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RE-SECURING THE COMMUNITY: THE SURPRISING ROLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE ASEAN

SECURITY COMMUNITY

INTRODUCTION
An interest with regions has long “occupied a small, if not insignificant, place in
international relations theory and scholarship” (Acharya, 2007: 629). A vibrant aspect of
these discussions has referred to the organisational phenomena of regions, most famously
understood as security communities. It is notable, however, that these discussions have
not integrated how shifting accounts of security can in turn affect our appreciation of
Security Communities. Security Communities, both as a definitional category and a
framework of analysis, remain very much wedded to traditionalist concerns with war and
peace, even when the meaning of security has evolved not only within academic debate
but also in the political life of certain Security Communities. Making the step away from
the regulation of international affairs, towards an intrusive concern with the rights and
wellbeing of individuals, is the hallmark of what can be defined as, and analysed through,
the term Human Security Communities. Such communities are engaged in moving
beyond the “conspiracy of silence entered into by governments about the rights and
duties of their respective citizens” (Bull, 1977: 80) by elevating a concern with human
rights to the community level through both th legitimisation of its place within the
discourse between member states and communities and also as a substantive part of their
political activities. It is not that a human security concern replaces traditional security
issues. Instead human rights concerns are raised to sit alongside traditional security goals
as both aims in themselves and also the permissive conditions for the realisation of peace.
With particular reference to the emergence of human rights within the ASEAN
Security Community this article hopes to frame the definition of a Human Security
Community, and from that foundation investigate what the actions of those communities
may be. Such an endeavour builds upon the existing sociological focus that studies of
Security Communities have adopted, expanding that social insight by doing greater
justice to the content and politics of those communities. The argument here starts by first
detailing and critiquing the existing relationship between Security Communities and
specific understandings of that security. With that established, the conceptual
development of security, and how that influences our understanding of Human Security
Communities shall be discussed. With that context in place, we turn to illustrating the
utility of this argument through a focus on the activities of ASEAN between 2002 and
2008, paying particular reference to both the injection of human rights into the Security
Community, and then the socialisation consequences of that revision.

ENGAGING WITH THE SECURITY–COMMUNITY NEXUS IN A SOUTHEAST ASIAN CONTEXT


Any investigation of Security Communities starts necessarily with Karl Deutsch’s
foundational study which defined a Security Community as a system of relations in
which states become integrated to the point that feelings of community and trust allow
them to deal with conflicts of interest without resorting to violence (Deutsch, 1957).
Some 40 years later, Amitav Acharya took this account and re-articulated it into the
Southeast Asian context with specific reference to ASEAN (Acharya, 2001). In
investigating how and why Security Communities such as ASEAN were capable of
achieving that goal, attention was paid to the way that those states of Southeast Asia
have, since the Bangkok Declaration that founded ASEAN in 1967, successfully
ameliorated “intra-regional conflicts and significantly reducing the likelihood of war,”
(Acharya, 2001: 15). This was achieved through the regulation and reconstitution of the
interests and policies of its members (Acharya, 2000: 8). Particular attention here is paid
to the ASEAN Way, a “set of norms for intra-regional relations” that promotes non-
intervention and quiet informal diplomacy (Acharya, 2001: 47). This standard found
articulation in numerous ASEAN documents. The Bangkok Declaration itself noted as
part of its list of goals for the new organisation the need to;

… promote regional peace and stability through abiding respect for justice
and the rule of law in the relationship among countries of the region and
adherence to the principles of the United Nations Charter. (The ASEAN
Declaration, 1967)

ASEAN goals were “negative” inasmuch as they wedded ASEAN and its
members to “not doing” something which unduly violated the sovereignty of fellow
members. These political goals of ASEAN were enhanced, but not fundamentally

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modified by both the Declaration of ASEAN Concord (The Declaration of ASEAN
Concord, 1976) and the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (Treaty of Amity and
Cooperation, 1976) both signed in Bali on 24th February 1976. ASEAN’s pacifying effect
was based on the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality Declaration, signed on 27 th
November 1971 in Kuala Lumpur, which stated:

1. That Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand are


determined to exert initially necessary efforts to secure the recognition of,
and respect for, South East Asia as a Zone of Peace, Freedom and
Neutrality, free from any form or manner of interference by outside
Powers;

2. That South East Asian countries should make concerted efforts to


broaden the areas of cooperation that would contribute to their strength,
solidarity and closer relationship. (Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality
Declaration, 1971)

Acharya’s rests the discussion of these on a constructivist inspired analytical


framework. Inspired by Deutsch’s focus in investigating the evolution of “mutual
sympathy and loyalties” (Garafano, 2002: 504) with the ultimate ends of creating a “we-
feeling” (Deutsch, 1957: 36), Acharya announced that such communities are “socially
constructed” (Acharya, 2001: 3). As a consequence the presence and actions of a
community “demand that we take both sociological theorising and the profoundly social
character of global politics seriously” (Adler and Barnett, 1996: 65). Security
Communities rest upon “shared knowledge, ideational forces and a sense normative
environment” (Ngoma, 2003: 19). The quest to look beyond the material world, in the
belief that material accounts lack explanatory power for the zones of peace that we can
discern, places a premium on the role of social expectation (Acharya, 2001: 3-4). Within
this Acharya is very specific about where we should look for norms of importance,
clearly arguing that we should focus on that which influences “the interests of actors in
matters of war and peace” (italics added) (Acharya, 2001: 3). The substance of what
holds the community together is therefore presumed not to be all norms, but only those
that pertain to these restricted matters. There is therefore a very tight linkage between a
specific and traditionalist understanding of security and what Security Communities are

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assumed to be.
From the foregoing analysis, preliminary conclusions can be generated that are of
significance for the coming argument. The term Security Community, regardless of the
particular context in which it is deployed, would appear to actually infer two related but
ultimately separate messages. Firstly the term is both a definitional category for a
particular arrangement of states. ASEAN is defined as a Security Community because it
represents a zone of peaceful cooperation between states. Secondly, the term acts as a
framework for investigating the actions, and interactions, of those states and the
organisations that they develop. Acharya investigates and supports his claim through
focusing on how it is that ASEAN states have come to agree on standards of peaceful
cooperation. Here the term Security Community acts as a lens through which to
interrogate a region and develop what aspects of it are assumed to be of significance for
the creation and maintenance of that peace. Important here is the notion of socialisation
(Acharya, 2001: 194). Whilst the debates on defining socialisation, and indeed the norms
that form the substance of that socialisation, are extensive, they do not need to keep us
long here (Park, 2005: 43).1 For the purposes here, we can understand socialisation as the
process by which actors are inducted into the standards of a group. Socialisation
represents the attempt to limit heterogeneity between members, bringing them towards
communal standards when those standards are established. It is a process of establishing
standards of legitimacy and then engaging to promote those standards when actors violate
those standards. Traditional accounts of Security Communities have emphasised, true to
their constructivist focus on social construction, not merely the presence of norms of
peace and cooperation, but the active socialisation of norms concerning non-intervention,
diplomatic consultation and peaceful negotiation of change (Acharya, 2001: 29). It is the
presence of these socialisation attempts that substantiates the definitional categorisation
of certain groupings as Security Communities as opposed to some other form of
grouping.
This focus on traditional security issues makes sense when interrogating questions

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A compelling account of the link between institutions and socialisation is offered by David H. Bearce
and Stacy Bondanella, "Intergovernmental Organizations, Socialization, and Member-State Interest
Convergence," International Organization 61 (2007) Another intriguing account from a slightly different
perspective is offered by Emilian R. Kavalski, "The International Socialization of the Balkans," Review of
International Affairs 2, no. 4 (2003)

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of why zones of peaceful coexistence seem to exist when counter-intuitively we would
expect the untrammelled competitive dynamic to hold centre stage. However, we should
note that there is nothing inherent about the wedding of a single concept of security to the
identification of, and then investigation into, Security Communities. Adler and Barnett
note “any discussion of political community and the prospect of norms-generated order
raises the issue of governance, which is any activity backed by shared goals and
intersubjective meaning” (Adler and Barnett, 1996: 78). If our concern with norms of war
and peace is ultimately because they affect the presence and quality of governance within
a distinct grouping of states, then what if different norms are of consequence for that
governance? Surely governance, a far broader category that potentially subsumes
multiple arenas of cooperation, both within and outside of matters of war and peace,
suggests a window through which we can expand our understanding of Security
Communities? Phrased differently, why should a focus on norms and social construction
be limited to questions of war and peace? Whilst therefore the unreconstructed Security
Community perspective offers much of considerable interest in rejecting realist
assumptions as to the texture of peace between states, it is of limited explanatory power
when investigating what happens when the breadth and depth of the governance activities
of a particular community change.
The measured response to this is not to reject the importance of the concept of
security to the formulation of communities. Security concerns remain central to ASEAN,
both in terms of its achievements to date and, as will be shown, to its future plans. Instead
what is required is a broader appreciation of what security is, and how that good is
protected and promoted, both in theory and in practice. The consequence of an expanded
notion of security allows analytical focus on a broader set of norms because as notions of
what security in fact is change, so the standards that are needed to respond to those
revised goals also shift. Support for this can be found in those debates that have emerged
in the literature that deals with security as an isolated concept, outside of its significance
for regional affairs. Here there has been a concerted effort on the part of some to
“broaden” the term towards a greater appreciation of non-military security issues a move
that has occurred in tandem with the rather more important, at least for the purposes here,
focus on the security of individuals (Liotta, 2002: 473, Ogata and Cels, 2003: 274, Paris,

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2001: 97). There is a double expansion here, as best elucidated by the 1994 United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report on Human Security. Firstly in the
referent object of security, moving away from states towards a greater focus on
individuals. (UNDP, 1994: 229). Drawing on the United Nations own Charter, the UNDP
argued that there was an equal weighting to state and human security concerns, and that
existing focus on the former was not only conceptually deficient but morally negligent
(Bajpai, 2000: 11-14). The expansion of the referent object of security naturally led to the
expansion of the sources of insecurity, with the UNDP itself focused on economic, food,
health, environmental, personal, community and political security concerns (Akire, 2003:
2-8). It should be borne in mind that the term human security is a much-debated one
(Krahman, 2003: 10). The UNDP approach is acknowledged to be relatively narrow. The
broader counter perspective, advocated by Norway and Canada in particular, focuses far
more on the encompassing questions of “freedom from fear”, that is on liberty from
“pervasive threats to peoples rights, their safety or their lives”, as well as “freedom from
want” (Suhrke, 1999: 265-267).
However, for the sakes of the argument presented here, it is less important that
there be coherence in approaches to a revised notion of security than that there exists a
clear relationship between shifting accounts of security and questions of human rights as
a mechanism for the promotion of that security (Paris, 2001: 89-92). This is not to
suggest that there is a linear relationship between the two, or that one flows automatically
into the other, but it is the case that a respect for “human rights is at the core of protecting
human security” (Olgata and Cels, 2003: 275). As Hampson and Penny note, a rights
centric notion of security “locates the main threats to human well-being in the denial of
fundamental human rights” (Hampson and Penny, 2007). The human security agenda
“consciously attempts to integrate” a human rights account within it (Gaspar, 2007: 6)
because, as Bajpai notes, the promotion of human security requires the fostering of
“norms of conduct” that must be “spread” along with the formation of “institutions to
help enforce (those) norms” (Bajpai, 2000: 31). The focus on threats that transcend the
borders of the sovereign state requires as part of the battery of responses both the
formation of international standards such as human rights to promote stable and lasting
correctives to those threats. Human rights protection is not a panacea to insecurity, but it

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is an important tool in the arsenal of those who are concerned with individual
entitlements.
A key question to ask at this juncture is what human rights are the substance of
these human security communities? TO be a Human Security Community do you have to
engage with the full gamut of rights or just an aspect of them? There is no need here to
recap the extensive and abstract debates as to what a right is, and whether they are
universal or particular. More important at this juncture is the presence of some attempt to
interface with questions of rights, regardless of what those rights in fact are. Continuing
the focus on socialisation, we can conceptualise of two different ways in which
socialisation of rights proceeds, both of which are of equal validity in the Human
Security Context. The first is where detailed legal standards are the basis of exacting
legal reform in a target state. The expansion of the European Union (EU) and the
socialisation consequences that it promotes is a fine example of this phenomenon.
Secondly, however, we can conceive of a second type of socialisation, one that rests not
on the detailed pre-existing legal standards, but broad declaratory statements as a
community comes to engage with human rights. Here the story is often one of the
interplay between democracy and human rights concerns. The promotion of democracy
is significant for human rights because what is democracy if not a bundle of rights
statements about the relationship between government and governed. The promotion of
democracy has significance for rights such as freedom of expression, information and
opinion as well as for political rights such voting and representation.

The argument presented above should not be interpreted as a call to replace the
notion of Security Community with Human Security Community in all instances. Whilst
the ASEAN story is one of an increasing focus on questions of rights and democracy
within that community, there is nothing inevitable about this melding. Suggesting that all
Security Communities are now Human Security Communities would be a blunt analytical
tool indeed. If our interest is ultimately with the investigation into the different
arrangements of states, and the various roles that security play in forming and binding
those communities, the more analytically refined outcome is to carefully define different
types of community from each other so as to provide the analyst with a range of differing

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conceptual models through which to investigate regional arrangements. We can easily
envisage security communities that fulfil a classic function without the addition of a
focus on human rights and democracy. For example,, whilst NATO has made much of
these standards in its external relations and also through the processes of its expansion
into Central and Eastern Europe, it remains surprisingly quiet on those same standards
between existing members. The reason may well be that there exist alternate
organisations of states, whether that be the EU or the Organization of American States
(OAS) that already protect and promote human rights at the regional level for many of
the member states of NATO, alleviating the Security Community of the need to expand
its purview towards questions of human security. The focus on Human Security
Communities is therefore in addition to classic security communities, allowing us to
investigate, categorise and chart the differing ways in which regional groupings of states
conduct their business and define arenas of legitimate action.

HUMAN RIGHTS AND HUMAN SECURITY COMMUNITIES: THE CONTENT OF THE ASEAN
REGIONAL COMMITMENT
This wedding of traditional and non-traditional security is certainly academically
interesting, but vitally for the argument here such shifts can be discerned not only on the
academics page but also in the political lives of communities. I focus here specifically on
the recent history of ASEAN. This is of particular interest not only because the regional
organization has been so important to articulating the notion of Security Community in
recent academic debate. Acharya’s work has prompted considerable debate over whether
or not ASEAN can even be classified as a Security Community. Scholars such as
Nicholas Khoo have asserted that ASEAN is little more than a facade where norms have
no affect on members (Khoo, 2004: 45). ASEAN, this account suggests, is in the words
of Jones and Smith an “imitation community” or “rhetorical shell” with little or no
substantive content (Jones and Smith, 2002: 93). I suggest that a focus on the revision of
the meaning of security along the lines outlined above, and the response that this has
engendered both in the nature of the ASEAN Security Community as well as
subsequently in the behaviour and identity of ASEAN, provides a coherent platform from
which to both critique the claims of Khoo et al as well as substantiate the utility of the

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notion of a Human Security Community motivated by a wedding of human rights issues
and traditional concepts of inter-state security.
The roots of the ASEAN Security Community had always, as already noted, been
derived from the protection of inter state stability and the mitigation of tensions through
the tightly wound bundle of norms in the ASEAN Way. As the effects of the 1997 Asian
Financial Crisis unfolded, so ASEAN began to question with those norms in an order to
safeguard its achievements to date. The ASEAN Way, for so long a protector of regional
order, was now assumed to be complicit in exacerbating the repercussions of financial
dislocation (Hund, 2001: 102). As ASEAN and member states grappled with responding
to the crisis, so they came to increasingly talk about adding a social component to
ASEAN, which in turn became a commitment to human rights, and finally a commitment
that existed at the heart of the ASEAN Security Community programme. The focus here
is not on the reasons why human rights and democracy erupted into the ASEAN
discursive space, but more tightly on the way in which that discussion melded with
existing security concerns (Bunyanunda, 2002, and Hadi, 2006).
The process of developing a human rights component to ASEAN started in 1998
with a document entitled Vision 2020, where ASEAN members called for a “concert of
Southeast Asian Nations” and a “partnership for dynamic development”. Part of this was
a commitment to what at this stage was termed “Caring Communities.” These Caring
Communities would ensure “all people enjoy equitable access to opportunities for total
human development” (ASEAN Vision 2020, 1997), and that member states are
“governed with the consent and greater participation of the people with its focus on the
welfare and dignity of the human person and the good of the community” (ASEAN
Vision 2020, 1997). Whilst oblique, this is the first reference by ASEAN in an official
document to these notions of dignity, and to the belief that people should have some sort
of consent in their own governments. This commitment was, however, wholly separate
from the security goals that ASEAN had long set itself, the non-intervention and peaceful
cooperation that bound members together.
The growing sophistication of this commitment to social issues can be identified
in the Declaration of ASEAN Concord II that attempted to come to terms with what
ASEAN was actually trying to achieve when it spoke of a community (Declaration of

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ASEAN Concord II, 2003). The Bali Declaration, the final act of the conference,
established that, “[A] ASEAN Community shall be established comprising three pillars,
namely political and security cooperation, economic cooperation and socio-cultural
cooperation” (Declaration of ASEAN Concord II, 2003), which called for the
development of a set of “socio-political values and principles”. The ASEAN Socio-
Cultural Community (ASCC) again committed the organization to a “community of
caring societies” (Declaration of ASEAN Concord II, 2003) but this time explicitly fixed
upon the goal of “raising the standard of living of disadvantaged groups and the rural
population” (Moranda, 2008: 41). 2004 was to see a radical advance on this position, one
that wedded notions of security and notions of human rights together and which, although
in a different context parallels the call by Olgata and Cels to “mainstream human security
in the world of global, regional and national security related organizations” (Olgata and
Cels, 2003: 276).
Whilst the process up to Bali II was a discussion in the absence of explicit
mention of human rights, the follow-ups to that conference were radically different in
flavour. The Vientiane Action Plan of November 2004 formulated by member states to
develop the ideas embodied in Bali II marks a significant step in creating a human
Security Community. Vientiane promoted a sense of regional interest in human rights
directly into the first pillar, that of the Security Community, and more specifically the
political development aspect of that pillar. It included the desire to Completion of a
stock-taking of existing human rights mechanisms and equivalent bodies, including
sectoral bodies promoting the rights of women and children as well as enhanced co-
operation between existing human rights mechanisms together with the elaboration of an
ASEAN instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant worker and
the establishment of an ASEAN commission on the promotion and protection of the
rights of women and children (Vientiane Action Plan, 2004).
The ASEAN Security Community has been the least contentious part of the
proposed Vision 2020 and Bali II, building upon pre-existing extensive ASEAN
cooperation in the area of security and political cooperation already presented. The
inclusion of human rights as a part of the political programme marks a considerable
upgrade of the standing and importance of human rights, and explicitly positions them as

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a pre-requisite for the Security Community to develop. The Philippine Foreign Minister
Alberto Romulo noted, that the goals of the Security Community, and more generally of
creating a region of peace in the context of a just, democratic and harmonious
environment “are dependent on one crucial element – the commitment of each
government to enact laws and policies that will promote this kind of environment. This
must necessarily include the protection and promotion of human rights across the
region.” (Hadi, 2006: 6). In a speech on August 18th 2004 entitled “Civil Society and
Regional Cooperation” given to the 31st International Council on Social Welfare in Kuala
Lumpur, Secretary General Ong noted that “the overarching ASEAN Community could
not become a reality if we did not first build cohesive and caring community among the
peoples of ASEAN” (Yong, 2004). Human rights promotion and the traditional
components of the Security Community were intimately and sustainedly linked by the
end of 2004, the human security component was the permissive condition for regional
security. The ASEAN Charter Process, launched at Kuala Lumpur in 2005, only
furthered this. The Charter was expressly designed to “transform ASEAN from being a
loosely-organised political association into a rules-based legal regime” (ASEAN
Bullettin, 2005). Article 14 of the Charter calls for the creation of an ASEAN Human
Rights Body that operates “in conformity with the purposes and principles of the ASEAN
Charter” (ASEAN Charter, 2005). So important had human rights become to the
flourishing of the ASEAN Community that in order to protect and promote ASEAN’s
achievements a legal obligation for those rights was now enshrined at the heart of the
association.

INTENTIONS OVER OUTCOMES: THE SOCIALISATION COMPONENT OF THE HUMAN SECURITY


COMMUNITY – ASEAN AND MYANMAR
We have already encountered earlier the importance of socialisation in the
investigation of Security Communities. Given this, for the above argument about the
expanded mandate of Human Security Communities to hold, then we have to be able to
identify the presence of socialisation of those human rights standards within the ASEAN.
Here we must be careful to distinguish between socialisation attempts, and socialisation
success, both conceptually as well as in terms of the argument presented here. I suggest

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that what is significant for the presence of human security communities is not the
successful socialisation of human rights standards, but whether or not there was an
attempt to do so. Much of the criticisms that are levelled at ASEAN rotate around claims
of its impotence (Jones and Smith, 2007 and Ayoob, 1999). This is a line of criticism not
without merit. Even a cursory glance at the situation within Myanmar would indicate no
transformation in the rights standards of the junta.2 However, it is erroneous to argue that
just because nothing happened, it automatically infers that nothing was attempted and
that therefore that ASEAN was passive. Again the pedigree for this assertion comes from
existing studies on security communities. Acharya notes that “…. (T)he main reasons for
ASEAN’s successes and failures can be found by looking at the nature and quality of its
socialisation process and the norms that underpin it.” (Acharya, 2001: 8). Such an
account emphasises the role of socialisation, regardless of outcome, in defining the
Security Community. A tale of success and failure is the textured overlay of a security
community, not the sine qua non of it. The burden of requirement here therefore is not to
identify the precise nature of the socialisation efforts of ASEAN, rather the no less
important task is to identify an effort to socialise. Within these it is important to ask what
exactly is being socialised. The argument here is refined. It is certainly not the case that
ASEAN has been engaged in a detailed appraisal of what human rights are, and in turn
sought to socialise precise standards. The presentation of the way in which ASEAN and
its members integrated a respect for human rights into the security goals of that
community speaks not of specifically enunciated “in house” and detailed standards.
Rather it speaks of an increasing human rights sensibility and interest. This does not
render socialisation absent, although the vagueness may well help explain its failure.
Instead it focuses scholarly attention on a different mode of socialisation, one that
originates from a broad declaratory and evolving framework and which attempt to in
some way influence a state towards coming into agreement, or at least less manifest
disagreement, with communal standards.

To evidence this intention to socialise, two issues are of particular relevance, both

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The work of the United Nations in investigating and presenting the situation within Myanmar is crucial
here. The Special Rapporteur on the Situation in Myanmar was formed in 1992 and provides annual reports
on the full range of human rights abuses, as well as advances.

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of which are related to the position of Myanmar as a member of ASEAN. First the denial
to Myanmar of the Chair of ASEAN in 2005, and second the use of public
pronouncements by ASEAN to censure Myanmar and in some way to alter its behaviour.
Together these two windows evidence a clear intention on the part of ASEAN and other
member states to censure Myanmar in an attempt to in some way influence its human
rights behaviour. In 2005 ASEAN under the confluence of pressure from member states,
some NGO’s and other third parties, all of which ultimately rotated around questions of
the abysmal state of human rights respect within Myanmar, (Than, 2006: 194-195) took
the unprecedented step of denying Myanmar the rights of all members to chair the
Community (the chair rotates in strict alphabetical order amongst member states). The
role of chairperson offered no material benefit, but it was a position of prestige, granting
the right to host and chair various ASEAN meetings as well as the range of external
diplomatic relations embodied by the ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN +3 (the dialogue
with China, Japan and South Korea) and the dialogue partnerships with other actors (the
U.S.A and the EU in particular). This censure is the most severe rebuke ever exerted on a
member state, and shows clear disgruntlement on the part of ASEAN about Myanmar’s
behaviour. How could Myanmar be a full and legitimate member, in the same was as the
other nine members, if it was in some way unworthy of enjoying those rights?
Some states, such as Indonesia and Thailand, in private contacts with Myanmar,
attempted to persuade the regime to relinquish its chairmanship, whilst others, especially
the newer Indo-Chinese states, resisted that call. As late as April 2005, at the informal
ministerial retreat in Cebu, Philippines, ASEAN could only “agree to disagree” as to the
way forwards (Emmerson, 2005: 177). Thai Foreign Minister Suphamongkohn was clear
that “we [ASEAN] have impressed upon Myanmar the concerns of the international
community” (Osman, 2005), and the community had made clear that Myanmar “in
reaching its decision… should act in ASEAN’s interest” (Haacke, 2006: 55). Ultimately,
in a last minute shift from April, it was announced at the 2005 Ministerial Meeting that
ASEAN had “been informed by our colleague, Foreign Minister U Nyan Win of
Myanmar, that the Government of Myanmar had decided to relinquish its turn to be the
Chair of ASEAN in 2006 because it wanted to focus its attention on the ongoing national
reconciliation and democratisation process,” (ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, 2005) an act

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that UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar Pinheiro attributes to ASEAN
pressure.
Secondly, ASEAN has increased its public pressure vis-à-vis Myanmar, adopting
increasingly harsh language over human rights issues (Haacke, 2008: 354). Interestingly,
the content of these discussions has referred more to democracy than the fatally political
term “human rights”. This is not, however, to discount the significance of the term
democracy for human rights socialisation. To promote democracy within Myanmar is to
ultimately promote a respect for certain human rights, such as the freedoms of assembly,
expression, thought as well as rights to participate in the political system of the country.
The ASEAN Summit of December 2005 in Kuala Lumpur was notable for being,
unusually direct, calling explicitly for “the release of those placed under detention”.
ASEAN noted the “increased interest of the international community” in Myanmar and in
response indicates ASEAN’s renewed interest in the implementation of the National
Roadmap to Democracy, which ASEAN “encouraged”. This is the first explicit request
by ASEAN on a human rights issue about an existing member state. At the 2006 AMM,
held in Kuala Lumpur on 25th July 2006 ASEAN expressed:

Concern on the pace of the national reconciliation process and hope to


see tangible progress that would lead to peaceful transition to democracy
in the near future. We reiterated our calls for the early release of those
placed under detention and for effective dialogue with all parties
concerned. We expressed our support for the constructive role taken by
the Chairman of the 39th ASEAN Standing Committee and further
discussed the outcome of his visit to Myanmar on 23-24 March 2006
(ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, 2006)..

The 40th Ministerial Meeting, held in Manilla on July 30th 2007 called again for
progress in Myanmar; “We [ASEAN] expressed concern on the pace of the national
reconciliation process and urged Myanmar to show tangible progress that would lead to a
peaceful transition to democracy in the near future.” Furthermore it stated “while
recognizing the steps taken by the Myanmar Government to release the leader of the
NLD, we continue to express concern on the detention of all political detainees and
reiterate our calls for their early release” (ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, 2007). The July
2008 AMM, the 41st such meeting, “reiterated our calls for the release of all political

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detainees” (ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, 2008). Ong Keng Yong noted that “ASEAN is
concerned about the impact of this [Myanmar] issue… on our credibility and standing,
because the world seems to think that ASEAN should be the one tackling this issue and
bringing about a positive outcome” (Emmerson, 2007: 435). Emmerson is correct to draw
attention to the changing language that this statement reveals. Whereas before ASEAN
had called for “national reconciliation” with the effect of “making [the regime] seem the
moral equivalent to the opposition and suggesting a compromise solution halfway
between their two positions” (Emmerson, 2008: 73) the call now for a transition to
democracy denoted a shift in ASEAN preferred solution “away from mere compromise
and towards what the very name of the National League of Democracy endorsed”
(Emmerson, 2008: 73).

CONCLUSIONS
Whilst it may no longer be the case that “scholars of international relations are
generally uncomfortable using the language of community to understand international
politics”, (Adler and Barnett, 1996: 63) it has remained true that too often we speak of
those communities in a specific and unnecessarily reductive way. Whilst the conceptual
heavy lifting of security communities has always been done by the shared values and
norms that unite groups of states together, the academy that studies them has proven
resistant to a fuller appreciation of the content of those values and the growing
enmeshment of human rights within an explicitly security agenda. This move towards a
regional human security regime is neither smooth nor unremittingly successful (Suhrke,
1999: 273). It is, however, a significant conceptual alteration to how security
communities operate as well as a momentous revision of what is a legitimate part of the
political life of those communities.
It is fitting that ASEAN, the source of so much debate over security communities,
should also be the impetus for the discussion of human security communities. Whilst the
socialisation that is discernable within ASEAN with relation to Myanmar has proven
woefully unsuccessful, the presence of the intention to promote some change in Myanmar
indicates that the commitment to rights, either directly or through the prism of
democracy, whilst at all points declaratory and vague, was significant and genuine to a

15
majority of ASEAN members, and the community itself. This intrusive concern with
individual entitlements delineates a community in a far richer way than traditionalist
security agendas would suggest. It is one that is truer to the shared values and identities
that define discreet communities, as well as a more honest investigation of the substance
of their daily politics. A true focus on the social construction of the regional grouping of
states acts as a clarion call for the use of human security communities as both a
definitional category and a framework for investigating the life of those groupings.

16
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