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Politics in Action 2022: Polls, the pandemic, and civil society in Southeast Asia

19 May 2022
Six researchers from across the region offered expert analysis on politics in Southeast Asia.
Back in person in 2022, our annual Politics in Action forum focused on the latest political, social and economic developments in six countries of Southeast Asia.

Our annual Politics in Action forum was back in person in 2022, with an exciting line-up of speakers covering recent developments in Southeast Asia. It was great to see a mix of students, staff, researchers and others at the event, as well as a healthy online audience.

This year’s one-day forum focused on the latest political, social and economic developments in six Southeast Asian countries: Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and Vietnam. Designed to be concise, speakers’ presentations were packed with information and analysis, and prompted engaging questions from the audience.

Michele Ford at Politics in Action 2022

Professor Michele Ford speaking at Politics in Action 2022

Key topics discussed included general elections—just completed or upcoming—in several countries; the ongoing impact of the pandemic and plans for social and economic recovery; and evolving challenges facing civil society, young people and political participation across the region. 

  • Dr Azmil Tayeb (Universiti Sains Malaysia) covered recent political developments in Malaysia, including the return of ethnoreligious political parties, the future of coalition politics and what might happen ahead of a looming general election.
  • Professor Michael Leach (Swinburne University) had just returned from Timor-Leste, where Jose Ramos-Horta was recently elected president for a second time. Professor Leach spoke about the implications of the election—including an intriguing snippet about the political influence of martial arts groups—the powers of the president and major governance challenges.
  • Dr Andrea Haefner (Griffith University) covered Laos, with a focus on the economy, including concerns over growing public debt, slowing economic growth and the influential role of China. Dr Haefner also discussed hydropower dam projects in Laos, and the country’s ambition to becoming the “battery of Asia.”
  • The Vietnam update was presented by PhD candidate Nguyen Khac Giang (Victoria University), who explored recent changes in political leadership, the “blazing furnace” anti-corruption campaign, Vietnam’s “aspiring, yet hesitant” ambition to be a regional middle-power, and relations with China, Russia and the US.
  • The afternoon was rounded off by Dr Ken Setiawan (University of Melbourne), who provided the Indonesia update. Dr Setiawan discussed democratic deficits in Indonesia, human rights issues and increased securitisation in Papua, curbs on freedom of expression, gender equality and gender-based violence. 
Nguyen Khac Giang speaking at Politics in Action 2022

Nguyen Khac Giang delivering the Vietnam update

If you missed the event, catch up on the speakers’ presentations on the SSEAC website, our YouTube channel or Facebook page.

Many of the issues discussed are also touched on in our podcast series, SSEAC Stories, including a recent episode on energy politics in Laos and Cambodia with Dr Andrea Haefner.

Thank you to all our speakers and attentive audience members, in person and online, for making this year’s Politics in Action forum such a success!

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