Studying Southeast Asia's Security Choices

2019 Southeast Asia's Security Choices New Colombo Plan Mobility Course..jpg
Course convenors Professor John Blaxland and Dr Gregory Raymond with students of the 2019 "Southeast Asia's Security Choices" course at the Strategic Studies Center in Thailand.

Created and led by Professor John Blaxland and Dr Greg Raymond of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (SDSC), the New Colombo Plan (NCP) funded course was a “tour de force” of in-depth knowledge and insights into the most pressing security issues face by Southeast Asia.

The study tour featured lectures by some of Southeast Asia’s top officials, analysts and academics. Spending a week each in Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand, the program was packed daily with high-level meetings and briefings, private tours, and intimate dinner discussions. Pulling from their own personal contacts and extensive networks, Dr Raymond and Professor Blaxland introduced students to a range of security actors in each country and exposed the incredible complexity and nuances of each security relationship.

“The course is largely about understanding the international and domestic security choices that each of these Southeast countries must make” says Professor Blaxland, “and understanding the role Australia can play in the region in response to their security choices.” With this in mind, the course incorporated briefings by Australian diplomats and foreign correspondents, but was heavily charged with local interactions. “As several of the students on this course observed, too frequently we see Southeast Asian countries primarily through the lens of our bilateral relationship with them, and fail to appreciate that their security perceptions have developed from a whole set of experiences that have little to do with Australia” adds Dr Raymond.

Needless to say, students were amazed by the program. Highlights included private briefings with high-level diplomats at Australia’s Embassies in Jakarta and Bangkok, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia (KEMLU); debate and discussion with Indonesian university students; a private tour of the naval base and International Fusion Centre in Singapore; candid analyses from in-country institutes and researchers; intimate dinners with former Foreign Ministers; and a boat trip with the Royal Thai Navy on the Chao Phraya River.

“[In one day] we had the opportunity to discuss Thailand’s primary human security challenges with Thai journalists in the morning. Later that afternoon, we had the privilege of meeting with one of Thailand’s Air Vice Marshals and several other high-ranking military personnel to discuss Thailand’s more conventional security issues and its engagement in ASEAN,” recounts student Katherine Keir. “That day was a perfect example of the many competing voices we needed to consider throughout the tour in forming what turned out to be an extremely complex picture of Southeast Asia. [It] was also a perfect example of the consistently high standard of guest speakers throughout the tour, which is all thanks to [Professor Blaxland and Dr Raymond’s] combined lifetimes of contacts.”

View the full 2019 course itinerary attached.