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Routed Magazine x SHAPE-SEA Collaboration – Think Piece Series on Mobility, Human Rights and Freedoms in Post-Pandemic Southeast Asia

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Strengthening Human Rights and Peace Research/Education in
ASEAN/Southeast Asia Programme (SHAPE-SEA) and Routed Magazine are honoured
to issue the special think piece series entitled ‘Moving
towards a better normal: Defining mobility, human rights and freedoms in a
post-pandemic Southeast Asia’! 
We would like to thank the
Routed Team namely, Shaddin Almasri, Lillian Babayan, Madison Bradt, Fiona
Buchanan, Malin A. Evertsz Mendez, Lena Hartz, Margaret Koudelkova, Hannah
Markay, Javier Ormeno, Magda Rodríguez Dehli, for their unwavering commitment
to this common project; Dr Khoo Ying Hooi of Universiti Malaya (GPF035-2020)
and Ms Maya Dania of Mae Fah Luang University, our wonderful and dedicated
guest editors for this issue.Southeast Asia is no stranger to life-changing
disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Public health systems and
personnel were extremely exhausted. Mobility, in general, was put to a halt –
disproportionately affecting those whose means of living depends on it.
Certain rights and freedoms were suspended to give way to public order and
safety.Amid the massive spread of viral infections in many parts of the
region, many governments and societies are surrendering to the fact that
living with the virus might just be the only option to move towards a new
normal. However, while restrictions on mobility and socio-economic activities
are cautiously being eased, their impacts on human rights and fundamental
freedoms have yet to be fully addressed. Democratic backsliding and a
heightened securitisation of societies have left vulnerable populations
hanging by a thread.This special series aims to foster critical consciousness
on lived experiences of (im)mobility, human rights, and freedoms. It seeks to
elevate and include voices from the ground, specifically in relation to
freedom of movement and the rights of people on the move seeking
opportunities and a decent life. Ultimately, it aims to contribute to
defining and owning a better normal for, and with everyone who considers
Southeast Asia home.These think pieces cover critical topics concerning human
rights and mobility, particularly capturing the lived experience of those at
the margins, including internally displaced persons, migrant workers,
stateless persons, LGBTIQ+ persons, academic activists, and human rights
defenders.Our special series starts with ‘The
challenge of protecting internally displaced persons in Southeast
Asia’
by UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally
Displaced Persons Cecilia Jimenez-Damary. She asserts the urgent need for
action to solve the issues of millions of IDPs in Southeast Asia who are
forced to flee their homes. Tashny Sukumaran’s ‘In
Malaysia, oppressive policies marginalise migrant workers’
delves
into the precarious experience of migrant workers as they struggle to survive
during the pandemic.Romina Abuan, in ‘COVID-19
and the migration cycle in Southeast Asia’
, explores the effects of
the pandemic and the related preventative measures on the migration cycle in
Southeast Asia; while in ‘What
is waiting at home? Migrant workers’ return, reintegration and remigration
amid the COVID-19 pandemic’
, Katrina Guanio questions what happens
when migrants are forced to return home without adequate preparation. Other
migrants have struggled to come back to their home countries as borders
closed. Cuc Thi Kim Nguyen and Dinh Duc Nguyen examine the legal plight of
Vietnamese migrant workers stranded abroad in ‘How
have travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic made the situation of
Vietnamese migrant workers in Southeast Asia more precarious?’
.
Migrants’ ambivalent feelings towards border closures are also present in
‘Frustrated
and angry voices from far away: Returning home amid the pandemic’
,
by Wisnu Adihartono. Meanwhile, pandemic conditions and labour exploitation
have also trapped migrant fishers at sea, as examined by Tashryn Mohd Shahrin
and Euan Chan in ​​‘Mercy
at sea in a post-pandemic world’
.Furthermore, the pandemic has
created unequal challenges for different populations. Martin Petlach explores
the impact of restrictions and returns on LGBTIQ+ communities in ‘Locked
down and locked out: A review of the experience of LGBTIQ+ people of
Southeast Asia amid the COVID-19 pandemic’
. Women migrant workers
have also experienced the socio-economic toll of the pandemic through the
prism of gender, as Myoh Minn Oo examines in ‘Pandemic
rubs salt in the wound for women migrant workers in ASEAN’
.
Patricia Miranda and Fatima Angkaya explain in ‘The
sexual and reproductive health of migrants and mobile populations: Pandemic
challenges in the Philippines’
how these healthcare needs of
migrants became eclipsed by COVID-19. Stateless people have also been made
more vulnerable by the pandemic, often falling through the cracks of the
healthcare and border control systems, as Saittawut Yutthaworakool shows in
‘The
invisibility of the invisible lives: Being stateless in Thailand in times of
the COVID-19 pandemic’
.The pandemic has followed and aggravated
certain authoritarian tendencies. Cornelius Hanung offers some examples of
using COVID-19 as a pretext to curtail freedoms and persecute activists
across the region in ‘In
the name of the public health emergency: An emerging challenge on the right
to protest in Southeast Asia’
. The military coup in Myanmar has
sent many citizens into exile, while also imposing new hardships on Myanmar
migrants abroad, as they recount on ‘Stranded
dreams: Myanmar migrant experiences in Thailand’s tourism sector during
COVID-19 and the military coup’
by Sofie Mortensen. We also have
the honour of publishing Dr MMT’s testimony as a scholar at risk who has fled
the regime, in ‘Let
us live normally and in dignity: A note from a displaced citizen, daughter,
mother, and scholar at risk’
.It is essential that institutions and
civil society actors take into account these voices and experiences for
building a safer, just, inclusive better normal for all,
as pandemic realities slowly start to transform.We would like to thank the
writers for their insightful and inspiring contributions, and you, our
readers. We hope that this issue will make you reflect and engage in
collectively shaping a brighter post-pandemic future in Southeast Asia and
beyond!

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