As Siam, Thailand had been one of the great powers of mainland Southeast Asia in the pre-colonial period. Unlike its neighbours, it was able to stave off direct European colonization, though at the cost of surrendering to Britain and France its claims over several outlying territories. Other than Japan, Thailand was the only Asian country that successfully defended itself against Western colonial conquest, though its economy became … (click below to continue reading Cribb and Li’s Prelude)
14 August. Thai officials learn via a radio broadcast from San Francisco that the French government will object to Thailand’s application for membership in the United Nations, since it regards itself as being at war with Thailand. The USSR also announces its intention to object unless official Thai–Soviet relations are restored.
16 August. A machine-gun-wielding assailant assassinates Ch’en Shou-ming in Bangkok, in apparent retaliation for Ch’en’s role in overseeing cooperation with the Japanese during the war. The attack comes as Chinese in Bangkok celebrate Japan’s defeat by flying the Nationalist flag, setting off fireworks and parading in the streets.
15 August. Just four hours after Emperor Hirohito’s broadcast ending the war, Japanese Ambassador Yamamoto Kuma’ichi explains and reassures Thai Prime Minister Khuang Aphaiwong about the surrender. He also raises no objections to news that Thailand’s Regent is planning to renounce the Thai–Japanese alliance.
16 August. Upon hearing of the Japanese surrender, forced labourers in North Borneo begin slowly working their way back home to Java. Elsewhere across the vast extent of Japanese-occupied Asia, tens of thousands of people drafted into supporting Japan’s war effort take their futures into their own hands and slip away from their masters. Many more must await repatriation after Allied troops arrive; they are stranded too far away from home. The fate of the many ‘comfort women’ forced into military brothels is also uncertain.
16 August. Thai Regent Pridi Phanomyong issues a ‘peace declaration’ that renounces his country’s 1942 declaration of war against the Allies. This was against the will of the Thai people, he declares, and thus unconstitutional.
10 August. Uncertainty about who will do what, and when, characterizes the entire region in mid-August. While the Philippines, for example, is beginning to rebuild after years of war and Japanese occupation, the country seethes with preparations for the invasion of Japan. U.S. military supplies pour in. Hospitals and other facilities are established in anticipation of the invasion efforts. Elements of the Philippine Army are also involved. Early but unconfirmed news of Japan’s surrender on the 10th results in premature celebrations in Manila, including the firing of weapons. Similar early celebrations erupt four days later when the U.S. Office of War Information newspaper Free Philippines prematurely announces the end of the war.
15 August. The operational boundaries of the British-led South East Asia Command (SEAC), based in Kandy and headed by Lord Louis Mountbatten, are extended to include southern Indochina and Thailand. Java, Borneo and Eastern Indonesia are also transferred from the American-led South-West Pacific Area, Australia made responsible for the latter two. With the war ended, SEAC’s primary tasks are to accept the Japanese surrender, disarm and repatriate Japanese troops, rescue and repatriate Allied POWs and internees, and eventually hand over the administration to civilian authorities. Except for Thailand, the restoration of colonial rule is assumed.
17 August. General Order No. 1, prescribing when, where and to whom Japanese forces may surrender, is approved by President Truman after having been hastily negotiated between the Allies. The formal surrender of Japan to the Americans takes priority, even though elsewhere this will leave a power vacuum until local surrenders can be accepted.