The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog


ASEAN and the EU: Moving Beyond State Integration

Posted in Internal Conflicts and Human Security by NTSblog on September 23, 2010
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The deportation of thousands of Roma/Gypsies to Romania and Bulgaria by France since August 2010 once again highlighted the plight of ethnic minorities in the European Union and elsewhere. France insisted that the act was not aimed specifically at the Roma and that the Roma are treated no differently to other migrants who do not meet its immigration rules. However, a leaked Interior Ministry memo circulated to French law enforcement officials prior to their deportation suggested otherwise. The memo instructed law enforcement officials that “three hundred camps or illegal settlements must be dismantled within three months prioritising those of the Roma”. This shows that the Roma are specifically targeted and this amounted to collective expulsion with racial overtones.

Similar trends can be observed in Southeast Asia too. On 28 December 2009, Thailand forcefully deported more than 4,500 Hmong asylum seekers to Laos PDR that is been accused of persecuting the Hmong since they backed U.S. forces during the Vietnam War. Thailand maintains that Hmong living illegally in Thailand are economic migrants and not refugees in need of protection. Another minority ethnic group Rohingya were pushed back to sea by the Royal Thai Navy after they landed on Thai soil after undertaking perilous boat journey in December 2008 to escape persecution in Myanmar.

These events proved that although ASEAN and the EU have successfully integrated nation states in their respective regions economically and politically, they are yet to replicate that success in dealing with their ethnic minority communities. Quite simply, ASEAN and the EU failed to protect and integrate their most vulnerable minority communities. These minority communities have no nationality or are political refugees seeking protection from their governments. These communities include the Roma, communities from the former Soviet Republics, Turks, Palestinians, Rohingya, Akna, Lanu, Lisu, Yao, Shan, Hmong, Karen, Khmer Krom, Chinese Cambodians etc.

ASEAN and the EU have already established mechanisms to facilitate social and cultural integration of their minority communities. These mechanisms include the ASEAN Charter, Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) etc. Besides these regional mechanisms, there are also international treaties and conventions that can help address the plight of minority ethnic communities namely the 1951 Refugees Convention and the 1954 and 1961 Statelessness Conventions.

Most EU member countries are party to these treaties and conventions. As such, abiding by their rules will pave the way for the successful integration of their minorities. Most ASEAN member countries on the other hand are not party to these treaties and conventions. Acceding to these treaties and conventions and abiding by their rules will help improve the status of stateless persons and refugees in Southeast Asia.

The credibility of ASEAN and the EU will be judged not only by the degree in which they integrate their member states economically and politically but also by how well they integrate their minority communities.

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