Japanese occupation of Thailand: Wikis


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Thailand was occupied by the Japanese during World War II from the 1941 invasion until Japan's defeat in 1945.[1][2] At the start of the Pacific War, the Japanese Empire leaned on the Thais to allow passage of Japanese troops on their way to invade British-held Malay and Burma.[3] This was not popular with much of the population, but the Thai government thought it preferable to outright Japanese conquest. In the end, Japan occupied Thailand anyway, and considered Thailand a "colony" rather than an "ally".[4] A well-organized resistance movement, supported by many government officials, was active from 1942 on. The partisans provided invaluable espionage services for the Allies, as well as performing some sabotage, and thanks to that, Thailand received little punishment for its wartime role under Phibun.



Phibun's nationalist regime also revived irredentist claims, stirring up anti-French sentiment and supporting restoration of former Thai territories in Cambodia and Laos. Seeking support against France, Phibun cultivated closer relations with Japan. The Thai nationalists looked to Japan as the model of an Asian country that had used Western methods and technology to achieve rapid modernisation. As Thailand confronted the French in Indochina, the Thai looked to Japan as the only Asian country to challenge the European powers successfully. Although the Thai were united in their demand for the return of the lost provinces, Phibun's enthusiasm for the Japanese was markedly greater than that of Pridi Phanomyong, and many old conservatives as well viewed the course of the prime minister's foreign policy with misgivings.

Thailand responded pragmatically to the military and political pressures of World War II. When sporadic fighting broke out between Thai and French forces along Thailand's eastern frontier in late 1940 and early 1941, Japan used its influence with the Vichy regime in France to obtain concessions for Thailand. As a result, France agreed in March 1941 to cede 54,000 square kilometres of Laotian territory west of the Mekong and most of the Cambodian province of Battambang to Thailand. The recovery of this lost territory and the regime's apparent victory over a European colonial power greatly enhanced Phibun's reputation.

The invasion

Then, on December 8, 1941, after several hours of fighting between Thai and Japanese troops, Thailand had to accede to Japanese demands for access through the country for Japanese forces invading Burma and Malaya. Phibun assured the country that the Japanese action was prearranged with a sympathetic Thai government.

Later in the month, on December 21, Japan had struck a deal and a mutual offensive-defensive alliance pact[5] with Phibun to occupy Thailand as long as Japan didn't interfere in the country's internal affairs.[6] The agreement, revised on December 30, gave the Japanese full access to Thai railways, roads, airfields, naval bases, warehouses, communications systems, and barracks. To facilitate greater economic cooperation, Pridi was removed from the cabinet and offered a seat on the politically impotent Regency Council for the absent Ananda Mahidol, which he subsequently accepted. [7][8] Plaek Pibulsonggram's decision to sign an armistice with Japan effectively ended Churchill's hopes of forging an alliance with Thailand.

The occupation

Under pressure from Japan, the Phibun regime of Japanese-occupied Thailand[9] declared war on Britain and the United States on January 25, 1942.[10][11] While the Thai ambassador in London delivered Thailand's declaration of war to the British government, the Thai ambassador in Washington DC, Seni Pramoj, refused to do so. Accordingly, the United States refrained from declaring war on Thailand. With American assistance Seni, a conservative aristocrat whose anti-Japanese credentials were well established, organised the Free Thai Movement, recruiting Thai students in the United States to work with the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS). The OSS trained Thai personnel for underground activities, and units were readied to infiltrate Thailand.

Despite the reciprocal British declaration of war, a parallel resistance movement was formed by the Thai in Britain. They were organised by two leading students, Snoh Tambuyen and Puey Ungphakorn, and were assisted by members of the self-exiled royal family, including Queen Ramphaiphanni, the widow of King Prajadhipok, and her brother, Prince Suphasawatwongsanit Sawatdiwat.[12]

From the office of the regent in Thailand, Pridi ran a clandestine movement that by the end of the war had with Allied aid armed more than 50,000 Thai to resist the Japanese occupation.

Thailand was rewarded for Phibun's close cooperation with Japan during the early years of war with the return of further territory that had once been under Bangkok's control, namely the four northernmost Malay states. In addition, with Japan confirmed, the Thai Phayap Army was permitted to invade and annex the north-eastern Shan States of Burma.[13][14][15] Japan meanwhile had stationed 150,000 troops on Thai soil and built the infamous Death Railway through Thailand using Asian labourers and Allied prisoners of war.

As the war dragged on, however, the Japanese presence grew more irksome. Trade came to a halt, and Japanese military personnel requisitioning supplies increasingly dealt with Thailand as a conquered territory rather than as an ally. Allied bombing raids damaged Bangkok and other targets and caused several thousand casualties. Public opinion and, even more important, the sympathies of the civilian political elite, moved perceptibly against the Phibun regime and the military. On June 5, 1944, the first mission by B-29 Superfortress bombers occurred as 77 planes bomb Japanese railway facilities at Bangkok. Phibun was forced from office in June 1944 and replaced by the first predominantly civilian government since the 1932 coup.

End of the occupation

The new government was headed by Khuang Aphaiwong, a civilian linked politically with conservatives like Seni. The most influential figure in the regime, however, was Pridi, whose anti-Japanese views were increasingly attractive to the Thai. In the last year of the war, Allied agents were tacitly given free access by Bangkok. As the war came to an end, Thailand repudiated its wartime agreements with Japan.

The civilian leaders, however, were unable to achieve unity. After a falling-out with Pridi, Khuang was replaced as prime minister by the regent's nominee, Seni, who had returned to Thailand from his post in Washington DC. The scramble for power among factions in late 1945 created political divisions in the ranks of the civilian leaders that destroyed their potential for making a common stand against the resurgent political force of the military in the postwar years.

Postwar accommodations with the Allies also weakened the civilian government. As a result of the contributions made to the Allied war efforts by the Free Thai Movement, the United States, which unlike the other Allies had never officially been at war with Thailand, refrained from dealing with Thailand as an enemy country in postwar peace negotiations. Before signing a peace treaty, however, Britain demanded war reparations in the form of rice for shipment to Malaya, and France refused to permit admission of Thailand to the United Nations (UN) until Indochinese territories annexed during the war were returned. The Soviet Union insisted on the repeal of anticommunist legislation.

See also


  1. ^ http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2814.htm
  2. ^ http://www.nps.gov/archive/wapa/indepth/extContent/wapa/brochure/brochure2.htm
  3. ^ http://www.the-silk-route.co.uk/thaixbangkok.htm
  4. ^ The World War II Bookshelf, by James F. Dunnigan, p.16
  5. ^ E. Bruce Reynolds. (1994) Thailand and Japan's Southern Advance 1940-1945. St. Martin's Press.
  6. ^ http://www.hellfirepass.com/historical_facts_hellfire_pass.html
  7. ^ Judith A. Stowe. (1991) Siam becomes Thailand: A Story of Intrigue. Hurst & Company.
  8. ^ E. Bruce Reynolds. (1994) Thailand and Japan's Southern Advance 1940-1945. St. Martin's Press.
  9. ^ Colonialism, by Melvin Eugene Page, Penny M. Sonnenburg, p.580
  10. ^ Judith A. Stowe. (1991) Siam becomes Thailand: A Story of Intrigue. Hurst & Company.
  11. ^ E. Bruce Reynolds. (1994) Thailand and Japan's Southern Advance 1940-1945. St. Martin's Press.
  12. ^ E Bruce Reynolds. (2005) Thailand's Secret War. Cambridge University Press.
  13. ^ E. Bruce Reynolds. (1994) Thailand and Japan's Southern Advance 1940-1945. St. Martin's Press.
  14. ^ Judith A. Stowe. (1991) Siam becomes Thailand: A Story of Intrigue. Hurst & Company.
  15. ^ Young, Edward M. (1995) Aerial Nationalism: A History of Aviation in Thailand. Smithsonian Institution Press.




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