All articles on Democracy & Participation

SOUTHEAST ASIA: Time for a Pushback in Media Spaces

Digital, online and social-media avenues undoubtedly offer an alternative or complementary channel for news, because of the inherent difficulty in censoring these spaces. Their wide reach and levels of engagement have saved lives during disasters or emergencies.

By Johanna Son

SOUTHEAST ASIA: Open Season for Professional Media?

Journalists sued for espionage in Cambodia, and for using drones or supposedly violating the official secrets act in Myanmar. News outlets faced with financial penalties steep enough to cause them to go under, as it did in Cambodia. Media organizations in the Philippines repeatedly described as ‘fake news’ outlets by government officials chafing at critical reporting.

By Johanna Son

Rethinking Media Reform in Southeast Asia: Promoting a Participatory Approach for a More Democratic Media

Internet users in Southeast Asia are confronted with a heavily regulated environment in which there are more restrictions being placed on freedom of expression. Despite technological advances, societies undergoing political transitions, such as Indonesia, Myanmar, and Thailand, have yet to enjoy the full democratic potentials of a free and independent media. Instead of top-down reforms for the media, these countries need policies that prioritize the public’s interests. Only with the meaning public’s meaningful participation of civil society can these reforms become sustainable while  supporting democratization.

By Gayathry Venkiteswaran

ASEAN’s Double Vision of Migration

After the deluge of headlines during ASEAN’s 50th birthday in 2017 and before that, the start of the ASEAN Community in 2016, this year may signal a return to what many see as ASEAN’s return to its uneventful – or boring – ways.

By Johanna Son

Brokering Peace in Southeast Asia’s Conflict Areas: Debating the Merits of an ASEAN Peacekeeping Force

Diversity is an essential feature of our region. While religious and ethnic animosity poses an obstacle to creating a “cohesive and caring society”, this is not to suggest that diversity is the cause of conflict and insecurity per se. As illustrated in various multiethnic states around the globe, many governments have succeeded in integrating diverse populations. Rather, it is discriminatory practices and the lack of respect for differences in Southeast Asia that have alienated minorities and created chasms within communities.

By Chanintira Na Thalang

ASEAN at Fifty: A Personal Reflection

Fifty years is a long time. Memory will play tricks with you after such a time, and I can’t quite remember when it was I first heard of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN.

By Nguyen Qui Duc

New Perspectives on Civil Society Engagement with ASEAN

The eleven-year experience of engagement with the official ASEAN process has taught civil society movements in Southeast Asia valuable lessons that should guide its future trajectories. Disappointment, rejection, and disillusionment should now be a thing of the past and chalked up to experience. The real challenge facing ACSC/APF today lies from outside and beyond the established ASEAN process. 

By Eduardo C. Tadem

Timor’s Accession to ASEAN

Obtaining ASEAN membership has been one of Timor-Leste’s foreign policy goals since 2002.  This article discusses the current dynamic in Timor-Leste and what it means to be an ASEAN member. This is based on the domestic context that shapes Timor’s interests. Many commentators have taken a position in advocating for Timor’s membership based on short-sighted policies. At the same time, ASEAN continues to argue that Timor "does not have the capacity”. This article goes further by asking how Timor-Leste can benefit from this membership and what the necessary conditions are for Timor to do so.

By Guteriano Neves

The Curious Case of Vox Populi 2.0: ASEAN’s Complicated Romance with Social Media

The romance between ASEAN citizens and social media lives on. Social media continues to shape a more integrated and digitally savvy regional community. It has proven that its people have set limitations due to geographical borders, customary social divides, economic status and perhaps national laws and policies. At 50, ASEAN and its member states must admit that social media is not just here to stay, but is and will remain a dynamic force to be reckoned with.

By Joel Mark Baysa Barredo, Jose Santos P. Ardivilla

Behind Political Homophobia: Global LGBT Rights and the Rise of Anti-LGBT in Indonesia

The Indonesian case of homophobia (or even some other ASEAN countries) reveals that homosexuality issues are more complex and are more than just moral or immoral debates; they are about national reactions to the rapid transmission of global discourse, the dynamic of movements and counter-movements in democracy, and also the state’s multifaceted representation which place sexuality as a political issue of our contemporary time.

By Hendri Yulius

Penyusutan Ruang Sivik di ASEAN

Di sebalik kepelbagaiannya, negara anggota ASEAN mempunyai satu ciri yang sama: penindasan kerajaan. Ini bercanggah dengan aspirasi ASEAN untuk berpaksikan rakyat. Gerakan Bersih untuk pilihan raya adil di Malaysia merupakan contoh bagaimana penindasan kerajaan itu berlaku.

By Khoo Ying Hooi

Shrinking Civic Space in ASEAN

2017 is a particularly critical year for ASEAN as it celebrates its 50th anniversary; it is timely for the Southeast Asia to prove itself as a region that emphasizes putting ASEAN’s people first. Such recognition of civil society, not as a threat, but as an important ally in ensuring the realisation of human rights for all Asean citizens is critical to the development of a sustainable ASEAN Community.

By Khoo Ying Hooi

Masa Hadapan Pendatang Terpaksa di ASEAN

Artikel ini bertujuan untuk membincangkan bagaimana ASEAN dapat memastikan usaha-usaha integrasi serantau mereka benar-benar “inklusif”, menjamin masa depan yang lebih baik bagi populasi pendatang terpaksa di rantau ini. Artikel ini juga membincangkan komitmen-komitmen ASEAN dan negara-negara anggotanya yang pernah berjanji pada masa dahulu.

By Andika Ab. Wahab


บทความนี้มุ่งถกประเด็นหาแนวทางเพื่อให้ความพยายามในการบูรณาการระดับภูมิภาคของอาเซียนเป็นผลสำเร็จแบบ “ครอบคลุม” อย่างแท้จริง ซึ่งจะเป็นหลักประกันให้ผู้ถูกบังคับย้ายถิ่นในภูมิภาคนี้มีอนาคตที่ดีขึ้น โดยบทความนี้ทบทวนสิ่งที่อาเซียนและประเทศสมาชิกมุ่งมั่นสัญญาในอดีต 

By Andika Ab. Wahab

The Future of Forced Migrants in ASEAN

This article seeks to discuss how ASEAN could ensure their regional integration efforts would be truly “inclusive” and that will guarantee better future for forced migrant population in the region. In doing so, this article discusses what the ASEAN and its member states committed in the past.

By Andika Ab. Wahab

LGBTI people in Myanmar: second-class citizens

Political transition in Myanmar from a military to a civilian government holds the promise of opening up political spaces to previously marginalized groups. However, the dividend of the country’s democratization process seems to be still far off for the LGBTI community.

By Ohnmar Nyunt (Alison), Alice Muthoni Murage

The Politics of Human Rights in Indonesia’s Child Marriages

In Indonesia, marriage is considered as one of the most important phase of human development. It plays significant role in social life. In Indonesia, although not always, underage marriage is mostly because of love marriage. Although, poverty and premarital sex have considered as two significant factors contributing to child marriage in Indonesia.

By Sari Damar Ratri

Lao students succeed in Thai school, another 200,000 migrant children left unschooled

A small school in the Northeast is setting an example in adhering to Thailand’s human rights obligations seeing its Lao pupils become student leaders. But another 200.000 migrant children are left without access to country’s education system, reports Mingkhawan Thuemor, a participant of The Isaan Journalism Network Project.

By The Isaan Record

The LGBT community: Youngest stepchild?

In late November 2016, rainbow colors broke through the black of mourning found everywhere in Bangkok, as 700 activists and allies from around the world arrived to participate in the largest ever world conference of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA).

By Dédé Oetomo, Rosalia Sciortino

Labour Migration in the ASEAN Region

Migrant workers in the Asean Region live and work under inhumane conditions. To improve this situation policies, the migration industry and the accountability of employers must all get a lot more attention.

By Ashley William Gois

LGBT Rights Under Siege in Indonesia

Dédé Oetomo stressed that the focus on the LGBT situation in Indonesia is because of the increased level of intolerance and homo- and transphobia in recent months. In spite of these worrisome trends, Dédé Oetomo see it as an opportunity that, because of the current crisis, the LGBT issue is now “on the table” and can be openly discussed in the public and policy spheres. He remains optimistic as he believes that Indonesian society is not per se homophobic and LGBT people have come a long way in terms of organizing.

By Catharina Maria, Rosalia Sciortino

INSIGHT: ASEAN governance: Is there a future for civil society?

Pundits have been keen to predict that Southeast Asia will soon leave behind its authoritarian past and head toward a more democratic future. This optimism was boosted in 2010 by Myanmar’s decision to “transition” to democracy, allowing for elections and assigning a role to the opposition.

By Rosalia Sciortino

Civic Charter

Repression of civil society is on the rise all over the world. The charter aims to support civil society organizations as activists throughout the world, to advocate for their rights and freedom of action, and to demand government guarantees.

ASEAN Governance: Is there a Role for Civil Society?

On 12 October 2016, SEA Junction organized a panel discussion titled “ASEAN Governance: Is There a Role for Civil Society?" in partnership with the Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia. More than 70 participants, many of them from Southeast Asia, filled SEA Junction premises at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Centre (BACC) in Bangkok, Thailand to eagerly listen to the speakers and exchange views on the challenge of establishing a more representative governance system for ASEAN as a "people-centered" inter-governmental institution.

By Farid Khan, Rosalia Sciortino

‘Protection’ for low-skilled migrants leads to abuse

Real protection of low-skilled migrant workers can only occur if justice is placed at the center of the migration debate. How can protection for low-skilled migrants be achieved when discrimination against them lies at the core of ASEAN’s double standard approach to migration?

By Rosalia Sciortino

Editorial: Behind the Rio Games

Barbara Unmüßig correlates the Olympics with Brazil’s institutional, political and economic crisis. Did the organizers learn a lesson from the World Cup in 2014?

By Barbara Unmüßig

Dossier: For democracy

Democracy must be fought for, revitalized, and renewed. Institutions, like the Heinrich Böll Foundation, have been struggling against a significant headwind. With the publication “For democracy” and this online-dossier, we analyze the state of democracy worldwide as well as the possibilities of democracy assistance.

The Return of Repression: Closing and Shrinking Spaces

Governments around the world are taking draconian steps to suppress civil-society organizations, with measures ranging from restrictive laws and bureaucratic burdens to smear campaigns, censorship, and outright repression by intelligence agencies or police.

By Barbara Unmüßig

Changing Political Tides

The LGBT Movement in Thailand has struggled over the past two decades in applying a holistic human-rights-based approach as a strategy to achieve its goals. This article analyzes the fledgling relationship between the state and the multifaceted LGBT movements in light of a rapidly changing political landscape.

By Srijula Yongstar

“I am first a Buddhist, second a feminist”

In an interview, Ven. Dhammananda Bhikkhunī, the first fully ordained Thai Theravada Buddhist nun, speaks about the struggle for female ordination in Thailand and expresses her hopes for progress.

By Srijula Yongstar, Florian Reinold

Malaysia’s Civil Society in light of the Bersih movement

In August 2015 the Bersih 4 rally drew thousands of protesters to the streets who demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Najib Razak. Where draws the movement its supporters from and how is it in ethnically diverse Malaysia percepted? Which challenges lie ahead?

By Manuel Höller-Fam

Civil society under pressure

Shrinking – closing – no space: Governments across all continents villainize civil society actors. Where does their sense of threat emanate from?

By Barbara Unmüßig

Refugees and Maritime Movement in Southeast Asia 2015

Refugees in Southeast Asia live in legal limbo and are subject to harassment, arrest, and detention. Especially Rohingya refugees are in indefinite detention and have been forgotten by the international media.

By Julia Mayerhofer, Lilianne Fan

The Political Economy of the ASEAN Regionalisation Process

The tension between the imperatives of “market sovereignty” and the entrenched principle of “state sovereignty” of authoritarian oligarchies will define the open-ended tendencies and outcomes of the ongoing regionalisation process in Southeast Asia.

By Bonn Juego

Southeast Asia: Regionalism of the Commons

Some countries, as Vietnam, fear it, others, like Thailand, have high hopes - what can be expected of ASEAN's neo-liberal project? About its future perspectives and an alternative vision.

By Bonn Juego

Journalism and the shaping of democracy

The TAZ, the German Federal Foreign Office and HBF coorganised a workshop for 9 Myanmar journalists in Berlin 2014. Myanmar Times covered the trip.

By Verena Hölzl

Journalism Under a New Democracy

To enable local journalists from Myanmar to study media landscapes and media practices abroad, in November 2013 ten journalists went on an exposure trip to Germany.

By Nwet Kay Khine

The Spirit of 1992 May Crisis and Media Reform in the NBTC time

On Friday, May 17 the Commission of Relatives of May 1992 Heroes in cooperation with hbs held a roundtable seminar in memory of the 21st anniversary of the Black May incident in 1992. In this context the role of the relatively young National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC) was discussed, as well as the general development of the media in Thailand since 1992.

By Lutz Eichenhofer

Community Radio Fund: the Proposal to the Broadcasting and Telecommunication Research and Development Fund of Thailand (2012)

The committee of broadcasting and telecommunication research and development fund, under National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission (NBTC), does not clearly set up the pattern and method for supporting community broadcasting.This article collects the opinion of community radio operators, who are member of the National Federation of Community Radio of Thailand (NFCR), about supporting role of the fund.

Thai Media Forum “A broad societal coalition for a democratic media framework”

In Thailand external and internal deficits challenge the media sector to perform its vital functions in the democratic process, namely to provide orientation to enable deliberation, and to blame and shame wrongdoers to control decision-makers. Challenges such as (self-) censorship, political and economic pressure, physical threats to and poor education of journalists, hate speech and character assassinations need to be addressed and discussed. The legal framework of the media sector needs to strike a balance between freedom of expression, consumer rights, and social responsibility.

"Third Wave 2012" Indonesia-Myanmar Art Exchange

The art exchange “Third Wave 2012 Indonesia — Myanmar,” was the highlight of the three year "Ongoing Echoes" exchange program, and the first Burmese contemporary art exhibition in Jakarta. It was held from 23 February to 1 March 2012 at the capital city of Indonesia at Cemara-6 art center

By Richard Horstmann

Single Motherhood

Single parenting, particularly single motherhood, has become more widespread and recognized in Thailand. When the single parent is the mother, much of the burden rests on women. This article is an attempt to explore how the Thai legal system deals with and prepares for such situations.

Gender Discourse in Thai Politics

Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra’s sudden rise to the highest position in the Thai political hierarchy is phenomenal and significant. That Thailand now has its first female prime minister has provoked reactions from almost everywhere. To fully understand the phenomenon of the first-female-premier, it is firstly required to examine how women in politics and gender discourse are related. This article has summarized the discussion from academics, writers and civil society activists on the issues.

Stereotypes dominate debates about Yingluck

Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra’s sudden rise to the highest position in the Thai political hierarchy is phenomenal and significant. That Thailand now has its first female prime minister has provoked reactions from almost everywhere. To fully understand the phenomenon of the first-female-premier, it is firstly required to examine how women in politics and gender discourse are related. This article has summarized the discussion from academics, writers and civil society activists on the issues.

‘between’: art project+exhibition

In June 2011 eight artists from Myanmar/Burma and Cambodia met in Cambodia at the Meta House Phnom Penh to engage in a two-week long exchange program and workshop, followed by a group exhibition. The art project + exhibition was curated and organized by Lydia Parusol and supported by hbs.

By Rainer Einzenberger

Briefing Report: Women in Thailand

The current briefing report on the situation of “Women in Thailand” provides information on the situation of Thai women in political, economic and social aspects. The report states that the share of women in the Thai Parliament is only 13.3 percent. It shows that although Thai women were given the rights to vote for eight decades, the political landscape is still dominated by men.

Women and Community Radio

Community radio (CR) is the best concrete example of media reform in Thailand, because radio is a medium that is highly accessible in rural areas, and involves low production costs and levels of necessary expertise. Since 2007, the Multiculturalism and Educational Policy Research Centre (Multi-Ed), Faculty of Education, Chiang Mai University is interested in women’s programs and in the number of woman broadcasters.

Women's voices, Women's Choice- 100 years of International Women's Day

The 100 year anniversary of the international women’s day will be celebrated in many countries around the world in March 2011. To celebrate this event, the website “Women’s Voices, Women’s Choices - 100 years of international women’s day” in English and German version was created by Heinrich Boell Stiftung collaborating with its international and German Partners to increase public awareness concerning women and gender related topics.

3rd Beyond Pressure Festival of Performance Art, Yangon, 2-5 December 2010

In early December 2010 Yangon, once more, became the capital of performance art of Myanmar/Burma, when six international artists (from Thailand, Sri Lanka, India, Philippines, Vietnam and Germany) and 13 local performance artists gathered to celebrate the third issue of the Beyond Pressure Festival of Performance Art

By Rainer Einzenberger

Mekong Art Exchange Program 2010

As part of the Artist Exchange Program 2010 between 22 July and 1 August a group of artists from Myanmar/Burma visited two other countries from the Mekong Region, Vietnam and Thailand. The exchange consisted of two parts. The first part was taking place between the 23 to 25 July in Hanoi and was hosted by the Nhasan Studio. Afterwards the group paid a visit to Thailand to the Bangkok Art House Gallery at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC)

By Rainer Einzenberger

“Ongoing Echos”: Myanmar-Indonesia Art Exchange 2010

Between 14 and 20 July 2010, six leading contemporary artists from Indonesia and five from Myanmar, plus one Indonesian reporter came together in Yangon (Myanmar) at the Beik Thano Art Gallery for a 5-day group exhibition and a 2-day Symposium.

By Rainer Einzenberger

15 Years of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA)

The meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the 54th session of the United Nations was held between 1 and 12 March, 2010 at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York City, USA. The themes of the meeting included a review of the progress and successes of the implementation of member countries and the critical areas of concern during the 15th anniversary of the ratification of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPFA) released during the Fourth Women’s World Summit held in the People’s Republic of China in 1995.


Heinrich Böll Stiftung’s Myanmar Program seeks to contribute towards a democratic transition and an inclusive and sustainable development for the benefit of all people in Myanmar...


The Media for Democracy Program of Heinrich Böll Stiftung aims at the promotion of freedom of expression through various forms of media, including community radio and internet.

Claiming their Space

The people of the Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) have held their 8th Peoples Forum (APF) /ASEAN Civil Society Conference (ACSC) in Cambodia from March 29-31, 2012 in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia where the ASEAN Summit took place beginning of April.

By Elaine Haller