Date of Award

1999

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Dr. Wayne Bowen

Second Advisor

Dr. Tom Auffenberg

Third Advisor

Dr. James Philpot

Abstract

On January 25, 1942, Thailand followed the Japanese example and declared war on the United States and Great Britain. The reasons for Thailand's entry into the war remain controversial. The extent and timing of Japanese pressure and the genesis of the Thai commitment to the Axis side are in dispute. There is not a generally accepted view on why Thailand declared war; however, the issue has been thus far analyzed principally in consideration of Thai national interest. This paper provides a different approach by focusing on the main decision-maker: Thai Prime Minister Pibun Songkram, as the key to solve the Thai enigma. Whether his underlying motives were patriotism, a feeling of compelling duty to serve his people, or a hunger for power, Pibun resolved to hold his post, strengthen his position, and make his power absolute, even at the price of involving Thailand in war. Opportunism dictated his actions, his words or promises were to him of slight importance, and his piety amounted to using religion for political reasons. Pibun had but one principle: to stay in power. These motives, above all others, determined Thailand's policies during World War II.

The paper opens with a sketch of the background of Thailand's foreign relations focusing on its dealings with Japan. Later, it introduces Pibun and his position in Thai domestic politics. It presents Pibun's role in the conflict over territory disputed with French lndo-China-the first instance when domestic considerations determined the Prime Minister's foreign policy. The consequences of the dispute reflected on Thai Japanese relations are further evaluated. An analysis of Pibun's decisions immediately preceding January 25, 1942 concludes the argumentation.

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