Part 7.                                             

Siamese - Burmese war 1785 - 1792

In 1784, Burma’s King Bodawpaya (died 1819), of the Konbaung dynasty, who had assumed power in 1782 after defeating several rivals, invaded the neighboring coastal kingdom of Arakan to the west. Arakan was conquered and became a Burmese province; its king was captured; and over 20,000 Arakanese captives were brought to Burma as slaves. were brought to Burma as slaves. Emboldened by his success, Bodawpaya led an army eastward to invade Siam, where his troops were generally routed because of his inept leadership. The war continued intermittently, and eventually the Burmese seized control of the coastal regions of Tavoy and Tenasserim ( lower Burma).

Siamese-Cambodian Rebellion of 1811 - 1812

In 1811, King Ang Chan II (born 1791-1835) acknowledged both Siamese and Vietnamese suzerainty over his country, Cambodia, hoping to keep peace by paying tribute to Siam and Vietnam. Ang Chan’s brother sought Siamese aid in an attempt to usurp the throne in 1811; King Rama II of Siam sent an army, which helped oust Ang Chan, who fled to southern Vietnam to secure aid to regain the throne.

Siamese - Laotian war of 1826 - 1829

In 1826, Laotian King Chao Anou born in 1767, wanted to end Siamese hegemony over his city state of Vien Chang (Vientiane)and thus strengthened his ties with Vietnamese Emperor Minh Mang, born in 1792. Upon hearing a rumor (actually baseless) that a British fleet planned to attack the capital city of Bangkok, he mounted a three pronged invasion,  with armies from Vien Chang, Roi Et, and Ubon, marching quickly toward Bangkok on the pretext that he was coming to defend Siam against the British, soon discovering that Chao Anou sought to liberate his country, the Siamese rallied and drove the Laotian invaders, who had come within a three day march of the city of Bangkok, back to Korat (Nakhon Ratchasima) and Ubon. In 1827, the seven day bloody ‘battle of Nong-Bua-Lamphu’ was waged, forcing the Laotians to retreat north across the Mekong River. The pursuing Siamese captured and laid waste Vien Chang; Chao Anou took refuge in the jungle while many of his people were carried off as slaves to Siam.

In 1828, Chao Anou persuaded the Vietnamese emperor to give him troops to retake his land; most of the soldiers, however deserted while en route to Vien Chang, where Chao Anou met defeat and fled north to Tran Ninh (Xieng Khouang), whose ruler handed him over to the Siamese to stop an invasion. brought to Bangkok in a cage, Chao Anou was tortured to death.

Siamese - Cambodian War of 1831 -1834

In 1832, after Ang Chan II, born in 1791, regained the Cambodian throne, Siamese forces moved into Cambodia’s northern areas and then southward, defeating the Cambodians at the ‘battle of Kompong Chang’ and forcing Ang Chan to flee to Vietnam The Siamese advanced to Chau-doc and Vinh-long in southern Vietnam before being confronted by Vietnamese troops and forced to pull back. In 1833, a general uprising broke out in Cambodia’ and eastern Laos (under Siamese control) while a 15,000 -man Vietnamese army marched against the Siamese and assisted Ang Chan in returning to Udong, the Cambodian capital (north of Phnom Penh). With the withdrawal of the Siamese, almost total Vietnamese control was exercised over Cambodia.

Siamese - Vietnamese war of 1841 - 1845 (King Rama III)

In 1841, after the failure of Siam to regain hegemony over Cambodia, a Vietnamese installed queen reigned on the Cambodian throne as her country increasingly came under the yoke of Vietnam.  Vietnamese oppression caused a general uprising in the same year, with  Cambodians slaughtering their Vietnamese overlords and others, soliciting help from Siam, and requesting Cambodian Prince Ang Duong, (born in 1796) to return from exile in Bangkok and become King.  Siamese King Rama III sent an army that installed Ang Duong on the Cambodian throne in 1841. Vietnam, which had more than 50 garrisons throughout Cambodia, waged a savage four year war against rural insurgents and Siamese troops, sustaining defeat in general but refusing to withdraw from the country.

In 1845, both sides agreed to a compromise peace, which placed Cambodia under joint Siamese and Vietnamese protection but with a Siamese predominance, and in 1848 Ang Duong was formerly crowned Cambodia’s King.

In 1858, under Emperor Napoleon III, France wanted to contain Siamese expansionism in Indochina, (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos), to gain a larger share of the over seas markets there, and to end the Vietnamese persecution of French Christian missionaries. France tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a peace with Vietnamese King Tu Duc. The Franco-Spanish garrison at Saigon withstood a nearly year long Vietnamese siege until a French force arrived to relieve it in February 1861.

In 1867, Siam gave up its claims to Cambodia and in 1893, it also gave up its claim to Laos, which was incorporated in to a federation known as French Indochina.

Reactionary Forces ( Thailand 1938-1946)

In December 1938, Luang Phibunsongkhram became prime minister. He was an admirer of Hitler and Mussolini, and his period of rule, which lasted until 1944, was marked by authoritarianism and strident nationalism. Within a month of taking office, he arrested 40 of his real or imagined opponents, among them members of the royal family and nobility, deputies of the National Assembly and rival army officers, on charges of conspiring against the government. Of these 1 8 were executed after a series of unashamedly political trials. In the first year of his government, Phibun also imposed on the Chinese a series of discriminatory laws and a greatly increased burden of taxation. In 1939, the name of Siam was changed to Thailand on the grounds that Siam was a foreign name forced upon the country by foreigners, whereas the name Thailand signified that the country belonged to the Thais rather than to the economically dominant Chinese.

After the fall of France in 1940, Phibun seized the opportunity of avenging the humiliating defeat that the Thais had received at the hands of the French in 1 8 9 3 and invaded Laos and Cambodia. With Japanese mediation, he imposed a settlement by which substantial areas of Lao and Cambodian territory, including the Cambodian province of Siem Reap, which contains Angkor and which he renamed Phibunsongkhram, were ceded to Thailand. In December 1941, at the same time as they attacked Pearl Harbour, the Japanese invaded Thailand at several points along the east coast and in the peninsula. The Thais at first resisted, but soon capitulated. Meanwhile, the British sent a force to Songkhla to attempt to stop the Japanese,

 but were held up by Thai border police; the Japanese continued their march south and captured Singapore. In January 1942, the Thai government concluded a military alliance with Japan and declared war on Britain and the United States, However, the Thai minister in Washington, Seni Pramoj. a cousin of the king, refused to deliver the declaration of war to the US government and in collaboration with the Americans set up a resistance movement called Seri Thai (Free Thai), while Pridi Phanomyong, who had been appointed regent for the absent king, also began secretly to organise resistance in Thailand. At the end of the war Pridi repudiated the Japanese alliance, and in January 1946 an election was held, which resulted in the election of Pridi and the Seri Thai.

Thailand - Communism (1949-1961)     ( The Lost Army )

When the main KMT forces of Chiang Kaishek retreated to Taiwan in 1949 after their defeat by Mao Zedqng's communist forces, fighting continued in Yunnan and other remote parts of China. Mao proclaimed victory on 1 October 1949 in Beijing, but Kunming, the provincial capital of Yunnan, did not fall until December. The surviving KMT stragglers fled south towards Burma and French Indochina in order to establish a base area in the isolated valleys of southern Yunnan near the Lao border, from which to launch i reoccupation of China. However, the communists got there first, and the KMT were forced instead to flee into Burma. In an attempt to avoid the Burmese authorities, they settled near the junction of the Lao and Thai borders, but the Burmese soon discovered this foreign army on their soil and launched an offensive against it. The KMT retreated westwards along the Thai-Burinese frontier and took over a small town called Mong Hsat on the Burmese side of the border, just north of Fang and Tha Ton in Thailand.

This event coincided with the outbreak of the Korean war. Syngman Rhee's anticommunist regime established friendly relations with Taiwan, and a plan to establish a second front in Yunnan against China was discussed. General Douglas MacArthur, commander of the UN forces in Korea, was agreeable to the idea, and in 1 9 5 1 US army engineers were sent to upgrade the tiny airstrip in Mong Hsat. By the end of the year the secret KMT army, which was commanded by General Li Mi, had grown to 6000 men. The KMT's numbers were supplemented by brigands and local warlords, and by opium traders who, in exchange for the drug, sold arms to the various ethnic minorities waging war against the Burmese government. By selling arms instead of the traditional rice, the traders were able to increase their opium purchases as much as thirty fold, and consequently looked to the KMT for protection. They were also fearful of a communist victory, which would have put their lucrative trade at risk, and this prompted a further increase in the KMT forces, which soon rose to c 12,000.

Between 1951 and 1953 the KMT forces made seven unsuccessful attempts to invade Yunnan. The Burmese complained to the UN General Assembly, and UN resolutions were passed demanding that the KMT leave Burma. By May 1954 the US and Taiwan had airlifted more than 6000 troops out through northern Thailand. However, thousands were left behind, so the Burmese turned to Beijing for help. In 1961 20,000 Chinese swept down on the remaining KMT, whose defeated remnants fled into Thailand, where they still are to this day. The KMT were initially used by the Thais to patrol the border and in return were given unofficial permission to trade across it in any goods they chose, including opium.

Kampuchea - Thai war (1977- Present)

Thousands of refugees from Kampuchea ( formerly Cambodia) crossed the border into Thailand to escape starvation and death after Communist Khmer-Rouge take over of their country in 1975 Khmer troops attacked Thai border areas near Aranyaprathet. Thailand closed its border, put its army on alert, and later used air and artillery attacks to drive the enemy back.  In 1979 - 1980, Vietnamese occupation forces in Kampuchea made incursions into Thai territory, often seeking rebel guerrillas supposedly hidden in refugee camps (where many Laotians and Vietnamese refugees had also settled). Sporadic skirmishes continued along the border, while Thailand’s military-dominated government fought insurgents inside the country, including Thai Communists, rebellious Meo tribesmen, Thai Muslim separatists, opium warlords, and others.


Copyright 1998 USMTA Inc.   All rights reserved. Revised: October 16, 2004.