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Without Account: State Violence, Law, and Impunity in Southeast Asia

Sat, April 2, 3:00 to 5:00pm, Washington State Convention Center, Floor: 2nd Floor, Room 214

Session Submission Type: Organized Panel


During the last ten years, revocations of amnesties, prosecutions, and processes of democratization in parts of Latin America, Africa, and Europe have led to symbolic and actual holding to account of both leaders of former dictatorships and rank-and-file perpetrators of state violence. Yet attempts to do so across Southeast Asia have remained stalled. Instead, impunity, or the impossibility of bringing state officials to account, reigns. Impunity is routinized and institutionalized over time as cases are repeatedly dismissed by judges, attempts to challenge amnesties are met with threats by perpetrators, and survivors who dare to call for accountability face intimidation. Like the production of impunity itself, its effects are felt from the level of the individual, where those who lives are already marginal are made even more insecure, to the level of the nation, where transitions to and consolidation of democracy are deferred each time perpetrators are not held to account.

This panel begins from the premise that the dominance of impunity in Southeast Asia has led to a lack of attention by scholars to the legal, political, and historical processes that produce it. Grounded in case studies across Southeast Asia, the papers trace how and why state officials get away with murder, torture, disappearance and other violent crimes and analyze the modes and effects of impunity in Myanmar, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Then, through discussion among the panel members and with the audience, the panel aims to comparatively outline what might be necessary to end impunity’s reign in the region.

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