World War II: Thailand

World war II CBI Theater
Figure 1.--

With the death of King Prajadhipok, the crown then passed to the King's nephew--Ananda Mahidol. He was just a boy at the time. The National Assembly recognized as king (March 1935). He was a 9-year-old boy going to school in Switzerland. This meant that at a time when World War II was approaching, the monarchy was unable to influence public policy. The military seized control of te country. The Thai Government under Plaek Phibunsongkhram (Phibun) sought to benefit from the war in Europe. After the fall of France (June 1940), fighting occurred along the eastern border with the French in Indo China. Japan moved forces into Indo China which caused the United States to institute trade embargos. Attacks by the Thais begn (September 28, 1940), but were sporadic. The Thais launched a major offensive (January 5, 1941). The Japanese presured the French Vichy regime in France to meet Thai demands for territory. Thiland occupied a strategic lovation. Japanese drives toward the bastion in Singapore and toward India would have to move through Thailand. [Haseman] With limited resources and Japanese forces in Indo China, the French had little alternative. The French ceeded substabntial territory to Thailand (March 1941). This included Laos west of the Mekong. much of the Cambodian province of Battambang. This was territory that had been Thai before the French intervention into Southeast Asia. This apparent Thai victory made the Phibun Government very popular. After Pearl Harbor, the Japanese crossed the Thai border at Chumphon (December 8, 1941). Thai officials quickly agreed to Japanese demands to allow transit to Japanese forces moving against the British in Malaya and Burma. Phibun announced that the arrangement with the Japanese was "prearranged". Phibun proceeded to sign a mutual defense pact with Japan (December 1941). Thai participation was important to the Japanese both to promote its anti-colonial propaganda line and its own Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere. Cooperation meant that the Japanese offensive would not be slowed nt Thai resistance and the need for a large occupation force. There was some support from Thasi nationalists. Pridi resigned from the cabinet to protest the arrangement with Japan but soon accepted the largely non-political post of regent for Ananda Mahidol who was absent. the Phibun regime was forced by the Japanese to enter the war, declaring war on both Britain and the United States (January 1942). Thai politics led to the development of a resistance movement. [Haseman] The country was divided between Phibul's military faction and a small civilian group led by Pridi. Inevitably Pridi and his supporters evolved from an opposition group to a resistance movement against Phibul and his Japanese allies. Ambassador Seni Pramoj in Washington was outraged and refused to deliver the declaration to the United States government. The United States looked on Thailand as an occupied country and refused to respond with its own declaration of war. Seni was from an aistocratic family and organized the Free Thai Movement (FTM)--a kind of government in exile. The FTM recruited Thai students in the United States to work with the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The OSS trained Thais for underground work. Pridi working out of the office of the regent in Thailand ran a clandestine operation that received Allied support to arm a resistance force. The Japanese conferred further territorial awatds to the Phiburn regime, including part of the Shan states in Burma and the four northern Malay states. Japan drove moved through Thailand to seize Malay and Singapore and Burma. About 150,000 Japanese troops were actually stationed in Thailand. The Japanese used Allied POWs and local laborers to build a railroad to support its troops in Burma. The Japanese Army forced the men to working under horrible conditions with virtually no tools. The railroad was needed in part because of Japanese reverses in the Pacific naval war. Thai attitudes toward the Japanese gradually shifted as the war progressed. Commercial trade stopped because of the War. Exports to Europe and America were no longer possible. This was not replaced by trade with Japan. The Japanese Army in Thailand began requisitioning supplies. Japan began dealing with Thailand more as an occupied country than a patner in the War. As the War began to go against the Japanese, the Allied began bombing targets in Thailand, including Bangkok. The railroad built to supply the Japanese n Burma also became a major target. The popularity Phibun and his military regime had achieved by recovering territory eroded. A civilian government took power (June 1944). The Japanese Army was preparing a major operation against resistance bases in norther Thailand (August 19, 1945). The Japanese surrender, however, caused Army commanders to cancel the offensive. American representatives arrived in Bangkok. Prime Minister Khuang Abhaiwongse annulled the 1942 declaration of war (August 19). . The Regent, Pridi Banomyong, prepared a Royal Declaration of Peace that invalidated the two war declarations stating they were a violation of the Thai Constitution and not truly representative of the will of the Thai people. Resistance leader Seri Thai, paraded in Bangkok (August 20).


Haseman. John B. The Thai Resistance Movement During the Second World War.


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Created: 11:12 AM 2/17/2013
Last updated: 11:12 AM 2/17/2013