Beginning in the 1800s, Asian nations were gradually falling under European rule. Yet despite Europe’s growing military, economic, and political dominance in the Eastern hemisphere, one country prevailed as the sole nation untouched by colonialism; Thailand (then known as Siam). Under difficult yet unprecedented circumstances, Thailand maintained its sovereignty. Their biggest challenge would come twenty years later, with the introduction of World War II.
Siamese Sovereignty explores a variety of anecdotes that epitomize Thailand’s experiences during the second great war, from the conception of Thai-Japanese and Thai-U.S. relations, the epic rescue of a captured Flying Tiger pilot, to the hardships endured by prisoners of war during the construction of the Thai-Burma Railway. Most importantly, the book speaks to the brilliance of both domestic and international political strategies orchestrated both by the Thai government led by Field Marshal Plaek Phibunsongkhram and the Underground Movement led by Pridi Banomyong. Despite siding with opposing global alliances, Phibun with the Axis and Pridi with the Allies, their strive to protect Thailand’s independence amidst the chaos that was World War II was at the heart of their independent decision-making.
Thailand’s story during the second great war is not one that is filled with heroic military battles or technological innovation, but rather, it is a unique narrative of carefully planned political maneuvering that included strategies of selective disengagement, territorial compromise, and most prominently, political duality. Appealing to the Japanese expansionist ambitions on the surface while working with U.S. and British intelligence underground, the country fought to preserve its sovereignty, cementing its legacy as the only independent Southeast Asian nation in a world run by imperialism.