tirsdag 22. desember 2020

How COVID-19 calmed a restive Southeast Asia

When COVID-19 struck, there were dire projections of increased conflict and unrest across Southeast Asia based on the projected economic impact and social dislocation.

In fact, as 2020 draws to a close, the region's political landscape has proved relatively stable with low levels of violent conflict despite the widespread disruption and unhappiness. Tens of thousands of Thai students have marched in protest in Bangkok since September, but the government led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha survived and violent incidents were limited. Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyuddin Yassin managed to hang on despite a wafer-thin parliamentary majority and little popular support. In Singapore, Myanmar, and Indonesia elections passed peacefully, mostly returning incumbents, with little evidence of discontent despite months of staggering economic decline.

Conflict has subsided for the most part in areas where insurgents battle governments. A unilateral cease-fire declared by the main armed group in southern Thailand that lasted from April to July brought unprecedented calm to the Malay-majority region. Even in Myanmar's Rakhine State, where clashes between the Arakan Army and Myanmar Army have killed hundreds of combatants and civilians this year, an informal cease-fire has been in effect since mid-November, allowing seventy thousand displaced people to return to their villages.