Alternative Solutions in Facing Covid-19 Across Southeast Asia

Webinar on Zoom – Thursday 18th February 2021 [9 am. In France; 3 pm. In Bangkok & Jakarta; 4 pm. In Singapore & Kuala Lumpur]. Duration 1.30 hour.

Organizer: Observatory of Political Alternatives in Southeast Asia, Altersea (https://altersea.hypotheses.org/).

Partner institutions: Fiskom, Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana (Salatiga, Indonesia) ; SEA-Junction (Bangkok, Thailand) ; Centre Asie du Sud-Est (Paris, France).

Convenor: Gabriel Facal (Centre Asie du Sud-Est, CNRS/EHESS, France).

Moderator: Sih Natalia Sukmi (Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana, Indonesia).

Coordinator: Gloria Truly Estrelita (Centre Asie du Sud-Est, CNRS/EHESS, France).


  • Rosalia Sciortino (SEA-Junction and Mahidol University, Thailand): “Covid-19 as a systemic crisis – The value of social science to analyze alternative solutions”.
  • Khoo Ying Hooi (Universitas Malaya, Malaysia): “Southeast Asia’s pandemic politics and human rights: trends and lessons”.
  • Ian Douglas Wilson (Murdoch University, Australia): “Local systems of regulation – A suburban case of rooted solidarities in Jakarta, Indonesia”.
  • Gabriel Facal, Gloria Truly Estrelita & Sarah A. Andrieu (Centre Asie du Sud-Est, CNRS/EHESS, France): “What interstices for Indonesian social movements in facing authoritarian responses”.


In the past two decades, Southeast Asia endured the appearance of three new zoonotic infectious diseases in the form of coronaviruses. Among them, COVID-19 has the most critical impact in terms of health and economy, linked to the increasing density and mobility of the human and animal populations as well as the regional rapid market integration. In addition, the virus poses political and social consequences. Coupled with the unequal distribution of economic growth, low levels of social protection, and authoritarian tendencies in the regional governments’ responses, the pandemic reinforces existing inequalities faced by vulnerable populations, particularly women, informal workers, migrant people, and persons disabled by the circumstances and social organization.

The lockdown measures that urged millions of citizens to stay at home put a halt to the 2019 wave of mass citizens’ protests for democracy and social justice. However, in a context where the state of emergency has become the normal condition and where the implementation of extraordinary security measures involve suspending life to protect it (Agamben 2020), less visible resistance, engagements, and solidarities mushroom and organize themselves. Social activists and ordinary citizens denounce the weight of inequalities in facing the virus, set up mutual aid groups, inform their fellow citizens in popular education campaigns, and monitor national policies (Pleyers 2020: 13).

Then, the COVID-19 outbreak engages a struggle over the meaning of the crisis in a context of increased polarization between authoritarian-style neoliberalism, which sickness shows through the current rise of identarian and reactionary activism (Bayart 2017), and alternative propositions striving to reconnect health issues with their fundamental social, cultural, political and environmental determinants. This conference will examine these trends by including our analysis in the perspective of the reactions to the pandemic, situated at a “global moment” and contextualizing the analysis nationally and locally. This event gathers social science researchers and prominent social militant figures to contemplate alternative solutions for Southeast Asia through study cases in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.