Human Rights Protections for Persons with Mental Illness in Indonesia: The Response of the Kebumen District to Pasung in Mbah Marsiyo’s House

Harry Minas

University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

The legal basis for protection of the human rights of persons with mental illness in Indonesia is now well developed. It includes Indonesia’s ratification of relevant UN instruments, passage of relevant laws, and the National Human Rights Commission.  Despite this, the development of effective responses to mental disorder continues to be a low priority, as demonstrated by weak mental health governance arrangements, insufficient investment, shortage of skilled mental health professionals, inadequate facilities, and inadequate information systems and research capabilities. Continuing abuse of human rights is an important consequence of these deficiencies. The most widely known form of abuse of human rights is pasung, the restraint and confinement of person with severe and persistent mental disorders in the home by families and in a variety of social and religious institutions.

This presentation will focus on an informal institution in Kebumen known as Mbah Marsiyo’s House and the efforts of the local District Government to institute to develop more appropriate mental health, rehabilitation, and social services for people with severe and persistent mental disorders.


Biography: To come

From Paternalism to Empowering Patients: A New Approach to Mental Health in Indonesia

Santi Yuliani

Mental Hospital, Magelang, Indonesia

In the treatment of mental disorders, the doctor-patient relationship, and the attitudes of health personnel, are of profound importance. Traditionally, physicians have occupied positions of authority; patients were expected to follow their orders. This attitude is still present today, which is the main reason to introduce a new paradigm characterized by a better and more egalitarian doctor-patient relationship. To achieve this, the Magelang Mental Hospital is currently implementing the Optimal Health Program (OHP) workbook with guidance from St.Vincent’s Hospital, Melbourne. OHP is a self-management program which promotes hope, growth, and meaningful connections and partnerships. The aim is to empower people to enhance their wellbeing and build on their strengths and values. OHP responds to individual needs and offers the opportunity to have conversations, reflect, write down ideas, ask questions, and develop strategies. OHP aims to empower patients to understand their medical condition and to be actively involved in developing plans that lead to recovery and wellness.

In this presentation, I will provide an overview of the implementation of this program, difficulties encountered, and report on outcomes.

Biography: To come

Consumer Associations, Patient Advocates, and the Future of Mental Health Care in Indonesia

Agus Sugianto, patient advocate; Deakin University

In Indonesia, mental illness is severely stigmatized as mental illness is commonly attributed to lack of faith and sinfulness. Over 90% of individuals with mental illness are unable to access mental health service. Indonesia’s low mental health literacy, the high numbers of individuals in pasung, and the stigma associated with mental illness sparked consumers of mental health care in Indonesia to establish support groups. The first one was KPSI (Indonesian Community Care for Schizophrenia) in 2008, followed by Bipolar Care Indonesia in 2013, Into the Light (suicide prevention) 2013, and many others. These groups provide support and care to individuals with mental illness and their carers.

As pasung survivor and patient advocate, I would like to represent the voice of indviduals who are chained because of mental illness. I see it as my task to support individuals with mental illness and spread awareness about the nature of mental illness among physicians and the general public. There should be more public health education, more funding for mental health, and collaboration among stakeholders and the community.

Biography: To come

The Future of Mental Health Care in Indonesia: A Collaborative Project

Hans Pols

University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia

For a population of over 260 million people, Indonesia has a mere 1,000 psychiatrists and an equal number of clinical psychologists. Funding for mental health care is around 1% of the health budget. Under these conditions, providing adequate mental health care is an enormous challenge.

As part of an ARC-funded research project on mental health care in Indonesia with Profs Byron Good and Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good (Harvard University), we interviewed over 400 Indonesian psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, other health personnel, and patient advocates. We asked them to tell us about successful initiatives in mental health which could be replicated elsewhere. We also organised a workshop in Yogyakarta to formulate ideas on the future of mental health care in Indonesia. The results were published in a 2-volume edited book, Jiwa Sehat, Negara Kuat in 2019 (an English version is in preparation). In this presentation, I will share some of the results of these discussions. I will specifically focus on the requirement of the new health insurance system (BPJS) to move mental health care to community mental health centres.

Biography: To come

The Future of Mental Health Care in Indonesia

Hatty Minas4, Hans Pols1, Agus  Sugianto2, Santi Yuliani3

1University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia, 2Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia, 3Mental Hospital, Magelang, Indonesia, 4University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

Chair: Hans Pols

For a population of over 260 million people, Indonesia has a mere 1,000 psychiatrists and an equal number of clinical psychologists. Funding for mental health care is around 1% of the health budget. Under these conditions, providing adequate mental health care constitutes an enormous challenge. In this panel, we discuss the ideas of a number psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses and patient advocates formulated during a workshop on the future of mental health care in Indonesia. Agus Sugianto will highlight the central role of patient advocates and consumer associations in Indonesia, while psychiatrist Santi Yuliani will present new initiatives within mental health care. This panel concludes with a presentation by Professor Harry Minas on an example of the involvement of a district government in institutionalising adequate mental health care.

Performing Waria: Genre as a Technology for shaping Trans-Identity in Indonesia”

Paige Johnson

1Columbia University

If, as Diana Taylor proposed, we can remap genre through performance, is it possible to rethink “Trans-“ through genre? This paper explores how waria-  as local Indonesian terminology for transgender women, social signifier of difference, and node within transnational queer codes— manifest through “genres” of performance in contemporary Indonesian society. Specifically, we move into the affective economies  of Indonesia’s queer cabaret scene. Here, the aesthetic conventions of drag offer waria what Foucault refers to as “technologies of the self”, ways to perform the complex relationship between local understandings of Trans-ness and global, predominantly Western, iterations of non-binary embodiment. Of special interest are the ways in which waria-entertainers move across cultural, geographic, and affective borders to perform the particular modes of racialized femininity circulated by and through Black pop-stars. Both Trans* and “performance” are often used to think laterally about boundary crossings and transitions. Through a critical engagement with the performance practices of waria artists performing across racial and geographic boundaries, we get a better sense of the depth through which queer and transgender bodies shape, and are shaped by, performance broadly and genre more specifically. I argue that genre, then, offers a space of resistance against totalizing conceptions in the production of knowledge and constitutive debates concerning the proper object of transgender studies that still circulate within scholarly discourse. Conversely Trans*, as interrogated through the particularities of waria performance practices, offers to the field a generative take on the relationship between genres of performance and legibilities of gender and race across the intersecting axis of power and representation.

Biography: To come

Poverty, populism and the ever-present ‘other’: analyzing a century of media discourses on inequality in Myanmar.

Dr Htet Htet Khaing

Department of History, Mandalay University, Myanmar, 6Faculty of Criminology and Sociology, University of Hull, United Kingdom

A key element of populist discourses are the portrayals of the ‘other’, particularly in framing narratives around inequalities and poverty, or similar crises.  The role of the media both as a vehicle for, and a shaper of populist narratives is contested. In Myanmar, recent reforms have to some extent liberalized print and electronic media, and rapid expansion of mobile phone access has resulted in an explosion of social media usage, particularly Facebook, as a forum for public discussion and dissemination.

The political cartoon is a well-known form of  both dissent and diversion, often located in points of consumption such as newspapers, thus juxtaposing populist sentiments with the economic interest of selling news.  Myanmar has a rich history of political satirism, where the first Burmese language newspaper, the Yadanapon Naypyidaw, began to feature political cartoons satirizing British colonial rule in the early 1900’s.This juxtaposition is in some ways adjusted by social media, but arguably remains relevant. By analyzing political cartoons from the early 20th century, where anti-colonial movements diversified in the context of inequalities and social unrest, and in the 21st century, where civil society and religious movements proliferate against an uncannily reminiscent context of precarity, this paper highlights the key iconographic modes of cartoonists in portraying the ‘others’ in relation to the perceived crises of the day, and how the graphic portrayal of the identity of the ‘other’ draws on, shapes, and re-shapes wider populist narratives.


Htet Htet Khaing is an Assistant Lecturer at the Department of History, University of Mandalay. He PhD research focused on police administration, and she has developed strong research interests in the social history of Myanmar, and how the context of inequalities and social condition of Myanmar is expressed in historical and contemporary media.

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf? Gendered narratives of human security in Mandalay.

Dr Kyi Mar3, Dr Win Win Soe1, Dr Pearl Khin2, Daw N Khum Ja  Ra4

1Department of Anthropology, Mandalay University, Myanmar, 2Department of Geography, Mandalay University, Myanmar, 3Department of International Relations, Mandalay University, Myanmar, 4Department of Economics

In Europe, the USA and many Asian countries, populist messages appealing to gendered human security narratives are an increasingly influential force in national politics. From the anti-immigration policies of the Orban government in Hungary, offering tax breaks for Hungarian women bearing four or more children, to the rhetoric of Donald Trump in promoting the Mexican border wall to keep out ‘rapists’, these discourses of human security are shaped to appeal to the concerns of female voters. In Myanmar, populist narratives of ‘others’ who threaten indigenous culture, values and population have also influenced public policy, most recently in widespread public support for laws restricting polygamy and family size of Muslims in Rakhine State.  These laws drew enormous popular support from women. In Mandalay, human security narratives relate the perceived influence to populations considered to be non-indigenous, and these narratives themselves express concerns which are highly gendered. By using narrative methods, this research will explore the intersection of gender, place and human security, particularly how these factors relate to and redefine each other in constructing of the pasts, presents and futures in the society of Mandalay. It will seek to identify different discourses of human security which are specifically relevant to women, and how these narratives influence, and are influenced, by wider discourses in the media, and how these are shaped by changing spatial forms of physical and online community.


Dr. Kyi Mar is an Associate Professor at the Department of International Relations, University of Mandalay. She received her PhD form University of Mandalay focusing on Judicial System in Myanmar (1937-1987) in 2007. Her recent publications include Myanmar’s activities to combat human trafficking research in Myanmar Academy of Arts and Science Journal, and the Role of Rule of Law in a Sovereign State research and Consequences of Brexit for Britain in Monywa University Research Journal. Her fields of specialization are international relations, judiciary, rule of law, European studies, democracy, gender, human security and human rights.

Whose R2P? The politics of banana planting in Waingmaw Township.

Daw Daw Nan War War  Hto1 Daw Zin Mar  Phyo1

1Department of Anthropology, Mandalay University, Myanmar

Resistant discourses to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) frequently utilize populist narratives, evoking a sense of crisis created or sustained by an existential ‘other’.  In several recent cases in Myanmar, activists have successfully combined populist messages with appeals to environmental protection, such as the suspension of the Myitsone Dam project in 2013, and campaigning over environmental degradation from the copper mine in Salingyi. These discourses often obscure the local details of transnational politics, such as food security and land governance, and the intersection between different narratives of development.  In this critical geography of banana growing in Waingmaw District, near the China border, we analyze the local political ecology of food production, and how both acquiescence and resistance derive from, and influence populist narratives. Furthermore, we draw on Wood’s concept of ‘ceasefire capitalism’ to illustrate how the peculiarities of local geography, particularly in peripheral regions, result in different practical political settlements,  involving a range of different actors including  ethnic armed organizations, foreign merchants, government officials and local brokers. These ‘border assemblages’ establish and maintain ambiguities of governance, where, far removed from the judicial norms of the centre, power distribution takes place within a framework of perpetual contestation. This ambiguity paradoxically enables the success of more specific narratives of the threatening ‘other’, which are utilized to harness wider support for a more localized environmental issue.


Daw Nan War War Hto is an Assistant Lecturer in the Anthropology Department at Mandalay University, and has developed a strong academic interest in the application new perspectives, such as assemblage theory, to the study of governance in border areas of Myanmar.

Glass or Mirrors? The political construction of the Byamaso organization in Mandalay.

Dr Lei Shwe Sin Myint

Department of Anthropology, Mandalay University, Myanmar

Whilst definitions of populism remain contested, key features include the importance of ‘the people’, a construction of an existential other, and reference to some form of extreme crisis. Civil society organizations are often expressions or vehicles for populist sentiments. However, little attention is paid to the political construction of civil society organizations, and how that draws from and contributes to emergent populist discourses. Myanmar has a surprisingly rich history of emergent civil society organizations, some of which, such as the Dobama Asiyone association of the 1920’s, were linked with populist, nationalist movements which appealed to religious and ethnic values.  The Byamaso association was formed in response to a crisis arising from difficulties in conducting funerals in the urban centre of Mandalay, gaining public support by appealing to charitable values and organizational transparency. This subtly juxtaposed the Byamaso organization with the government of that period, by appealing to values and services not provided by the government.  However, as government services are being reformed, how does the Byamaso Organization maintain its public appeal and relevance? What populist discourses shape the current political form of the Byamaso organization, and how do these relate to, or potentially challenge, populist discourses framed around religious or ethnic ‘others’? This research uses critical ethnography to show how the Byamaso organization is constructed, and where the Byamaso and similar organizations are placed in relation to the wider populist geography of Myanmar, enabling more informed scrutiny of civil society organizations.


Lei Shwe Sin Myint has been teaching and researching in Anthropology for over 17 years, focusing on the social organization of different ethnic groups in Myanmar, as well as the changing nature of religious belief amongst Burmese Buddhists. Her recent research interest in Buddhist social organizations builds on an increasing interest in reflexivity and the research process


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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