Civilian resistance to mass atrocities: Understanding non-violent, militant and alternative responses in Southeast Asia


Double Panel

Part 1

Session 2
Wed 14:00-15:30 Room 3.01

Part 2

Session 3
Wed 16:00-17:30 Room 3.01


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Since the end of the Cold War, and subsequent political changes, several Southeast Asian countries have experienced mass atrocities and severe human rights abuses. Recent examples include the persecution of civilians after the military coup in Myanmar. Mass atrocities and widespread human rights abuses have also taken place during periods of democratic opening in places such as Indonesia, Timor Leste, the Philippines and Thailand. At the same time, two parallel processes have restricted human rights advocacy in the region: the growing power and influence of China, and a resurgence in populist and authoritarian modes of rule. Against this turbulent backdrop, the panel asks: How have vulnerable groups on the ground resisted threats of mass atrocities? Is it possible to identify a pattern of resistance strategies across divergent cases? What kinds of resistance strategies have been more successful in defending groups against mass atrocities and abuses and under which conditions? How have resistance options been influenced by regional and global political power shifts, alongside national regime changes?

In the international policy and research field of mass atrocity prevention, there is a strong normative emphasis on the duty of outsiders to rescue victim groups either through political pressure, or through more forceful economic and military measures. However, the reality of mass atrocities (understood here as large-scale one-sided violence against civilians) is that victim groups usually need to protect themselves. This is particularly the case in Southeast Asia, where regional actors, most notably ASEAN, have shown limited willingness or capacity to respond to atrocity threats in a meaningful way, and the strategic influence of China in the region reduces the leverage of other external actors. There is, therefore, a need to better understand the strategies threatened groups employ to protect themselves against atrocities, and how these groups may be able to mobilise support domestically or internationally.

Our panel invites contributions from scholars, practitioners, civil society organisers and human rights activists to discuss resistance strategies towards atrocities and severe human rights abuses in the Southeast Asia region. We particularly encourage contributions from activists, organisers, junior scholars (including PhD students) and Southeast Asian scholars.