Enhancing Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP) in ASEAN

Creating Safer Space Co-Investigator Chantana Banpasirichote Wungaeo moderated a Panel on ‘Enhancing Unarmed Civilian Protection (UCP) in ASEAN’, as part of an international seminar on ‘Whither ASEAN in a Deeply Troubled World’. The seminar was held on 15-17 August 2022 at Chulalongkorn University, Thailand, and virtually on Zoom.

Panel members included Mark Tamthai (Peace Studies Program at Payap University, Chiang Mai), Ronnie Delsy (Director, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Asia) and Amara Pongsapich (ASEAN Human Rights Commission).

The three speakers on the panel represent UCP in research, peace building and policy-making in the ASEAN community. The picture of the region is quite varied from low intensity conflict in Thailand, normalization and peace building in Mindanao in the Philippines, to military authoritarianism in Myanmar. The panel discussed how UCP can clearly be integrated into the peacemaking process in Mindanao, while there are challenges involved in applying UCP in both low intensity conflicts like in Thailand, where vulnerability is rooted in structural violence, as well as in open armed conflict in Myanmar, where intervention is almost not feasible.

Mark Tamthai, Co-Investigator on the Creating Safer Space research project ‘Introducing Unarmed Civilian Protection in Thai Society’, raises a few observations: “1) What UCP type activities are effective depends on the kinds of protection needed in different countries. Protection from targeted violence, or racially based violence, creates particular challenges for direct immediate intervention. 2) What UCP activities can assist in the current protection needs of civilians in Myanmar are not clear. Myanmar civilians seem to need protection from many different groups. UCP in Myanmar seems to be a huge challenge in the current climate. 3) A UCP organization within the official ASEAN structure does not seem feasible at the moment due to its position on non-interference. To contribute to UCP protection programs might require an ASEAN support program for local UCP organizations in ASEAN countries.”