New Review of ASEAN, Sovereignty and Intervention in Southeast Asia

June 12, 2013

A couple of friends have pointed out a review of my book which I’d not seen before, by history professor Christopher Gennari, inEast Asian Integration Studies. It’s a positive review with a pithy edge to it:

Jones’ work is an important and significant contribution to academic literature… Jones clearly places himself against the current of the typical historiography… This is not some drool account of vapid diplomacy; this work is a forthright presentation of ideas and positions.  And, for its part, it loves pointing out hypocrisy.

It’s also a bit strange, though, when it comes to criticise the book’s alleged ‘omissions’. Gennari’s main point here is that I assume too high a level of knowledge and don’t give enough background to readers. For example, he suggests I don’t tell readers who Adam Malik was – but he is identified as Indonesia’s foreign minister on p.39, p.46, and p.58. He asks ‘Who was Suharto before he took over Indonesia’s government?’ But on p.44 he is identified: ‘senior right-wing elements in the army leadership headed by General Suharto…’  Gennari continues: ‘There is also no mention of which countries are in ASEAN and when they join.  Does Vietnam join?’ Actually p.45 lists the countries involved in founding ASEAN, while p.143 states ‘Vietnam… joined the Association in 1995’. He is right that I don’t provide a general introduction to ASEAN as an organisation, but that’s not the book’s purpose and plenty of other work does this (despite his claim that ASEAN ‘does not receive much research attention’, it is actually the second most written-about regional grouping in the world after the EU). It seems odd to suggest the narrative occurs in a ‘vacuum’ without reference to Sino-Soviet rivalry or the Vietnam war since this is a major aspect of Part I of the book. He suggests there are other ‘surprising points missing’ ; for example, ‘the genocide in Cambodia is not mentioned… Cambodian refugees flooded into Thailand to escape the genocide – certainly this became an ASEAN issue.  If not, why not?’. But on p.56 I note: ‘the Thai army engag[ed] in “grisly cooperation” with Pol Pot’s genocidal regime by shooting anyone trying to flee into Thailand’, and chapter 4, entitled ‘Representation, Refugees and Rebels’, devotes three pages to discussing ASEAN’s manipulation of refugees. That Pol Pot’s regime was genocidal is also mentioned on pp. 77, 85, and 88. He goes on: ‘The same deficient also applies to another case study state of East Timor where the Indonesian government was notoriously brutal. It seems strange to have a book this incisive yet never mention the elephant in the room.’ But pp.73-74 describes the ‘disastrous’ impact of the Indonesian invasion, the army’s ‘brutal counterinsurgency campaigns’, which killed c.102,800 people and caused a further 84,200-182,000 to die through hunger and disease, and identifies the occupation as ‘third-world imperialism’.

So, while I’m glad Prof Gennari liked the book, perhaps he could have read it a little more carefully!


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