Dr. Aarie Glas’ Brownbag Insights on ASEAN Peace Making Beyond Normative Order

June 25, 2024

Contributor: Wafa Hussain* | Editor: Supriyono

On June 19, 2024, the Faculty of Social Sciences (FoSS) at Universitas Islam Internasional Indonesia (UIII) hosted the 53rd session of the Brownbag Talk Series, featuring Dr. Aarie Glas, an Associate Professor at Northern Illinois University, USA, discussing a topic "ASEAN and the Myanmar Problem: What More Can Be Done?”

Dr. Aarie Glas is an international relations expert and executive committee member of the American Political Science Association’s Interpretive Methodologies and Methods Group. He has conducted intensive research on regional governance and conflict management in the Global South, focusing on ASEAN. 

During the lecture, he delved into ASEAN's stance on the Myanmar problems of military Junta leadership and the Rohingya Refugees, aimed at finding potential large-scale attempts to address Myanmar's challenges. The inquiries were focused on two specific topics: the efficacy of previous ASEAN projects and the possibility of exporting new ideas. 

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Dr. Glas began the presentation by contextualizing ASEAN's attitude to Myanmar, focusing on the regional and interregional conflicts and divisions that regularly impact the actions. ASEAN's response, he argued, was hampered by worldwide distribution and a lack of effective enforcement tools. Its normative commitment to centrality, non-interference, and consensus decision-making frequently leads to unproductive resolutions.

His argument stemmed from the study on the 5-Point Agreement (5PC) on the Myanmar conflict, which had previously generated problems due to disobedience and the Junta's failure to ensure compliance. 

What is worth noting more here is that Dr. Glas’ main thesis is ASEAN's fundamental order is not static or homogenous, but rather vulnerable to change and competition, advocating on characterizing the values and the possibility for change, as seen by shifting views about non-intervention and rising calls for more forceful action. 

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Furthermore, ASEAN's leadership and coordination have also been questioned, with some suggesting that the organization's response was inconsistent and indecisive. The diversity of opinions and interests among the member countries has been identified as a major hindrance to a coordinated effective crisis response. 

Additionally, he also viewed the lack of enforcement capabilities on policies as a fundamental problem, making it unable to pressure the Myanmar junta to implement agreed-upon changes.

To address all the existing obstacles resulting from the peace-making performance of ASEAN, Dr. Glas provided several projections of possible better resolutions, which he categorized into three areas: ASEAN-led discussion with the National Unity Government (NUG), ECOWAS-style sanctions, and non-ASEAN options. 

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Dr. Glas mentioned that ASEAN-led discussions with the NUG and other institutions as advocated by former Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, can push the body to acknowledge its current rights and take concrete actions to update or replace the 5 PCs.

Additionally, the sanctions recommended by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) appear possible as they include temporarily suspending or imposing additional restrictions on Myanmar to compel the junta into discussions. The sanctions might also involve diplomatic isolation or economic penalties to promote cooperation. 

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Lastly, a non-ASEAN approach can also be an option that includes an extra-regional strategy that would involve key entities such as the United Nations, the United States, China, and others, besides regional bilateral methods, such as flexible or informal interaction with neighboring governments like Thailand and Cambodia's Junta.

Dr. Glas's lecture highlighted the complexities of ASEAN's crisis management and the need for normative reforms and innovative strategies. Emphasizing "Myanmar-led and Myanmar-owned" solutions, he underscored the importance of sustainable, long-term change. This session offered valuable insights for policymakers, scholars, and students, reinforcing UIII's commitment to addressing pressing global issues.

Brownbag Talk is a series of public lectures held by the Faculty of Social Sciences at UIII by inviting experts on politics and international relations to discuss contemporary issues in the fields. The talk with Dr. Aarie Glas engaged the audience with the need for adaptive governance in regional organizations, as well as ASEAN's ability to play a more decisive role in addressing the region's complex political concerns.


*) Wafa Hussain is a PhD Candidate in Political Science at the Faculty of Social Sciences at UIII