Thailand's foreign policy in the post-Cold War period: uncovering new actors in the foreign policy-making process towards neighbouring countries

Yathip, Pasuwat (2015) Thailand's foreign policy in the post-Cold War period: uncovering new actors in the foreign policy-making process towards neighbouring countries. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

The main aim of this thesis is an in-depth study of new actors in Thai foreign policy-making in the post-Cold War period – particularly involving Thailand's relationships with Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar. With regard to actors in Thai foreign policy, most literature has focused on state-based actors, particularly those responsible for the security policy of the state. However, in the post-Cold War period, "new actors" have become more involved in policy-making. The lack of any serious empirical study of new actors in Thai foreign policy-making has resulted in rather superficial analyses of Thai foreign policy in recent years. These analyses do not accurately reflect the substantial changes in Thai foreign policy that emerged towards the end of the Cold War.

The Cold War conflicts (1950s-1990s) and the Cambodian conflicts (1970s-1990s) dominated foreign relations between Thailand and the neighbouring countries for several decades. They affected not only external foreign policy directions but also influenced internal domestic politics and the resultant economic and social circumstances of these countries. But the end of the Cold War in 1989/1990, and the end of the Cambodian conflict in the late 1980s, marked the end of ideological tension in Southeast Asia. The nature of these relationships shifted from predominantly military confrontation to more economic cooperation. Economic issues in the region became more prominent, and new institutions fostering economic cooperation emerged at the sub-regional, regional, and inter-regional level.

The emerging economic paradigm required expertise in such diverse areas as trade, investment, finance, labour, information technology and intellectual property. The military and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs which had dominated Thailand's foreign policy-making for several decades were required to play different roles, especially in promoting economic relationships with Thailand's neighbours. From the late 1980s, they were increasingly required to act as salespersons for Thai businesses, facilitators for the business community, and to improve the quality of diplomatic intelligence and advice on economic opportunities. These new roles have required new actors, both state and non-state, to implement new foreign policy objectives.

Moreover, in 1988, the new government instigated a new foreign policy direction that regarded Thailand's near neighbours as trade partners rather than security threats. To transform Thailand into a regional commercial hub, improved relationships with Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar were achieved through trade and investment-based relationships.

Concurrently, the influence of economic-related government agencies and the private sector increased. Non-traditional state actors such as the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Industry, and the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB) have been more directly and actively working in cooperation with the traditional actors to produce an effective foreign policy under a new international context. Non-state actors have utilised their connections with policy decision makers to influence policy direction, used their connections with party leaders, and provided financial support in exchange for reciprocal decisions in policy outcomes that benefited their businesses.

This thesis has also revealed that the new actors, were able to influence foreign policy both at the formulation and implementation stages. At the formulation stage, their influence was observed in the roles of the NESDB, the Ministry of Industry together with the Chambers of Commerce, especially the provincial ones in the border areas. Each organization has played a significant role in the establishment of considerable international economic cooperation such as Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in Chiang Rai and Tak Provinces. At the implementation stage, new actors, especially non-state actors, have also played a significant role cooperating with the government agencies. As a result of these new actors' influence, many projects have been carried out and policies developed that changed Thailand's relationships with Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar.

Item ID: 49389
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Cambodia, foreign policy making, foreign policy, international economic relations, international relations, Laos, Myanmar, post-Cold War period, Thailand
Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2017 00:15
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1606 Political Science > 160607 International Relations @ 100%
SEO Codes: 94 LAW, POLITICS AND COMMUNITY SERVICES > 9403 International Relations > 940399 International Relations not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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