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Thailand's Post-2014 Coup Foreign Relations: Riding on the New International Trend (Lecture)

  • New York University Center for Global Affairs, Woolworth Building 15 Barclay Street New York, NY, 10007 United States (map)

Thailand's Post-2014 Coup Foreign Relations: Riding on the New International Trend, a lecture by Pavin Chachavalpongpun followed by Q&A facilitated by Christopher Ankersen.

The coup of 2014 represented a watershed in Thailand’s political history. Arguably, the coup was initiated as a crucial plot in managing the imminent royal succession. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, or Rama IX, had led a long and authoritative reign. His departure has already left a gigantic gap to be filled with uncertainties. The military was anxious that the remaining influence of the Shinawatras could rise to dominate the post-Bhumibol political domain, which is now under the reign of King Vajiralongkorn, Bhumibol’s son. Driven by such anxiety, the military staged the coup that was popularly supported by Bangkok’s middle and upper class residents. The two events, the coup of 2014 and the royal succession unveiled the volatility of the Thai political system, and in many ways, the realm of foreign affairs.

Thai foreign policy is traditionally shaped by the changing international environment. In the current political context, the coup of 2014 has exacerbated the political conflict and powerfully prescribed the way in which the country pursued its relations with the outside world. The speaker argues that the changing international circumstances allow the military regime to entrench itself in the political realm and to exploit the latest global trend to achieve self-legitimization. In this new trend, China has emerged to shift the regional balance of power and contest the hegemony of the United States, now in the hands of President Donald Trump. Elsewhere, democracy and regionalism have been seriously challenged, as prevalently seen in Europe and Asia. Riding on such trend, the Thai military government is swerving the country closer towards not-so-democratic states in the region while moving its foreign policy away from its traditional allies in the West. The Prayuth Chan-ocha government is content to take advantage from the growing anti-democratic tendency as a way to fulfill its legitimacy at the global stage.

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Speaker bio: Pavin Chachavalpongpun is associate professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University. Earning his PhD from SOAS, Pavin is the author of "A Plastic Nation: The Curse of Thainess in Thai-Burmese Relations" and "Reinventing Thailand: Thaksin and His Foreign Policy". Pavin is also the chief editor of Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia, the only online journal which presents all articles in English, Japanese, Thai, Bahasa Indonesia and Vietnamese. After the coup of 2014, Pavin was summoned for being critical of the military and monarchy. He rejected the summons. As a result, a warrant was issued for his arrest and his passport was revoked, forcing him to apply for refugee status in Japan.