Dialogue to strengthen the relationship between Thailand and Australia

13 February 2023

The Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs in partnership with The Asia Foundation (TAF) hosted a track 1.5 dialogue between Thai and Australian leaders at The Australian National University in September 2022 to support the current efforts to strengthen bilateral relations.

The Thai-Australian relationship has continued to improve in recent years, building on several positive milestones. In 2020, the Australian and Thai Governments elevated their bilateral relationship to a Strategic Partnership, designed to enhance economic links, deepen political-security engagement, intensify sectoral collaboration, and enhance people-to-people links. Australia was the first development partner to the Thai-led Ayeyarwady-Chao Phraya-Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS).

These positive developments have occurred amidst a backdrop of increasing geopolitical competition and great power tensions. Thailand and Australia have a mutual interest to promote ASEAN centrality, and strengthen the rules-based order in Southeast Asia. Australia has been an active supporter of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and has been exploring opportunities to support its implementation.

The timing of this dialogue was critical, especially given the Australian government’s concerted efforts in increasing engagement with the region which included both current officials with oversight of Thai and Australian foreign policy, along with former officials and experts from outside of government. This format was designed to enable open and constructive discussion, along with direct engagement of policymakers. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand and the Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) participated throughout the discussions, along with officials from the Australian Department of Climate Change, Environment and Water (DCCEW) and the Thai Ministry of Energy.

The dialogue brought together leaders from government, the policy community, universities, and the private sector to reflect on the current state of the relationship, identify areas of emerging shared interests, and develop new ideas for the future of the bilateral relationship. The delegations reflected a diversity of views – across generations, genders, professions, and geographic regions – within each country.

The Thai delegation was led by Senator and former Ambassador Kitti Wasinondh and included thirteen other leading Thai personalities from the public and private sectors, media and academics. The Australian delegation included fifteen additional senior Australian leaders and experts from policy think tanks, universities, and private sector associations, along with key officials. The list of delegations’ full membership can be seen in Annex 1 in the report.

View the program here.

The report, which can be downloaded here, was developed by Dr Gregory Raymond (ANU), Dr Jittipat Poonkham (Thammasat University), Thomas Parks (TAF), and Benjamin Zawacki (TAF), with inputs from members of both delegations. The synthesis report captures the key highlights of the Dialogue, and principal outcomes and policy recommendations from the discussion. The report is not designed to be an official outcome statement, but rather an unofficial reflection of the discussion to inform policymakers and future debate.

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