New Books

Energy, Governance and Security in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma): A Critical Approach to Environmental Politics in the South

Book cover: Energy, Governance and Security in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma): A Critical Approach to Environmental Politics in the SouthAcross the world, states are seeking out new and secure supplies of energy as industrialisation is fomenting a frantic scramble for energy resources. The search is manifesting itself most visibly in Asia, where countries like Thailand and Myanmar are responding rapidly to the expansion of the oil and gas industries.

With both Thailand and Myanmar serving as major sites of controversial energy projects, the pursuit of national energy security through transnational energy projects has resulted in devastating impacts on the human and environmental security of local populations.

In his book, Energy, Governance and Security in Thailand and Myanmar (Burma): A Critical Approach to Environmental Politics in the South, Adam Simpson, Director of the Centre for Peace and Security, Hawke Research Institute at UniSA, provides a fascinating insight into activism in South Asia.

His ambitious book takes as its departure point the paradox that surfaces when the pursuit of energy security comes at the expense of the environmental security of local communities.

By comparing the nature of activism under two very different political regimes, Simpson extends the reader’s knowledge of environmental policies and movement responses in Southeast Asia, and delivers crucial theoretical insights with both academic and policy implications for the sustainable and equitable development of Southeast Asia’s natural resources.

“Environmental activism operates under a variety of illiberal political regimes across Southeast Asia, including Thailand and Myanmar,” Simpson says.

“And in the absence of effective and democratic governments, local and transnational activism have contributed to community scrutiny over so-called ‘high-impact’ energy schemes.

“The challenge is how developing countries can effectively balance their needs for sustainable energy with their needs for environmental security.”

Grounded by significant research, including multi-country field-work and scores of interviews, Simpson delivers a book that provides a valuable analysis of how different strategies and contexts provide opportunities for influencing authoritarian regimes.

Much of Simpson’s fieldwork for the book was completed at Kyoto University‘s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies in Japan, where he spent six months under a Visiting Research Fellowship. The extent of the research is evident in the text, with Simpson drawing upon an array of primary source materials gained from interviews in the region.

Reviewer Pichamon May Yeophantong, Pacific Affairs, says: “It is in this respect that Energy, Governance and Security stands out. The novel perspectives distilled from these interviews are highly valuable, adding empirical substance to the discussion of contentious energy schemes on which reliable information does not readily exist.

“The volume’s contribution to burgeoning literature on environmental governance in Southeast Asia lies primarily with its interviews, which yield fascinating insights into the state of environmental activism in the region.”

The comprehensive book provides a thought-provoking contribution to existing scholarship. It is an excellent study in an emerging field that will be of increasing importance as large-scale energy projects continue to spread across the region, and a must-read for anyone interested in issues around energy, governance and activism.

The book is available via Nias Press.