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Flashcards in Causes of Interstate Tensions Deck (31):

List all the causes

-Territorial disputes
-Historical animosity
-Racial and religious

-Security and sovereignty?


Singapore-Malaysia tensions (4)

1. (HA) Bitter experience of merger (1963-1965) and Separation

1964 Federal Elections - conflict between LKY's Malaysian Malaysia and UMNO's Malay Malaysia

Feelings of Malay superiority from colonial policies that pandered to the Malays (eg Malay Reservations Act 1913 which protected Malay ownership of land and agriculture) --> resulted in 1964 Racial Riots

both of the above led to separation

2. Pedra Branca
Malaysia published a map in 1979 which claimed the island but under the brits it had always been under singapore
- Went to ICJ, awarded island to SG in 2008

3. Malaysia owned Tanjong Pagar railway station which SG felt was too deep in our land, Malaysia had no authority there. Malaysia also refused to relocate its Customs, Immigration and Quarantine checkpoint to Woodlands

4. Dispute over water prices that malaysia sells to SG


Indonesia- Malaysia (2)

Konfrontasi (1963-1966) to oppose the formation of Malaysia. State of emergency declared in Msia from Aug-Sep 1964. Ended by Suharto. (theres also the superiority complex thing)

2. Sipadan and Ligitan. Resolved by ICJ in 2002


Philippines-Malaysia (2)

1. Sabah (1962- 1970s)
- response to Malaysia's formation
-resulting in hiatus of diplomatic tensions until 1970s
- Corrigedeor incident where it was discovered that Phil was training muslims to infiltrate and take over Sabah. That group staged an internal mutiny when they found out so phil killed them all (Jabaidah Massacre)
-Ended with Marcos
-resulted in end of ASA

2. Mindanao Muslims.
- cross border affiliation. Sabah supported mindanao muslims and even supplied weapons to them
-seen was intervening in Phil's domestic affairs


Thailand-Malaysia (2)

1. Pattani Muslims
-Malaysia did not support separationist movements in Thailand
-Falling Leaves Campaign (1997-1998) Msia worked it Thai to crack down on separationists (PULO)

2. Fishing incidents eg in 1996 where malaysian navy gunboat killed some thai fishermen
- swift bilateral negotiations devused he crisis

Friendly relations historically - because communities on both sides of the border were muslims and they had ties. But they had areement to not intervene in each others domestic affairs


Vietnam - Kampuchea

- 1950-60s escalation of cross border conflicts
- Treaty of friendship between USSR and Vietnam in 1978 which gave Vietnam "green light"

-ZOPFAN declaration in 1971. ASEAN nations banded together to impose economic sanctions on Vietnam?

Historical animosity
-Deep ethnic cultural divide (Vietnam was Sinic, Cambodia influenced by Indian), Vietnam saw themselves as the civilizers of Kampuchea.
-Reinforced by colonial experience which gave Vietnam a leadership position amongst Indochina
- Vietnam invaded Kampuchea in 1620s and 1830s



1. Illegal fishing
- Thai trawlers entered myanmar waters in 1990s
-worsened until full blown diplomatic conflict in 1999 where Myanmar closed border checkpoints
- Also because Myanmar opened up in 1990s and felt a need to be assertive (escalation of bilateral tensions)

2.Conflict from river changing course
- Moei River changed course in Myanmar's favour in 1997 - resulted in military hostilities and myanmar closing its border in the Tak province

3. Separationists run accross the border
- Ethnic separationist groups from Myanmar ran to thai in 1990, led to bilateral tension. Eg pursuit of Mong Tai Army into thai's tak province

historical animosity:
- Burmese assaults on Thai Kingdoms in the 17th century have ingrained the image of burmese as aggressors in the thai psyche - pervasive overhand that clouds subsequent relations


South China Sea

- Strategy of escalation by china from 1998 with naval clash (with vietnam) in 1988, arrest of chinese fishermen
-asymmetry of power is a thing


How historical animosity from subjugation lead to IST + examples

Historical disputes arising from past experiences of subjugation explain the recurrence of tensions between Southeast Asian states. The experience of subjugation is imprinted onto national memories and leads to antagonistic perceptions between these countries, and clouds subsequent interactions.

Vietnam Kampuchea, Thailand - Myanmar


Historical animosity from cultural divide led to IST + examples

Moreover, historical disputes, especially those arising from ethnic and cultural differences, lead to perceptions of superiority and generates mutual suspicion of motives, which explain the pervasive overhang of distrust.

Singapore-Malaysia, Vietnam Kampuchea


Analysis for Historical disputes

Explain why tensions recur/propensity for tensions

Can also explain why tensions are so severe

contrast thai and myanmar vs thai and malaysia fishing incidents

but security threats explain why tensions escalate into actual conflicts
- explain using examples of countries given above, eg vietnam - kampuchea was due to security threat


Territorial disputes - overlapping claims + egs

Led to protracted but mild conflicts

Eg Sg-M, I-M


Territorial disputes with security implications

More serious

Eg Sabah ended diplomatic relationship


Territorial disputes when external powers are involved

Territorial disputes can also escalate and complicate conflicts when external powers are involved
- Soviet and China in VK
-China is South China Sea


Analysis for territorial

At best a manifestation of tensions rather than a cause

Different levels of tensions -> different consequences


Ideology between leaders

Singapore-Malaysia separation



Ideology (political systems)

One of the reason that tensions between Vietnam and Kampuchea escalated into a invasion was due to the Sino-Soviet rivalry between two communist powers with varing ideology imposed on Vietnam and Kampuchea. The Chinese were friendly with Kampuchea and the Soviet signed a friendship treaty with vietnam, which emboldened them to invade

Tensions occurred between non-communist ASEAN and communist Vietnam in the context of Cold War in the 1980s which resulted in economic sanctions by other countries on Vietnam (?) especially in response to its invasion of Kampuchea


Ideology analysis

-Immediate factor which explains escalation of tension or outbreak of disputes

-In terms of severity, serious enough to escalate at regional/international levels

-But it doesn’t not remain significant over time. Ideology dependent on leadership & geopolitical climate. If there is change in leadership? (e.g. Sukarno who was ultra-nationalist compared to Suharto who was in favour of development and regional cooperation) or change in geopolitical climate (e.g. end of Cold War)?


Racial ethnic

- Racial and religious disputes were an immediate cause for tension because they caused countries to have a more distrustful view of other countries, causing issues to easily develop into tensions / because it overlapped with ideology

Singapore-Malaysia - but this is exception

mostly a source for historical tension


Counter for racial: racial affinity

- Racial and religious affinity between different countries also caused tensions as countries interfered with other countries’ domestic affairs (indirect cause)
- Mindanao separatists: The Muslim community in Sabah supported the Muslim Mindanao separatists, and Tun Mustapha, Sabah;s chief minister provided a supply route for weapons, military training camps and a sanctuary. Malaysian support was seen as an intervention in Philippine domestic affairs, which resulted in tensions between the two countries
- Pattani Muslims separationist movement was given tacit support by the Parti Islam Se Malaysia. BUT Malaysia did not back the groups for long? Because they and thailand always had friendly relations and principle of non-invasion, as well as because malaysia needed thai support to contain the communist threat in the country → shows that even affinity not v important


Analysis for racial religion

-However, how to explain tensions between Thailand & Myanmar despite similar religion? Indonesia and Malaysia? Looks like racial/religious similarities more problematic than racial & religious differences


Colonial legacy split up communities

- Colonial carving of territories: splitting a natural community into unnatural territories split by different states; persistent primordial links

- M-T over Pattani issue was due to the way the british drew the border (did not take into account race but rather resources)

- M-P over Mindanao issue (which explains the cross-border support): British signed a treaty with sultan of Sulu who only “loaned” sabah to them, and they made it part of malayisa


colonial legacy vague agreements

- Vague colonial agreements which leads to conflicting interpretations
- Sabah issue in 1963 (cession vs. lease)
- Pedra Branca issue: British had always given the role of administrating PB to singapore


Colonial legacy perpetuated racial divide

-Vietnam (France made Hanoi headquarters for all its indochina activities, thus vietnam developed this leadership thing)
-Malaysia: British bumiputera policies, retained sultan (malay)


Colonial legacy analysis

- At best an underlying factor but not direct cause of tensions
- e.g. Sabah issue – colonial legacy issue since 1800s – yet the claim only made in 1960s.



Difference in ideology (refer to above)

Can change development of tensions
- Sukarno vs Suharto
- Macapagal vs Marcos


Leaders analysis

-Leaders can escalate tensions, diffuse tensions depending on geopol climate


Foreign policy + analysis

- Leaders respond to changes in geopolitical contexts

- T-Msia over Pattani vs P-Msia over Mindanao – Msia didn’t really support Pattani (see above)
- Overlapping P-Msia claim over Sabah was dropped in 1977 by Marcos who wanted to economic development, regional cooperation, and to deal with Mindanao

shows that tensions can be put aside when context demands it


Changes in geopol context (not a point more of an explanation??)

- 1960s: Hostile climate; just after independence; greater anxiety and fear of status of these countries. Explains why Sukarno saw creation of Malaysia as neocolonial plot to encircle Indonesia. Explains why Macapagal chose to be assertive in his foreign policy as he did not want Philippines to be seen weak (autonomous policy from US)
- 1970s & 80s: domestic priorities main concern (economic development). Explains why new leaders (e.g. Suharto & Marcos) willing to opt for cooperation. Also larger context: fear of communist Vietnam (brought states together in ASEAN; also sought to resolve bilateral tensions amicably e.g. PB and SL disputes), also
- 1990s: Vietnam’s decision to withdraw from Cambodia (end of Cold War, end of Soviet Union; concern with economic development); even at bilateral level observe how Malaysia assisted Thai government in crackdown on PULO leaders after 1997 ‘Falling Leaves’ campaign because they want to focus on economic cooperation and recovery after AFC


External powers

Tend to escalate existing tensions by adding another dimension

- V-K invasion from 1979 to 1991: Protracted tension due to the involvement of China & SU. Drawn into the orbit of Sino-Soviet rivalry. Complicated the tension in terms of resolution. Explains the involvement of UN
- Spratly island dispute: Involvement of China with other states. Asymmetry of power; ASEAN powerless to influence China. Compare this with other territorial disputes with overlapping claims (e.g. PB, Ligitan and Sipadan islands)


Essay tips

- Always link to the question at the end of each para - important for A
- Remember to answer the question in the conclusion
- Summarize the case studies used in conclusions (see the historical dispute conclusion)