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Investigating the Grey Areas of the Chinese Communities in Southeast Asia

Arnaud Leveau


Arnaud Leveau

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1Among all the minorities in South East Asia, the Chinese Diaspora is by far the most influential. Its centuries-old presence, its demographic weight, the richness of its transnational network, its cultural, economical and political influence in some countries in the zone raise a series of question.

2The Diaspora role is essentially a political question.

3Who really are they? Who is Chinese and how integrated in their host country could they be? Does the multi dimensional influence of these groups pose a threat to the regional stability or is it a major advantage for the economic integration and the ASEAN’s relations with China and the Chinese world. The activity of the Diaspora and its integration in their host countries are two questions profoundly linked to the evolution and the change in China. With its opening up and its economic growth, China is once again, in a certain way, bringing up the question of the role and allegiance of its “expatriates”.

4In most south-east Asian countries, the members of the Chinese Diaspora have secured important position in the fields of administration, education and religion. Thanks to their capacity to work and to adapt as well as their frugality, their cultural influence continues to grow.

5Clans and factions form the essential structure of the ancient Chinese society. If Imperial China never developed a Civil Law, it’s probably because the ancient Chinese society never really saw the need for it. This structure of relations could also explain why the Chinese civilisation didn’t develop a real territorial reference.

6The Chinese Diaspora today covers different political and economical realities which could be conflicting.

7What primarily characterises the Diaspora is apparently its great capacity to organise itself in any economical, political, social or cultural environment. The capacity if its economic and administrative elites had been the determining factor of their development.

8However, the existence of informal and trans-national networks can also help the development of criminal activities. The presence of mafia groups and gangs of Chinese origin and their collusion with the world of finance and politics are historical facts in the region and could represent today a real threat for its stability.

9These criminal networks tend to forge business link with their Japanese, Russian, Korean, Italian or South American counterparts and sometimes could interfere with the process of political decision making.

10The recent appearance of links between these mafia and the Islamic separatist movements in the Philippines, in Indonesia or in the South of Thailand is a new illustration if the threat these gangs could represent in a global level.

11The papers in this volume comprise contributions to the conference “investigating the grey area if the Chinese communities in South-East Asia” held in Bangkok on January 6th-7th 2005. For this symposium we had chosen to focus on the presentation on the shadow area of the Chinese Diaspora in South-East Asia.

List of Contributors

12Jean Baffie is a sociologist and an historian. He published several papers on the Chinese communities in Thailand and South-East Asia. He is a member of the CNRS and teaches at the Institute of Research on South-East Asia (IRSEA) and at the House of Asia and Pacific. His paper explains very clearly the roots and the origins of the Ang-Yi (the Chinese secret societies in Thailand). He also offers a note on the foreign mafias operating in Thailand.

13Todd Bancroft has been employed by the Hong Kong Police for the past 14 years, where he has performed a wide range of duties relating to the investigation and prosecution of organized and serious crime. He is currently the officer in charge of Interpol Hong Kong’s Extradition Unit. He has a MSc on Forensic and Legal Psychology, University of Leicester.

14His presentation of the main honking based triads shows us how difficult the eradication of these gangs is difficult while some people in the authorities still believe that they are ‘patriots’

15Ratanaporn Dhammakosol, counsellor to several political parties in Thailand illustrates the links between the Chinese communities in Southeast Asia with China and focus on the political influences of these communities in Thailand as well as in Myanmar. Her lecture examines how of the Chinese government tries to use these communities to develop its own influence in the region.

16Frans Winarta is an eminent international lawyer. He is Founder of the Indonesian Anti Discrimination Movement (GANDI) and the Cofounder of International Chamber of Commerce of Indonesia. He is a Permanent Lecturer at the Law Faculty of the University of Pelita Harapan, Karawaci – Tangerang, since 1996 and Member of the Board the Human Rights Institute established by the Council of the International Bar Association. He describes the political influences of the Chinese communities in Indonesia and the recent improvement of this influence among the local business and political elite despites ancient segregation.

17Yiu Chu Kong received his PhD in Police Studies in the University of Exeter in the UK in 1997. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and a Fellow in the Centre for Criminology at the University of Hong Kong. He is also one of the founding members of the Asian Association of Police Studies (AAPS) and the Hong Kong Juvenile Delinquency Research Society (HKJDRS). He has been invited by various police forces in Asia and Europe to give guest lectures on Chinese organized crime and policing. Yiu Chu Kong writes a clear introduction on the current triad’s situation and use the field of prostitution as an example to show their participation in the business in Hongkong and it impacts in South-East Asia. He examines the networks establishing by the triads all over South-East Asia to recruit those implicated in this business and how the business is ruling.

18Pierre Leroux and Emmanuel Dialma, researcher at the AFESIP in Cambodia completed the presentation of professor Chu by focussing on the sex business at the border between Thailand and Malaysia and how some Chinese roots gangs are taking benefit of this business in the kind of under law or no man’s land zone.

19Peter Michael, journalist specialized on organised crime, provided very informative elements on the triads and how they develop their business from the street level to the transnational crime.

20Guy Lubeight, a member of the IRASEC and researcher at Observatory on Illegal Migrations and Human Traffic in Southeast Asia writes a stylish board of the Chinese influence in Myanmar.

21Alain Forest, historian and professor at the University Paris VII makes a Historical memorandum on the Chinese communities in South-East Asia.

22Philippe Migaux is a Chef Police Superintendent at the French Embassy in Malaysia and is a well-known export on terrorism. His improvised paper explains the impossible relationship between terrorism and professional mafia gangs.

23Bringing together specialists from different fields (from history to sociology, politics and law, NGO and police) brought a real intellectual addition to this subject which can not be held by a single discipline.

© Institut de recherche sur l’Asie du Sud-Est contemporaine, 2007

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