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The Lost Territories

The Lost Territories: Thailand’s History of National Humiliation

Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    The Lost Territories
    Book Description:

    It is a cherished belief among Thai people that their country was never colonized. Yet politicians, scholars, and other media figures chronically inveigh against Western colonialism and the imperialist theft of Thai territory. Thai historians insist that the country adapted to the Western dominated world order more successfully than other Southeast Asian kingdoms and celebrate their proud history of independence. But many Thai leaders view the West as a threat and portray Thailand as a victim. Clearly Thailand's relationship with the West is ambivalent.

    The Lost Territoriesexplores this conundrum by examining two important and contrasting strands of Thai historiography: the well-known Royal-Nationalist ideology, which celebrates Thailand's long history of uninterrupted independence; and what the author terms "National Humiliation discourse," its mirror image. Shane Strate examines the origins and consequences of National Humiliation discourse, showing how the modern Thai state has used the idea of national humiliation to sponsor a form of anti-Western nationalism. Unlike triumphalist Royal-Nationalist narratives, National Humiliation history depicts Thailand as a victim of Western imperialist bullying. Focusing on key themes such as extraterritoriality, trade imbalances, and territorial loss, National Humiliation history maintains that the West impeded Thailand's development even while professing its support and cooperation. Although the state remains the hero in this narrative, it is a tragic heroism defined by suffering and foreign oppression.

    Through his insightful analysis of state and media sources, Strate demonstrates how Thai politicians have deployed National Humiliation imagery in support of ethnic chauvinism and military expansion.The Lost Territorieswill be of particular interest to historians and political scientists for the light it sheds on many episodes of Thai foreign policy, including the contemporary dispute over Preah Vihear. The book's analysis of the manipulation of historical memory will interest academics exploring similar phenomena worldwide.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-5437-9
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction: The Idea of “Loss” in Thai Historical Narratives
    (pp. 1-23)

    At the beginning of 2001, Thailand found itself struggling to overcome the lingering effects of the Asian financial crisis, which originated with the collapse of the Thai financial markets. By March of that year, the government announced a series of urgent priorities designed to help the country stabilize its economy. After reviewing the government’s plan, opposition leaders criticized the apparent exclusion of education from the agenda. Among the harshest critics was former Permanent Secretary for University Affairs Vijit Srisa-an, who viewed education funding as a top priority for revitalizing the nation. “Without a clearer education policy,” he warned, “we will...

  5. 1 Constructing Loss: Repealing the Unequal Treaties in Siam
    (pp. 24-36)

    In creating National Humiliation discourse, Wichit and Phibun utilized imagery from the Siamese campaign to revise the unequal treaties. Prior to the invention oflost territories,the unequal treaties best illustrated Siam’s struggle to reassert itself in a twentieth-century world dominated by Western norms and values. The issue helped create a forum wherein scholars could discuss the gap between Siam and the West, while denouncing European efforts to undermine sovereignty and slow national progress. Like the irredentists of the 1930s, treaty revisionists created a narrative that identified a critical moment of loss in Siamese history. They saw themselves as working...

  6. 2 The Birth of National Humiliation Discourse
    (pp. 37-63)

    Today the date of May 9, 1941, no longer occupies a special place within the pantheon of important Thai historical events. Those history books that mention it usually do so to foreshadow the more important Thai alliance with Japan. At the time, however, the signing of the Tokyo Peace Accord ending the war with French Indochina was celebrated as the greatest triumph of Thailand’s modern era. The war was a direct consequence of Phibun’s efforts to popularize moments of injustice and defeat in Thailand’s past. In the 1930s, Wichit meticulously defined a historical narrative on thelost territories,which claimed...

  7. 3 National Humiliation and Anti-Catholicism
    (pp. 64-93)

    In the summer of 1942, Bishop Pasotti of the Ratchaburi Diocese wrote a letter to the Ministry of Interior protesting the deteriorating status of the Catholic Church in Thailand. Since the beginning of the border conflict with French Indochina in late 1940, the Church’s standing had been jeopardized by its close association with France. Thai Catholics had been labeled as “fifth column” and subject to all manner of persecution. French citizens, including clergy, had been ordered to leave the country. Those priests who returned were restricted from administering to their former parishes. Provincial and municipal leaders banned all church services...

  8. 4 Thailand and Pan-Asianism
    (pp. 94-122)

    Few topics in Thai history garner more attention from scholars than the alliance with Japan during World War II. Historians often cite the alliance as the definitive example ofbamboo diplomacy,arguing that Phibun entered into a patron-client relationship with Japan to prevent Thailand from becoming a battlefield. It is true that Phibun wanted to preserve the country’s independence. But he also saw the Japanese Empire as a vehicle for expanding Thai influence in Southeast Asia. It was a pragmatic decision based on the changing balance of power in Asia, one that required a new discourse to explain the basis...

  9. 5 1946: Postwar Reconciliation and the Loss Reimagined
    (pp. 123-157)

    Thailand’s World War II experience required nationalist historians to demonstrate impressive intellectual dexterity in their insistence that the country hadnever been colonized.Many scholars argued that Thailand was unaffected by the Greater East Asian war, it being the only country in Southeast Asia to maintain its in dependence throughout the entire ordeal. Thamsook Numnonda argued that the Thai viewed the Japanese not as an occupying force but as a “guest army.” Inspite of Phibun’s cooperation with Japan, which included a declaration of war on Britain and the United States, by September 1945 Thailand had somehow ended up on the...

  10. 6 Preah Vihear: A Thai Symbol of National Humiliation
    (pp. 158-188)

    On June 24, 2008, Thailand’s Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama signed a joint communiqué endorsing Cambodia’s efforts to have Preah Vihear, an eleventh-century temple complex on the Thai-Cambodian border, declared a World Heritage site. This seemingly innocuous document triggered a firestorm of criticism and protest in Bangkok. For the past half century, both Cambodia and Thailand had staked claims to the land surrounding Preah Vihear. Critics argued that listing the temple as a World Heritage site would mean international recognition of Cambodian sovereignty over the ruins. Bangkok newspaper editorials accused the ruling People Power Party [Phak Phalang Prachachon] of selling out...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 189-196)

    After the furor over Preah Vihear died down, the Thai state discontinued its use of National Humiliation discourse, which had once again became a liability. Sarit’s pledge that one day Preah Vihear would belong to Thailand suggested that defeat was temporary, for the struggle was not over. Despite the ambiguous nature of the World Court’s ruling on the boundary surrounding Preah Vihear, the Thai government did not request clarification for fear any resulting demarcation would cost them even more territory. For over four de cades, the temple site functioned as a type of memorial, commemorating a dark anniversary. Then in...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 197-226)
    (pp. 227-238)
  14. Index
    (pp. 239-246)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-253)