State Violence in East Asia
Publication Year: 2013
The world was watching when footage of the "tank man" -- the lone Chinese citizen blocking the passage of a column of tanks during the brutal 1989 crackdown on protesters in Beijing's Tiananmen Square -- first appeared in the media. The furtive video is now regarded as an iconic depiction of a government's violence against its own people.
Throughout the twentieth century, states across East Asia committed many relatively undocumented atrocities, with victims numbering in the millions. The contributors to this insightful volume analyze many of the most notorious cases, including the Japanese army's Okinawan killings in 1945, Indonesia's anticommunist purge in 1965--1968, Thailand's Red Drum incinerations in 1972--1975, Cambodia's Khmer Rouge massacre in 1975--1978, Korea's Kwangju crackdown in 1980, the Philippines' Mendiola incident in 1987, Myanmar's suppression of the democratic movement in 1988, and China's Tiananmen incident. With in-depth investigation of events that have long been misunderstood or kept hidden from public scrutiny, State Violence in East Asia provides critical insights into the political and cultural dynamics of state-sanctioned violence and discusses ways to prevent it in the future.
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Series: Asia in the New Millennium
Note on Romanization
In romanization of Korean sources and Korean names, the McCune- Reischauer system is used; exceptions are some already commonly used spellings. In the Japanese case, the Hepburn system is adopted. In the Chinese case, the Pinyin system is adopted. Following the traditions of these countries, the family name appears first with the given name following; however, the spellings of personal names that appear in works...
Introduction - Conceiving State Violence, Justice, and Transition in East Asia
The collaborative research presented in this volume is about the dark side of political history in East Asian countries. It deals with the worst cases of state violence in East Asia, most of which were underresearched for different reasons. The eight cases examined in this comparative study include the Japanese military’s killing of Okinawans (1945), the Indonesian counterrevolutionary massacre (1965–1968), the Phatthalung Red...
1. Interpreting State Violence in Asian Settings
In this chapter I set out to analyze state violence in terms of the social and political role it plays—seeking to uncover its logic and objectives, rather than regarding it as fundamentally aberrant. Indeed, a long and strong tradition exists in the theoretical literature that examines state violence as instrumental to a host of political processes, in ways that implicitly argue for this kind of interpretive effort. An analysis of violence is central...
2. From the Streets to the National Assembly: Democratic Transition and Demands for Truth about Kwangju in South Korea
This chapter examines the political and social process of enacting special laws to compensate victims of the Kwangju massacre of 1980 in South Korea and to bring the military junta leaders to justice more than fifteen years after the atrocities were committed. The substantive part of this chapter centers on a set of questions that are informed by the larger theoretical and analytical concerns laid out in the introduction and chapter 1 of this volume, such as: Why was Kwangju targeted by the new...
3. Unsettled State Violence in Japan: The Okinawa Incident
Although Japan’s aggression in Asia is well known, less attention has been given to cases of state violence that have taken place on Japanese soil since the modern period began with the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The case of Okinawa is one of the most notorious, even considering that it occurred during wartime. During the Battle of Okinawa, the last ground battle between the United States and Japan, a great number of Okinawan people...
4. Popular Views of State Violence in China: The Tiananmen Incident
Over the last twenty years, the story of what happened in China in 1989 has been reduced to an increasingly simple set of events: students stood off against soldiers in Beijing in order to champion democratizing reforms, and the international media watched helplessly on June 4 as hundreds were slaughtered in Tiananmen Square. This narrative gets some key details wrong: for example, it is likely that very few people died right in...
5. Mass Atrocities in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge Reign of Terror
This chapter seeks to shed some light on both state violence and mass atrocities committed under the Khmer Rouge reign of terror (from April 1975 to the end of 1978) and their legacies, especially with regard to the ways in which they have been dealt with.1 I have argued elsewhere that the scope and gravity of violence committed by the Khmer Rouge regime were far more extensive and brutal than under any other political regime in Cambodia.2 When assessed in terms of scale and gravity, the mass atrocities that took place under the...
6. Counterrevolutionary Violence in Indonesia
In October 1965, the Indonesian Army and an alliance of anti-communist civilian forces initiated a systematic attack on the Indonesian Communist Party (Partai Komunis Indonesia, PKI). Over the course of the next three years pogroms against the PKI left at least five hundred thousand people dead, hundreds of thousands more under detention, and unknown numbers dislocated within their communities. So horrific was the attack...
7. Getting Away with Murder in Thailand: State Violence and Impunity in Phatthalung
In February 1975, student activists exposed a series of brutal murders of citizens by the Communist Suppression Operations Command (CSOC) and other state security forces that had taken place two and a half years earlier in Phatthalung province in Thailand.1 The thang daeng, or “red drum,” killings gained their name from the method of killing employed. Accused of engaging in communist activities or tacit support for them, citizens were arrested, or simply taken, in large sweeps across districts...
8. The End of an Illusion: The Mendiola Massacre and Political Transition in Post-Marcos Philippines
The Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) People Power uprising in February 1986 was a pivotal event in the recent political history of the Philippines. The demise of the Marcos authoritarian regime—unthinkable to many until it actually happened—unleashed high hopes for what democracy can and ought to do to a nation ravaged by dictatorship, underdevelopment, and corruption. While certainly not everyone was optimistic, the restoration of the wider democratic space enticed various interest...
9. The Four-Eights Democratic Movement and Political Repression in Myanmar
The Four-Eights democratic movement is one of the most crucial events in the history of state-society relations in Myanmar, for it opened up a long period of violent state repression against certain societal groups. Myanmar’s ruling military, which was initially known as the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) in 1988 and later renamed the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997, came to power by forcefully cracking down on the Four-Eights protests. In addition...
Conclusion - Comparing State Violence and Reconciliation across East Asia
A careful reading of the recent history of East Asia indicates that there are indeed many examples of state violence in the region. As noted at the outset, many instances of the worst examples of such violence occurred during the Cold War, and violence was often directed against those who were regarded as enemies of the regime in power and by extension of the state. This conflation between regime and state security that was common during the Cold War continues to obtain in many countries. Countries...
We, the editors, have benefited from the generosity and efforts of many individuals and organizations to bring this project to a close. Above all, we would like to thank all the contributors to this volume not only for their cooperation on writing the chapters, but also for revising them at least three times. The project benefited immensely from the input of the invited discussants at the workshops. Robert Taylor, Meredith Weiss, and...