Free Thai Movement

Last updated
Free Thai Movement (เสรีไทย)
Participant in World War II
Free Thai insignia.svg
Free Thai shoulder patch
Active1941–1945
AlliesFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Flag of the United States.svg  United States
Opponent(s) Phibun regime
Merchant flag of Japan (1870).svg  Empire of Japan

The Free Thai Movement (Thai : เสรีไทย; RTGS: Seri Thai) was a Thai underground resistance movement against Imperial Japan during World War II. Seri Thai were an important source of military intelligence for the Allies in the region.

Contents

Background

In the aftermath of the Japanese invasion of Thailand on 7–8 December 1941, the regime of Plaek Phibunsongkhram (Phibun) declared war on the United Kingdom and the United States on 25 January 1942. [1] Seni Pramoj, the Thai ambassador in Washington, refused to deliver the declaration to the United States government. Accordingly, the United States refrained from declaring war on Thailand. Seni, a conservative aristocrat whose anti-Japanese credentials were well established, organized the Free Thai Movement with American assistance, 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. By the end of the war, more than 50,000 Thai had been trained and armed to resist the Japanese by Free Thai members who had been parachuted into the country.

World War II and Japanese occupation

Phibun's alliance with Japan during the early years of war was initially popular. The Royal Thai Army joined Japan's Burma Campaign with the goal of recovering part of the Shan states previously surrendered to the United Kingdom by the Treaty of Yandabo. They gained the return of the four northernmost Malay states lost in the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909, and with Japanese mediation in the Franco–Thai war they also recovered territory lost in the Franco-Siamese War of 1893.

M.L. Karb Kunjara (second from left) with American and Chinese military officers during his Free Thai operations in China. FreeThaiinChina.jpg
M.L. Karb Kunjara (second from left) with American and Chinese military officers during his Free Thai operations in China.

However, Japan had stationed 150,000 troops on Thai soil, and as the war dragged on, the Japanese increasingly treated Thailand as a conquered country rather than an ally. Although the United States had not officially declared war, on 26 December 1942, US Tenth Army Air Force bombers based in India launched the first major bombing raid, [2] which damaged targets in Bangkok and elsewhere and caused several thousand casualties. Public opinion, and even more importantly the sympathies of the civilian political elite, moved perceptibly against Phibun's alliance with Japan.

Pridi and the civilian regime, 1944–1947

In June 1944, Phibun was forced out of office and replaced by the first predominantly civilian government since the 1932 coup. Allied bombing raids continued, and a B-29 raid on Bangkok destroyed the two key power plants on 14 April 1945, leaving the city without power and water. [3] Throughout the bombing campaign, the Seri Thai network was effective in broadcasting weather reports to the Allied air forces and in rescuing downed Allied airmen. [4] The new government was headed by Khuang Aphaiwong, a civilian linked politically with conservatives such as Seni. The most influential figure in the regime, however, was Pridi Banomyong (who was serving as Regent of Thailand), whose anti-Japanese views were increasingly attractive to the Thais. In the last year of the war, Allied agents were tacitly given free access by Bangkok. [5] As the war came to an end, Thailand repudiated its wartime agreements with Japan.

Unfortunately, the civilian leaders were unable to achieve unity. After falling-out with Pridi, Khuang was replaced as prime minister by the regent's nominee, Seni, who had returned to Thailand from his post as leader of the Free Thai movement in Washington. The scramble for power among factions in late 1945 created political divisions among the civilian leaders that destroyed their potential for making a common stand against the resurgent political force of the Thai military in the immediate 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 other Allied countries 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, the United Kingdom demanded war reparations in the form of rice shipments to Malaya, and France refused to permit admission of Thailand to the United Nations (UN) until the Indochinese areas regained by the Thais during the war were returned to France. The Soviet Union insisted on the repeal of Thailand's anti-communist legislation.

Heritage

Sakon Nakhon historical attractions include a cave well camouflaged by lush vegetation called Tham Seree Thai (ถ้ำเสรีไทย "Seri Thai Cave"), that was used for storage of arms and food during World War II.

List of famous Free Thai members

From the front row left to right: Police General Adun Adundetcharat, Ambassador Seni Pramoj and future Prime Minister Pridi Phanomyong FreeThaiLeaders.jpg
From the front row left to right: Police General Adun Adundetcharat, Ambassador Seni Pramoj and future Prime Minister Pridi Phanomyong
Free Thais who received the Medal of Freedom in 1945. From left to right: Air Chief Marshall Dawee Chullasapya, Major General Boonmark Tesabutr, Commander Vimol Viriyavidh, Piset Pattaphongs, M.C. Yuthisatien Sawadivatana, M.L. Ekachai Kumpoo, Anond Srivardhana, Dr. Sala Tsanond, Air Marshal Sith Savetsila, Umnuay Poonpipatana, Udomsak Pasavanij, Kusa Punyarchun, Somjit Yos-sunthorn. FreeThaiMedalofFreedom.jpg
Free Thais who received the Medal of Freedom in 1945. From left to right: Air Chief Marshall Dawee Chullasapya, Major General Boonmark Tesabutr, Commander Vimol Viriyavidh, Piset Pattaphongs, M.C. Yuthisatien Sawadivatana, M.L. Ekachai Kumpoo, Anond Srivardhana, Dr. Sala Tsanond, Air Marshal Sith Savetsila, Umnuay Poonpipatana, Udomsak Pasavanij, Kusa Punyarchun, Somjit Yos-sunthorn.

See also

Related Research Articles

History of Thailand Aspect of Southeast Asian history

The Thai people, a descended of Tai ethnic group, who migrated into mainland Southeast Asia over a period of many centuries. The word Siam may have originated from Pali or Sanskrit श्याम or Mon ရာမည, probably the same root as Shan and Ahom. Chinese: 暹羅; pinyin: Xiānluó was the name for the northern kingdom centred on Sukhothai and Sawankhalok, but to the Thai themselves, the name of the country has always been Mueang Thai.

Plaek Phibunsongkhram Thai politician and general

Plaek Phibunsongkhram, locally known as Chomphon Por, contemporarily known as Phibun (Pibul) in the West, was a Thai military officer and politician who served as the Prime Minister of Thailand and dictator from 1938 to 1944 and 1948 to 1957.

Thammasat University university in Thailand

Thammasat University is a public research university in Thailand with campuses in Tha Phra Chan area of Phra Nakhon District near the Grand Palace in the heart of Bangkok; in Rangsit, 42 kilometers north of Bangkok; in Pattaya, a resort city on the eastern seaboard of Thailand; and in Lampang Province.

Pridi Banomyong Thai prime minister

Pridi Banomyong was a Thai politician and professor. He was a prime minister and senior statesman of Thailand, and the centenary of his birth was celebrated by UNESCO in 2000.

History of Thailand (1932–1973) Aspect of history

The history of Thailand from 1932 to 1973 was dominated by military dictatorships which were in power for much of the period. The main personalities of the period were the dictator Luang Phibunsongkhram, who allied the country with Japan during the Second World War, and the civilian politician Pridi Phanomyong, who founded Thammasat University and was briefly prime minister after the war.

Khuang Aphaiwong Prime Minister of Thailand

Khuang Aphaiwong, also known by his noble title Luang Kowit-aphaiwong, was three times the prime minister of Thailand: from August 1944 to 1945, from January to May 1946, and from November 1947 to April 1948.

Seni Pramoj Thai politician

Mom Rajawongse Seni Pramoj was three times the prime minister of Thailand, a politician in the Democrat Party, lawyer, diplomat and professor. A descendant of the Thai royal family, he was the great-grandson of King Rama II. His final two terms as PM sandwiched the only term of his brother, Kukrit Pramoj.

Dawee Chullasapya Thai Air Force air marshal

Dawee Chullasapya or Chullasap was a Royal Thai Air Force officer, and a member of the Seri Thai.

Sang Phathanothai was a Thai politician, union leader, and journalist. He was one of the closest advisors to Field Marshal Phibunsongkhram.

Tiang Sirikhanth was a Thai politician and a Seri Thai resistance leader during World War II.

Sanguan Tularak Thai politician

Sanguan Tularaksa was a Thai politician and a leading member of the Seri Thai. Sanguan was of Chinese descent and was of Teochew origins.

Direk Jayanama Thai politician

Direk Jayanama was a Thai diplomat and politician.

Khana Ratsadon political party

Khana Ratsadon was a Siamese group of military and civil officers, and later a political party, which staged a bloodless coup against King Prajadhipok and transformed the country's absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy on 24 June 1932.

Thailand in World War II Thailands involvement in Word War II

Thailand in World War II officially adopted a position of neutrality until the 5-hour-long Japanese invasion of Thailand on 8 December 1941 which led to an armistice and military alliance treaty between Thailand and the Japanese Empire in mid-December 1941. At the start of the Pacific War, the Japanese Empire pressured the Thai government to allow the passage of Japanese troops to invade British-held Malaya and Burma. The Thai government under Plaek Phibunsongkhram considered it profitable to co-operate with the Japanese war efforts, since Thailand saw Japan – who promised to help Thailand regain some of the Indochinese territories which had been lost to France – as an ally against Western imperialism. Axis-aligned Thailand declared war on the United States and Britain and annexed territories in neighbouring countries, expanding to the north, south, and east, gaining a border with China near Kengtung.

Japan–Thailand relations Diplomatic relations between Japan and the Kingdom of Thailand

Japan–Thailand relations refer to bilateral relations between Japan and Thailand. Contacts had an early start with Japanese trade on Red seal ships and the installation of Japanese communities on Siamese soil, only to be broken off with Japan's period of seclusion. Contacts resumed in the 19th century and developed to the point where Japan is today one of Thailand's foremost economic partners. Thailand and Japan share the distinction of never having lost sovereignty to the European powers during the colonial period.

Bombing of South-East Asia (1944–45)

From 1944 to 1945, during the final stage of World War II, the Allies undertook the strategic bombing of South-East Asia. The main targets of Allied air raids were Thailand and Japanese-occupied Indochina.

Siamese coup détat of 1947

The Siamese coup d'état of 1947 was a Thai coup d'état that happened on the evening of 7 November 1947, ending in the early hours of the morning on 8 November. The coup ousted the government of Rear Admiral Thawan Thamrongnawasawat, who was replaced by Khuang Aphaiwong as Prime Minister of Thailand. The coup was led by Lieutenant-General Phin Chunhawan and Colonel Kat Katsongkhram.

Thai cultural restoration of 1946–48 was the cultural and social policy of the government of Khuang Aphaiwong and Pridi Banomyong following Thailand's participation in World War II. It abolished the Thai cultural mandates that had been introduced between 1939 and 1942 by the government of Plaek Phibunsongkhram with the goal of modernising the country and abolishing traditional practices, which were seen as backwards. Khuang Aphaiwong, a conservative royalist, decided to order a restoration of traditional Thai culture to reverse the wartime policy of Phibunsongkhram. On 8 April 1948, a military coup d'état forced Khuang out of office and Phibunsongkhram assumed the premiership a second time. The cultural policy of Khuang and Pridi was canceled

The year 1946 was the 165th year of the Rattanakosin Kingdom of Thailand. It was the twelfth and last year in the reign of King Ananda Mahidol, the first year in the reign of Bhumibol Adulyadej, and is reckoned as year 2489 in the Buddhist Era.

Lieutenant General Prayoon Pamornmontri was a Thai soldier, politician, and member of Khana Ratsadon. He participated in the Siamese Revolution of 1932 to promote democracy by overthrowing the absolute monarchy.

References

  1. Andrew Glass. "Thailand declares war on United States and Britain, Jan. 25, 1942". POLITICO. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  2. Stearn, Duncan (30 May 2003). "Allies attack Thailand, 1942–1945". Pattaya Mail. Pattaya . Retrieved 26 October 2011. On 26 December 1942 bombers of the United States’ Tenth Air Force, based in India, launched the first major strike
  3. Stearn, Allies attack
  4. Stearn, Duncan (2 April 2004). "Shot Down and Rescued". Pattaya Mail. Pattaya . Retrieved 2 October 2011. Many Thais resented the presence of Japanese forces in their country, especially since these soldiers acted more like occupiers than friends. Whenever the opportunity arose to hinder the progress of Japanese war aims, some Thais would do so.
  5. Stearn, Duncan (16 April 2004). "To Bangkok". Pattaya Mail. Pattaya . Retrieved 2 October 2011. The downed fliers were taken to Thai police headquarters where some of them received first aid and, as evening fell, they were allowed outside to wash themselves in a large pool of water.

Further reading