“In the application of peoples’ sovereignty, the FORSEA Board Members believe in democracy, either as representative or participatory form of government as the best vehicle for fair and equitable exercise of power among peoples.” — From the Peoples’ Charter for Southeast Asia, 2018
FORSEA – or Forces of Renewal for Southeast Asia – We are Southeast Asian democrats and rights campaigners committed to making our region fair, just and democratic.
As members of the Managing Board of FORSEA, we are committed to pursuing, through our educational initiatives, the advancement of human welfare, the protection of vulnerable national minorities, the propagation of fundamental human rights, labour rights, gender equality, the fostering of harmony between faith-based communities, the spread of ecological consciousness, and the promotion of a democratic ethos among future generations across Southeast Asia.
FORSEA Board Members
Pavin Chachavalpongpun is associate professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Kyoto University where he teaches Southeast Asian politics. He also teaches International Relations of Asia at Japan’s Doshisha University. Earning his PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Pavin is the chief editor of the online journal “Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia” in which all articles are translated from English into Japanese, Thai, Bahasa Indonesia, Filipino and Vietnamese. He has been a guest lecturer at a number of universities, from Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley, to London School of Economics and Cambridge University. His views on Thai politics and that of Southeast Asia have been sought by a myriad of international media, through articles and interviews.
Pavin has long been an advocate for democracy and human rights. As an academic, he has raised several issues pertaining to the state of democracy in his home country, Thailand. In 2011, Pavin led a nationwide campaign to free the political prisoner known as A-Kong, who had been jailed for committing lèse-majesté. Lèse-majesté, or the crime of injury to royalty, is defined by Article 112 of the Thai Criminal Code, which states that defamatory, insulting or threatening comments about the king, queen and regent are punishable by three to 15 years in prison. Ever since, Pavin has been critical of the royal institution in Thailand and how it has long interfered in Thai politics despite constitutional restrictions. Accordingly, he has been made an enemy of the state.
In May 2014, the military staged a coup overthrowing the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra. The military, a long-term partner of the royal institution, took this opportunity to eliminate critics of the monarchy. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the governing body of the coup makers, summoned him twice to have his “attitude adjusted”. Pavin publicly rejected the summons and the junta issues a warrant for his arrest while revoking his Thai passport. This situation forced him to apply for refugee status with Japan.
Five years on after the coup, Pavin has continued to voice his opposition against the intervention in politics of both the monarchy and the military. As a result, his family in Bangkok has faced periodic harassment. He himself faced protests by Thai hyper-royalists overseas when at his lectures and talks in foreign institutions. Seeing the need to promote democracy in his home country, Pavin, together with some colleagues, initiated ideas which later became the foundation of FORSEA.
In his role as academic, Pavin is a prolific writer. He has authored several books. Among them are: A Plastic Nation: The Curse of Thainess in Thai-Burmese Relations, Reinventing Thailand: Thaksin and His Foreign Policy, and as the editor, ‘Good Coup’ Gone Bad: Thailand’s Political Developments after Thaksin’s Downfall. His forthcoming books include: Coup, King, Crisis: Time of a Dangerous Interregnum in Thailand, and as the editor, Routledge Handbook on Contemporary Thailand.
His other contributions to the scholarly world include his interview with Professor Noam Chomsky on the Thai political situation, broadcast in 2018. He has also worked with international organisations in raising the awareness of the protection of human rights and the promotion of democracy in Thailand and the Southeast Asian region. FORSEA is his latest initiative designed to serve the above purposes, and ultimately, make his country of birth a more just and equitable place
A native of Jakarta, Nursyahbani Katjasungkana (Nur) graduated from Law Faculty of Airlangga University (1978) where she specialized in Criminal law (1979). She holds post graduate diplomas in International Comparative Sexual Orientation Law from Leiden University (2012) and in Bridging the Research-Policy Divide from National Centre of Epidemiology of Australian National University (2012).
She was the country prosecutor of the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery (2000), General Coordinator of The International Tribunal of 1965 Genocide and Crimes against Humanity (2015) and a member of the panel of judges at the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Myanmar (2017).
Nur served as a member of People Consultative Assembly (1999-2004) and was elected Member of Parliament (2004-2009) in Indonesia. She directed Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (1980-1993) and was President of Indonesian Environmental Forum (WALHI). She is currently the National Coordinator of Indonesian Legal Aid Association for Women and serves as Chair of Board of Trustee of Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation, a leading women and human rights organization in Indonesia. Nur was Commissioner of the National Commission on Violence Against Women (1998-2004) and the first Secretary General of the Indonesia Women’s Coalition for Justice and Democracy (1998-2003). member of World Bank Advisory Council on Gender and Development (2013-2015).
She was an active member of the board of directors with Sexual and Bodily Rights Coalition in Moslem Society based in Jordan (2007-2014). In 2011, Nur co-founded Partnership for Good Governance, and chaired its Executive Board until 2013. She is a consultant on the women’s legal rights and has been involved in several fact-finding teams on human rights violation during Soeharto era. She was also a newspaper columnist and had published 5 books on legal and violence against women issues and implementation of CEDAW. She had published articles and book chapters and presented research papers at international and national conferences. Her essays entitled “Indonesia in the Grip of Fundamentalism Legal Issues and Women Movement Responses” was published in The Future of Asian Feminism in Confronting Fundamentalism, Conflicts and neo-Liberalism (Cambridge Scholar Publishing,2012). Nur’s essay “The Implementation on Domestic Violence Act in Indonesia” appeared in Family Ambiguity and The Domestic Violence in Asia (Sussex Academic Press, 2013). She co-authored Heteronormativity, Passionate Aesthetics and Symbolic Subversion in Asia (Sussex Academic Press, 2015), Creeping Criminalisation of LGBT in Indonesia (OutRight International 2017),and Propaganda and Genocide in Indonesia: Imagined Evil (Routledge 2018).
For her commitment and work, she was nominated as one of A Thousand Noble Prize (2006). In 2007 and 2008, GLOBE ASIA magazine put Nursyahbani Katjasungkana as number 51 of 99 powerful women in Indonesia.
Hishamuddin Rais is a Malaysian film director, stand-up comedian, political and social activist. He is also notable as a columnist for several newspapers including Berita Minggu, The Sun, Malaysiakini.com and Off The Edge.
Hishamuddin completed his secondary education at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar. He obtained his degree in South East Asia History in 1971 from University of Malaya. He is also a film and video graduate from University of Westminster, London.
Hishamuddin was actively involved in campus politics whilst studying at the University of Malaya. His subsequent entry into Malaysian politics came after he returned to Malaysia in 1994 after having graduated in film and video from the University of Westminster, London in 1992. He organised several street demonstrations from 1998 to 2000 following the ouster of deputy prime minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim. In 2001, he was arrested under the section 71(3) of the Malaysian Internal Security Act 1984 on the charge of conspiracy to overthrow the government with threat and violence. In 2001 he began a two-year jail sentence under the Internal Security Act, which permits detention without trial.
Clare Rewcastle Brown
Clare Rewcastle Brown is a former British television reporter and the founder and editor of the website Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak, which came to prominence for challenging wide scale political corruption in Malaysia and the impacts on civil and indigenous rights as well as on the environment. Her investigations resulted in the exposure of the 1MDB Development Fund scandal, which revealed alleged grand kleptocracy by the Malaysian Prime Minister; rocked the global financial community; helped put the off-shore finance industry on the run and embarrassed some of the most famous figures in Hollywood, Vegas and New York.
Fortune Magazine named her one of the World’s 50 Most Influential Figures in 2016; she was named one of Britain’s Women of the Year 2016. In 2018 she received the Guardian Award by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and in Australia she is the Bob Brown Foundation’s ‘Environmentalist of the Year’. In 2013 she received the International Press Institute’s Pioneer of Media Freedom Award; in 2014 she received Queensland University’s Communication for Social Change Award and she was winner of the One World Media Special Award from CNN in 2015. Malaysia issued a warrant for her arrest and requested INTERPOL place her on its international Red Notice list in 2015, however INTERPOL rejected the request and following the defeat of prime minister Najib in the May 9th 2018 election Malaysia rescinded the warrant.
Saskia E. Wieringa
Saskia E. Wieringa is Emerita Professor at the University of Amsterdam. From 2005 till 2012 she was the Director of Aletta, Institute for Women’s History in Amsterdam. She is a co-founder of the Kartini Asia Network. From the late 1960s onwards Saskia participated in the women’s third world solidarity and sexual rights movements in Holland. Since then human, women’s and sexual rights have dominated her research, teaching and writing. Since the late 1970s she has done research on women’s movements, sexual politics and same-sex relations in many parts of the world, particularly in Indonesia. When she started publishing about the history of the Indonesian communist women’s organisation and debunked the sexual slander they were subjected to by General Suharto, she was blacklisted in Indonesia. She has helped set up women’s studies programmes in the Caribbean, Namibia, the Sudan and Bangladesh. She has lectured widely, for instance in Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, South Africa and Australia. She has worked as a consultant for various development organizations, UN Women and the UN ECA. She has given training on sexual diversity and empowerment and designed gender indexes.
She wrote and (co-) edited more than 30 books and over 200 articles. Her book publications include: (1999, with E. Blackwood eds) Female Desires; Same-Sex Relations and Transgender Practices Across Cultures, Columbia University Press; Sexual Politics in Indonesia, London: Palgrave/McMillan Publishers; (2003); Tommy Boys, Lesbian Men and Ancestral Wives, Women’s Same Sex Experiences in Southern Africa, Johannesburg: Jacana Publishers (2005 with Ruth Morgan); (2006, ed with Thanh-Dam Truong and Amrita Chhachhi) Engendering Human Security, Zed Books and Kali (2006, ed with Thanh-Dam Truong and Amrita Chhachhi); Women’s Sexualities and Masculinities in a Globalizing Asia. Palgrave. (2007, edited with Evelyn Blackwood and Abha Bhaiya); Traveling Heritages, Aksant (2008); (2012 co-edited with Nursyahbani Katjasungkana) The Future of Asian Feminisms (2013 co-edited with Horacio Sivori) Sexual Politics in the Global South,(2013, co-edited with Maznah Mohamad), and Family ambiguity and domestic violence in Asia: concept, law and process. Sussex Academic Publishers; Heteronormativity in Asia (2015 Sussex Academic Press); Propaganda and the Indonesian genocide, imagined evil (2018, (with Nursyahbani Katjasungkana, Routledge). In 2019 The IPT1965 and the Indonesian Genocide (co-edited with Annie Pohlman and Jess Melvin, Routledge) was published.
Saskia Wieringa received various awards for her scholarly work. Her recent research projects focus on women’s same-sex relations in historical perspective in Indonesia and on the post-1965 violence in East Java. She is co-founder and the chair of the Foundation IPT 1965 which organised a People’s Tribunal on the Indonesian post-1965 crimes against humanity in 2015.
Tan Wah Piow
Tan Wah Piow, a Singaporean in exile since 1976, is a human rights lawyer based in London. He read law at Balliol College, Oxford, and became a practising Barrister before establishing a law practice in London as a Solicitor.
In 2018 he was on the panel of Judges at the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on “The Hostile Immigration Environment” held in London. As a lawyer, he is best known internationally for helping families of the 58 Chinese migrants who died in a container in Dover in 2000, and also in the 2004 Morecambe Bay cockling disaster which claimed the lives of 23 Chinese migrants. In his career as a lawyer, he represents over 5000 mainland Chinese migrants in the United Kingdom.
Tan Wah Piow first came to prominence in 1974 as the elected President of the University of Singapore Students Union. Together with his colleagues, they led the students out of the ivory tower and championed the causes of workers who were controlled by yellow unions linked to the ruling party. The student movement solidarity with the workers captured the public imagination. Within a couple of months, a ruling party MP and Trade Union boss fabricated a ‘riot’ inside the trade union premises. Tan Wah Piow was arrested and charged along with two other workers. He became a cause célèbre when he, an Architecture student, defended himself in a 47-day trial, the longest then in Singapore history. An Australia QC who observed the hearing called it a Kangaroo court. Amnesty International described it as a political trial. After the imprisonment, the Singapore government conspired to transfer him to the military barracks under the guise of compulsory military service. Wah Piow escaped and eventually surfaced in London where he was granted political asylum.
In 1987, ten years into his exile, the Singapore government launched the much discredited Operation Spectrum and named Tan Wah Piow as the Mastermind of a Marxist Conspiracy to turn Singapore into a Marxist state. Twenty-two social activists and professionals, some of whom were known to him during his student days in Singapore and London, were arrested without trial. Tan denied the charges.
On the day the government launched Operation Spectrum, Tan Wah Piow, a Singaporean by birth, was revoked of his citizenship. The government invoked an amendment in the constitution which, according to the former Solicitor General Francis Seow, was enacted for the sole purpose to depriving Tan of his citizenship.
While in exile, he writes, speaks, hosts dinner parties, creates conceptual art, and occasionally organises and conspires for change. At one time, ruling party MPs in Parliament raised the issue of Wah Piow tea-time with Singaporeans abroad as a subject of national concern. All attempts by the Singapore government to extradite him came to nought.
He is the Director of Monsoons Book Club, London.
His books include The Frame-up, Let the People Judge, Smokescreen and Mirrors. In Escape from the Lion Paw, and he wrote a short autobiographical piece “The Making of an Outlaw”. He is a regular contributor to online sites and newspapers in Singapore and Malaysia.
Maung Zarni (aka Zarni)
Maung Zarni (aka Zarni) is a UK-based exiled Burmese scholar and activist, co-founder and general secretary of FORSEA (www.foresea.co). Zarni learned community organising from his businessman-father and educator-mother in Mandalay, during the rule of General Ne Win in the 1970’s. He left for the United States on the eve of Burma’s 1988 nationwide uprisings. There he worked with Burmese dissidents already in exile and learned progressive politics including environmental and feminist activism from American peers.
In 1995, Zarni co-founded the Free Burma Coalition, using the Internet to build support for a worldwide consumer-boycott and divestment for the Burmese opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi.
Based in Berkeley, Zarni also set up Institutional and Community Development Burma to enable university admissions and scholarships for political refugees studying development, conflict resolution and politics, in major universities in Britain such as the London School of Economics, as well as universities in the Philippines and South Africa.
In 2003, Zarni became disillusioned with Suu Kyi’s leadership and the West’s democracy rhetoric and began advocating strategic engagement with Burma’s military leadership. In 2004, he initiated Track II negotiations with the support of maverick US State Department officials, between the Burmese military and outside actors such as British officials, ILO, and Germany’s Green Party foundation.
Zarni studied chemistry and physics at the University of Mandalay. He has an MA in science education from the University of California and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin, (with a thesis entitled “Knowledge, Control and Power: The Politics of Education in Burma under military rule,1962-88”). He counts among his mentors the former US military interrogator of Nazi SS officers, the late Robert Lewis Koehl, and the neo-Marxist sociologist Michel W. Apple. Zarni has been a tenure-track assistant professor in the United States, and an associate professorship in Brunei. He is a non-resident Fellow with (Genocide) Documentation Center Cambodia (DC-Cam) and an adviser to Genocide Watch, USA.
He has held research, leadership and visiting fellowships, including at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Next Generation Leadership, Georgetown Leadership Seminar, Harvard, LSE, and Oxford. He has written extensively on activism, human security, racism and genocide, published in leading media outlets worldwide and academic journals, appeared on CNN, BBC, and other major networks, and debated at the Oxford Union.
His study for the University of Washington School of Law, “The Slow Burning Genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya” (Spring, 2014), alerted the world to a genocide. In 2018, Zarni co-founded the Free Rohingya Coalition which he serves as its strategic adviser and initiated the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Myanmar in 2017.
In 2015 he received a “Cultivation of Harmony” award from the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and was shortlisted in 2017 for Sweden’s Right Livelihood Award. In 2018, Bangladesh’s teacher association called Zarni “the conscience of a Buddhist Burmese society”. Named a “Top-Five” blogger in the region by Southeast Asia Globe, Zarni blogs at www.maungzarni.net .