Thailand in World War II
|Template:Region history sidebar title|
|1686 Map of Siam.|
|20px||This section requires expansion. (November 2013)|
Things came to a head in December 1942 when an armed confrontation between Japanese troops and Thai villagers and police escalated into a shoot-out in Ratchaburi. Although the Ban Pong incident was promptly and peacefully resolved, it served as "a warning signal that alerted Tokyo to the seriousness of the problems in Thailand". This led to General Aketo Nakamura being sent to command the newly formed Thailand Garrison Army. Nakamura's ability to understand the Thai perspective, combined with his affable personality, significantly helped to improve Thai-Japanese relations.
This more conciliatory stance occurred at a moment when the tide began to turn against Japan, something which many within the Thai government recognised. Realising that the Allies had seized the initiative in the war, Phibun, well aware of the troublesome personal predicament his relationship with Tokyo had put him in, started distancing himself from the Japanese. In January 1943 he had two of the Phayap Army's divisional commanders arrange the return of a group of Chinese prisoners-of-war as a gesture of friendship designed to open secret negotiations with Chungking.
But the prime minister's star was waning at a much faster rate than he had thought. With the Allies intensifying their bombing raids on Bangkok, public confidence in Phibun, already tested by his idiosyncratic domestic policies, was sagging fast. His frequent absence from Bangkok led morale to plummet, while a sudden proclamation that the capital and its inhabitants be immediately moved north to malaria-infested Phetchabun was greeted with near-universal bemusement and discontent. And it wasn't only the public. The kingdom's ruling elite was also becoming increasingly weary of Phibun, whose intimidation and demotion of dissenters within the government served to further unite his opponents, who were gathering around Pridi.
Even the Japanese were becoming disaffected with Phibun. The possibility that a military scheme lay behind Phibun's attempt to relocate the seat of government was not lost on the Japanese.
Remote, with the nearest rail connection at Phitsanulok, a half-day's drive away, Phetchabun's main asset was its suitability as a mountainous fortress. Moreover, the site was located in an area where the majority of the Thai army was based.
Coinciding with the beginnings of Phibun's effort to distance himself from the Japanese, through prolonged trips to the provinces, was the downfall of Benito Mussolini in Italy. That sent shock waves through the Thai government, and an emergency cabinet meeting was convened to discuss the European war situation. Analogies with Italy were soon being made. "Badoglio" became an increasingly popular Thai political epithet, and the Japanese envoy in Berlin was advised by Reichsmarschall Göring to keep a close watch on Thailand, lest it turn into an "Oriental Italy."
Despite the increasing domestic discontent and Japanese distrust, Phibun's political demise would not come until the following year.
Although the Thai ambassador in London had delivered Phibun's declaration of war to the British government, the Thai ambassador in Washington DC, Seni Pramoj, refused to do so. Accordingly, the United States did not declare war on Thailand. With American assistance, Seni, a conservative aristocrat with well established anti-Japanese credentials, organised the Free Thai Movement in the United States, recruiting Thai students to work with the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Seni was able to achieve this because the State Department decided to act as if Seni continued to represent Thailand, enabling him to draw on Thai assets frozen by the United States.
Despite the reciprocal British declaration of war, a parallel resistance movement was formed by the Thais living 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, widow of King Prajadhipok, and her brother, Prince Suphasawatwongsanit Sawatdiwat.
Pridi, the regent, from his office at Thammasat University ran a clandestine movement that by the end of the war had with Allied aid armed more than 50,000 Thais to resist the Phibun Government and the Japanese. In 1944 he managed to engineer the unseating of Phibun, who was replaced by Khuang Aphaiwong, the civilian son of a minor nobleman and linked politically with conservatives like Seni. Khuang's main task was to continue the charade of collaboration whilst shielding the growing underground movement. This he succeeded to a great extent, convincing not only Nakamura but also the notorious Masanobu Tsuji.
By the beginning of 1945, preparations were actively being pursued for a rising against the Japanese. Plans for an uprising relied on the success of a quick, surprise strike by a special police unit against the Japanese command structure. The residences of leading officers and the Japanese communications facilities were kept under surveillance. The police assault was to be coordinated with a general attack by the partly mechanised Thai 1st Army against Japanese troops in Bangkok. Fortifications, in the guise of air raid shelters, had been dug at key crossroads, and additional troops had been brought into the city in small groups in civilian clothes. The task of Free Thai forces elsewhere would be to thwart Japanese efforts to reinforce their Bangkok garrison by cutting communications lines and seizing airfields.
Pridi had to take into consideration that the Japanese were building up their forces in Thailand, which was likely to become a battlefront in the near future. Previously most Japanese soldiers stationed in Thailand had been support troops, but in December 1944 the local command had been upgraded from garrison status to a field army. The Japanese were gathering supplies and constructing fortifications for a last-ditch defensive effort at Nakhon Nayok, about 100 kilometres north-east of Bangkok.
The atomic bombings and subsequent Japanese surrender precluded the uprising, however. Pridi immediately issued a declaration stating that Phibun's 1942 declaration of war was unconstitutional and legally void, thereby dispensing any need for Thailand to surrender. The Thai armed forces initially attempted to disarm the Japanese garrison, but Nakamura refused, arguing that the matter was for the Allies to decide. Khuang in the meanwhile resigned, citing his previous association with the Japanese as a possible obstacle to Thailand's rapprochement with the Allies. A caretaker premier was found in the person of Tawee Boonyaket, a Pridi loyalist.
In early September the leading elements of Major-General Geoffrey Charles Evans's Indian 7th Infantry Division landed, accompanied by Edwina Mountbatten. Later that month Seni returned from Washington to succeed Tawee as prime minister. It was the first time in over a decade that the government was controlled by civilians. But the ensuing factional scramble for power 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 post-war years.
Moreover, the post-war accommodations with the Allies 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 post-war peace negotiations. Before signing a peace treaty, however, Britain demanded war reparations in the form of rice shipments to Malaya. An Anglo-Thai Peace Treaty was signed on 1 January 1946, and an Australian–Thai Peace Treaty on 3 April. France refused to permit admission of Thailand to the United Nations until Indochinese territories annexed during the war were returned. The Soviet Union insisted on the repeal of anti-communist legislation.
- Jackson Travel Journal – Thailand: Bangkok. The-silk-route.co.uk. Retrieved on 2011-03-18.
- E. Bruce Reynolds. (1994) Thailand and Japan's Southern Advance 1940–1945. St. Martin's Press ISBN 0-312-10402-2.
- James F. Dunnigan. The World War II Bookshelf: Fifty Must-Read Books. Kensington Pub Corp, 2005 ISBN 0-8065-2649-1, p.16
- Keat Gin Ooi Southeast Asia: a historical encyclopedia, from Angkor Wat to East ..., Volume 1, ABC-CLIO, 2004, ISBN 1-57607-770-5, p. 514
- Tim Lambert. A SHORT HISTORY OF THAILAND
- Richard J. Aldrich (1993) The Key to the South. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-588612-7
- Charivat Santaputra (1985) Thai Foreign Policy 1932–1946. Thammasat University Press. ISBN 974-335-091-8
- Judith A. Stowe. (1991) Siam becomes Thailand: A Story of Intrigue. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-1393-6
- Peter Dumus, Roman H. Meyers, and Mark R. Peattie, eds. (1996) The Japanese Wartime Empire, 1931-1945. Princeton University Press Press. ISBN 9780691145068
- Young, Edward M. (1995) Aerial Nationalism: A History of Aviation in Thailand. Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 1-56098-405-8
- Direk Jayanama. (2007) Thailand and WWII. Silkworm Books.
- E Bruce Reynolds. (2005) Thailand's secret war: the Free Thai, OSS, and SOE during World War II. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-83601-8
- John B. Haseman. (2002) The Thai Resistance Movement during World War II. Silkworm Books.
- Louis Allen.(1976) The End of the War in Asia. Beekman Books.
- Daniel Fineman. (1997) A Special Relation: The United States and Military Government in Thailand, 1947-1958. University of Hawaii Press.
- This article incorporates public domain text from the Library of Congress July 1994, Retrieved on June 11, 2008.