Civilian Control and Security Sector Reform in Asia

Paul Chambers Co-Director

Contact Details:
Dr. Paul Chambers
Naresuan University, Thailand
E-mail: paul.chambers[at]

Napisa Waitoolkiat Co-Director

Contact Details:
Dr. Napisa Waitoolkiat
Naresuan University, Thailand
E-mail: napisa.waitoolkiat[at]

Security Sector Reform (SSR) seeks to enhance and improve institutions, structures and personnel which are responsible for the management, provision and oversight of security in a given country. According to the United Nations, these institutions and structures can include defense forces, law enforcement entities, corrections, intelligence services, border management, customs, elements of the judicial sector, management and oversight bodies, civil society groups and other non-state actors, among other elements. SSR seeks to develop greater efficiency, rule of law, good governance and local ownership under democratic principles.

Civilian Control can be seen as a specific aspect of Security Sector Reform. It can be specifically defined as the subordination of a country's armed forces to civilian authorities. There is also an assumption that such civilian supremacy refers to elected civilian control.

Since the beginning of the 1990s in Asia, elected civilian governments have been on the rise. Nevertheless, in some nations (e.g. Thailand, Pakistan), there have been military coups which have placed the military squarely in power. However, 'coup detat' is only one expression of the failure of civilian control. More common are incidents where civilian governments appease militaries, acquiesce to military control over certain policy areas or subjectively place political party loyalists or even relatives in high positions of military or police power in order to keep security forces in line. Examples of successful security sector reform and civilian control (e.g. Japan; Singapore) are evidenced by the ability of civilian governments to dismiss military or police chiefs or use judicial oversight to put military officers engaging in criminal pursuits in jail.

APISA takes an intense academic interest in the subjects of Security Sector Reform and Civilian Control in Asia. This program is supported through institutional linkages as well as potential subsidies and grants for individual and group research, workshops. The Security Sector Reform and Civilian Control in Asia Working Group coordinates this program. The group organizes specific Research Projects around which members, along their areas of expertise, converge.