This paper uses the concept of strategic partnership to analyse the co-operation between Australia and Thailand in the peacekeeping operations in East Timor from 1999 to 2001. A strategic partnership in this paper does not focus on formal agreements between countries or exchange of visits between officials. Instead, a strategic partnership in this paper focuses on how to countries work together by sharing skills, information, resources and risks to advance their perceived mutual interests. This paper argues that before 1999, Australia and Thailand had shared the same stance on the incorporation of East Timor by Indonesia as both countries supported Indonesia’s action. However, there had been no evidence which suggested that Australia and Thailand had worked together. After the East Timorese people voted for independence in the referendum conducted by the United Nations in 1999 and violence erupted, Australia and Thailand worked together in East Timor as strategic partners to restore peace and stability. Thailand’s contributions legitimised Australia’s leading roles in East Timor because Thailand represented a substantial ASEAN component in the Australia-led International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) as Thailand provided the second largest number of troops and the Deputy Commander. Operationally, while Australia demonstrated leadership and discipline, Thailand’s military officers demonstrated at least three skills which complemented the roles of Australian officers, namely: (1) the ability to get along with local people; (2) agricultural development; and (3) understanding of the way of life of the East Timorese.
Thosaphon Chieocharnpraphan, University of Canberra, Australia
Stream: International Relations and Human Rights
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