Asia’s democratic regression fuels rise of Islamist militants



Today, few people are touting democracy in Southeast Asia as an example of political freedoms, notes Council on Foreign Relations analyst Joshua Kurlantzick. In Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, and other countries in the region, a lack of political freedom has been probably the biggest driver of militancy, he writes:

Once touted as a democratic beacon for other developing regions, since the late 2000s, much of Southeast Asia has witnessed a democratic retrenchment. …..Of course, the extremism that has bloomed in Southeast Asia from failed democratization does not only entail Islamism. Southeast Asia’s failed democratization has sparked many forms of extremist groups, all of which pay little heed to legal, constitutional means of resolving political conflicts….

“Terrorist attacks are always a possibility in Indonesia, even if the government has shifted public opinion against Islamists and destroyed many militant cells,” Kurlantzick notes. “Yet Indonesia’s open society has helped inoculate the country against the possibility that militant groups inspired by the Islamic State will gain large numbers of followers.”


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