MLI Research Advisory Board member Elliot Tepper joined CTV to discuss the recent growth of authoritarianism in several countries in Southeast Asia.
Tepper described the Cambodian government as a de facto dictatorship despite its practice of holding elections, which he considered to be a mere legitimizing exercise. The same prime minister Hun Sen has been in power there since the 1980s, and in the run-up to the recent election the main opposition party was declared illegal and disbanded.
Thailand is another erstwhile democratic country which has taken a sharp authoritarian turn in recent years. After seizing power in 2014, the military has since postponed elections 6 times. Despite measures to make the government appear more civilian, Tepper says the army is likely to continue maintaining some form of control.
The situation in Myanmar is also concerning. Despite liberalizing efforts in recent years, the military still controls most of the levers of power and is currently engaged in what the UN calls a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya people.
Tepper also discussed the Philippines, where President Duterte, although democratically elected, has taken a sharp authoritarian turn with his brutal war on drugs.
Despite these recent developments, Tepper nonetheless warned against giving up on democracy in Asia. “The people still want it”, he said.