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Thai policy face to US/China competition and possible confrontation / Panitan WATTANAYAGORN

Asia’s Post-Pandemic Order and Integration: Outlook of ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific at Crossroads

Thai policy face to US/China competition and possible confrontation
Panitan WATTANAYAGORN, Faculty of Political Science, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok

This presentation argues that, on the one hand “ASEAN Centrality” has been an important element in Thailand’s national security strategy and foreign policy. The concept has not only been highlighted in the current official documents, but also implemented by the Thai governments in practice for the past decades. Recent research also indicates that Thailand has placed an importance of ASEAN among its top foreign policy priorities. The objective in doing that is to achieve a “strategic new equilibrium” for a more stable regional order. This trend is likely to continue in the short and medium terms. However, on the other hand, this presentation also argues that since Thai diplomacy is well known for its pragmatism. Recent developments also indicate that Thailand is moving or “hedging” towards China. In the much longer term, or in the events of a war or an open conflict between China and the United States, it is quite possible that Thailand maybe forced, much like during the WWII, to align itself with China. The consequences to Thailand and to the ASEAN multilateral strategy could be catastrophic.


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Session 3 / The Indo-Pacific from Southeast Asian Perspectives : Centrality and Multilateralism in Uncertain Times
Chair : Prof. Suthiphand CHIRATHIVAT, Chulalongkorn University (Bangkok)

The Indo-Pacific considered as a maritime “super-region” acknowledge the fact that the Indian Ocean has replaced the Atlantic as the globe’s busiest and most strategically significant trade corridor, whose geographical center in Southeast Asia. The “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific” in 2019 asserted the “ASEAN Centrality” and its willingness to weigh as a significant player in the Indo-Pacific changing landscape, at the heart of new regional dynamics. These last years, ASEAN has defended an alternative position of “dialogue and cooperation, and not rivalry with China” in the context of Trump’s trade disputes and conflicts between US and China. This session questions the Southeast Asia countries and ASEAN multilateral strategy, in the recent changing context with the new Biden administration’s commitment in the Indo-Pacific. And to what extent will ASEAN countries and institutions be able to defend a stable multipolar world order in the Indo-Pacific region without isolating China, and avoid, as during the Cold War, being the center theatre of conflicts ?

“Asia’s Post-Pandemic Order and Integration : Outlook of ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific at Crossroads” is an international conference organized by The Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia (IRASEC-CNRS) with the ASEAN Studies Center (Chulalongkorn University) in Bangkok, and the ASEAN-India Centre (AIC), RIS in New Delhi.
8-9 July 2021 - Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok