Thailand and the Southeast Asian networks of the Vietnamese Revolution 1885-1954.

Thailand and the Southeast Asian networks of the Vietnamese Revolution 1885-1954.


Excerpted from the history book:"Thailand and the Southeast Asian networks of the Vietnamese revolution, 1885-1954", Christopher E. Goscha, parts of pages 7-9



...While the majority of Vietnamese intellectuals active during the colonial period many may well preferred traveling to the West (Di Tay) with the French in search of the keys to 'modernity'. Phan Boi Chau's famous 'Journey to the East' movement (Dong Du) should remind us that at the turn of the century some Vietnamese looked to Japan for a model of modernizations. So were the Thais, the Indians, the Filipinos and others.

If nothing else these travels provide us with invaluable insights into how Asians world-views changed in terms of what existed earlier and what was occurring in regional minds in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Based on some preliminary rummaging, there does not seem to be of any shortage of articles in the Vietnamese press on Thailand. The continued independent status of Vietnam's traditional mainland partner during the colonial period, was ,in fact, a painful (and fascinating) point of comparison for Vietnamese nationalist of all colours, and arguably an even more interesting one for Thai nationalists.

Again, my point is not to exaggerate, the 'Asian Context' at the expense of a "Western' one; but rather to suggest that we need to factor these Asian contacts into a wider and deeper geographical and historical framework of analysis of the colonial period and the 'Indochinese Wars'. If not we naturally left with the impression that nothing occurs on the ground until 1945 or 1950, when nation revolutions suddenly 'liberated' Southeast Asians from their colonial cocoons or when the Chinese and Soviet finally recognized the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) diplomatically.
though in infinitely more modern ways - a regional approach to Vietnamese revolutionary operation in Thailand and Southeast Asia.

...These levels represent for the most part the four types of Vietnamese activities in Thailand during the period under study. They are from the bottom up:

1) historical patterns of Vietnamese immigration into Thailand;

2) the construction of revolutionary networks along these emigration lines;

3) the subsequent emergence of wars trading operations in Thailand; and

4) the emergence of communist and non-communist regional relations via Thailand, always rooted in these deep levels.

This, in tun, will help us to pick up on some synchronisms in the operations under study especially the close relationship between revolutionary activities in northeast Thailand and southern China in 1908-10, 1927-35, and 1948-51 on the one hand and, on the other, the distinction between Indochina and Southeast Asia that emerge the Vietnamese revolutionary minds from 1930 and in force from 1948-50.

Chronologically, this book is divided into two halves. The first half traces the birth of Asian revolutionary movement in Thailand between 1885 and 1940.

Chapter I starts with the 'Journey to the East' movement (Dong Du), following it out of Vietnam to Hong Kong, Japan and eventually to Thailand where Phan Boi Chau, Dang Thuc Hua and others began establishing anti-colonial bases among the Vietnamese communities established there.

Chapter 2, we examine how Nguyen Ai Quoc grafted Vietnamese and internationalist organizations onto the 'Dong Du's émigré bases.

This was part of larger revolutionary networks concentrated in Canton, Hong Kong, Singapore and linked to Moscow, Berlin and Paris by way of Vladivostok and the Suez Canal.

Chapter 3 deals with the period between 1940 and 1945 and tries to shed some light on the Thai side on what remains a largely Vietnamese story. In many ways this short chapter serves as a bridge between the colonial and independence-war periods by underscoring how World War II led to changes in Thai immigration policies, internal politics and visions of the region, all of which created favourable circumstances of Vietnamese communists to rebuild their bases as the war came to a sudden end in the pacific in August 1945.

The second half of the book focuses on on the war against the French between 1945 and 1954, and how the Vietnamese transformed their pre-war organization in Thailand into the nerve centre of a complex Southeast Asian war and diplomatic networks.

Chapter 4 centres on two years -1945 and 1946 - to examine how the Viet Minh regained a hold on its pre-existing bases in upper northeast Thailand created a new resistance supply route between Bangkok and Southern Vietnam, and beginning expanding their activities into Laos and Cambodia.



Chapter 5 deals to the DRV's diplomatic organizations; and shut down their commercial operations in Thailand. ....

the DRV government established a non-communist diplomatic organization for Southeast Asia directed from Bangkok ... Vietnamese communists doubled it a parallel and highly secret set a communist relationship via Thailand. ... the Cold War began reversing a centuries old pattern of Vietnamese emigration to Thailand; brought an end .... the closure of the Thai front in the face of the Cold War led Vietnamese communists to begin consolidating their hold on 'Indochina' as part of a Sino Vietnamese internationalist alliance in 'Southeast Asia' that both parties had first espoused in the early 1930s and which would divide Southeast Asia in Indochinese ways from 1950. The idea in this layered approach is to suggest that the DRV/ICP's (Indochinese Communist Party's) diplomacy was, in fact, linked the deeper levels of Vietnamese emigration and trading operations, which roots reaching back to precolonial period. .../


 Click on this link below to read the article:


Christopher E. Goscha, Thailand and the Southeast Asian Networks ...


Christopher E. Goscha, Thailand and the Southeast Asian Networks
of the Vietnamese Revolution, 1885-1954. Richmond Surrey, UK:
Curzon Press, 1999.418 pp. ISBN 0-7007-0622-4.



In this impressive volume Christopher Goscha examines the important, but previously little studied, role Thailand played in the Vietnamese revolutionary movement during the colonial era. He makes a strong case for the significance of the Thailand connection, particularly during the immediate post-Second World War period.

From the early 20th century, effective French security efforts forced Vietnamese revolutionaries to seek shelter abroad. Japan, for a time, and China were major centres of revolutionary
activity. As for Thailand, Ho Chi Minh's sojourn in the northeastern provinces of the country in the late 1920s as a Comintern representative is well known, but Goscha places Ho's efforts in a broader context and provides many new details.


Along the way he examines the historical origins of the several different types of Vietnamese communities in Thailand, making clear why the Vietnamese in northeastern Thailand ultimately were the strongest supporters of radical nationalism. Goscha explains clearly, too, the ambivalent attitude towards Vietnamese revolutionaries held by Thai leaders both before and after the 1932 coup d'Etat. Although Thailand had fought with Vietnam over control of Cambodia in the 19th century, most Thais naturally tended to sympathize with fellow Asians opposed to European colonialism. More significantly, they deeply resented the French seizure of Cambodia and Laos-territories they considered rightfully their own-a tangible reason to make common cause with France's enemies.

Still, Thai leaders knew that their own interests dictated cooperation with their more powerful colonial neighbours, so any official support the revolutionaries received remained limited and largely covert. The Thai government's anti-communist stance served as a further restraining factor.

All this changed drastically in 1940 when Premier Phibun Songkhram seized the opportunity presented by France's defeat in Europe to press Thailand's claims on French-held territories along the Mekong River. As part of his campaign to regain the 'lost territories', Phibun encouraged Indochinese people to express their support for Thailand's position by crossing the border. Some in fact did so, and were able to establish personal links with key Thai political figures.

A further boon for Indochinese activists came with the emergence of the pro-Allied Free Thai movement, led by Pridi Phanomyong during the latter part of the Second World War.

Not only were key northeastern politicians loyal Pridi supporters, but the underdeveloped region was little frequented by Japanese forces and was accordingly the best site for guerrilla training camps and secret airfields. The abrupt end to the war in August 1945 meant that the weapons flown in by the British and Americans were not used against the Japanese, but did become part of an arms bazaar in postwar Thailand.


Most of Pridi's supporters-particularly the politicians from the northeast who were of Lao ancestry-were inherently sympathetic to Indochinese revolutionaries and resentful of France's success in reclaiming the territories Thailand had obtained with Japanese help in 1941. Accordingly, the postwar Thai governments permitted the Viet Minh and other Indochinese independence movements to operate freely and openly. The Thais also profited handsomely by selling them weapons and other supplies.

Goscha argues convincingly, based on a detailed account of Viet Minh operations in Bangkok, that this supply line was a key factor in sustaining the Vietnamese war against the French prior to the communist victory in neighbouring China in 1949. As is well known, the official Thai stance toward the Viet Minh changed drastically under the post-1947 military governments, but Goscha demonstrates that this shift was gradual. He contends that it was not based primarily on ideological opposition to communism or anti-Viet Minh sentiment within the Thai Army. Instead, he points to domestic political concerns-particularly, a French-encouraged fear that the Viet Minh would actively support Pridi's faction--the allure of American aid, and security concerns connected with the communist victory in China. By 1950, Thailand and revolutionary Vietnam had become enemies, aligned with the opposing sides 164 Copenhagen Journal of Asian Studies 14 2000 Reviews in the Cold War.


Soon the Thais and Americans would back their own contenders for power in the newly independent states in Indochina. The reasons why scholars previously have failed to explore, fully Vietnamese revolutionary activities in Thailand are obvious. The relevant sources are in several languages and scattered in archives around the globe. Also, many aspects of the highly secret activities involved are either not documented at all, or known only through memoirs of dubious reliability.

Goscha successfully surmounted these various problems in producing this meticulously researched and smoothly written book. It belongs on the reading list of all serious students of 20th-century Southeast Asian history.

E. Bruce Reynolds
Department of History
San Jose State University
San Jose, California



See more of Pham Boi Chau:



1) Pham Boi Chau's famous Journey to East Movement (Dong Du).


2) Pham Boi Chau and Japan



 ........In part of East Asia,

Back in time of Hong Bang

Lately in the ages of Tran and Ly dynasties,

Our people were pure and brave.

We beat the army of To Dinh

At Linh Bieu

And defeated Ma Nhi

in the battle of Phu Luong

We also overthrew the Chiem Thanh (17)

In fighting

And destroyed the Chan Lap (18)

With weapons. ... This poem shows us on the one hand they described the old properous Vietnam as a country which has successfully resisted all the aggressors, like To Dinh or Ma Nhi, from China, and on the other hand as a strong conqueror of the south minorities like Chiem Thanh and Chan Lap. According to them, the fact that the Vietnamese destroyed and absorbed the other weaker races was not a blot but a brilliant achievement upon their history.





(17) Chiem Thanh was Cham or Champa who built the Kingdom in central Vietnam.


(18) Chan Lap was an old Kingdom of Khmers


blot 1  (blt)

1. A spot or a stain caused by a discoloring substance: a blot of paint.
2. A stain on one's character or reputation; a disgrace. See Synonyms at stain.
3. The Northern, Southern, or Western blot analyses.
v. blot·ted, blot·ting, blots
1. To spot or stain, as with a discoloring substance.
2. To bring moral disgrace to.
3. To obliterate (writing, for example).
4. To make obscure; hide: clouds blotting out the moon.
5. To destroy utterly; annihilate: War blotted out their traditional way of life.
6. To soak up or dry with absorbent material.
1. To spill or spread in a spot or stain.
2. To become blotted, soaked up, or absorbed.



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