Structures and solutions

Explaining ethnic conflict in Southeast Asia

Authored by: Joel Selway

Routledge Handbook of Politics in Asia

Print publication date:  March  2018
Online publication date:  March  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138639041
eBook ISBN: 9781315627670
Adobe ISBN:


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Amongst the more than 600 million inhabitants of Southeast Asia are found hundreds of ethnic groups and nearly all the world’s major religions. These numerous groups were arbitrarily distributed across permanent state boundaries upon the arrival and departure of European powers. These new countries had limited experience administering the products of a modern state apparatus and yet were expected to do so to highly diverse populations, having to balance demands exclusive to various peoples within their borders. In addition, these fledgling states were attempting to create national identities that they had seen in their former colonial overlords. Perhaps the biggest success of the region as a whole is the relative lack of interference in the internal affairs of neighboring countries, even those in which co-ethnics may have been suffering persecution to varying degrees. This has spared the citizens of Southeast Asia needless bloodshed, as has been witnessed in other regions around the world. However, in terms of other aspects of conflict, Southeast Asian countries vary dramatically. Some have very high levels of ethnic conflict, and some have virtually none at all.

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