Emeritus Professor Carlyle Alan Thayer

My Expertise

Security issues in East Asia; domestic politics of Southeast Asia; international relations of the Asia-Pacific (US & China); civil-military relations in Asia-Pacific.

Fields of Research (FoR)

International Relations, Political Science

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Phone: +61 2 6268 8860
Fax: +61 2 6268 8879

Professional Background

Carl Thayer is Emeritus Professor of Politics and Visiting Fellow, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, UNSW Canberra (February 2018-December 2020).

He is also Director of Thayer Consultancy, a small business registered in Australia in 2002 that provides political analysis of current regional security issues and other research support to...view more

Phone: +61 2 6268 8860
Fax: +61 2 6268 8879

Professional Background

Carl Thayer is Emeritus Professor of Politics and Visiting Fellow, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, UNSW Canberra (February 2018-December 2020).

He is also Director of Thayer Consultancy, a small business registered in Australia in 2002 that provides political analysis of current regional security issues and other research support to selected clients.

Professional Career

Carl was educated at Brown University (Political Science, 1967). He holds an M.A. in Southeast Asian Studies from Yale (1971) and a PhD in International Relations from The Australian National University (ANU, 1977). He studied Thai language at The University of Missouri at Columbia, Vietnamese language at Yale, Cornell and Southern Illinois University, and Lao language at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. Thayer also holds a Certificate in National Security from the Institute of Political Science, Christian Albrechts Universität, Kiel, Federal Republic of Germany (1987).

After graduating from Brown, Carl served in Vietnam with the International Voluntary Services (1967-68) and as a volunteer secondary school teacher in Botswana with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (1968-69).

He began his professional career as a tutor in Department of Asian Civilisation at the ANU (1973-74). He commenced his academic career as Lecturer at the Bendigo Institute of Technology in 1975 (renamed the Bendigo College of Advanced Education in 1976). In 1979, he joined The University of New South Wales (UNSW) and taught first in its Faculty of Military Studies at The Royal Military College-Duntoon (1979-85) and then at the Australian Defence Force Academy (1986-2010). He served as Head of the School of Politics from 1995-97. In 1998, he was promoted to full Professor, During 2007-08 and 2010 he directed Regional Security Studies at the Australian Command and Staff College while teaching at UNSW Canberra. Upon retirement in 2010 he was conferred the title Emeritus Professor. Carl served three major periods away from UNSW@ADFA:

· From 1992-95, he was seconded to the Regime Change and Regime Maintenance Project, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, ANU to conduct research on Vietnamese domestic politics.

· From 1999-2002, he was granted ‘leave in the national interest’ to take up the position of Professor of Southeast Asian Security Studies and Deputy Chair of the Department of

Regional Studies at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (APCSS), U.S. Pacific Command, Hawaii. He revised the curriculum for the Executive Course and was an original contributor to the Senior Executive Course (two-three star or vice ministerial level).

· From 2002 to 2004, Carl was seconded to Deakin University as On-Site Academic Co-ordinator of the Defence and Strategic Studies Course, the senior defence course, at the Centre for Defence and Strategic Studies (CDSS) at the Australian Defence College, Weston Creek.

During his career, Professor Thayer undertook special study leave at the ANU’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre; Harvard’s Center for International Affairs; International Institute of Strategic Studies in London; Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Chulalongkorn University in Thailand; Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore; and the Department of Political Science at Yale. In 1993, in a career highlight, he was appointed a United Nations observer for elections in Cambodia.

Service to the Profession

Thayer was a founding member of the Vietnam Studies Association of Australia and served three terms as national secretary/treasurer (1994-98). He also served as national secretary of the Asian Studies Association of Australia (1996-98).

Professional Recognition

In 2003, Thayer was conferred the Joint Meritorious Service Award for his contributions to the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, U.S. Pacific Command.

In 2005, Thayer was appointed the C. V. Starr Distinguished Visiting Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D.C. In 2008, he was the inaugural 

Frances M. and Stephen H. Fuller Distinguished Visiting Professor of Southeast Asian Stuides at the Center for International Affairs, Ohio University.

As a Subject Matter Expert in 2014 Professor Thayer was invited to address the 2ndExpanded ASEAN Maritime Forum in Da Nang, Viet Nam and the following year he was invited to address the ASEAN-China Joint Working Group on the Implementation of the DOC Seminar-Workshop on the Implementation of the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC-SCS) in Manila, The Philippines.

In April 2015, he was appointed Eminent Person by the Department of Defence Australian Civil-Military Centre, to facilitate the East Asia Summit Rapid Disaster Response: Lessons Learned Seminar held in Sydney in September that was attended by senior officials from fifteen countries.

In April 2020, Professor Thayer was inducted into the Marquis Who’s Who Biographical Registry and in Marquis Who’s Who Top Professionals.


My Research Activities

Research Interests

· Politics of Vietnam (leadership and generational change; decision-making in the Vietnam Communist Party; elections, legal reform and the role of the National Assembly; political reform and dissent, the emergence of civil society, human rights and religious freedom; treatment of ethnic minorities, political legitimacy).

· The role of the military in Vietnam (leadership; defence diplomacy and external relations; arms procurement and force modernisation; domestic commercial and socio-economic roles).

· Foreign Policy of Vietnam (especially Sino-Vietnamese relations, relations with the United States and relations with ASEAN).

· Multilateral security institutions in the Asia-Pacific (ASEAN, ASEAN Regional Forum, and the Five Power Defence Arrangements).

· China’s defence cooperation with Southeast Asia.

· Climate change and its impact on Southeast Asian security

Thayer is the author of more than 500 academic publications including books, monographs, journal articles and book chapters. He has a high international media profile giving more than 200 interviews a year to Al Jazeera, BBC, Deutsche Welle, National Public Radio, Radio France Internationale Radio Free Asia, Vietnam National Television, Voice of America as well as Agence France Presse, Bloomberg, Deutsche Presse Agentur, Reuters, Vietnam News Agency, The New York Times, Nikkei Asian Review, South China Morning Post, and The Straits Times.

Postgraduate Supervision (UNSW PhDs)

Ian MacFarling, The Evolution of the Indonesian Armed Forces: A Case Study in the Fusion of Civilian and Military Roles (1994).

John Walker, Power and Conflict in Sarawak, 1835-1868 (1995).

John-Silvano Bruni, Reasons for Choice: Understanding the Direction of Australian Weapons Procurement Since 1963 (1998).

Nguyen Hong Thach, Vietnam Between China and the United States, 1950-1995 (2000).

David J. Kilcullen, The Political Consequences of Military Operations in Indonesia 1945-99: A Fieldwork Analysis of the Political Power-Diffusion Effects of Guerrilla Conflict (2000).

Michael Sharpe, Vietnamese Foreign Policy in an Era of Reform: A Multi-level Analysis (2002).

Nguyen Nam Duong, Vietnamese Foreign Policy Since Doi Moi: The Dialectic of Power and Identity (2010).

Scott Bentley, Beginning to Balance: Maritime Southeast Asia Responds to the Rise of China (2016).

Leng Thearith, Small State Diplomacy: Cambodia’s Foreign Policy Towards Viet Nam (2018).

Veasna Var, Assessing the Impact of China’s Foreign Aid on Sustainable Development in Cambodia: 1993-2018 (2020).

Tuan Anh Luc, ASEAN Centrality and Major Powers: South China Sea Case Study (2020).

Tran Thi Le Dung, Regionalisation in the Greater Mekong Subregion: Vietnam in the GMS Cooperation Program (2020).

Vu Lam, Intermestic Public Diplomacy in Vietnam: Boosting International Standing and Drumming Up Domestic Support (2020).

Under Supervision

Nguyen Minh Ngoc, Regional Stabilisers: Questioning Middle Power Diplomacy and Collaboration in the Asia-Pacific (in progress)

Dung Huynh, How Weaker Nations Resist Large Powers’ Coercion in Territorial Contests: Evidence from Vietnamese Policymaking Against China in the South China Sea Disputes, Frederick S. Pardee RAND Graduate School, Santa Monica, California, USA (in pro

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Australian Defence Force Academy, Northcott Drive, Canberra, ACT 2610


61 2 6268 8860
61 2 6268 8879