PANEL 8B – Political & Mass Violence

Panel 8B – Political and Mass Violence 

In this forum, we discuss the pattern of political and mass violence in Southeast Asia, with cases from Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Myanmar, and the Philippines. This covers state and non-state groups’ violence toward civilians (Boyle, 2010; Gerlach, 2010). Abstract 1 addresses issues of mass violence and its denial that occurred in Cambodia (1975-1979), East Timor (1975-1999, during Indonesia occupation), Indonesia (1965-1966), and Myanmar (relatively since the end of 1970s or early 1980s). Abstract 2 shares a study on collective memories of May 1998 riots in Indonesia. This is aimed to understand how Indonesian civilians experience and perceive the May 1998 riots, particularly as the anti-Chinese attacks and violence. The anti-communist massacre that was perpetrated in Indonesia in 1965-66 is raised specifically in Abstract 3, by attempting to find a counter-narrative that could give an effect on support for reparation. Paper 4 and 6 cover issues about Myanmar related to the current crisis and its historical problems of human rights violations and armed conflicts. Finally, abstract 5 takes up issues about state-sponsored violence in the Philippines toward various groups such as suspected drug users and dealers, communists, indigenous peoples, Muslim “insurgents”, and activists. The project was aimed to understand state violence under Duterte by integrating systemic, group, and individual-level analyses. By employing social and political psychology perspectives, that have been comparatively rare in academic debates on these cases, we aim to explore issues raised above in this forum.


Host institution: Altersea (Backup: LP3ES)

Convener: Idhamsyah Eka Putra (University of Persada, Indonesia)

Chairperson: Danielle P. Ochoa (University of the Philippines Diliman, Philippines)


Eunike Mutiara, Annie Pohlman & Winnifred Louis (University of Queensland, Australia) – Civilians’ Memories during the May 1998 riots: Attacks and Rapes toward Chinese Indonesians

Abstract: In Indonesia, the May 1998 riots occurred at a time of great political and economic unrest, as the Asian financial crisis of 1997-98 brought mass unemployment and inflation which caused the cost of basic staples to skyrocket. Although the mass demonstrations were economically and politically driven at bringing down the military New Order regime, the riots ended up with a systematic attack towards Chinese Indonesians. These events have never been thoroughly investigated. The brutality and large scale of the violence towards Chinese Indonesians was the climax of a much longer history of violence towards this ethnic minority. As a taboo topic in Indonesia, due to suspected involvement of security apparatus, these events are rarely discussed publicly. This study attempts to present the results of an anonymous online survey distributed through social media by snowball sampling, administered in 2020 to 200 Indonesian civilians (100 Pribumi/native Indonesians and 100 Chinese Indonesians) over the age of thirty. In recounting their memories of the riots, some participants, who were mostly witnesses/bystanders, highlighted the trauma and anger they had suffered from their experiences during the riots, including from being witness to sexual violence toward Chinese Indonesian women. The riots considered as attacks toward Chinese Indonesians were further reflected by the responses from Pribumi/natives who believed that they were safer, or less likely to be attacked at the time of the riots. These memories enhance understandings of how Indonesian civilians experience and perceive the May 1998 riots, particularly the anti-Chinese attacks and violence.

Keywords: May 1998 riots, anti-Chinese, mass violence, sexual violence, Chinese Indonesians.

Bio & Contact:  Eunike Mutiara is a registered clinical psychologist from Indonesia, and is currently undertaking a Ph.D. in Social Psychology at the University of Queensland. Her research focuses on why some ordinary people are so vulnerable to compromise their personal attributes and moral values by committing immoral actions as a consequence of identifying themselves with a group, particularly in the context of the May 1998 riots in Indonesia.

Annie Pohlman teaches Indonesian at The University of Queensland. Her research areas are Indonesian history, genocide, gendered experiences of mass violence, torture, and oral testimony.

Winnifred R. Louis (Ph.D. McGill, 2001) is a Professor in Psychology at the University of Queensland. She has published over 140 scholarly publications, and her research examines how identity and norms influence social decision-making. She has studied this broad topic in contexts from political violence to health to environmental choices.

Idhamsyah Eka Putra (Persada University, Indonesia), Any Rufaedah (DASPR, Indonesia) & Haidar Buldan Thontowi (Gadjah Mada University, Indonesia) – Mass Violence and Its Denial in Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, and Myanmar

Abstract: The main goal of this presentation is to share issues of mass violence and its denial that occurred in Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, and Myanmar. In December 2019, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel peace winner, defended her country Myanmar for the accusation of systematic ethnic cleansing toward Rohingya Muslims. Suu Kyi denied the accusation at the International Court of Justice. Nonetheless, such denial of past wrongdoing is not new. Other than the case of Rohingya genocide, in Southeast Asia, there were 3 cases of massacres that had killed hundred of thousand to millions of civilians occurring in Cambodia (1975-1979), East Timor (1975-1999, during Indonesia occupation) and Indonesia (1965-1966).  Of cases occurring in Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, and Myanmar, almost all of the accused perpetrators (e.g. the leaders and the executioners) denied the accusation of wrongdoings, and if they could not escape from the fact of mass killings they would claim such acts as justified. A few examples of their denial arguments of wrongdoings are: the victims were viewed as evil, impure, a threat, or insurgents; the accused perpetrators, in particular to the executioners, stated that they did not have other choices or they were just following order; or systematic killing was denied as because both sides of conflicting groups have become the victims and the perpetrators. Regardless of its forms, any denial arguments developed were to avoid sanctions of human rights violation.

Keywords: mass killings, genocide, Southeast Asia, perpetratorhood.

Bio & Contact: Dr. Phil. Idhamsyah Eka Putra is a Lecturer in the Psychology Graduate Programs at Persada Indonesia University and Director in the Division for Applied Social Psychology Research (DASPR). In 2019, He was appointed as an (honorary) research fellow for the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict (CRIC), Oxford University. He earned a Doctorate with distinction in Social Psychology from Johannes Kepler University of Linz, Austria (2015). His research interests are in social psychology, particularly prejudice, violent (Islamic) extremism, religious fundamentalism, intergroup and interreligious relations, social stigma, social exclusion, and intergroup conflicts. He is a recipient of the Sarlito W. Sarwono Award (2017) granted to rising Indonesian scholars actively involved in psychological research and its dissemination in Indonesia, by the Konsorsium Psikologi Ilmiah Nusantara (KPIN/ Nusantara Psychological Science Consortium).

Any Rufaedah (Division for Applied Social Psychology Research (DASPR), Jakarta, Indonesia).

Haidar Buldan Thontowi (Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia).


Peter Carey (Fellow Emeritus Trinity College, Oxford UK) – The Current Crisis in Burma

Abstract: The recent 1 February coup d’etat by the Tatmadaw has put Burma on the path to a failed state and has made it the Syria of Southeast Asia. Unlike in September 1988, when the democracy movement came out of a popular uprising against economic collapse and Burma’s Least Developed Country status given by the UN (1987), this time the coup has overturned an elected government that has been in power for the past five years and won a landslide mandate for a further five-year period in office. The actions of the Tatmadaw indicate that they are prepared to copy the playbook of Bashir al-Asad in Syria and destroy the country in order to maintain sole control of the political process and the economic assets of the state. This has already led to the emergence of a civil disobedience movement (CDM) which will soon morph into armed resistance in alliance with Burma’s multifarious minority armed insurgent groups. The country is therefore heading for civil war in which all Tatmadaw members and their families will become legitimate targets with Facebook tracing and identification assisting popular revenge. The poisons from Burma’s failed state status and incipient civil war will leach out into Burma’s neighbors bringing huge instability. The only regional power which stands to benefit from Burma’s meltdown is China which is already supporting the Tatmadaw with face recognition electronic software and other strategic assistance. But this support will come at a cost to China’s economic assets in Burma and to its expatriate population who themselves will become targets of popular anger. The current crisis admits of no easy solutions and its impact on both Burma and its neighbors will be incalculable.

Keywords: Burma, civil war, coup d’etat, political violence.

Bio & Contact:  D. Peter Carey, born Rangoon, Burma, 30 April 1948, is Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College, Oxford, and currently Adjunct (Visiting) Professor at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Indonesia (2013-present).  A specialist on SEAsian, especially Indonesian, history in the period from the late 18th century, he has published widely on Prince Diponegoro (1785-1855) and the Java War (1825-30), as well as monographs and collections of essays on Burma (The Challenge of Change in a Divided Society, Macmillan, 1997) and East Timor (The forging of a Nation: East Timor at the Crossroads. Honolulu: Hawaii UP, 1995). He was awarded the title of Grand Officer of the Order of Prince Henry by the President of Portugal for services to Portugual and its culture in East Timor in January 2006 (Ordem do Infante Dom Henrique).