AAS Annual Meeting

Southeast Asia Session 488

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Session 488: Islamist Movements in Southeast Asia: Radicalization and Rehabilitation

Organizer: Chris Lundry, Arizona State University, USA

Discussant: Mark R. Woodward, Arizona State University, USA

Violent Islamist movements with varying goals have plagued the states of Southeast Asia in the post-colonial era. Islamists in Indonesia were frustrated by what they viewed as a central government unresponsive to their desires; as a result, the Darul Islam rebellion broke out. In Thailand, ethnic Malays bristled at increasing attempts at subjugation and incorporation by a central government that propagated the ideal of the perfect Thai citizen as ethnically and linguistically Thai and religiously Buddhist. In the last two decades, conflict in these two states has increased. In Indonesia, Jemaah Islamiyah -- viewed as a succcessor to Darul Islam, Laskar Jihad and other groups, have chosen violence as a means to further their goals of imposing Islamic law and battling what they view as Christian attacks on Islam. In Thailand, the Thaksin government is viewed as stoking tensions in the South through his policies designed to further the region’s integration. The papers in this panel examine both the processes of radicalization and attempts to rehabilitate or deradicalize former fighters. Chris Lundry examines the process of demobilization of irregular militias as a factor in recruitment of Islamist fighters both historically – including the Darul Islam rebellion – and contemporarily as one factor (among others) leading to radicalization. Son Ninsri examines the Southern Thailand insurgency and argues that integration of Islamists into the government is one path to reducing violence in the region. Najib Azca examines former fighters in Eastern Indonesia and their demobilization through participation in Islamist political parties.

The Southern Thailand Insurgency, 2000 - 2009: A New Islamist Movement in Southeast Asia?
Son Ninsri, Coventry University, United Kingdom

The southern Thailand insurgency is a secessionist movement in a predominantly Muslim community in the three southernmost provinces of Thailand bordered by Malaysia (Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat). Although the separatist campaign has functioned for a century in the region, the violence escalated since 2004. This paper will explore and evaluate the roles played by domestic and external factors in the causation of the conflict in Southern Thailand and the synergy between these factors. It is commonly accepted that domestic and internally political factors such as the Thai government's suppression and marginalisation of Muslims are the underlining and justifiable causation for the unrest in the far South of Thailand. However, some recent evidence has indicated that Islamist militants were the ground for Southern Thailand insurgency. This study will consider external factors of international Islamist movement and Jihad operating in this region as the significant factor for recent violence. The paper will also examine the weakness and failure of current anti-insurgency measures initiated by the Thai government to curb the Southern conflict. Moreover, some groups benefit from the unrest in Southern Thailand and do not want peace in this region. Also, the national political situation in Thailand does not help the Southern Thailand catastrophy. The last part of this study will try to propose possible peaceful resolutions and transformation of the Southern Thailand conflict by learning from the experience of other successful models.

From jihad to local politics: a biographical approach of post-jihadists in Indonesia
Muhammad Najib Azca, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia

While most studies of non-local actors of Islamist movements who take part in religious communal violence in eastern Indonesia dedicate their main attention to mobilization process, my current doctoral project take a contrary direction: I focus on demobilization processes by studying their life trajectories in the post-jihad period. Combining social movement theory framework and life history approach, I examine the dynamics of identity, emotions and social networks of the non-local Muslim fighters (post-jihadists) in the post-jihad period. In this paper I will discuss the life story narratives of three post-jihadists who involved in local politics in the aftermath of their jihad participation. Two of them joined jihad through KOMPAK (a humanitarian group affiliated with DDII, the Indonesian Council for Islamic Propagation) and another one through PKPU (a humanitarian group affiliated with Tarbiyah movement). They later engaged in local politics through Islamic party, namely PBB (the Masyumi predecessor) and PKS (the Prosperous and Justice Party), and Islamic paramilitary group, FPI (Islamic Defender Front). My paper will contribute to understanding of consequences of jihad participation at two levels: at personal level of the biography of post-jihad actors and at societal level of the dynamics of Islamist movements in general. It will also contribute to knowledge of demobilization processes and the re-stabilization of identity politics within the framework of social movement studies.

The Urge to Fight in Indonesia: Demobilization, Rebellion and Jihad in Historical Perspective
Chris Lundry, Arizona State University, USA

Although there are many factors that contribute to the radicalization of Islamist militants in Southeast Asia, one frequently overlooked aspect is the demobilization or rationalization of regular or irregular military forces. This paper briefly describes the role of demobilization or rationalization in historical context in Indonesia, including early rebellions against the emerging Indonesian state (RMS, Madiun, Darul Islam, PRRI/Permesta), as well as contemporary examples, including the terrorist organization Jemaah Islamiyah, Laskar Jihad, quasi-legal Islamist militant groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front, and members of the Free Aceh Movement. The Indonesian state has pursued different strategies with regard to demobilization and rationalization, with differing results. Despite the success of the Indonesian anti-terrorist task force Densus 88 in killing or capturing members of Jemaah Islamiyah, JI remains the primary terrorist threat in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Although familial and historical links to Darul Islam have been described elsewhere, this paper examines the common experience of some members of the two groups, specifically the attempt to demobilize their members, in the Darul Islam case in the late 1940s and 1950s during and following the Indonesian Revolution against the Dutch, and in the 1990s following the return of Indonesian Islamist militants from jihad in Afghanistan. It compares the failures and difficulties of these demobilizations with the recent relative success of demobilizing former separatists associated with Free Aceh Movement.