Ties that Bind: The Intimate Relationship between Thailand and the United S...

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History Room S223

Quadrangle Building

The University of Sydney

Sydney, NSW 2052

Australia

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Join us for a compelling discussion of the relationship between Thailand and the United States.


Thailand is the United States’ oldest ally in Asia. The two countries signed the Treaty of Amity and Commerce in 1836 which served as a foundation for strong bilateral ties. It is evident that the United States’ amicable relations with Siamese kings assisted greatly in strengthening the power of the throne. Bilateral relations were progressively solidified particularly during the Cold War when the two nations cooperated in their attempt to combat the threat of communism, even when Washington openly supported a series of regimes in Thailand against democratic forces. King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Thailand's most powerful and revered monarch, was reinvented into an all-time US protagonist. As Bhumibol strove to maintain his royal political hegemony, the US was ready to lend its support to Bhumibol’s “network monarchy” of which Washington became a kind of member ex officio. Washington invested massively in Bhumibol throughout the Cold War. But when the Cold War was over and the Thai political landscape changed drastically, the United Stated was rooted to the old network of the ailing king.

This seminar examines the ties between the United States and the authoritative institution of Thailand – the monarchy. The speaker discusses how the United States has willingly become a part of Thailand’s domestic political struggles which pitted the dominant monarchy against democratic institutions. Perceiving the monarchy as the highest institution, Washington put all of its egg in that one basket as a way to defend its interests of power in the kingdom. Hence, when new political alternatives emerged on the Thai political scene, the United States remained reluctant to engage with them for fear that it could jeopardise its intimate relations with the monarchy. Additionally, with the rise of China, a question must be asked: What must the United States do to maintain its influence over this old ally in Southeast Asia?


About the speaker

Pavin Chachavalpongpun is associate professor at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, where he teaches Southeast Asian Comparative Politics. Earning his PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, Pavin has authored a number of books including Reinventing Thailand: Thaksin and His Foreign Policy and the forthcoming edited volume Coup, King, Crisis: Time of a Critical Interregnum in Thailand. Pavin is also the chief editor of the online journal “Kyoto Review of Southeast Asia” in which all articles are translated from English into Japanese, Thai, Bahasa Indonesia, Filipino and Vietnamese. After the Thai coup of 2014, Pavin was summoned twice for his critical views of the Thai monarchy. He rejected the summons. As a result, the junta issued a warrant for his arrest and revoked his passport, forcing him to apply for a refugee status with Japan.


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History Room S223

Quadrangle Building

The University of Sydney

Sydney, NSW 2052

Australia

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