Meanwhile, Philippine efforts to deal with the insurgencies initiated by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1969, which the Moro Independence Liberation Front (MILF) joined in 1977 and the gangster-oriented Abu Sayyaf joined in 1986, faltered in Mindanao and the Southern Philippines. By 1999 the Manila Government welcomed the reestablishment of a military connection with the United States. A U. S.-Philippine Visiting Forces Agreement was negotiated.
The Philippine hope was that the United States would not only resume its traditional role of providing for the external defense of the nation, but also provide military equipment to help in the fight against Muslim insurgent s. U. S. strategists hoped to regain the military flexibility that the Philippine basing connection had provided.
Underlying the Muslim insurgency in Mindanao is the demographic changes that began occurring in the United States 1898-1945 colonial rule. Christians were fifteen percent of the population of Mindanao in 1900. They are now eighty-five percent of the population.
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was the first to declare support for the United States after September 11.
Vietnamese society is a gerontocracy, that is, a government led by the old on the basis of seniority. The political system has been dominated by men in their seventies who gained their positions by orthodox adherence to communist party doctrine. They have doggedly resisted sharing policymaking responsibility with the rising generation. The war did end twenty-seven years ago, in 1975, and the majority of the population is now under twenty-five years of age. The next generation of leaders is waiting impatiently to take power. They have now been sufficiently exposed to the outside world to be increasingly aware that Vietnam lags behind in the r egion and in the world. However, change occurs slowly in Vietnam and the present system encourages corruption.
Cambodia joined ASEAN in 1997 but has proved resistant to ASEAN efforts to promote democratization. Malaysia has become an important Cambodian trading partner.
Laos joined ASEAN in 1998. It is the most backward of the ASEAN 10.
Burma was admitted to ASEAN in 1998 and Malaysia has actively sought to encourage the Burmese military leaders to open up the political system. Malaysian Tan Sri Razali Ali has headed a UN mission to encourage political reform, including providing a political role for Aung San Suu Kyi. Ironically, the Burmese are reportedly studying the authoritarian system of Malaysian Dr. Mahathir as a possible model for change.
Meanwhile, Burma has been under U. S. and EU sanctions and has had to turn to China for support. Chinese commercial and military ties with Burma have flourished. China's Yunnan Province has become Burma's largest trading partner. Mandalay now has a large population of Chinese traders. China views Burma as its economic gateway to Southeast Asia.
The Burmese leadership is reportedly nervous over its growing relationship with its huge, and eager, neighbor. This may provide some momentum for Burma to improve its relations with nations which have imposed sanctions.
Singapore continued and its close security relationship with the United States. Its deepened its harbor facilities to accommodate U. S. aircraft carriers denied access to Philippine basing.
Urban populations were, however, dwarfed by rural populations where the lives of people were still deeply influenced by traditional political, economic, social, and religious norms, particularly in heavily Muslim areas of southern Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Mindanao and the Southern Philippines. These Islamic regions had a sense of being pushed to the sidelines by secular governments. Rigorous forms of Islam, emphasizing Muslim identity, were a growing reaction to the perceived assault of modernization and materialistic globalization.
These factors and others I have not mentioned were present on September 11, 2001. The U. S. declaration of war on terrorism has refocused Americas attention on Southeast Asian national security issues. However, the local security environment has changed substantially since the end of the Cold War in 1991. Communism was an external influence. The rise of the concept of an Islamic ummah or community stretching potentially from the Muslim provinces of Southern Thailand, through Malaysia, Singapore, the Southern Philippines and Indonesia is homemade.
July 9, 2002