EVENT [RESOURCES]: The Mekong Drought: Impact and Solutions [Bangkok, 2 August 2019]


On August 2, 2019, Center for Social Development Studies co-organized a panel discussion on “The Mekong Drought: Impact and Solutions". The discussion is organized as part of the 8th Chula ASEAN Week and 5th Parliementaty ASEAN Community Forum.

The discussion explored how the Lancang-Mekong basin is currently facing a severe drought, with serious consequences for communities living within the basin. The drought takes place in the context of increasingly extensive hydropower dam construction in the basin on the mainstream and tributaries. These projects have expanded water storage capacity that could potentially alleviate drought, but have also impacted the natural hydrology and ecology of the river with a range of negative consequences for existing riparian livelihoods. Meanwhile, intergovernmental cooperation towards the Lancang-Mekong River is evolving with the launch of the Lancang Mekong Cooperation in 2016 alongside the existing Mekong River Commission. The panel discussed the impact of the drought currently affecting the Mekong River basin, including on rural farming and fishing communities, its causes, and the immediate and long-term solutions.

Chaiwat Parakhun as representative of the Thai Mekong Network shared some pictures to illustrate the severity of the droughts:

He also shared some pictures of the area before the drought, to provide contrast:

Other three speakers participated in the event; Niwat Roykaew from Rak Chiang Khong, Suphakit Nuntavorakarn from Healthy Public Policy Foundation and Dr. Carl Middleton from Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University. Also joining as chair was Emeritus Professor Surichai Wun’gaeo from Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Chulalongkorn University.

If you missed the event, you can get some of the presentations below:

You can also access the Facebook Live feed of the event below:

EVENT [RESOURCES]: Mega dams, sand mining and renewable energy: Navigating a new course for the mighty rivers of Southeast Asia [Bangkok, 12 June 2019]

Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand

Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand

On Wednesday, 12th June 2019, Carl Middleton from Center for Social Development Studies, was one of presenters on the panel discussion held in Foreign Correspondent Club of Thailand (FCCT), titled “Mega dams, sand mining and renewable energy: Navigating a new course for the mighty rivers of Southeast Asia”. Carl talked about the future relationship between the Mekong River Commission (MRC) and the Lancang Mekong Cooperation (LMC)

Other panelists on the event include:

  • Dr. Leonie Pearson, senior research fellow, Water for Stockholm Environment Institute: A renowned ecological economist and expert in sustainable development, landscape water management, livelihood policy and urban-rural integrated assessments.

  • Marc Goichot, WWF-Greater Mekong Water Lead, who has spent two decades in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Laos working on water stewardship, hydropower, disaster risk reduction and climate change.

  • Rina Chandran, land and property rights correspondent, Thomson Reuters Foundation and a former business journalist in India, Singapore and New York with Reuters News, Bloomberg and the Financial Times.

You can watch the video of the event below.

EVENT [RESOURCES]: CU Graduate Student Seminar Series 'The Water-Food-Energy Nexus' [Bangkok, 21 May 2019]


The inaugural interdisciplinary seminar highlighted ongoing graduate student research related to the water-food-energy nexus. Students presented cross-cutting research in the areas of political ecology of water, bioenergy, agriculture, and the politics of water allocation in Southeast Asia.


  • "A political ecology of Bangkok waters: the institutional interplay between subsidence, floods and water infrastructures" by Thanawat Bremard, ABIES, AgroParisTech, France

    Bangkok’s position in the Chao Phraya River delta confronts it to the risks of flooding from three fronts: local rainfall, the tidal cycle of the Gulf of Thailand and the cumulated waters from upstream during rainy season. As the urbanisation of the capital progressed, the city left its aquatic nature to adopt a terrestrial paradigm of development focusing on roads, polderisation and infrastructures that keep the city dry from the floods. The flooding vulnerability of Bangkok is further enhanced by the subsidence caused by groundwater over-extraction and building weight. The research, at the confluence of urban political ecology, historical geography and institutional analysis, aims to study the leeway, conflicts and interests between varying organisations dealing with flooding and subsidence risks. The thesis will focus on the underlying trade-offs and the fragmentation of policies and institutions regarding the management of the various waters of Bangkok by looking into how the situation evolved since the 2011 great floods and the efforts to limit subsidence by controlling the usage of groundwater within Bangkok and its vicinity.

    Download the presentation here.

  • "Alternative approaches toward agriculture and energy nexus thinking: historical, geographical and political processes of socio-‘techno’-nature interactions" by Hiromi Inagaki, Department of Geography, National University of Singapore

  • "The politics of water policy making process in Indonesia" by Tanaporn Nithiprit, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

  • "Industrialization and water quality in Rayong Province, Thailand: are international, national and local water management strategies complimentary or contesting?" by Wipawadee Panyangnoi, GRID Program, Chulalongkorn University

    How is water allocated, who benefits, and who is impacted by the cycle of Thailand’s industrialization?

    Download the presentation here.


  • Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology

  • Dr. Takeshi Ito, Graduate Program in Global Studies, Sophia University, Japan

Join your fellow graduate students for an engaging exchange of ideas in a relaxed atmosphere! To be updated about the next events, you can follow the CU Graduate Student Seminar Series Facebook Page here.


EVENT [RESOURCES]: Book Launch 'The Water-Food-Energy Nexus' [Bangkok, 21 May 2019]


Presentation can be accessed here. For more information about the book, as well as open access chapter and where to get it, please visit the link here.


  • Dipak Gyawali, Nepal Academy of Science and Technology

  • Jeremy Allouche, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex (by Skype)

  • Carl Middleton, Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University


  • Dr. Takeshi Ito, Graduate Program in Global Studies, Sophia University

  • Dr. Supawan Visetnoi, Chulalongkorn University School of Agricultural Resources (CUSAR)


  • Dr. Kasira Cheeppensook, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

Video feed from the discussion:

EVENT [REPORT]: Research Forum on Powering up Sustainable Development for Asia: The Future of Global and Regional Investment in Asia’s Energy Sector [Bangkok, 25 January 2019]

On 25 January 2019, Center for Social Development Studies together with Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V. and Chatham House co-organized a Research Forum on “Powering up Sustainable Development for Asia: The Future of Global and Regional Investment in Asia’s Energy Sector”, which was held in Chulalongkorn University. For more information about this forum, please visit the link here.

Picture © Konrad adenauer stiftung 2019

Picture © Konrad adenauer stiftung 2019

You can read the report from the event here.

To read more about the findings from the event, please read the excerpt and visit the link below for an article by one of our co-organizers, Sam Geall from Chatham House.

Asia’s cryosphere, the vast stores of frozen water in the high mountains that feed the rivers on which some 1.3 billion people depend, is warming far faster than average, an expert assessment warned recently, adding that two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers could disappear by the end of the century.

This and other warning signs make clear the need for a sustainable energy transition in Asia, not only given the urgency of mitigating climate change, but also because renewable energy technologies can help to provide cheap and reliable energy to areas where grid-based provision is unreliable or otherwise prohibited by geography or high costs.

A green transformation, if done right, can address poverty reduction goals and improve health and environmental quality. But achieving this requires rethinking many assumptions about the current system that generates and distributes electricity, and its interconnections with a genuinely sustainable society.

Read more at this link here.

EVENT [REPORT]: Disaster and Displacement - A Human Rights Perspective [Bangkok, 28-29 November 2018]


On 29 November 2018, the Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS) hosted a workshop led and coordinated by our partner the Raoul Wallenberg Institute, to discuss about disaster and displacement in Asia Pacific. The discussion is part of a ten-country study on a range of types of disaster and displacement scenarios understood through a human rights perspective. The overall study examines how state actors fulfill their obligations to prevent displacement, conduct evacuation, protect people during displacement, and facilitate durable solutions in the aftermath. Aspects of the ongoing research were presented during the workshop by the researchers involved.

Regarding the prevention of displacement, the experience of Thailand and the Philippines were shared. For Thailand, Dr. Carl Middleton from Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS), Chulalongkorn University, presented on the 'Hat Yai Model', which is an effort to develop ‘soft infrastructure’ in the form of improved flood warning, and the strengthening of local government, community, civil society and local business capacity and collaboration to live with floods over the several days when it occurs. While it still has room for improvement, the researchers propose that the ‘Hat Yai Model’ as a preventative measure should be widely promoted in Thailand and beyond as a means to promote constructive state and non-state cooperation, enhance community empowerment and awareness, as well as to reduce the community’s vulnerability to flood disaster. Ryan Jeremiah D. Quan from Ateneo de Manila University School of Law presented the research on displacement prevention effort in the Philippines, particularly during the Typhoon Haiyan, which revealed that even though there is a disaster prevention system in place, there is a gap between the guidelines that are implemented by the government agencies on the national and provincial level and the experience and needs of the local government personnel in the field.


The studies from Indonesia and Vanuatu provided insights about the evacuation process, especially for vulnerable groups. The study on Indonesia was presented by Andika Putra from ASEAN Studies Center, Universitas Gadjah Mada (UGM). The study, which focused on recurrent eruptions of Mount Sinabung and how it affected persons with disabilities, revealed how the disaster management system and the rights of persons with disabilities are managed under two different legal frameworks, which are yet to be synchronized at both national and local level. It is also noted that when the government doesn't present itself, non-government actors such as religious groups played an important role in supporting people with disability.

Lack of representation from vulnerable groups was also found in the case of Vanuatu, which was struck by Cyclone Pam in 2015. Tess Van Geelen in her presentation showed how there is no permanent position within government institution to consistently represent these groups. Such a condition led to the lack of protection provisions in government policies and effective approach in responding to disasters. International assistance has supported the development of many exemplary protection policies, however, the government staff is presently not equipped with the skill to implement the protection policies.

In terms of protection of affected people during disaster, researchers looked at the experience from the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, and flooding in Bangladesh and Cambodia. The study in Nepal by Dr. Bala Raju Nikku highlighted the limited access to basic necessities and services, as well as mental health issues that became very common among displaced persons. Currently, there is limited capacity in the government to address this issue, and therefore mental health issue is not included in the protection planning. In the future, the researcher argued that it is very important to psychosocial assistance as the first aid for people facing the issue of displacement, especially for vulnerable groups such as women, children, and persons with disabilities.

The displacement scenario was revealed to be different in Bangladesh. MD Abdul Awal Khan from the Law Department of Independent University, Bangladesh, said on his presentation that currently there is no systemic plan on displacement organized by the government, causing people to move haphazardly. There is an existing policy with statutory provisions regarding disaster management, but the lack of implementation mechanism and strategies made it inadequate to mitigate when disaster happens. The lack of coordination between concerned government agencies is particularly affecting persons with disabilities, because there is no existing plan to handle such situation.


Ratana Ly from Cambodia on her research examined how people who live with annual flooding experience displacement. People in area that flood has been living there for generations; they are tied to the land and are unwilling to move away to other areas, even though disaster may happen every year. From the Cambodia research, it was shown that disaster management-related policies need to address the local knowledge, so that policy can reflect local values.

The final two studies presented were on China and Myanmar examining durable solutions to the aforementioned issues. In China, Tang Yixia found on her research that the legal framework for disaster relief had encompassed various aspects from the prevention measures before disasters, emergency rescue measures at the time of disasters, coping strategies after disasters, as well as incorporating special provisions on the rights of women and minors. However, in implementation, human rights and gender perspective are still being left behind, which makes the protection of displaced persons’ rights not fully effective.

Myanmar, which has ratified various international human rights treaties, also has existing national laws and policies which promote protection of the human rights of displaced persons in the context of disaster. Prof. Dr. Khin Chit Chit of Yangon University revealed in her presentation that there is even a provision within the national law that require the government to prioritize children, women, and persons with disabilities. However, a more detailed regulation is needed to ensure that the government has a long-term plan to manage risks within these vulnerable groups. Harmonization between the disaster management laws with other related laws is also needed to ensure the substantial protection.

The feedback gathered during the consultation workshop, with valuable inputs from international organisations and experts in regards to internally displaced persons in the context of disaster, will be incorporated into these ongoing studies, will be incorporated into the finalization of the research projects.

For the research in Thailand and about the wider project, please visit our project page here, for updates.


EVENT [REPORT]: Policy Forum on Resource Politics and the Public Sphere In Southeast Asia: Deliberation, Accountability and Alternatives [Bangkok, 13 December 2018]

In Southeast Asia, access to resources, ranging from land and water, to clean air and energy, are central to livelihoods and wellbeing. The distribution of access to resources reflect state policies and societal values, as well as the inclusiveness and accountability of decision-making processes that link them together and result in their translation into practice. The public sphere is the arena where state policies and societal values interact and are debated, including on potentially contested issues such as access to resources. It includes public venues, and via the mass media and social media.

Civil, political and media freedoms are necessary for a vibrant public sphere, but they are increasingly challenged in Southeast Asia, and in practice accountability occurs only in part. Opportunities to utilize the public sphere for accountability and exploring alternatives vary across Southeast Asia due to diverse political and legal systems. It is important to reflect on the implications of these trends, and explore established and new opportunities to maintain an active public sphere for deliberating public policies and societal values, ensuring accountable decision-making and debating alternative development visions.

To address the challenge and opportunities of the public sphere in Southeast Asia, on 13 December 2018 the Center for Social Development Studies co-organized a policy forum together with the Foundation for Community Educational Media (FCEM), and Heinrich Boell Stiftung (HBS) Southeast Asia Office. Civil society, academics, journalists, lawyers, and other stakeholders joined the event at the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University to discuss the trends, opportunities and challenges of the public sphere for ensuring fair resource politics in Southeast Asia.


The Deputy Dean for Research Affairs of the Faculty of Political Science, Asst. Prof. Dr. Pandit Chanrojanakit, welcomed the participants by highlighting the importance of these kinds of discussions to explore the alternative ways of maintaining public participation in the continuously shrinking civic space in Southeast Asia. He also highlighted the main questions that the policy forum should address, namely: the role of civil society, government and business; an evaluation of the opportunities and challenges in local, national and transnational laws; and the role of mass media and social media.

HBS141218 (3).jpeg

The first session, moderated by Jakkrit Sangkamanee from the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, explored the trends, opportunities, and challenges related to resource politics and the public sphere in Southeast Asia. Naruemon Thabchumpon from the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, reflected on how the public sphere has shaped Thailand’s resource politics. She explained on how democracy has evolved in Thailand with a shrinking public sphere and raised the important question of how civil society movements can respond to these challenges. Asfinawati, the Executive Director of Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), talked about the difficulties organizations in Indonesia are facing due to existing and new laws - such as the blasphemy law and the electronic information and transaction law – that is narrowing the civic space, but she also highlighted the opportunities and strategies of local and traditional communities movements that are occurring across Indonesia.  Benjamin Tay, the President of the People’s Movement to Stop Haze (PM Haze), reflected on Singapore’s experience of haze, explaining the impacts of the haze to Singaporean people’s livelihoods and highlighting the importance of community engagement both locally and across borders, as well as raising public awareness through the media. Mong Palatino, the Southeast Asia Regional Director of GlobalVoices, raised the situations of grave concern in the Philippines, particularly for environmental defenders with the targeted killings and surge of violence towards them. He noted how it has also led to a disturbing trend in the region on impunity and silencing the media.


The second session, moderated by Chantana Banpasirichote from the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, discussed transboundary accountability mechanisms and the public sphere. Eang Vuthy, the Executive Director of Equitable Cambodia, shared lessons learned from civil society in Cambodia on land issues, demonstrating how it is possible to transform community-company land conflicts through dialogue, but it is also necessary to empower communities so that they can participate effectively in the process. Premrudee Daoroung from Project Sevana Southeast Asia/Lao Dam Investment Monitor discussed about hydropower projects in Lao and how existing mechanisms in Laos has supported the expansion of the dam business, whilst not ensuring project developer’s accountability. Carl Middleton from the Center for Social Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University, explored hard-law and soft-law transnational accountability mechanisms and the public sphere in Southeast Asia. He argued that transnational public spheres are created, affirmed and reinforced only through the actions of affected communities, civil society groups, and allied individuals. Commissioner Edmund Bon, Malaysia Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, discussed about the right to development and how it could facilitate public opinion and create the public sphere.


The third session, moderated by Chiranuch Premchaiporn from the Foundation for Community Educational Media (FCEM), discussed the role of public spaces, mass media and social media in protecting the local commons and community livelihoods. Tran Vi from the Legal Initiatives for Vietnam presented an overview of the impacts of industrial pollution caused by Formosa, a Taiwanese company, that affected Vietnam in 2016. She explained the history and ongoing efforts of civil society, including how Vietnamese and Taiwanese groups have collaborated to assist people in affected areas. Mokh Sobirin, the Executive Director of Desantara Foundation and from the Kendeng Movement in Indonesia, demonstrated how the momentum of local people’s movements, when supported by the urban middle class, can be a vital element for democratization and ensuring an active public sphere in the case of natural resources management in Indonesia. Tay Zar Myo Win, an independent researcher and previously a MAIDS student at Chulalongkorn University, shared lessons from electricity planning in Dawei City, Myanmar. He  concluded that the public sphere can contribute towards the accountability of the government by allowing civil society and the people to communicate with and hold accountable the government even in hybrid governance regimes that are not fully democratic. Vincy Usun from Baram Kini reflected on the anti-dam protest movement in Baram, Serawak, and how the civil society movement was successful in their efforts to stop the Baram Dam with their people’s movement, blockades, talk sessions in the cities, and dialogues sessions between professionals.


The last session, moderated by Srijula Yongstar from Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia Regional Office explored the alternative spaces for counter discourses. Kyi Phyo from Mekong Energy and Ecology Network (MEENet) and Aung Myint Tun from Green Rights Organization presented the successful example of how communities and civil society had managed energy, water and forest resources in Danu self-administrative area in Southern Shan, Myanmar at the local level. Charoenkwan Chuntarawichit, a youth member from the Southern Peasants Federation of Thailand (SPFT), discussed about access to land and livelihoods in Southern Thailand, comparing the land allocation for Special Economic Zone versus arable land.  Toshi Doi, a Senior Advisor from Mekong Watch, drew lessons from his recent research on Laos’ dominant development narrative that emphasizes on large hydropower dam construction, in contrast to how communities provide alternatives to the dominant narratives through local stories. Lastly, Kirsten Han from New Naratif shared about this new online multi-media platform that aims to provide an alternative media analysis of what is happening regionally in Southeast Asia, and to bring important issues from each country to the attention of regional readers.

For the closing remarks, Mr. Manfred Hornung from Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia, emphasized the importance of protecting the multiple public spaces where different approaches to development can be deliberated and tested, whilst not viewing these different approaches as ‘alternatives’ as that could reduce their perceived value but rather seeing them as viable replacements for the current mainstream development. He acknowledge that there is a shrinking space that can limit the freedom of expression, even though the public space at large should be the space for anyone to express their opinion. Naruemon Thabchumpon from the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University ended the forum with a story of how she was inspired by the committed spirit of two women activists who passed away recently, highlighting that in the matter of public sphere, it’s not about waiting for those in authority to grant public space, but how communities and civil society can create these spaces as well. Appreciating that many people had attended the policy forum and actively participated, she shared her optimism that people in Southeast Asia still and will continue to protect spaces to voice their opinions on things that matter to their societies.

The presentations from this public forum can be accessed here. All of the sessions were broadcast on Facebook Live and can also be viewed on the above link.

EVENT [RESOURCES]: Policy Forum on Resource Politics and the Public Sphere In Southeast Asia: Deliberation, Accountability and Alternatives [Bangkok, 13 December 2018]


Program and List of Panelists:

08.15 - 09.00  Registration

09.00 - 09.15  Welcome remarks by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pandit Chanrojanakit, Deputy Dean for Research Department, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

09.15 - 10.30  Panel 1: Resource Politics and the Public Sphere in Southeast Asia: Trends, Opportunities, Challenges

Chair: Jakkrit Sangkamanee, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

10.30 - 11.00  Coffee break

11.00 - 12.30  Panel 2: Transboundary accountability mechanisms and the public sphere

Chair: Chantana Banpasirichote Wungaeo, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

12.30 - 13.30  Lunch

13.30 - 15.00  Panel 3: Protecting local commons and community livelihoods: Role of public spaces, mass media and social media

Chair: Chiranuch Premchaiporn, Foundation for Community Educational Media

15.00 - 15.30 Coffee Break

15.30 - 16.45 Panel 4: Deliberating alternatives: Spaces for counter discourses

Chair: Srijula Yongstar, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia Regional Office

16.45 - 17.00  Closing Reflections

  • Mr. Manfred Hornung, Director, Heinrich Böll Stiftung Southeast Asia Regional Office

  • Professor Surichai Wun’gaeo, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Chulalongkorn University

EVENT [RESOURCES]: Book Launch "Dead in the Water: Global Lessons from the World Bank's Model Hydropower Project in Laos" [Bangkok, 19 October 2018]


Program and List of Panelists

Moderated by Kasira Cheeppensook (Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University)


EVENT [RESOURCES]: Understanding the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework and China’s role in the Mekong Region [Bangkok, 3 September 2018]


Program and List of Panelists:

08.15 - 09.00  Registration

09.00 - 09.15  Welcome remarks by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Ake Tangsupvattana, Dean of Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

09.15 - 10.45  Session 1: The Belt and Road Initiative:  Geopolitical implications for Asia

Moderator: Asst. Prof. Dr. Carl Middleton, Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

  • 'Geopolitics and Geoeconomics of the Belt and Road Initiative' by Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak, Institute of Security and International Studies (ISIS), Chulalongkorn University

  • 'The Belt and Road Initiative: A Perspective from China' by Mr. Li Hong,Permanent Mission of the People's Republic of China to the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (UNESCAP)

  • 'What does the Belt and Road Initiative mean for US-Thailand relations?' by Benjamin Zawacki, Independent Analyst

  • 'Debt Diplomacy?: The experience of Sri Lanka' by Amantha Perera, Journalist

10.45 - 11.15  Coffee break

11.15 - 12.45  Session 2: Transboundary Water Cooperation – Progress and Challenges

Moderator: Dr. Ukrist Pathmanand, Mekong Research Center, Institute of Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University  

12.45 - 13.30  Lunch

13.30 - 14.45  Session 3: Rise of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Framework: Emerging cooperation issues

Moderator: Kamol Sukin, China Dialogue

14.45 - 15.15  Coffee Break

15.15 - 16.45  Session 4: Reporting on the Mekong and China’s role: Trends, challenges and successes for Southeast Asia’s media

Moderator: Sim Kok Eng Amy, Earth Journalism Network

16.45 - 17.00  Closing Reflections

  • Dr. Sam Geall, China Dialogue

  • Professor Surichai Wun’gaeo, Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, Chulalongkorn University

WORKSHOP: "Utilizing Storytelling and Innovative Social Media Strategies to Help Researchers Reach the Public"

"Utilizing Storytelling and Innovative Social Media Strategies to Help Researchers Reach the Public"

Comms training

Ahead of the first annual Social and Sustainability Science in ASEAN: "Agri-Food Systems, Rural Sustainability and Socioeconomic Transformations in South-east Asia," the Center for Social Development Studies (CSDS) and the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) held a special training workshop for interested participants of the conference to build their communications capacity, particularly using social media platforms and unique storytelling to reach wider audiences both online and in-person. The workshop convened on the afternoon of Monday, 22 January, 2018 and was attended by participants from around the region and beyond. Bobby Irven of CSDS and Anneli Sundin of SEI created and conducted the two hour session.*

The workshop began by going over the basics and setup for utilizing the social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to present research in the forms of multimedia and engaging copy to reach audiences beyond the traditional academic spheres. Actioning the recommendations and implications of scientific research was the theme of this workshop, so practical applications as they relate to social media were the focal point of this section.. The discussion then moved onto the topic of storytelling and how mastering this age-old communications strategy can actually be very effective for researchers to better engage audiences and create buildup and excitement around their various projects. Attendees were challenged to begin putting these techniques immediately into practice, with ample opportunities to begin blogging and tweeting about the conference and beyond.


*Full presentation and materials from training will be available to public in one weeks time.

For more information on the content, please visit the original announcement page

EVENT: The Political Economy of New Authoritarianism in Southeast Asia

Session organized at the 10th International Convention of Asian Scholars

11:30-13:15, 22nd July 2017, Chiang Mai International Exhibition and Convention Center

Session convened by the Center for Social Development Studies, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University

Political authoritarianism is strengthening across Southeast Asia, mirroring a noted trend globally. This panel explored the politics, processes, and implications of the (re)assertion of authoritarianism, focusing on its political-economic regimes, but also including its ideologies and discourses. The panel engaged in a long-standing debate that globalisation and economic liberalism goes hand in hand with liberalisation and democratization in the political sphere. This association goes back to Lipset’s Modernisation Theory. Refuted by many and of fading interest by the 1970s, it came back into fashion in the 1990s with the spread of neoliberal capitalism and the so-called “third wave” of democratization.

The recent rise of authoritarian regimes in Southeast Asia and globally seems to be a sustained trend that may be connected to economic projects associated with a specific stage of capitalist development (crisis driven late capitalism), and that also mirror the interests of the elite in power. This can be analysed through what Poulantzas, in the 1970s, called authoritarian statism, whereby a growing role of the state seeks to ensure economic growth under conditions of capitalist crisis tendencies.

In this panel, we situated the new authoritarianism of contemporary Southeast Asia within a post-Washington and post-aid era of globalization. The region’s new authoritarianism builds upon legacies of past authoritarianism, in particular the various guises of developmental states - both capitalist and socialist - since the 1950s. Even if authoritarian statism receded in the 1990s and 2000s, it never fully ended. Now, the region is increasingly under the political and economic sway of China, but also subject to intensified attention of the United States. Some countries have visibly becoming more authoritarian in recent years, including by military coup (Thailand) or strong-handed leaders (the Philippines; Cambodia), whilst others apparently less so, in particular Myanmar.  Vietnam and Laos, meanwhile, have stated themselves as socialist-orientated market economies. Trends towards regional economic integration, market expansion and intensification, meanwhile, add a regional-scaled dynamic to political authoritarianism.

The panel sought to address the following conceptual and empirical questions:

  • How can we conceptualize the connection between the trend of authoritarianism and the current state of capitalist development in Southeast Asia?

  • What are the characteristics of the authoritarian states in Southeast Asia? What economic models of development are being proposed by these states?

  • What are the implications for civil society, social movements, democracy and human rights?

The following papers were presented :

  • The One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative and its influence on the political situation of China's neighbouring countries, by Dr. Wolfram Schaffar, University of Vienna

  • Thailand 4.0: the Rise of Neo-authoritarian Developmental State, by Dr. Naruemon Thabchumpon, Chulalongkorn University

  • 'Ephemeral transnational' and 'authoritarian domestic' public spheres in Laos hydropower dams, Dr. Carl Middleton, Chulalongkorn University

  • Authoritarian development, frontier capitalism and indigenous counter-movements in Myanmar Rainer Einzenberger, University of Vienna

The panel was chaired by Dr. Chantana Banpasirichote Wungaeo of Chulalongkorn University.

The papers presented on the panel are part of a forthcoming Special Issue to be published in the Austrian Journal of Southeast Asia Studies in mid-2018.

EVENT: Salween Local Research Exhibition at Thai Studies Conference

Local researchers from villages along the Salween River, which flows through Myanmar, Thailand and China, have been conducting research into the social and environmental issues related to the river for the past two years. Their research shows water governance challenges from the perspective of the village.

Their work is on display at the Thai Studies Conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand from 15 to 18 July 2017. Come visit their display in the Exhibition Hall, and meet the researchers in person.

The research is a part of the Salween Water Governance project.

EVENT: Mapping Out Policies and Practices of the Salween-Thanlwin-Nu River Basin: A Framework and Discussion for the Future of the Basin

At present, key decisions are being taken that will determine the future path of the Nu-Salween-Thanlwin River. In this session, we shared a “pathways” analysis of the latest developments shaping water governance in the basin. In revealing the range of visions for the future of the Salween basin, based on our research over the previous year, we sought to open a discussion about the outcomes at the local, national and transnational level of a range of potential development pathways, including the implications from the perspective of sustainability and social justice.

The session was chaired by Dr. Vanessa Lamb (York University) and Prof Saw Win (Senior Research Associate, Center for Social Development Studies).

The following presentations were made:

  • Which path to take? Pathways for the Nu-Salween-Thanlwin River by Dr. Carl Middleton, Center for Social Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University [Download PowerPoint]

  • Development Pathways: The case of the Nu River by Dr. Yu Xiaogang and Chen Xiangxue, Green Watershed [Download PowerPoint]

  • Myanmar Salween Pathways by Jeff Rutherford and Saw John Bright, KESAN [Download PowerPoint]

  • Thailand Salween Pathways by Dr. Carl Middleton, Center for Social Development Studies, Chulalongkorn University [Download PowerPoint]


WORKSHOP: The Path to K_Space: Co-Creating Space Science Curriculum in Nepal

Sakar and Hermes goofing around the Karkhana classroom at K_Space

Sakar and Hermes goofing around the Karkhana classroom at K_Space

About 2 years ago I began a conversation with Sakar Pudasaini about the possibility of Karkhana leading a workshop on open science in Kathmandu, Nepal. Karkhana is an innovative and exciting social enterprise based in Kathmandu that has been working for over 4 years now to bring fun, creative, experiential, and impactful Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) education to all children in the Kathmandu Valley.

I had the great pleasure of meeting the team at Karkhana in early 2014 when I was working in Nepal as a Princeton in Asia Fellow, and the continued privilege of meeting new additions to the talent pool as it grew. Karkhana's focused vision and mission expanded the possibilities for the local communities' children, moving towards more equitable and prosperous futures in our globalized lives.

The first workshop of the Open Source Hardware and Citizen Science Project in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The first workshop of the Open Source Hardware and Citizen Science Project in Yogyakarta, Indonesia

The focus of the larger project that I was crafting at the time (late 2014) was around the topics of open science and open source hardware - specifically looking at laboratory equipment, the designs of which could be shared openly across platforms and communities. The first workshop we ran within this larger project took place in September 2015, in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, in partnership with the House of Natural Fiber Foundation - a new media arts collective that had been working in the sciences for over 8 years now. Two members of Karkhana attended, and together we learned a lot about the design and facilitation of international grassroots workshops.

The original discussion that I had with Sakar in the second half of 2015 morphed along with this greater understanding of the needs of communities, and understanding of the diverse individuals we planned to bring together in these workshops. I realized after the Indonesia workshop that I still retained a latent bias towards my background in physiology, and my own experience with science education and training. These workshops, along with my work in inclusive and co-created design at DSIL Global, have shifted my own perspective on the nature of open science, and the way that we (as a global community) can create a new definition of science that is more inclusive, contextual, and heard.

Ayisha Rahman (Malaysia) and Hermes Huang (USA) lead an activity in the Karkhana classroom in Kathmandu, Nepal during K_Space. Photo credit: Karkhana

Ayisha Rahman (Malaysia) and Hermes Huang (USA) lead an activity in the Karkhana classroom in Kathmandu, Nepal during K_Space. Photo credit: Karkhana

When Sakar told me that he wanted to focus the workshop in Kathmandu on space science, I said: "Let's do it." As an applied science, there are few things more expansive than allowing a generation of students across the world to imagine a future where we can use technology, arts, engineering, history and science in order to engage the earth, the sky, and beyond.

So, here we are today, October 2016 in Kathmandu, with an amazing group of men and women from across Asia working towards creating curriculum, experiences, and tools for students and individuals across Asia to imagine a future in space. 

This workshop would not be possible without the generous support of the Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network, which is funded by IDRC Canada and UK DFiD. This project is undertaken in collaboration by DSIL Global, HONF, and CSDS. 

INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE: Towards A Shared Vision for the Salween-Thanlwin-Nu River Basin

By Sarah Allen

Small group discussion at the Salween University Network meeting. Photo: V. Lamb.

Small group discussion at the Salween University Network meeting. Photo: V. Lamb.

The people living in the Salween River Basin, and their voices,have been largely ignored. The up to 10 million people living in the River Basin are continually left out of decision-making processes that will directly impact their livelihoods and futures. But this is changing. I can point to recent civil society and academic research, high-profile research collaborations, and international meetings that aim to attend to the complex ecologies and politics of the Salween River Basin and its challenges, which is much more than when I first joined Salween University Network meetings five years ago.

The most recent Salween University Network meeting was held on January 29-31, 2016,at Chiang Mai University, Thailand with support from the Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD), Chiang Mai University, and CGIAR Water, Land and Ecosystems Greater Mekong Program. This meeting was an opportunity to review existing research, and to bring a wide range of actors together to discuss the future of the Salween River Basin. A meeting of this variety is a milestone for the Salween University Network, which has been working since October 2012 to build a network in the Salween River Basin as a way to share research and knowledge between academics, researchers, NGOs, journalists, and local communities.

In fact, prior to this 2016 meeting, there were several meetings organized to draw international and basin-wide attention to the issues affecting the River Basin, in Myanmar in 2014 and in Thailand in 2014 . In October 2012, for instance, I was among a smaller group who met to discuss what to do about the future of the Salween River Basin. During this meeting, discussion revolved around the mega projects planned along the upper Salween River Basin and the downstream impacts, should the projects gain approval, as well as logging and mining in the River Basin. The interest in the future of the Salween River Basin at that time was eye-opening to future possibilities for collaboration. The opportunity to attend a workshop at its early stages of development and watch its progression to now has especially eye-opening for me who, at the time, was a recent master’s graduate in Global Governance. I was witnessing the beginnings of international collaboration and the formation of a basin-wide organization where the emphasis was on inclusive knowledge production. One of the Network’s biggest strengths is that it is composed primarily of a range of actors from the Salween River Basin region, who are working to produce high-quality research on the Basin and who are concerned about future developments of the basin which put residents at risk.

At present, the River Basin is indeed at risk. The mainstream of the Salween River is currently undammed, but that status is being threatened by proposal for 16 large hydropower development projects. The Salween River Basin supports rich fisheries, farmland, and a diverse river landscape. However, high demands for new sources of electricity, especially by Thailand and China, are outweighing and ignoring the needs and voices the region’s people.

A strength of the Network’s meeting was the diversity of the participant’s research presentations. Pai Deetes from International Rivers spoke about the plans to divert water from the Salween River, or the tributaries of the Salween River, to the Chao Phraya River in Thailand. She spoke on the importance of collecting adequate baseline data before projects of this kind are accepted. Pai Deetes also noted that there have been no impact assessments done on the implications of this project and therefore the likelihood of solving drought conditions in Thailand are unlikely. She explained further that

“If the water level lowers further it will cause some species to lose their ecosystems; species and people alike on the river will likely struggle for survival. It is important to study the effects.” (January 2016)

Pai Deetes, of International Rivers, presents information about the Salween water diversion plans. RCSD photograph

One of the meeting organizers, Professor Saw Win, former rector of Maubin University and current member of the Renewable Energy Association of Myanmar (REAM), spoke about why such a meeting is considered a milestone for academics and civil society members in Myanmar. He explained,

“Working under a military government for 40 years I have not had the opportunities to network or attend international meetings. This is the first opportunity for increased collaboration and networking.”(January 2016)

In comparison to previous decades of military rule in Myanmar, at present researchers have more freedom to do research, and that includes research on the Salween River Basin. In fact, due to successful mobilization efforts and collaborations in the region,academics, and civil society groups are making great strides. The Salween University Network is in a unique position to learn from the mistakes made and gaps that exist in producing knowledge around the other major river basins in the region. Beyond being composed of people from the region, the Network has also established important links with local universities in order to stay connected to the River Basin as a whole and the people who live there. In this way, the opportunity has been created for scientific knowledge and community oriented research to come together to inform national policies.

Discussion led by Professor Saw Win, organizing committee member and member of the Renewable Energy Association of Myanmar (REAM). RCSD photograph


Dr. Yu Xiaogang, the director of Green Watershed in Kunming, China, spoke on future means of collaborating and building a stronger Network. Dr. Yu proposed:

“A Salween Friendship Partnership that brings together civil society actors, academics, community members, and other interested individuals across borders to imagine transboundary cooperation and highlight economic, cultural, social, and political values of the Salween.” (January 2016)

The Network’s meeting this past January included two full days of presentations and various group work sessions where participants had the opportunity to identify knowledge gaps, current research, future collaboration opportunities, and priorities for future work. One of the many positive aspects of the meeting was the wide range of presentation topics, from: challenges faced by local communities, methods for community empowerment, traditional knowledge research, the importance of the media, the relationship between people and the environment, proposed infrastructural changes on the River, geomorphology studies, and local case studies highlighting the current state of the River. The full meeting report can be found at:https://www.dropbox.com/s/dcm09n2kdcyhsl1/SUNM%202016%20Report.pdf?dl=0


Professor Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, director of the Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD), Chiang Mai University.RCSD photograph

Poignantly, the most recent meeting ended with an important message from Dr.Chayan Vaddhanaphuti, director of the Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD), Chiang Mai University. He emphasized that there is both a “geography of knowing and [a] geography of ignorance” for the Salween. In other words, the Salween River Basin has a rich and long history, butby staying ignorant to the voices of its communities,researchers, and policy makers are jeopardizing the River Basin’s future. Dr Khin Maung Lwin, Member of Myanmar’s Advisor & Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council, also reiterated these sentiments, explaining that “Policy gaps are more a result of poor ears than poor policies.” It is important to learn from each other and share that information rather than creating separate, closed-off expert knowledge groups.

Continue to connect with research on Salween and to follow updates on Salween Water Governance at https://www.facebook.com/SalweenStudies