National Human Rights Institutions, Extraterritorial Obligations and Hydropower in Southeast Asia: Implications of the Region’s Authoritarian Turn

Authors

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

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.14764/10.ASEAS-2018.1-5

Keywords:

Civil Society, Don Sahong Dam, Mekong River, National Human Rights Commission of Thailand, Xayaburi Dam

Abstract

This article examines the role of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) and transnational civil society in pursing Extraterritorial Obligation (ETO) cases in Southeast Asia as a means to investigate human rights threatened by cross-border investment projects. Two large hydropower dams under construction in Laos submitted to NHRIs from Thailand and Malaysia, namely the Xayaburi Dam and Don Sahong Dam, are detailed as case studies. The article argues that the emergence of ETOs in Southeast Asia, and its future potential, is dependent upon the collaborative relationship between the NHRIs and transnational civil society networks. Whilst NHRIs are in positions of political authority to investigate cases, civil society also enable cases through networking, research, and public advocacy. Further institutionalization of ETOs is significant to emerging regional and global agendas on business and human rights, including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that both the Thai and Malaysian governments have expressed commitment to. However, in Thailand and its neighboring countries where investments are located there has been an authoritarian turn. Reflecting this, there are weakening mandates of NHRIs and reduced civil and political freedoms upon which civil society depends that challenges the ability to investigate and pursue cases.

Author Biography

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

Asst. Prof. Carl Middleton is Deputy Director of the MA in International Development Studies Program, and Director of the Center for Social Development Studies in the Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.

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Published

2018-06-30

How to Cite

Middleton, C. (2018) “National Human Rights Institutions, Extraterritorial Obligations and Hydropower in Southeast Asia: Implications of the Region’s Authoritarian Turn”, Austrian Journal of South-East Asian Studies, 11(1), pp. 81–97. doi: 10.14764/10.ASEAS-2018.1-5.

Issue

Section

Current Research on Southeast Asia