The federal government of Thailand declared struggle on Britain and america, however circumstances dictated that the Allied governments view the declaration fairly in a different way.
By Bob Bergin
It’s a nice story, and well-known that in January 1942 Thailand’s ambassador to america refused to ship Thailand’s declaration of warfare to the U.S. authorities. In consequence, there was by no means a state of struggle between the 2 nations. However that isn’t precisely how issues occurred.
Thailand declared conflict on Nice Britain and america on January 25, 1942. The British responded by declaring struggle on Thailand; the U.S. authorities ignored Thailand’s declaration of struggle.
In Thailand’s Secret Warfare, his definitive historical past of the OSS, SOE, and Free Thai in World Warfare II, Professor E. Bruce Reynolds cites a January 1942 State Division doc that explains the reasoning behind the U.S. determination that “the USA not dignify the motion of the current Japanese-controlled authorities of Thailand by a proper declaration of warfare, however deal with Thailand as an occupied territory.” That call had far-reaching penalties for Thailand when the struggle ended and for each Thailand and the USA for the remainder of the 20th century.
On the British choice to declare struggle on Thailand, Reynolds quotes an unnamed British official: “Both the Thais are youngsters and must be topic to regulate after the struggle or they’re rogues and ought to be punished for taking the aspect of the Japanese.” This distinction in British and American attitudes towards Thailand set the stage “for coverage conflicts that might persist till the conflict’s finish and past.”
The story of the undelivered Thai declaration of struggle began with the person who would have delivered it, Seni Pramot, Thailand’s ambassador to the USA. Reynolds notes, “Seni subsequently claimed that Bangkok had instructed him by telegram to ship the conflict declaration to the State Division, however he dramatically knowledgeable [Secretary of State Cordell] Hull of his unwillingness to take action in a face-to-face assembly within the latter’s workplace. There’s nothing in Hull’s workplace diary or different State Division data to help this story.”
In a June 1979 letter, Pridi Banomyong, the wartime chief of the Free Thai Motion, then in exile in France, addressed this concern. “[During 1978] I used to be requested by many Thai college students whether or not it was true, as written by some so-called historical past professors, that Area Marshal Phibul’s authorities despatched the Declaration of Struggle on the USA to the Thai Minister in Washington, however the Minister didn’t ship it as instructed… that the Minister stored the doc of the declaration of warfare in his pocket and didn’t current it to the U.S. authorities. I informed the scholars that I actually didn’t know. Nevertheless, I made some observations for them to think about.”
The Thai authorities had adopted diplomatic apply and worldwide regulation by notifying the Swiss consul in Bangkok, who represented U.S. pursuits in Thailand at the moment. The notification was forwarded to Washington by way of the American chargé d’affaires in Berne, Switzerland, who acquired it as a notice from the Swiss Overseas Workplace on January 31, quoted as follows: “[Thailand’s] Ministry Overseas Affairs notified [Swiss Bangkok] Consulate by letter 25th January: By royal command a declaration of struggle on Nice Britain and america of America has been as from midday 25th January 2485 BE [Buddhist Era calendar year corresponding with 1942].” The U.S. State Division acquired the observe on February 2, 1942.
With that executed, the Thai authorities had no purpose to ship an “additional” declaration of struggle to its ambassador in America. And there was one thing else Pridi famous. In mid-December 1941, Ambassador Seni began a collection of radio broadcasts to the Thai individuals during which he frequently said that he would don’t have anything to do with the Thai authorities. “So why ought to [the Thai government] ship [him] a telegraphic declaration of conflict … when it knew nicely sufficient that [Seni] had renounced his allegiance to it?”
Pridi Banomyong, the chief political rival of Prime Minister Plaek Phibolsongkhram, generally referred to within the West as Phibun, was a member of the Thai cupboard when the Japanese Military entered Thailand at 0200 hours on December eight, 1941, coming throughout the land border from Malaya and by way of sea landings on the Gulf of Siam. The Thai Military resisted till the Thai authorities ordered a ceasefire at 0730 hours.
The day before today, the Japanese ambassador to Thailand had met with the Thai overseas minister to request passage for the Japanese Military by way of Thailand to the areas bordering the British colonies of Burma and Malaya. Solely Prime Minister Phibun might make that call, he was informed, however Phibun was not in Bangkok. An pressing assembly of the Thai cupboard was referred to as, and Phibun was requested to return instantly.
When Prime Minister Phibun reached Bangkok at 0700 the subsequent morning, the Japanese Military was already within the nation and “everybody [in the Thai cabinet] appeared to be of the opinion that Thailand might not likely battle the Japanese forces.” Pridi referred to as for dialogue, however Phibun reduce him brief and referred to as for a choice. The ceasefire was issued. Phibun had been trying to the Japanese for help in regaining Thailand’s “misplaced territories” from French Indochina. Within the days that adopted, underneath Japanese strain, Phibun signed a proper alliance with Japan and finally a declaration of warfare towards the Allies. Thai historian Charivat Santaputra writes that Phibun “in all probability knew of the character of the approaching assault however not its actual timing.”
Afterward December eight, many Thais, from politicians to strange residents, visited Pridi at his house. “All of them had one goal in thoughts,” famous an observer, “to debate the unacceptable state of affairs that Phibun had led Thailand into. This could possibly be seen because the precise inception of the [Free Thai] resistance motion.” Dr. Charivat goes on to inform how Pridi exploited his place as regent to the king to work with the resistance. On this place, Pridi was capable of meet Thai politicians and high-ranking officers “with out the Japanese with the ability to accuse him of hatching a plot. As his revered place was extremely revered by, and consequently immune from the Japanese troops, Pridi was capable of … arrange efficiently an underground resistance motion underneath the Japanese noses…. There have been many who got here to him and easily provided their providers to do something that Pridi noticed match.”
The Free Thai Motion Pridi created was distinctive within the annals of clandestine warfare. Within the Warfare Report of the OSS, Kermit Roosevelt described the Free Thai as “a patriotic governmental conspiracy towards the Japanese during which a lot of the key figures of the state have been concerned. The regent himself, the minister and chief of police, the minister of inside, the minister of overseas affairs, senior officers of the armed service, and lots of different rating officers belonged to it.”
Again in the USA, three days after the Japanese Military entered Thailand, Thai ambassador Seni Pramot “publicly declared that he would work for the reestablishment of an unbiased Thailand.” He referred to as on the Coordinator of Info (COI), Colonel William J. Donovan’s workplace of the OSS, to make radio broadcasts to Thailand. Reynolds quotes from Seni’s first broadcast: “We cannot very properly anticipate to regain our freedom until we struggle for it…. Begin a revolt, unfold it far and broad. Surrender your lives on your nation!” A memorandum to Donovan from the COI Far East chief advised that Seni’s speech would “electrify the Thai individuals.” Dr. Charivat writes, “That is seen as the start line of the Free Thai Motion overseas.” Seni believed that “public relations alone wouldn’t insure Thailand’s continued independence within the occasion of an Allied victory.” He set in movement his plan to recruit Thai volunteers from amongst Thai college students enrolled in American schools and universities.
Seni subsequent turned to the Thai college students in England who “had acquired neither assist nor sympathy from the Thai Minister in London.” There have been no apparent leaders to arrange the Free Thai in London, however in time they appeared. Outstanding amongst them was Prince Suphasawat, or Prince Vasti as he was higher recognized, and later as “Main Arun,” he conceived operations to be out carried in Thailand by British Particular Operations Pressure 136. He was in touch with Seni early on and believed that “all [Thai] operations ought to be in live performance with the People.” However he quickly discovered the 2 Allies themselves weren’t in live performance.
After many delays, the Free Thai began making an attempt to infiltrate Thailand by parachute, submarine, and strolling in from China. A number of have been misplaced earlier than the linkup was made with the interior Free Thai. The precise existence of the interior resistance motion couldn’t be confirmed from outdoors till April 1943, nevertheless it was discovered to be a robust, vibrant motion, its members adept at manipulating the Japanese and accumulating intelligence on them. Earlier than lengthy, the OSS was capable of open its Bangkok base. It was set inside 100 meters of the Japanese Military Headquarters and was capable of function with impunity. Pridi and his inner Free Thai have been additionally wanting to mount armed guerrilla operations towards the Japanese occupiers however have been held again by Lord Louis Mountbatten of Burma, the Supreme Allied Commander Southeast Asia.
In a December 1946 speech in London, Lord Mountbatten described the state of affairs: “By the top of the struggle he [Pridi] had organized sabotage and guerrilla forces comprising some 60,000 preventing males and quite a few passive supporters, who have been in place in any respect the important thing strategic factors in Siam, and poised to strike. I noticed the problem he needed to maintain these forces in leash, however I additionally had to remember the super hazard of a untimely transfer which might deliver down crushing counter motion and disturb my strategic plans for the theatre as an entire.”
Probably the most vital service the Free Thai rendered their very own nation got here because the struggle ended. Pridi writes that from the start the Free Thai had two objectives: to battle the Japanese invaders and to guarantee that “Thailand wouldn’t be handled as one of many defeated nations.” In early September 1945, simply weeks after the struggle ended, Mountbatten summoned a Thai army mission to Ceylon for discussions and introduced an settlement for the Thai leaders to signal. The settlement’s 21 clauses had wide-ranging penalties for Thailand, together with surrendering to Britain all its surplus rice, which might in any other case allow Thailand’s return to postwar world commerce. Opposite to prior settlement, the People weren’t knowledgeable of the phrases. The Thai leaders postpone signing, and the OSS expressed its considerations to Washington that the British—within the names of the Allies—have been imposing phrases that infringed on Thai political and financial independence and making an attempt to determine a foundation for extended occupation of Thailand. Main gamers in Washington turned concerned, after which British Prime Minister Clement Atlee, who promised that Mountbatten can be informed to face down.
That didn’t put an finish to British calls for. Negotiations between Nice Britain and Thailand continued, however in a extra equitable style. On January 1, 1946, the formal settlement that ended the state of warfare between the 2 nations was signed. It famous that on the day the conflict ended, “16 August 1945, the Regent [Pridi Banomyong] did, within the identify of His Majesty King of Thailand, proclaim the declaration of warfare made by Thailand towards the UK to be null and void, because it was opposite to the desire of the Thai individuals.”
The next was the settlement’s operative paragraph: “Whereas the Authorities of the UK and the Authorities of India, in consideration of the acts of repudiation already carried out by the Thai authorities, and never unmindful of the providers rendered by the resistance motion in Thailand through the conflict with Japan, want to deliver the state of struggle to a direct finish.”
Bob Bergin, a former U.S. Overseas Service officer, writes on the historical past of aviation in Southeast Asia and China and on intelligence and army operations within the World Conflict II China-Burma-India Theater.