This chapter concentrates on the role of the military in Southeast Asia as a regime protector and highlights some of the episodes of militaries using unlawful force against their own citizens. Focusing on the military's role in projecting force externally also obscures some of the political and socio-economic functions that they perform which may contain within them immanent possibilities for reform and emancipation. Military reforms in Thailand, and especially the professionalization of the military, have enabled emancipatory reform in a number of areas of public life, making a direct contribution to human security. Southeast Asian security studies has tended to focus on three sets of threats: threats emanating from China and the necessity of 'balancing' Chinese hegemony; threats relating to territorial disputes produced by decolonization; and secessionist and Islamist threats.
This introductory chapter discusses the theme of this volume, which is about the connection between the United Nations' (UN) evolving approach to intra-state conflicts and the value system of the international community. This study takes issue with the relatively reductionist explanations of what the UN is and how it relates to peace and security. It explores the interest-norm complexes within which the cases in the Congo, Cyprus, Angola, and Cambodia were handled by the UN. This volume shows how relevant actors' normative preferences were resolved in specific peacekeeping environments where the UN was especially active in addressing intra-state conflicts.