17 October 2018


Grand Ballroom

Around the world there is a definite sense that there is a rise of the far right and authoritarian governments. Human rights values are being pushed aside for nationalist and racist philosophies. Even when these forces are not actually in power, their rise in popularity has meant that they are influential over those who are in power. This is particularly shocking because it is happening in countries which have traditionally been regarded as defenders of human rights (at least within their own borders if not abroad).

In Southeast Asia, we are used to authoritarian regimes. However, ten years ago there was a feeling that perhaps we are progressing as a region. With the signing of the ASEAN Charter in 2007 and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration in 2012, for the first time the governments in this region accepted, at least in principle, the values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

It would seem that such optimism was premature. Since 2012, Thailand is under military rule; the president of the Philippines has effectively destroyed all semblance of due process; and the euphoria of an elected civilian government in Myanmar has been totally tainted by a once human rights icon refusing to even acknowledge the genocide that is happening within her nation’s borders.

There has been some good news. A regime that lasted over 60 years in Malaysia was peacefully over thrown by the most mundane of activities; a general election. And most countries in the region have ratified the major human rights conventions. Yet, these seem to pale in comparison to the undeniable fact that authoritarianism is alive and well. In fact, what is even more worrying is that in places such as the Philippines and Myanmar, these governments that have earned the opprobrium of the world are in fact actually quite popular.

To help us untangle this issue, we have a special plenary panel consisting of experts from all over the region. This promises to be an interesting and important panel for we must understand a phenomenon in order to effectively deal with it. Guiding this discussion will be eminent human rights scholar Sriprapha Petcharamesree.


Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree, Programme Chair, SHAPE-SEA


  • Walden F. Bello, Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Binghamton
  • Pravit Rojanaphruk, Senior Staff Writer and Columnist at
  • Azmi Sharom, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Universiti Malaya
  • Deasy Simandjuntak, Associate Fellow, ISEAS- Yusof Ishak Institute