Implications of the COVID-19 Pandemic in (Southeast) Asia
Part 1Session 2
Wed 14:00-15:30 Room 3.10
Part 2Session 3
Wed 16:00-17:30 Room 3.10
- Surachanee Sriyai Chulalongkorn University
- Naruemon Thabchumpon Chulalongkorn University
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Coronationalism and Limits of Health Diplomacy: The Marginalization of Migrant Workers in Thailand during the COVID-19 Outbreaks
Bhanubhatra Jittiang Chulalongkorn University
This article explores the rise of coronationalism—a form of nationalism manifested in national discourse and policy direction prioritizing assistance and support for the native over immigrants during the pandemic—and its impacts on migrant workers in Thailand. I argue that, in Thailand, coronationalism had emerged during the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in late 2020 and was on its full display when the Thai government was desperate to curb the spread of the Delta variant during mid-2021. Thailand’s coronationalism exploited public grieves to scapegoat immigrants, mainly migrant workers from Thailand’s neighboring countries, for causing the second wave of COVID-19 outbreak, institutionally limiting them from essential medical assistance, vaccination program, and other livelihood support. The effects of coronationalism have been especially disastrous for migrant workers, who are undocumented and marginalized in urban corners. Some of them experience endless quarantine in limited spaces, creating a lack of trust between the local and migrant workers who are one of the main drivers of the Thai economy.
Governing the Virus: Health Border, Bio-power and Migrant Bodies in Thailand
Jiraporn Laocharoenwong Chulalongkorn University
When Covid-19 hit Thailand in January 2020, the Thai government initially resorted to a zero-Covid policy. A new ‘health border’ erected to compliment the geographical/political border. This paper interrogates the workings and the consequences of this Thai Covid-19 health border policy, which has at every step placed health concerns over any economic or other concerns. It argues, firstly, that the (Thai) state’s biopower gaze, reducing both citizens and non-citizens to merely healthy or sick bodies and leading to a withdrawal of rights and privacy of both citizens and non-citizens, connects to long-standing notions of the purity of the Thai nation and the dangers of contaminating it. Secondly, whereas labor migrants in Thailand generally lack any welfare provisions and are often seen as ‘disposable’, I argue that under the guise of health and bio-security, a shift in the perception of migrants actually resulted in more care towards them. The health border considered everybody, citizen or non-citizen, as potentially dangerous and more importantly, dangerous to the purity of the nation as a whole. Therefore, when subsequent waves of Covid-19 overflowed hospitals, both Thai citizens and (undocumented) migrants made their way to newly established field hospitals, which effectively combined policies of control and care.
The ASEAN Miracle? Political Accountability in Economic Responses of ASEAN Countries to the COVID-19 Pandemic
Surachanee Sriyai Chulalongkorn University
This paper examines the connection between ASEAN governments’ accountability and their responses to the global economic crisis caused by COVID-19 through the lens of principalagent approach. By using the ever-growing data corpus on economic response to COVID-19 such as the COVID-19 Economic Stimulus Index (CESI), The Oxford Covid-19 Government Response Tracker (OxCGRT), and several measures for political accountability, regime types, and COVIDrelated public health, this study finds that political accountability has an impact on governments’ decision to enact more apparent stimulus packages during the pandemic. For ASEAN countries, it appears that diagonal accountability through media and CSOs mechanisms has the most prominent role in determining economic policies in response to this pandemic compared to other types of accountabilities. These findings illustrate the dilemma faced by the governments as an agent in a multi-principal scenario and the uniqueness of ASEAN as a region in comparison to other regions in the world.
Transformation of labour in Singapore: Gender and multiplications of migrant work during Covid-19
Junjia Ye Nanyang Technological University
Situated in Singapore, this paper examines how the socio-political life of the pandemic is deeply entangled with the gendered management of low-waged labour migrants. Techno-political discourses and practices of pandemic management accelerated the state’s attempts to differently include migrant workers, amplifying the “multiplication of labour” (Mezzadra and Nielson, 2013) already in place prior to 2020. Against the backdrop of growing structural vulnerabilities for low-waged workers, I argue that migrant labour is being transformed through a striking co-production of migrant labour management and pandemic management. I draw upon government policies, regulations and speeches to demonstrate that measures of pandemic management contributes not only to the spatial regime of migrant management. They also articulate and rationalize the subject transformation of the low-waged male migrant to the extent that, on top of being a moral risk, they are also now a medical risk. The platformization of domestic work carried out by female migrants that has grown during this time also reflect the ways in which this work, that is crucial to the social reproduction of Singaporean life, is also further fragmented.
It has been about two years since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic that disrupted the world as we knew it. For scholars to develop more sensible solutions and policy suggestions that would be taken up by the governments, it is only crucial that we first discuss and share our empirical findings about the implications of the first couple of waves of the pandemic on governance; particularly in Asia— the largest continent of the world. ASEAN is also an interesting region to study the issue due to its diverse socioeconomic and political contexts.
This panel includes research that touch upon several areas affected by the pandemic including politics, economics, and migration from an interdisciplinary perspective through various theoretical and methodological approaches. At the domestic level, we are curating works that focus on governmental responses of (Southeast) Asian countries to the COVID-19 on the issues aforementioned. We are also interested in foreign policy of Asia/ASEAN countries as well. Particularly, in health diplomacy, which refers to the use of health-related assistance for international cooperation or compliance. The consequences and efficacy of these policies will also be discussed. The expected outcome of this panel is to become a place where scholars come and share ideas that would enrich the knowledge about the implications of the pandemic and how the governments have responded to them in various countries in Asia, as we hope that they would help us become more informed and prepared for the next global crisis yet to come.