Contesting the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ in Southeast Asia: Rejection or Normative Resistance?

Abstract

This article explores the engagement of Southeast Asian states with the Responsibility to Protect principle (R2P) in relation to the Rohingya in Myanmar and the ‘war on drugs’ in the Philippines. It finds a form of contestation based upon subsidiary principles and local interests in which states have offered normative resistance to international scrutiny in order to justify their limited response to the atrocities. Elite stakeholders have emphasised that asean already has principles and frameworks to address abuses – which reflect the historical experience, social context, and political culture of the region – in order to support their resistance to R2P. While existing debates about the R2P principle in Southeast Asia tend to be oriented around the opposing poles of incremental adaptation and adoption versus outright rejection, our conclusion is distinct: R2P is consciously contested in Southeast Asia on normative grounds which must be understood in the context of the region

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