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Ruji Auethavornpipat, ‘Explaining the Lack of Change in Southeast Asia: The Practice of Migrant Worker Rights in the “ASEAN Migration Field” ’, International Journal of Migration and Border Studies, 5(3) 2019: 153-71.
ASEAN’s regional norms of sovereign equality, non-interference, consultation and consensus or the ‘ASEAN way’ are often used as a scapegoat for explaining the failure of ASEAN and, therefore, the lack of change in Southeast Asia. This perspective, however, does not suggest much about deeper state preferences that drive decision-making, even less so the processes in which ASEAN members arrive at their decisions. In contrast, this article contributes to the ‘practice turn’ in International Relations and argues that the success and failure of ASEAN regionalism very much depends on state’s background knowledge - the habitus that predisposes state actions. By examining the deadlock in the almost decade-long negotiations of the ASEAN instrument on the protection of migrant worker rights, this article sheds light on how Malaysia’s past experiences with labour migration shape its current practice that is estranged from regional demands, hence creating its reluctance to compromise on the migrant worker rights agenda in ASEAN.