Strategic Partnership Between Australia and Thailand: A Case Study of East Timor

Author: Thosaphon Chieocharnpraphan, University of Canberra, Australia
Published: September 2015

Citation: Chieocharnpraphan, T. (2015). Strategic Partnership Between Australia and Thailand: A Case Study of East Timor. IAFOR Journal of Politics, Economics & Law, 2(1).


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 two 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. 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 in the territory.

Thailand’s contributions helped legitimise 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 was mainly responsible for disarming militias in the western part of East Timor along the border with West Timor, Thailand’s military officers demonstrated at least three skills which complemented the roles of Australian troops, 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.


strategic partnership, Australia, Thailand, East Timor, peacekeeping operations