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Southeast Asia. Background Southeast Asia is a land of large and small peninsulas and islands region is a cultural and political mosaic of diverse peoples and lands influence of India and China on the historical development of region

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Southeast Asia

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southeast asia
Southeast Asia
  • Background
    • Southeast Asia is a land of large and small peninsulas and islands
    • region is a cultural and political mosaic of diverse peoples and lands
    • influence of India and China on the historical development of region
      • Buddhism strongly entrenched in Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam
      • Hindu cosmology and beliefs influential in region
temples like Ankor Wat (Cambodia) and Prembanan and Borobodur (Java) reveal Indian influences
    • Chinese also influential politically and culturally in Southeast Asia
    • overseas Chinese are major entrepreneurs in large urban areas
    • Thai people pushed out of southern China in 13th C
    • direct Chinese influence on Vietnam
    • Vietnam occasionally ruled by China
  • influence of colonialism
    • most states under colonial rule from 19th to 20th C, i.e. UK (Myanmar, Singapore and Malaysia); France (Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos) Holland (Indonesia); US (Philippines)
brutal colonial wars for independence
      • only Thailand (Siam) never colonized by the West
      • Thai monarchy practiced skillful diplomacy to preserve their independence
      • Thailand historically was a buffer between UK and France
  • Physical regions
    • physically, Southeast Asia divided into two major regions of roughly equal size, i.e. mainland Southeast Asia and insular Southeast Asia
    • mainland Southeast Asia includes Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam
    • insular Southeast Asia includes Indonesia, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore
mountain ranges run in north-south direction; difficulty with east-west transportation and communication
  • river valleys for core areas of national states, i.e. Irrawady River (Rangoon, Mynanmar); Chao Phraya River(Bangkok, Thailand); Mekong River ( Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam); Red River, Hanoi/Haiphong, Vietnam)
  • rivers very important for internal transportation and communication
  • series of high hills separate Mynanmar from India
  • Shan plateau between Mynanmar and Thailand
  • Korat plateau in northern Thailand
  • cordillera runs from Laos to south Vietnam
volcanic chain of islands run from western Mynanmar offshore through Anaman Islands, Sumatra, Java and the Philippines
  • Sunda platform from Sumatra and Malaysia to island of Kalimantan.
  • Sunda Strait and Straits of Malaka crucial to ocean shipping.
  • substantial tanker and container shipping through these important straits
  • deep water trenches off shore, i.e Java Trench
  • region of active volcanoes, i.e. Krakatoa, Indonesia in 1883 and Mt. Pinatubo, Philippines in 1991-92





Sunda Platform

Asia Physical Map Southeast

    • Southeast Asia enjoys substantial rainfall
    • mainland Southeast Asia influenced by the monsoon with summer winds bringing torrential rainfall from May to October. Rangoon gets 100 includes per year
    • cooler weather and less rainfall from November to early spring. High pressure over Asia with winds blowing out to sea
    • areas near equator receive abundant rainfall all year around.
    • Southeast Asia has a large, expanding population
    • in 1965, combined population of all countries was 250 million; by 1993 it increased to 400 million; and by 2025 it is expected to rise to 550 million
    • most countries growing at 2% per year; Thailand and the Philippines growing at 3%; Cambodia and Laos have rates close to 1% reflecting ravages or war
    • urbanization increasing in all countries though Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam still have less than 20% living in urban areas
Indonesia and Thailand have 30% of their populations in urban areas
  • Philippines just over 40%; Malaysia 50%
  • 100% of the population in Singapore live in the city
  • most Southeast Asian states have a high percentage of their people living in a primate city, i.e. Bangkok, Thailand; Manila, Philippines, Phnom Penh, Cambodia, etc.
  • migrations from rural areas to cities have strained governmental budgets, made it difficult to provide adequate services
    • problems of agriculture in SE Asia due to several factors:
      • erosion of hillside cultivation which washes down large quantities of silt that end up in delta areas
      • leeching of soluble minerals especially iron oxide which is necessary for good plant growth
      • laterization of soils which makes the soil very hard on the top layer and spongy when wet
      • groundwater evaporation exceeds drainage encouraging growth of grasses that choke plants
types of agriculture swidden and sawah
  • swidden agriculture
    • also known as shifting cultivation or slash and burn agriculture
    • practiced on grasslands and plateaus (hill farms) where brush, trees and grass are burned so crops can be planted. Ash enriches the soil but only briefly
    • after several years, people must change locations and repeat the cycle again
    • variety of crops grown by this method including pineapples, bananas, fruit trees, dry rice, taro, sweet potatoes, yams, maize, legumes, and tobacco
    • ecological knowledge of farmers based on experience
    • cannot support a large population
sawah cultivation
    • also known as wet rice agriculture or paddy agriculture
    • water dependent agriculture with fields irrigated by adequate rain or various irrigation projects
    • terraced rice fields in Java, Luzon, and Bali
    • possible to get 2/3 rice crops per year under good conditions
    • supplemental vegetables occasionally grown in as interplanted crops in rice paddy fields, i.e. corn, potatoes, legumes, sweet potatoes, etc.
    • use of decomposed manure, night soil or chemical fertilizers to obtain good yields
    • use of the water buffaloes to plow fields; small tractors increasingly replacing water buffaloes
Plantation agriculture
    • commercial plantations managed by Europeans but worked by indigenous labor or imported labor
    • availability of cheap water transportation downstream
    • contract labor from India or China common due to subsistence commitments of indigenous farmers
    • rubber plantations- Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand
    • oil palm and coconut plantations- Malaysia, Philippines, and Indonesia
    • tea plantations in highlands of Indonesia
Legacy of the Cold War
    • states of Southeast Asia drawn into the cold war from the 50’s through the 70’s
    • French Indochina War until 1954
    • US hostile to colonialism but aided the French to reestablish control in French Indochina to prevent the Communists from coming to power.
    • Ho Chi Minh extremely popular, nationalist patriot and Communist built a movement to expel the French and obtain independence.
    • US picked up the torch and continued war in Vietnam until 1973 when the costs became too high
insurgencies in Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines
  • non-aligned governments in Cambodia, Burma, and Indonesia
  • US very hostile towards “neutrals” like Norodom Sihanouk in Cambodia and Sukarno in Indonesia
  • abortive Communist coup in Indonesia results in the Indonesian military coming to power. Much more pro-West
  • lack of reform in the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos, wide gaps between rich and poor, Filipino democracy subverted by Marcos, rich established families controlled politics of country
communal problems between Chinese and Malays in Malaysia; ethnic tensions threaten to come unglued
  • Sihanouk overthrown by military coup supported by the US
  • popular monarch replaced by unpopular military general
  • Pol Pot and Khmer Rouge succeed in establishing brutal communist dictatorship in Cambodia. Mass murder of educated intellectuals; gross human rights violations. “Killing Fields”
  • Thailand most stable government in region with a popular king a figurehead and military/civilian government in charge of country
Economic Development
    • several Southeast Asian have made substantial economic progress since 1960;s
    • Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and Philippines have good economic growth rates with rising incomes
    • Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Vietnam have lagged behind the rest of the countries of the region.
    • recently Vietnam opening the country up to market forces, foreign investment, development of a thriving business community.
    • occupies the heart of mainland Southeast Asia
    • formerly known as Siam until 1939; name Thailand means “land of the free”
    • Thailand centered in delta of Chao Praya (Menam) River
    • Bangkok (5.5 mil) is a primate city serves as the capital and major port for country; Chengmai, (170K) main city in north
    • Korat plateau in northeast Thailand has been historically depressed, a poor area, inhabited by hill tribes
Karens, a hill tribe people, related by Cambodians and Laotians found in Korat and Northwest Thailand and Burma;
  • southern Thailand near Kra Isthmus inhabited by Malays
  • 95% of Thailand’s population practice Buddhism; most men become monks for a period in their life
  • Siam traditionally ruled by strong absolute monarchs (Anna and the King of Siam by Margaret Landon adapted for the musical The King and I)
  • in modern period, the Thai king has become the symbolic head of the government with no power
King Bhomipol universally revered and loved by the people; subtle and important influence on the government
  • Siam was historically a buffer between British and French colonial rule; preserved their independence by adroit diplomacy
  • WW II, Siam allowed Japanese army to transit the country, collaborated with the Japanese until the end of the war a “Free Thai” movement took power, approached the US for recognition and avoided retaliation for their collaboration with the Japanese during WW II
  • Golden Triangle in NW was major source of opium
6 million Chinese influential in economic affairs, control much of the economy
  • Chinese in Thailand are very assimilated into social structure unlike Chinese in other SE Asian countries
  • guerrilla warfare in 1960’s and 1970’s successfully suppressed with US economic assistance
  • healthy agricultural sector of the economy growing rice, tropical fruits, seafood for export, canned products
  • service sectors stimulated by US military presence during Vietnam War years, especially bars, brothels, and other forms of “entertainment”
export based manufacturing doing well
  • thriving Thai stock market with publicly traded companies
  • construction boom from 70’s through 90’s
  • friendly business environment for investors
  • good economic growth of 5-8% per year
  • severe ecological problems specially in Bangkok where canals (klongs) are polluted; car traffic stifling, traffic jams horrible
  • klongs crowed; transport by fast motorized Thai canoes
Asian economic flu adversely affecting Thailand with the Thai bhat falling 50% in value
  • banking failures, rising unemployment, cut in the Thai standard of living; hard times today
  • IMF mounting a rescue effort to bail Thailand out of its economic problems
  • Thailand is a strong supporter of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)
  • economy should snap back soon and resume its positive course
  • political problems with mild corruption and ineffective civilian/military leaders
    • spatially fragmented state with a dense population on the western coast and a sparse population in Sarawak and Sabah
    • original Federation of Malaysia included Singapore, but fears of ethnic domination by Chinese led to separation of Singapore from the federation in 1965
    • multiethnic population in Malaysia with 60% ethnic Malays; 30% Chinese; and 10% Indian
    • Chinese and Indians disproportionally found in business and commerce
Malays control the government of the country
  • Penang (Pinang), a Chinese city in West Malaysia is the Silicon Island of the country with major investments by large MNC’s like Intel, HP, Sony, Panasonic, etc.
  • Malaysian economy traditionally dependent on tin and rubber plantations; palm oil and copra also important agricultural products
  • area between Penang and Malaka was heartland for tin and rubber production
  • Malaka was major port for British during colonial period: ideal location in shipping lanes
Kuala Lumpur (KL) centrally located to serve as capital and commercial center of country
  • KL is a modern city with skyscrapers, luxury shopping, upscale business, and financial institutions
  • tropical hardwoods (especially teak) produced in Sarawak and Sabah
  • Malaysia is an Islamic country, but practices toleration of other faiths.
  • Malaysia has democratic parliamentary form of government based on British model; fundamental freedoms of speech, press, assembly protected
Malaysia has historically been well governed
  • Malaysia is a strong supporter of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) dedicated to promoting trade among countries of region
  • Malaysia has a strong, vibrant economy with expanding per capita incomes for the people.
    • Singapore is a distinctive country because it’s a city state of only 240 sq. miles
    • only nation where Chinese constitute a majority of the population (90% Chinese city)
    • throughout colonial period, Singapore functioned as a major trading entrepot for regional maritime trade
    • historically functions as a leading transshipment and processing center for Malay peninsula and Dutch East Indies
    • in 1990, Singapore surpassed Hong Kong as busiest container port in world
island generate substantial manufacturing exports around the world
  • by values most important exports include machinery and transport equipment; basic manufactures, such as textile yarn, fabric, iron, and steel; miscellaneous manufactured articles; petroleum and petroleum products; and food and live animals.
  • The country's major exports are machinery and transportation equipment and refined petroleum products.
  • also functions as global maritime center for financial services, banking, insurance, communications, consulting services
serves as a regional center for multinational corporations dealing with Asia
  • assembles high tech products and electronic products
  • world’s largest producer of data storage units for major computer firms in US, Japan, and Asia
  • politically, Singapore among the most stable democracies in world with outstanding political leadership
  • planning for the 21st century with a computer network that will connect whole country
Lee Kuan Yew, PM from 1959-1990 to responsible for much of Singapore’s success
  • Singapore one of the best functioning and cleanest cities of the world. Even public housing is attractive
  • heavy fines for anti-social behavior, no eating on public transportation, heavy fines for failing to flush toilets, high taxes to drive a car in central business area
  • Singapore benefited from fears over Hong Kong’s return to China.
  • per capital income of $26K for Singapore residents
    • large archipelago stretching 3,000 miles
    • Indonesia one of the world's largest populated states with over 200 million people
    • six major islands constitute state of Indonesia- Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi, Kalimantan, Maluku, and Irian Jaya
    • smaller islands of Bali and East Timor also important
    • formerly ruled by the Dutch until 1949 when Indonesia fought a bloody conflict with the Netherlands for independence
national motto is Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity)
  • diverse population of many cultures, languages, religions, and ethnic groups
  • 87% of the population are Muslims but many are nominal Muslims
  • regional problems have created problems for the central government, i.e. Outer islands vs. Java and problem of East Timor, a former Portuguese colonial taken over militarily by the Indonesian military in 1975-76. Gross human rights violations
  • problems of political stability, liberal democracy through 1959, Guided Democracy under Sukarno, then New Order Democracy under Suharto
Suharto former high-ranking general who assumed power in 1965 after an abortive communist coup
  • Suharto opened Indonesia to Western influence and foreign multinational investment
  • oil industry boomed in 1970’s under Pertamina, Indonesian National Oil Company
  • boom in timber industry, Indonesian hardwoods valuable but with great ecological destruction and loss of habitat for endangered species like orangutans
  • host of state-owned or joint stock companies have produced great economic growth in export orientated businesses
major opportunities for corruption and get rich quick schemes
  • Madam Tien Suharto, “Ms. Ten Percent”
  • transmigration policies to encourage movement to outer island
  • impact of the Green Revolution on Indonesia rice farming very positive
  • current political and economic problems, the Asian flu, poor Indonesian reaction to crisis, protests for political change by students/ intellectuals
  • Chinese as the “escape goat” for Indonesian economic problems
Political instability in Indonesia today, separatist movements, Aceh, Maluku, Papua
  • Suharto stepped down as President in 1998
  • B.J Habibie, a close associate of Suharto took over reigns of power as a transitional leader
  • In the 1999 elections, Abdurrahman Wahid was elected President of the Republic of Indonesia; in 2002 Megawati Sukarnoputri, Sukarno’s daughter elected President; 2005 Susilo Bambang Yudhoyorno
  • Need for political and economic reform
major economic problems in aftermath of Asian flu, i.e. runaway inflation, currency devaluation
  • continued high unemployment and high foreign debts
  • problems with terrorism in aftermath of Bali bombings, attack on Marriot Hotel, etc.
  • impact on tourism and foreign investment
  • 2005 Tsunami in Banda Aceh