Presented by: Professor Nicholas Farrelly, Head of Social Sciences
In recent decades, Thailand and Myanmar have invested heavily in “transitions” from authoritarianism but still struggle to consolidate effective democratic rule. Military interventions and the entrenchment of elite interests weigh heavily against aspirations for wide-ranging political and social reform. In both countries, the economic damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic has proved significant and destabilising.
Under these turbulent conditions, analysts of domestic politics often find themselves asked to recommend foreign policy responses. Such foreign policy choices require an appreciation of the national situations and the full consideration of regional and global implications, especially at a time when China seeks to set an Asia-wide agenda. Where there are no easy answers, it is tempting to judge that foreign policy – whether crafted in Canberra, Tokyo, Washington or Jakarta – will make little difference to the overall outcomes.
Looking at Southeast Asia from an Australian perspective, this presentation assesses the various policy responses that could assist the people of countries like Thailand and Myanmar in their demands for greater democratisation. These responses range from the familiar, such as sanctions against top military figures, through more unconventional engagements, including those that test our views of national sovereignty.