An Evaluation of ASEAN's Progress in Regional Community Building: Implications of Thailand's Bilateral Relations and the Extent of Civil Society Participation in Regionalism

Yajai Bunnag

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis seeks to evaluate the progress of regional community building in Southeast Asia, which has been undertaken by the Association of Southeast Asians (ASEAN). The thesis analyses the extent to which there has been a shift from policies and processes associated with “old regionalism” (state-security-economic centred regionalism) towards those which are associated with “new regionalism” and a regional community (the widening of regionalism to non-state actors, and expansion of regional cooperation into new areas, and regional solidarity). The first half of the thesis demonstrates the persistence of “old regionalism,” based on a tendency to differentiate others as an external security threat in Thailand’s bilateral relations. This tendency is driven by a deeply embedded historical legacy of differentiation, which is pursued by state actors for domestic political interests, as well as on-going bilateral disputes, and a militarised border. The second half of the thesis tests the significance of “new regionalism,” based on three case studies on civil society participation in regional community building. These case studies demonstrate how “new regionalism” is significant in form, rather than in substance, and how progress in community building is mainly driven by the more democratic ASEAN member states. Visible progress in community building includes the emergence of ASEAN-CSO meetings, an ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), and a transnational civil society network (TCSN), which is increasing society’s regional awareness and society’s participation in regionalism. However, substantive progress is lacking, due to the region’s political diversity and the prioritization of regional unity over the realization of a people-oriented ASEAN Community. Thus, ASEAN community building is empty in substance, due to the continuation of politically motivated differentiation and border insecurity, symbolic meetings between states and CSOs, a powerless regional human rights body, and the remaining gap between regional declarations and policy implementation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Goh, Chui, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Jun 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


  • regional community building
  • bilateral relations
  • civil society

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