Phibun Songkhram And Thai Nationalism in the Fascist Era

In: European Journal of East Asian Studies
Author: Bruce Reynolds
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Abstract

During the late 1930s a political style, generally called 'fascist,' aimed at mobilising nations in the pursuit of expansionist aims had a profound impact around the world. Based on the apparent success of Germany, Italy, and Japan and the impending victory of Francisco Franco's forces in the Spanish Civil War, by early 1939 many observers saw fascism as the wave of the future. Among the Asian political leaders strongly influenced by the success of the fascist states was Phibun Songkhram, the military strongman of Thailand, the lone independent nation in Southeast Asia. Phibun and his adviser Wichit Wathakan promoted a jingoistic version of Thai nationalism, sought to militarise the nation, and adopted an aggressive policy towards neighbouring French Indochina in the wake of France's defeat in June 1940. In the short term these actions gave momentum to Phibun's efforts to consolidate his power and his plans to transform Thai society. Phibun's involvement with Japan and the arrival of Japanese troops in Thailand in December 1941, however, would lead to his temporary political eclipse in 1944 and modification of the more extreme elements of his program.

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