Tag Archives: southeast asia


Indonesian Parties Changing Their Spots?

Tom Power
Kai Clark



“If I go to the parliament in Jakarta, it’s easy for me to just call up someone and ask ‘do you have time for a chat?’ They might be a member of parliament or head of a commission, but often times they are willing to talk. That’s the sort of access you just don’t get in Australia, especially if you’re a young guy that doesn’t have a name as a high-flying journalist or a diplomat or a professor.”
Tom Power is a PhD candidate studying how Indonesian parties adapt as they alternate in and out of office. His research revolves around case studies on the current governing party, the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), and on a former coalition party, the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).
Tom researches by probing government and party officials on party fundraising and organisation. “To get these interviews,” he explains, “its sort of like snowballing.” For one of his first interviews, Tom sent an email to a rising star within the PKS — and, for a change of pace, got a response.
After interviewing her, she introduced him to other politicians who then introduced him to more party members. “Usually you interview them and they say ‘here’s the number of such-and-such’. It’s like you’re always on the hunt for someone to meet.”
His trophy collection includes several government ministers, the leader of PKS, and the secretary-general of PDIP. The secretary-general had noticed him at a couple of party events and one day asked Tom “to come up to Medan for a day and we’ll attend an event.” Flying first-class there, Tom spent the whole day chatting with him and attended meetings with other party elites.
The willingness of these politicians to talk to Tom is astounding, not just because of their seniority, but also because Tom is investigating how they funnel government money into party coffers.
“There’s a bit of a culture of impunity,” Tom tentatively remarks. “Indonesian politicians feel more comfortable talking to foreigners rather than local researchers — because they think a foreigner is less likely to dob them in.”
Indonesia ranks 90 out of 176 on the corruption perception index and much academic discourse on its public affairs analyses its patronage politics — where politicians offer money or power in exchange for votes.
Many politicians illegally take money from the state or use government positions to obtain kickbacks. And because Indonesian public subventions are too small to prop up most political parties, much of this money flows back into the party to feed itself.
But when parties are kicked out of government, they fall harder than a disowned trust fund baby. In 2010 the PKS, when it was in power, held a famous party conference in the Ritz Carlton, which Tom described as, “all-expenses paid, in the centre of Jakarta, with Swiss chefs preparing every meal.”
“And five years later, I went to the next party conference that was in a budget hotel in a satellite city of Jakarta. Outside the hotel, there was a market where party members were selling stuff to each other to raise money to donate back to the party. It was a classic example of the party basically going broke.”
Yet, PKS’s downfall was the eureka moment for Tom’s research. A year after losing power, PKS ousted many elderly leaders and replaced them with young blood. The new leaders immediately transformed the party from a pluralistic and inclusive party to an ideologically rigid party with a greater emphasis on grassroots activism.
The reforms helped the party field more competitive candidates, winning sub-national districts and more access to patronage. Party leaders also cultivated more zealous party sympathisers, increasing the flow of grassroots donations and expanding the pool of loyal recruits willing to run for elections.
Using the PDIP as another example, Tom explains that when in power it originally operated as a clientelistic party — which uses patronage politics to maintain its rule. But when voters kicked them out of office, they cleaned up their act and focused on ideological activism, fielding competitive candidates, and nurturing a strong party base. They had remoulded themselves as, what political scientists call, a ‘cadre party’. But, when back in government, they immediately relapsed into a clientelistic party.
Tom uses these examples to show the importance of understanding how political parties adapt as they shuffle through the revolving door of power. His research is also significant in that it explores a widely neglected field of political science.
“There is literature on party type, there is literature on change of party type, but there isn’t really literature on how being in and out of government affects party type. That’s something new. If these patterns are seen in other countries, this could be a new theory in political party operation.”

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Increasing boys prostitution in Indonesia

Farabi Ferdiansyah

Society and culture | Southeast Asia


He walks into the terrace house with a red face, and lowered head. He shakes hands and sits on the floor cross-legged. His head bowed down, staring at the floor at the Safe House for the Children in East Jakarta. In his 16 years Castro (pseudo name) has lived a life that many of us know nothing about. He spent four months this year being trafficked as a child prostitute.

He sits in silence. The sounds of the throaty croaking of frogs and the pat, pat, pat of raindrops falling on the rooftop fill the room.

A moment later, another boy in a blue navy sweater and chino jeans comes in. He’s followed by the housekeeper Zainal, who says, “He doesn’t want to be interviewed alone.” Brian (pseudo name) wants to join Castro for the interview.

Brian sits beside Castro, straightens his short black hair, and smiles broadly and shakes hands. Brian is 17-years old and has known Castro for more than 12 years.

“You are lucky. You are the first [of who] is able to interview them,” said Zainal.

The boys look at each other, smile and Brian begins to joke around without say anything. Castro brightens and begins joking with him. Together they tell their story that involves tragedy, poverty, and exploitation.


[gallery ids="5438,5437" type="slideshow" orderby="rand"]

Brian and Castro have made the Safe House for Children at Bambu Apus, in East Jakarta. Police brought them here after they were rescued in a police raid on a child prostitution ring in Bogor (30/8) that involved 148 boys.

The National Police’s Criminal Investigation (Bareskrim) arrested three pimps who are accused of selling the boys to men through social media.

The suspects could face multiple charges under article No. 11/2008 on Information and Electronic Transactions (ITE) Law, Law no. 44/2008 on Pornography, and Law no. 21/2007 on Combating Human Trafficking.

[caption id="attachment_5454" align="aligncenter" width="416"] A poster condemning sex with a minor as a crime. The photo was taken at KPAI headquarters in Central Jakarta. Photo by Farabi Ferdiansyah[/caption]

Erlinda, a commissioner from the Indonesia Child Protection Commission (KPAI) said that underage male prostitution in Indonesia is increasing every year.  KPAI says in 2016, 300 to 400 boys reported they had been sold for sex.

Erlinda said child pornography and cyber crime reports during January – October 2016 recorded 414 victims. The numbers are higher especially when it comes to trafficking underage males for prostitution. She stated many victims don’t want to report to the KPAI.

Pribudiarta Sitepu a Deputy of Child Protection of The Ministry of Woman’s Empowerment and Children Protection said sexual abuse against boys is higher than the girls.  “SKTA (the survey of violence against children) reported 1 of 12 boys, and 1 of 19 girls got sexually abused.”

Authorities say young males are more vulnerable to exploitation. “Because the perpetrator assumes the boy is strong, masculine and will not tell to his parents,” Sitepu added.

[caption id="attachment_5463" align="aligncenter" width="301"] KPAI reports on Child Pornography and Cyber Crime Abuse in Indonesia. Design by Farabi Ferdiansyah[/caption]

A Study by End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purpose (ECPAT) reported children from broken families were much more vulnerable to online sexual abuse that those from non-broken families. If the children could not find happiness and comfort at home, they would look for it outside.

Brian and Castro came from the same town in Nias, North Sumatra. They were just four and five years old when the tsunami swept Nias in 2004 and their lives changed. After the disaster, their parents were living in misery and could not take care of them. So they were adopted by Maranatha Orphanage, Bogor, with many other children.

The boys had free education and lived in the orphanage for 10 years,  but two years ago they ran away before finishing the orphanage program. They were bored and wanted freedom.

Esti (pseudo name) a worker at the orphanage said “they've got a problem in the school [being] disobedient to orphanage's rules.”

The orphanage tried to persuade them to come back to the dorm, but the boys could not be found. The boys, who at the time had been 14 and 16 years old,  rented a small house in Bogor. They were jobless, alone and vulnerable.

Brian recalls how an older man named Rico befriended them. He flashed money and introduced them to the world of illegal boys sexual exploitation. . Brian said Rico lied to him. “Rico said if you want a job, come to his boarding. When I visit[ed] his boarding, he coerced me to please him. That was not a job that I expected.”

“You don’t need to work hard. Just work one day [and] you can earn more money than the salary of the common people who work hard,” Castro added.

Besides that, they said Rico often treated Brian and Castro to snacks or drinks.

“When you've already been lured in, it is hard to get out,” Castro said.

They need money to pay rent for the house and their living costs.

“Honestly, I feel strange and uncomfortable around them, but it is all about money,” said Brian.

Since they were under 18 years-old, the boys could fetch a better price than adult men.  Customers paid between Rp 1.000.000 (75$) to Rp 1.500.000 (113$). Castro and Brian say they earned around Rp 100.000 (8$) to Rp 1.000.000 (75$), normally about Rp 500.000 (38$).

“The highest amount that I received was Rp 1.000.000 (75$), depends on the tip from the guest,” said Brian.

[caption id="attachment_5471" align="aligncenter" width="459"] During 8 cases in September 2016, 168 victims (148 boys and 20 girls) of sexual exploitation and commercial children were sold for sexual services to adults in Indonesia. Graphics by: ECPAT Indonesia.[/caption]

Their pimp, Rico had experience in prostitution business. Rico had already been arrested for online prostitution involving girls. He was sentenced to three years for human trafficking and after serving a two-and-half year in prison was released on 24 November 2015.

With his huge circle of contacts in sex prostitution, he went to work and set up a sex trafficking business involving boys.

To promote the boys, they were required to submit a biography that included their name, age, and a photo.  “He asked us to take a picture topless,” said Brian.

After that, he invited the children to his community called RCM (Rico Ceper Management) and added them to his Facebook group, Berondong Bogor.

The boys said Rico used social media, such as Facebook, BBM Messenger, and a gay mobile application to get customers in cities, such as Jakarta, Bandung, and Banten. Besides that, Rico also had a foreign customer such as; Malaysian and Singaporean.

“Sometimes, I went to Jakarta, and sometimes they came to Bogor. Mostly, the customers are from Jakarta. We usually meet in Tebet, South Jakarta,” said Brian. “They provide all transportation and a hotel.”

Almost the customers were adults with good a profession such as police, manager, doctor, and etc. “Most (customers) are adults that are already married - have a wife and family,” Castro said.

Ahmad Sofian, the coordinator of End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purpose (ECPAT) acknowledged that the customers could be considered ‘classy’ men with money. “There are adults over their 30’s that have position (good job).”

[caption id="attachment_5475" align="aligncenter" width="328"] A poster stating #BeAResponsibleTourist meant to inform tourists that buying sexual services from children means prison. Photo taken at ECPAT Indonesia at East Rawajati, South Jakarta. Photo by Farabi Ferdiansyah.[/caption]

Erlinda said child sex abuse in Indonesia is considered an extraordinary crime along with narcotics and terrorism because it corrupts mindset of the children about norms of life. “The wrong of thinking, bad behavior, anti-social, and assume sex with underage or same-sex is normal.”

The Indonesian government supports severe punishments against the perpetrator of child sexual abuse including forced chemical castration or the death penalty. It believes a strong penalty is the only way to stop the child sex abuse.

Recently, the death penalty was imposed on two cases of child sexual abuse in West Jakarta and Bengkulu. This proves that strong state stance against child sex abuse.

Another side to of this story is rehabilitation for the abused children. Erlinda says the victim must get comprehensive rehabilitation for trauma recovery. If they don’t get rehabilitation, the victim might be a perpetrator of child sex abuse.

“[Of] around 70-80 percent of [victims] who do not recieve comprehensive rehabilitation, during [their first] couple months can be[come] a perpetrator or have a personality similar to the perpetrator,” said Erlinda.

Brian and Castro spend their days at the Safe House for Child managed by the Ministry of Social to get rehabilitation under expert surveillance along with the vocational skills to re-enter society.

When they complete their rehabilitation in December, Brian and Castro want to start a new life with their family. “I want [to go] back to Nias - we still have our parents there. We['ve] already [been] living here (Bogor) for 12 years,” Brian said.

Neneng Heryani head of Safe House PSMP Handayani said the progress of Brian and Castro is good. They are learning screen printing and have a good attitude.

“However, living with [their] family is the best rehabilitation for children,” said Neneng.

Neneng said it was hard to find their families in Nias because the boys had not seen their parents for 12 years. They don’t remember the address or siblings. But, finally the team was found their parents after searching for four days.

“We will [be] going to Nias together, and returning Brian and Castro to their family on December 26 - 12 years after the Tsunami disaster,” Neneng added.

10 minute read

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Seeing the elephant

Economics | South Asia


“Seeing the elephant” is a 19th century American saying, meaning the gaining of world experience at a significant cost. It originated from travelling circuses, where curious people would pay exorbitant sums to literally, see the elephant.
Today there is an altogether different sort of elephant, one for which the cost is incurred when it is not seen. The identity of this pachyderm is, of course, India.
India has long played second fiddle to its North-Eastern neighbour, coming up short on most metrics of hard power including economics and military strength. India's strengths in areas such as its stable democratic government have failed to make up the difference in raw growth that China has enjoyed over the last 25 years.

World Bank comparison of Chinese and Indian GDP growth since 1990
This however is beginning to change. In particular since the landslide election of Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party, India has begun to show more muscle on the international stage.
In its local region, the Modi government has been proactive in engaging its neighbours. Bhutan and Nepal were two of the first countries visited by President Modi, and have since successfully concluded important energy agreements with New Delhi.
More significant however has been India's growing interests in South-east Asia. In the 20th century India purused the “Look East” policy, aimed at capitalising on its historic and cultural connections with South-east Asia. This century India has revived this policy, and is pursuing ever closer relations with the region, in particular economic ties such as its trade deals with Singapore and Thailand.
India is also enhancing its position strategically. Vietnam in particular is developing close ties with India, and in early September the two countries signed a US $500 million dollar arms agreement. They also maintain training relationships in high tech platforms such as submarines and fighter jets.
For China this represents perhaps its most significant long term strategic challenge in Asia. While the statistics today paint a bleak picture for India in comparison to China, and a positively stark one in comparison to the US, the long-term trends are in India's favour.
In the most basic sense, India simply has a lot more untapped potential than China. China today is experiencing the slowing of growth common to all newly industrialised countries, while India remains further behind in this process. China's lead is, in this sense, transient.

Source: IMF WEO database (October 2014) for 2014 estimates, PwC projections for 2030 and 2050
India also has a number of hidden strengths. Regime stability is a controversial question in China, with many Westerners and some Chinese prediciting that the Communist Party will have to reform or collapse. Whether such bleak scenarios are true or not this issue has no hold over India, which has enjoyed 70 years of stable democratic rule.
In strategic terms India is able to play the role of an offsider. China today appears to believe that it can force the US out of Asia, and that if it does so it will be the regional hegemon. The first proposition is highly debatable. The second is geographically illiterate.
India is fundamentally tied to Asia in a way that the United States is not. If and until China can work out how to send the Indian subcontinent back towards Antarctica, Asia will be home to two billion-strong giants; neighbours who inhabit the same geographic space.
Many nations in Asia are today turning to the US for support. The issues in the South and East China Seas are largely working to the US' diplomatic favour, with many historically unfriendly Asian nations such as Vietnam seeking Washington's support. It would be folly to think that even if shorn of the US, these nations would not just turn to the next best thing.
The emerging reality in Asia is not bipolar or even unipolar, but multipolar. Even if China succeeded in forcing the US out, other competitors most of all India would emerge to take its place. Failing to take other powers into consideration only makes openings for them.
Those looking to catch a glimpse of who will be playing ringmaster in the Asia-Pacific would be wise to check in with the elephant.

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An interview with Dr. Nicholas Farrelly

Mish Khan

Society and culture | Asia


This week we caught up with Dr Nicholas Farrelly, a fellow at the Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, to discuss his academic career and life as a former ANU student. Nicholas is the director of the ANU Myanmar Research Centre and convenor of the PhB program in the College of Asia and the Pacific. Nicholas also runs the Asia Pacific Week internship course and supervises various honours, masters and PHD students at ANU.

Nicholas was born in Canberra and retains “close connections” to the city, feeling really privileged” to be working and living in a city which is continuously developing. An ANU alumnus himself, Nich grew up in Canberra and studied a bachelor of Asian Studies at the ANU. After completing graduate study in the UK, he seized the opportunity to return to ANU where he has built an incredible academic career focused around Southeast Asian studies. Speaking fondly of his time as an ANU student, Nicholas felt he would be “always thankful” for the individual attention he received from passionate academics prominent within the Southeast Asian Studies field. It appears that Nich’s ANU experience was instrumentally influential to his future in more ways than one- many are unaware that Nich met his wife when working at Woroni!

When we asked Nicholas how he found himself within his current research area, he detailed a journey that began with a focus on Indonesia and bloomed into a wider interest in Southeast Asia. After studying Indonesian at school, he was unable to spend much time in Indonesia due to the security situation at the time. Instead, he spent a year in Thailand working with a northern Thai rural development organisation. The intensive language and cultural experience threw him into the deep end straight away, and the skills from the experience helped him emerge with an honours thesis on the Shan people. But the question of what next was already playing on Nich’s mind, who sought to challenge himself even further.

Focusing on “politics, social change, and potential for conflict,” Nicholas was soon drawn to Myanmar, which he described as “a mess” under its heavy constraints at the time. A process of gradually working his way into the “Myanmar realm” began as he built up the confidence to research in the fringes such as the Shan and Kachin states. It wasn't until 2013 that he was able to conduct research in a Bamar majority, Burmese speaking area. Nicholas labels these as “early difficult years of trying to understand what my own research activities would look like.” He believes these areas of Asia are “so important to Australia’s future” but have been drastically unacknowledged, something he wishes to change.

Nicholas feels that the rewards from “effective academic work” are “endlessly fulfilling” as being able to explain a complex matter in a way that encourages people to appreciate its “subtleties” is a challenge, but is incredibly rewarding when successful. However, he notes that the “academic business is a tough one” due to its intensely critical nature. Nich credits his website New Mandala, which provides commentary on Southeast Asian political affairs, as a learning tool for his resilience. Growing accustomed to “strongly worded” criticism forces him to continuously evaluate and improve upon his writing, and he expressed that criticism, when done well, “improves all of our works”.

For current students Nicholas outlined four main pieces of advice for university. Firstly, he stresses the need to take risks in order for students to “stretch their wings”. Secondly, for those interested in the world around them Nicholas emphasised learning foreign languages as a vital skill which offers exposure to different ways of thinking. Thirdly, this is best accomplished by students spending “a lot of time outside Australia,” and lastly, by taking advantage of their youth and flexibility, students should travel to all types of challenging places. This allows students to develop their adaptation skills and ultimately, be comfortable in any type of environment.

Nicholas is a great academic to have a chat with about Southeast Asia, and enjoys talking with passionate students. You can read his website New Mandala at asiapacific.anu.edu.au/newmandala/ if you want an interesting and easy way to stay up to date on what’s happening around the region.

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Humans of West Papua

Emma Roberts

Society and culture | Southeast Asia


Emma Roberts documents an eye-opening week in the Baliem Valley of Papua, Indonesia. What she encountered was a place where Melanesian culture is strong but the lives of the locals are also dominated by mosques and Indomie; a place where people live in regions impenetrable by transportation but continue to travel long distances on foot with big smiles on their faces; a place where life is tough but resilience is tougher.

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