Photo of the flags of the ASEAN member states

Politics in Action 2021: Updates from Southeast Asia

Political updates from across Southeast Asia
Our annual Politics in Action forum brings political updates from Southeast Asia to researchers and practitioners from across the disciplines and beyond.

When: Wednesday 5 May & Thursday 6 May 2021
Where: This event will be run online over the course of two days - stay tuned for links to video recordings!

Drawing upon expertise from around the world, these presentations will provide up-to-date information on developments in Southeast Asia relevant to scholars, students, practitioners and the general public.

In this public forum, invited experts will provide an analysis of the current political situation in Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand and discuss the broader implications of events in these countries for our region.

In 2021, our exciting lineup of speakers includes:

  • Cambodia – Dr Astrid Norén-Nilsson (University of Lund)
  • Indonesia – Dr Burhanuddin Muhtadi (Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University)
  • Myanmar – Professor Melissa Crouch (UNSW Sydney)
  • The Philippines – Professor Maria Ela L. Atienza (University of the Philippines-Diliman)
  • Singapore – Dr Elvin Ong (National University of Singapore) 
  • Thailand – Professor Duncan McCargo (University of Copenhagen)

Each of our country-specialists will present for up to 15 minutes, followed by a short Q&A session. They are instructed to pitch their talk to an interested, but not necessarily academic, audience so the talks are able to be enjoyed by a wide range of people. These talks should be particularly valuable to non-political scientists working in one or more Southeast Asian countries.

For this year, this event is linked to our postgraduate research workshop, co-hosted with the Nordic Institute for Asian Studies (NIAS).

Stay tuned for the program schedule and links to view the presentations live.

All videos recorded as part of Politics in Action 2021 will be made available for public viewing on our Facebook page and our YouTube channel from the 5th of May 2021 onwards. 


Day Time (CEST) Time (SGT) Time (AEST) Topic Presenter
Wed. 5 May 2021 9.00am 3.00pm 5.00pm Singapore Dr Elvin Ong
Wed. 5 May 2021 9.30am 3.30pm 5.30pm Indonesia Dr Burhanuddin Muhtadi
Wed. 5 May 2021 10.00am 4.00pm 6.00pm Cambodia Dr Astrid Norén-Nilsson
Thurs. 6 May 2021 9.00am 3.00pm 5.00pm Myanmar Prof Melissa Crouch
Thurs. 6 May 2021 9.30am 3.30pm 5.30pm Philippines Prof Maria Ela L. Atienza
Thurs. 6 May 2021 10.00am 4.00pm 6.00pm Thailand Prof Duncan McCargo


The speakers

Maria Ela L. Atienza is Professor at the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. She is also the Editor of the Philippine Political Science Journal, and Co-Convenor of the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies' Program on Social and Political Change. She also served as Chair of the Department of Political Science (2016-2019), Director of the UP Third World Studies Center (2010-2013), and President of the Philippine Political Science Association (2007-2009).  

She is the recipient of the Gawad Chancellor for Outstanding Instructor (1999) from UP Diliman; first Young Scholar Dissertation Award (2006) from the International Society for Third Sector Research for her dissertation entitled “The Politics of Health Devolution in the Philippines with Emphasis on Experiences of Municipalities in a Devolved Set-up”; the Yasuhiro Nakasone Incentive Award (2007) from the Institute for International Policy Studies, Japan; Centennial Faculty Development Award (2011) from the UP Alumni Association-New Jersey Chapter; several Centennial Professorial Chair Awards from UP Diliman; and several International Publication Awards from the UP System. She is the 2014 National Research Council of the Philippines Achievement Awardee for the Social Sciences (Division VIII) and One UP Professorial Chair Awardee for Teaching and Research (2016-2018).

She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on qualitative research methods, political science research, comparative politics, and local politics. Her current research projects are on poverty alleviation in areas affected by super-typhoon Haiyan; performance assessment of the 1987 Constitution; and prospects for alternative institutional arrangements in Metro Manila for health service delivery in the midst of the current federalism and charter change debates. She is also active in training programs for social sciences and political science teachers, policy staff, development workers, personnel of government agencies, and bureaucrats as well as serving as resource person on political and social issues for several Philippine legislative committees, executive agencies, professional associations, the private sector, and various media. She heads the Department of Political Science’s extension project “UP sa Halalan 2019”, which aims to provide more evidence-based data and information on election-related matters through social media, lectures, public fora, and media engagements.

Melissa Crouch is Professor and Associate Dean Research at the Law School, UNSW. She established and runs the Southeast Asia Law & Policy Forum at UNSW Law. Her research contributes to the field of comparative constitutional law; law and society; and law and religion. She has been awarded numerous grants and awards, including the Endeavour Australia Research Fellowship; University of Indonesia Visiting Fellowship; and the University of Melbourne Kathleen Fitzpatrick Visiting Fellowship. Melissa is Chief Investigator on an ARC Discovery Grant on "Constitutional Change in Authoritarian Regimes" (2018-2021). This study builds on two of her previous major research projects on constitutionalism: her doctoral research on constitutionalism, courts and religion in Indonesia, and her postdoctoral research on constitutionalism and the courts in Myanmar and Southeast Asia more broadly.

Duncan McCargo, Director of the Nordic Institute of Asian Studies and Professor of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen, is best known for his wide-ranging work on the politics of Thailand. Earlier books include the best-selling The Thaksinization of Thailand (with Ukrist Pathmanand, NIAS Press 2005), and the award-winning Tearing Apart the Land: Islam and Legitimacy in Southern Thailand (Cornell 2008). More recently, he has published Fighting for Virtue: Justice and Politics in Thailand (Cornell 2019) and Future Forward: The Rise and Fall of a Thai Political Party (with Anyarat Chattharakul, NIAS Press 2020). A past president of the European Association for Southeast Asian Studies, Duncan co-founded the Columbia University-based New York Southeast Asia Network ( and has co-supervised 29 PhD students to successful completion.

Burhanuddin Muhtadi is a Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, Jakarta. He is also an executive director of the Indonesian Political Indicator (Indikator Politik Indonesia) and the Director of Public Affairs at the Indonesian Survey Institute (Lembaga Survei Indonesia, LSI). His research interests include political Islam, voting behaviour, clientelism, democracy and social movements. 

Astrid Norén-Nilsson is an Associate Senior Lecturer at the Centre for East and South-East Asian Studies at Lund University since 2016. She received her Ph.D. in Politics & International Studies (2013) from the University of Cambridge, U.K., where she was a Gates Scholar. She was a research fellow at the Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV), Leiden, the Netherlands, 2013-15. Her scholarship focuses on the politics of Cambodia in the post-conflict reconstruction era (1993 -).

She is the author of the monograph Cambodia’s Second Kingdom: Nation, Imagination, and Democracy (Cornell SEAP, 2016), which was shortlisted for EuroSEAS Social Science Book Prize 2017. She has published extensively on themes related to the Cambodia’s political development since 1993, addressing in particular the role of nationalist imaginings in shaping the era of multi-party elections, political and civil society elites, the politics of memory, as well as the role of transforming perceptions of the current neopatrimonial order and of citizenship. Her current research investigates what is entailed in Cambodia’s recent transition to hegemonic authoritarianism. 

Elvin Ong is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at NUS. He was previously a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Southeast Asia Research, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia. He obtained his PhD in Political Science from Emory University, the MPhil in Politics (Comparative Government) from the University of Oxford, and a Double Degree in Business Management and Social Science from the Singapore Management University. He was named a 2019 Dan David Prize Scholar in Defending Democracy, and a 2018 Young Southeast Asia Fellow.

Watch the event videos below:  

Cambodia Update

Indonesia Update

Myanmar Update

Philippines Update

Singapore Update

Thailand Update