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Full Access A Review of Thailand's Foreign Policy in Mainland Southeast Asia: Exploring an Ideational Approach

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A Review of Thailand's Foreign Policy in Mainland Southeast Asia: Exploring an Ideational Approach

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In the post-Cold War period, mainland Southeast Asia has been significantly marked by peace and stability, despite occasional bilateral tensions among neighbouring countries. Within this environment Thailand has been a primary advocate for various sub-regional co-operation initiatives since the early 1990s. Interestingly, these regional projects have mainly been Thailand's own self-initiated version, in which Thailand acts as the main co-ordinator, sometimes bypassing broader regional entities, especially ASEAN. Conventional wisdom may explain this phenomenon by resorting to the economic rationale in Thai foreign policy. However, in some circumstances economic benefit is not a decisive factor considering associated costs. This article, therefore, proposes to use an ideational lens to reassess Thailand's regional leadership by focusing on the role of self-perception/identity in determining Thailand's foreign policy preferences. It argues that Thailand's identity as a leading country in mainland Southeast Asia helps sustain its active role in sub-regional endeavours. The Quadrangle Economic Co-operation (QEC) initiative is examined here to show the intervention of Thailand's self-perception in the endurance of its leadership in this regional initiative.


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