ABSTRACT. Whereas democracy has been linked to the prevalence of peaceful societies, democratic transition processes have been particularly violent. Southeast Asia is no exception. The impressive move towards democracy and the rule of law in the region over the past three decades has also witnessed much internal political conflict and violence. The risk of internal conflict remains high and long-term peace is ill-served by the perseverance of authoritarian governance. This paper, following a qualitative approach, surveys key literature from scholarly peer-reviewed sources, conflict ledgers and reputable policy think tanks in order to identify the main, interrelated factors that are root causes of internal conflict in periods of transition to democracy. It concludes that these factors are: electoral processes and non-respect for electoral integrity; a strong military role in politics; corruption; weak state institutions; demands for autonomy and decentralization; and grievances over violations of economic, social and cultural rights. The paper concludes by arguing for a human rights-oriented, early warning capacity at the regional level to head-off internal conflicts. pp. 192–213

Keywords: ASEAN; democracy, human rights; ASEAN Regional Forum; conflict prevention

How to cite: Ramcharan, Robin (2016), “Internal Political Conflict in Southeast Asia: The Root Causes of Conflict during Transitions to Democracy,” Geopolitics, History, and International Relations 8(2): 192–213.

Received 17 March 2016 • Received in revised form 23 June 2016
Accepted 24 June 2016 • Available online 15 July 2016


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