Mesrob Vartavarian discusses militias and democratization in Southeast Asia

Militias are often seen as antithetical to the very notion of democratic governance. However, Thailand, Indonesia, and the Philippines have all made extensive use of militias during democratic transitions.

These organizations have contributed to the making of illiberal societies and the militarization of subaltern social groups. If democracies are to truly thrive in the region they must do so without militias.

Video Sections:

Militias and Democratization of Thailand:
Militias in Indonesia:
Militias and Democratization in the Philippines:
Summary: Why Study Militias?

Banner: LIQUICA, EAST TIMOR – Public Liberation monument with a freedom fighter, Our Father prayer in Bahassa and a timorese flag remembering East Timorese independence from Indonesia. Photo: gaborbasch />

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Dr. Mesrob Vartavarian is a Visiting Fellow at Cornell University’s Southeast Asia Program. He studied history at UCLA (BA/MA) and Cambridge (PhD) and began his career as a scholar of early colonial South Asia but has since shifted his research focus to modern Southeast Asia with an emphasis on the Philippines. His interests include colonial state formation, plunder politics, borderland insurgencies by ethnic minorities, postcolonial praetorian regimes, and Cold War-era conflicts across insular and mainland states. His publications have appeared in Modern Asian Studies, the Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, South East Asia Research, Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, and the IIAS Newsletter. Dr. Vartavarian is currently working on a monograph-length study of the Philippine military after Marcos.