MA in Southeast Asian Studies, Chulalongkorn University
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THAILAND AND MYANMAR: CONFLICTS AND CONFRONTATIONS UNDER THE THAKSIN SHINAWATRA’S GOVERNMENT
M.L. Pinitbhand Paribatra
Dr. Sunait Chutintaranond
RELATIONSHIP, THAILAND, MYANMAR, CONFLICTS, CONFRONTATIONS, THAKSIN SHINAWATRA
Since the beginning of the Thaksin Shinawatra administration, bilateral relations between Thailand and Myanmar have been characterized by conflicts and confrontations. Old problems such as drug and drug-related activities along the border, unsuccessful border demarcation, flow of refugees, unabated strong sense of nationalism as well as vast discrepancies in the two countries’ structural developments persisted and intensified the conflicts to new heights, with their respective armed forces’ confronting each other. The hypothesis of this thesis is that conflicts and confrontations between Thailand and Myanmar result from differences in structural development, the two countries’ domestic problems, and the role of international actors.
This thesis also argues that, although at times relations between Thailand and Myanmar improved, the Thaksin Shinawatra government has so far not succeeded in alleviating or resolving bilateral problems in a permanent manner. The Thai “forward engagement” policy appears to be proactive and forward-looking in its effort to encourage the latter’s regional and international role, through economic cooperation, and lays the foundations for peace and prosperity in bilateral relations. But economic-centric foreign policy also has its limitations. It caused the government to overlook the necessity of addressing a number of non-economic problems, which if successful would have more lasting benefits for the two countries’ relations. These include boundary demarcation, the question of human security and people-to-people exchanges and cooperation. Moreover, the Thasin Shinawatra government also demonstrated it preference to manage conflicts and confrontations with Myanmar through domestic measures. Such measures included reshuffles of military personnel and inward-looking anti-drug campaigns. The use of this domestic conflict management approach to address external conflicts has not paved the way to successful efforts to alleviate or resolve deep-rooted problems in Thai-Myanmar relations.