A more careful reading of Thailand’s WWII history

your say February 25, 2019 01:00

Re: “Remembering the heroic Thai resistance to Japan’s ‘Death Railway’”, Have Your Say, February 22.



In the interest of clarity and avoidance of misrepresentation, I should like to take issue with some points raised by Robin Grant in response to my recent letter.

Firstly, Robin Grant’s assertion that I said that the Thais collaborated with the Japanese over the mistreatment of workers on the construction of the Burma Railway. 

I did not. 

The sentence I wrote was “Given that the Khwae Yai River is in Thailand I suggest Vint Chavala examines this part of recent Thai history and the collaboration with Axis powers if he wants to actually understand the meaning of brutish and cruel.”

The utter barbarity of the Imperial Japanese Army towards those compelled to construct this railway is not in question, though it is often not fully appreciated that while 13,000 POWs lost their lives so did 100,000 Asian civilians. 

Moreover, it is a matter of record that the “invasion of Thailand” was launched on December 8, 1941 and that fighting lasted barely five hours. On December 14, Thai Prime Minister Plaek Phibunsongkhram signed a secret agreement with the Japanese that committed Thai troops to the Malayan and Burma campaigns against the British. An alliance between Thailand and Japan was then formally signed on December 21, 1941. The agreement was revised on December 30 to give the Japanese full access to Thai weaponry and to Thai railways, roads, airfields, naval bases, warehouses, communications systems and barracks – though Thailand retained control of its armed forces and internal affairs. Then on January 25 the following year, the Thai government declared war on the United States and the United Kingdom. 

John Alexander Fitzpatrick

Bangkok