Bookshelf Spotlight: The Fight for Human Rights in Southeast Asia

Featured Books

* “If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die”: How Genocide Was Stopped in East Timor (Human Rights and Crimes Against Humanity)
* Educating for Human Rights: The Philippines and Beyond
* Human rights in Vietnam: A debatable issue
* Losing Ground: Human Rights Defenders and Counterterrorism in Thailand
* Promoting Human Rights in Burma: A Critique of Western Sanctions Policy

“If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die”: How Genocide Was Stopped in East Timor (Human Rights and Crimes Against Humanity)


by Geoffrey Robinson
Princeton University Press, 2011

This is a book about a terrible spate of mass violence. It is also about a rare success in bringing such violence to an end. “If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die” tells the story of East Timor, a half-island that suffered genocide after Indonesia invaded in 1975, and which was again laid to waste after the population voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999. Before international forces intervened, more than half the population had been displaced and 1,500 people killed. Geoffrey Robinson, an expert in Southeast Asian history, was in East Timor with the United Nations in 1999 and provides a gripping first-person account of the violence, as well as a rigorous assessment of the politics and history behind it.

Robinson debunks claims that the militias committing the violence in East Timor acted spontaneously, attributing their actions instead to the calculation of Indonesian leaders, and to a “culture of terror” within the Indonesian army. He argues that major powers–notably the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom–were complicit in the genocide of the late 1970s and the violence of 1999. At the same time, Robinson stresses that armed intervention supported by those powers in late 1999 was vital in averting a second genocide. Advocating accountability, the book chronicles the failure to bring those responsible for the violence to justice.

A riveting narrative filled with personal observations, documentary evidence, and eyewitness accounts, “If You Leave Us Here, We Will Die” engages essential questions about political violence, international humanitarian intervention, genocide, and transitional justice.

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Educating for Human Rights: The Philippines and Beyond


by Richard Pierre Claude
University of the Philippines Press, 1997

The author shows how the Philippine Constitution: first, gives non-governmental organizations the legal foundation they need to pursue community-organizing and self-help programs, and second, calls on all schools to educate the citizenry about rights while also obliging government to teach human rights to the police and military.

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Human rights in Vietnam: A debatable issue


by Tam Mai
LAP LAMBERT Academic Publishing, 2010

“Human rights,” the common value of human beings, are based on human wants-on those things necessary. The meaning of human rights is contested and how to apply the contested idea of human rights is more contested not only in Vietnam but also in many countries in the world. For human rights in Vietnam, many scholars and activists had different approaches, ideas, and conceptions. By using historical, comparative method and analysis, I call for all sides to carry out constructive dialogues to narrow differences in human rights and bring common ground on which to work out solutions to old problems and contend. It is wrong to use human rights as a political tool and oppose each other. As human rights or human dignity is inviolable and to respect and to protect human dignity is duty of all human being.

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Losing Ground: Human Rights Defenders and Counterterrorism in Thailand>


by Human Rights First Staff and Eric R. Biel
Human Rights First, 2006

Thailand emerged as a leader in democracy and human rights in Southeast Asia in the 1990s. But respect for human rights has lost considerable ground over the last five years. Reverting to authoritarianism and a growing disregard for human rights, the government has allowed human rights defenders to become increasingly subject to violence and harassment. Defenders under threat include grassroots activists targeted by local elites for pursuing economic and social justice, as well as those persecuted for their criticism of abuses by the state, especially in the conflict-ridden southern provinces. In the south, where a violent insurgency and the government response to it has claimed more than a thousand lives, human rights defenders play an important role in addressing detentions, torture, disappearances, and other human rights violations.Over the last five years, Southeast Asian governments contended with a genuine threat from terrorists and insurgents in ways that often exacerbated existing conflicts and undermined respect for human rights and the rule of law. A global emphasis on security, often with insufficient regard to human rights, as well as the goodwill gained by the Thai authorities from cooperation on counterterrorism, largely insulated Thailand from criticism for its human rights violations and has encouraged authoritarian trends.

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Promoting Human Rights in Burma: A Critique of Western Sanctions Policy


by Morten B. Pedersen and Thant Myint-U
Rowman and Littlefield, 2007

Since 1988, when Burma’s military rulers crushed a popular uprising, Western governments have promoted democracy as a panacea for the country’s manifold development problems, from ethnic conflict to weak governance, human rights abuses, and deep-rooted, structural poverty. Years of escalating censure and sanctions, however, have left the military firmly entrenched in power, the opposition marginalized, and the general population suffering from deepening poverty. In the first book-length study of Western human rights policy in Burma, Morten Pedersen argues that Western democracy rhetoric has not supplied the solution to these problems. Each year, Burma’s human and natural resources are further eroding, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is mounting, and the prospect of turning the situation around is becoming less and less likely. Based on extensive field research, Promoting Human Rights in Burma proposes an alternative model of “critical engagement” that emphasizes more pragmatic efforts to help bring a deeply divided society together and promote socioeconomic development as the basis for longer-term political change. Although the focus is squarely on Burma, the fallacies in Western policy thinking that this case study reveals, as well as the alternative policy framework it offers, have wider relevance for other poor, conflict-ridden countries on the periphery of the global political and economic system.

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