explained why Duterte won the presidency despite limited concerns about crime, why he organised extra-judicial killings and why this continued despite domestic and international criticism. As president, Duterte nationalised the violent populism he had first developed locally which wooed rather than intimidated voters with promises to protect “good people” against drug-induced evil. His appeals resonated given the failures of liberal reformism and with a proletarian populist alternative undermined. Using nationalism to respond to global criticism, he put opponents on the defensive. Breaking with the left, he has not undertaken major socio-economic reforms and his anti-oligarchy rhetoric benefitted his cronies. Despite killing tens of thousands and revelations of police corruption, as a legitimation strategy Duterte’s drug war has successfully diverted attention from the “death of development” with poverty levels high despite rapid growth. The Philippine case shows extreme dichotomisation of “good people” and criminalised “others” can legitimate mass killings with a populist breakthrough in a weak state with a poor record of human development.

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Labour and Rubber Farming in Thailand

Using Labour to Characterise Forms of Agriculture: A Thai Family Rubber Farming Case Study” (DOI: 10.1080/00472336.2021.1901958) is a new article authored by Benedicte Chambon, based at l’Institut Agro, CIHEAM in France, Pierre-Marie Bosc of the FAO in Rome, Italy, Cedric Gaillard, also of Institut Agro, France, and Uraiwan Tongkaemkaew of the Faculty of Technology and Community Development, Thaksin University in Thailand.

The abstract for the paper states:

To contribute to the debate on labour and the ways of farming, this study tested the relevance of a labour-based typology to discriminate among forms of production operating in the Thai rubber sector. The data used came from surveys with 469 farmers. The case of Thai rubber-based family farms is specific but also brings generic insights to the debate. Classifying the farms based on their mode of organisation helps in understanding farmers’ overall strategies regarding farming and non-farm activities. These differences were important and were linked to the capacity of family labour to develop non-farm activities. However, surprisingly, no discrimination among the types of farms appeared based on the agricultural production system. This finding appeared counter-intuitive given the importance of hired labour in rubber family farming. The non-significant differences for the practices and the land and labour productivities engaged in rubber cropping could be linked to the use of share-croppers (and not wage employees) as external labour. Further research needs to identify factors that can unlock productivity in the rubber plantations, whatever the category of holding. The importance of pluri-activity has strong implications that will require expanding empirical works focusing on labour issues.

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Dialogues between classical and contemporary research on Southeast Asia

A member of the editorial board asks for this information to be circulated:

The tenth session of the Paris seminar “Dialogues between classical and contemporary research on Southeast Asia” will be held online on Thursday, 15 April from 10 am to 12 am (Paris time).

We are pleased to invite Dominik Müller, Professor of Anthropology at the Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nuremberg, to give a talk entitled “Engaging a Forgotten Pioneer: Who was Donald Fagg and how can he enrich our understanding of the bureaucratization of Islam in Southeast Asia?”

Dominik Müller will introduce a largely forgotten classic, the dissertation of Donald R. Fagg (1957) about bureaucracy in Indonesia. Fagg’s dissertation was written in the framework of the legendary “Modjokuto“ study group, but has never been published, following Fagg’s tragic suicide shortly after its completion. Müller will provide some details about the person of Donald Fagg, before offering some insights into the dissertation’s contents. Finally, he will argue that Fagg’s work has been pioneering in many ways and has much to offer for contemporary research – for example, pertaining to Müller’s current work on the bureaucratization of Islam in contemporary Southeast Asia, but also beyond that.

Extracts from Donald Fagg’s thesis (1957) are available in the digital space:  https://mesdocuments.aria.ehess.fr/s/6mwe54A3eLXk6FJ

The link to the video conference is https://webinaire3.ehess.fr/b/sor-dq5-jcf

Biogra​phy: Dominik M. Müller is Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology at Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg. He was the Head of the DFG Emmy Noether Research Group ‘The Bureaucratization of Islam and its Socio-Legal Dimensions in Southeast Asia’ based at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle from 2016 to 2019. He held a grant from the Daimler and Benz Foundation (2018–20) to work on the project “Social Categorization and Religiously Framed State-Making in Southeast Asia”. He was a stipendiary Fellow at Harvard University’s “Islamic Legal Studies Program: Law and Social Change” and at its successor, the Program on Law and Society in the Muslim World. From 2012-2016, he was a post-doctoral researcher within the Cluster of Excellence ‘Formation of Normative Orders’ at Goethe-University Frankfurt. His numerous publications comprise Islam, Politics and Youth in Malaysia: The Pop-Islamist Reinvention of PAS (Routledge, 2014).

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Issue 3 for 2021 published

JCA 2021 coverIssue number 3 of Volume 51 of the journal has gone to print and is available electronically at the publisher’s site.

This issue features six articles, a Commentary and three book reviews. The articles are:

After the Grab? Land Control and Regime Survival in Cambodia since 2012 by Neil Loughlin & Sarah Milne

Foreign Labour Policy and Employment in Manufacturing: The Case of Malaysia by Evelyn S. Devadason

Indonesia’s Restrained State Capitalism: Development and Policy Challenges by Kyunghoon Kim

Neo-Liberalism, the Rise of the Unelected and Policymaking in Thailand: The Case of the Medical Tourism Industry by Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit & Guanie Lim

Farmers in Singapore? Collective Action under Adverse Circumstances by Yu Fong Ho & John A. Donaldson

Waving Israeli Flags at Right-Wing Christian Rallies in South Korea by Sarah Cho & Juheon Lee

The Commentary is:

The War of Terror in Praetorian Pakistan: The Emergence and Struggle of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement by Aasim Sajjad Akhtar

The book reviews are:

The Defeat of Barisan Nasional: Missed Signs or Late Surge? reviewed by Ross Tapsell

Help (Not) Wanted: Immigration Politics in Japan reviewed by Paul Capobianco

Confronting Corporate Power. Reflections of a United Nations Revolutionary reviewed by Kevin Hewison

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Anti-communist Massacres in Indonesia

RoosaOlle Törnquist of the Department of Political Science, University of Oslo in Norway reviews John Roosa’s Buried Histories: The Anticommunist Massacres of 1965–1966 in Indonesia for JCA. The book was published by The University of Wisconsin Press in 2020.

Roosa’s new book adds to knowledge about the 1965-66 mass murders of communists and others deemed political opponents of the military regime that seized power, led by General Suharto.

Törnquist considers Roosa’s main contribution to be “his careful oral history approach in case studies of the … dynamics of the military co-operation with militias and vigilantes.” Roosa uses “a longer historical perspective” and looks at massacres in Central Java, Bali, South Sumatra and Riau. Despite variation, his “careful and convincing” analysis points “to the dynamics of the shared triangular relation between the central and local military and anti-communist groups.”

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20,000 downloads

The first JCA paper to achieve 20,000 electronic views is “Who Governs and How? Non-State Actors and Transnational Governance in Southeast Asia” authored by Shaun Breslin and Helen E. S. Nesadurai and was published in Volume 48, No. 2, 2018.

Congratulations to the authors. The paper remains free to download.

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Civil Society and State in Democratic East Asia

Civil Society and the State in Democratic East Asia: Between Entanglement and Contention in Post High Growth is a collection edited by David Chiavacci, Simona Grano and Julia Obinger, published by Amsterdam University Press in 2020. It is reviewed for JCA by editorial board member Michael K. Connors of the Department of International Studies, Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University, Suzhou, China.

Connors considers the collection lacks theoretical direction, especially when considering the post-authoritarian experience of Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. Instead, he observes that “the volume’s merit is mostly stand-alone chapters on contested politics regarding the environment, identity and economy/social inclusion.” The eleven chapters should “be of interest to students of social movements, policy networks, political parties in democratic countries, and conservative and environmental social movements.”

However, Connors concludes that these empirically-rich, well-researched and insightful case studies are useful, they “do not rise to the challenge teased in the title.”

Readers who want the book can access it for free download here.

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China, Contention and Politics in the Digital Age

Shifting DynamicsShifting Dynamics of Contention in the Digital Age: Mobile Communication and Politics in China is a new book by Jun Liu, published by Oxford University Press in 2020. It is reviewed for JCA by editorial board member Jun Zhang of the Department of Asian & International Studies, City University of Hong Kong.

In recognising that the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) is socially embedded, Liu rejects technological determinism and shifts attention from ICTs to communication “as an intermediary between ICTs and contentious collective action.” Liu’s attention is to “cases of collective contentions in China,” exploring “how communication practices shape political opportunities, mobilise structure, and frame processes that structure collective contentions.”

With the mass media state-controlled, “ordinary citizens have embraced mobile phones and the internet as alternative channels to search for and distribute information.” Jun Liu provides cases from the early 21st century showing how ICTs were used for mobilisation.

But the state has again sought to limit their access and de-legitimise information circulating outside state media. As the reviewer observes, things have changed since Liu was in the field: “the government was noticeably more tolerant of various voices and actions in the 1990s and 2000s than in the mid-2010s and since.” The reviewer argues that the regime”has also developed sophisticated ways of using ICTs to control information on the internet and on mobile phones.”

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