In little more than 3 months, Japan was in militarycontrol of the countries of French Indochina, theBritish possessions in Malaysia, Singapore andBorneo, almost all of the Netherlands East Indies(Indonesia) and was occupying Portuguese Timor. Basically, Southeast Asia fell to the Japanese in lessthan six months of fighting. The peoples of Southeast Asia found their newcolonial masters.
Indonesia Indonesian nationalists like Sukarno and Hatta decided topursue their goal of true independence by joining withthe Japanese, while many Indonesians hailed theJapanese as liberators. One of the single most important aspects of the Japaneseoccupation of Indonesia was the involvement of theindigenous people in political organization of the country. While Japanese military men were try to develop supportfor their country’s war effort, the Indonesians weretaking the opportunity to demonstrate their identity. The Japanese occupation provided another importantsymbolic guide for young Indonesians.
Malay and Singapore The Chinese were regarded as enemies and weretreated savagely, at the beginning of the occupationwhen ten thousands of Chinese were executed. In contrast, less harsh treatment was accorded theMalays and the Indians, showing some deference totraditional Malay leaders. The Japanese also recruited members of the Indianminority to enroll in the Indian National Army forliberate India from the colonial rule.
Burma The Japanese encouraged local politicians tobecome part of an administrative structure, intheory at least, they had a significant role to play. Many thousands younger Burmese claimed the rightto play part in the administration of the country. The Japanese established a civilian Burmeseadministration headed by a well-known oldernationalist, Ba Maw. For a brief period of disagreement seemed to meetthe divergent interests in both parties.
Burma Japanese interests remained paramount and alldiscussion of Burmese independence, powerremained firmly in the hands of the invading army. The demand of war led the Japanese to seek theprovision of food, other resources, and labour fortheir strategic rail and road building projects. These led to the formation of a clandestineorganization with the young military officer AungSan as a prominent member.
The Philippines The Philippines politicians who worked with theJapanese never succeeded in seeming other thanpuppets. The Japanese brutality against the civilian populationand the heavy economic demands tended toreinforce a widespread feeling among ordinary. There was both a significant guerilla resistancemovement, and a large group of politicians andadministrators worked with the invaders.
French Indochina It was unique that the French administration continued tofunction until early 1945. The French’s position remained because of its agreementmade with the Japanese; its colonial territories were putat the will of them. While military and political powers kept by the Japanese,they demanded for resources and manpower. The Communists under the leadership of Ho Chi Minhsucceeded in 1941 in establishing a political frontorganization.
The Tide of War Turns The victories of 1942 had meant the establishment ofnew administrations in which local politicians playeda part. The Japanese interregnum had brought irrevocablechange to the region and problems andopportunities differed greatly form country tocountry. For Thailand, at the beginning, enlisting on theJapanese side gave of regaining control of areas ofCambodia and Laos and later Burma.
The Tide of War Turns (cont.) As circumstances changed so did the Thai leadershipbegin its shift to a position that signaled a cleardefection from the Japanese camp. Traditional capacity for astute diplomacy, domesticskills and more demanding problems elsewhere inSoutheast Asia saved Thailand from any serioushumiliation.
The Tide of War Turns (cont.) In Burma, as British and Indian military forces carriedon a successful campaign defeating the Japanesearmy in 1945, the Allied Supreme Commander, LordLouis Mountbatten, agreed to cooperate with theBurmese nationalists. In the Philippines, the recon-quest took place withconsiderable assistance from various groups such asHakbalahap and a Communist organization.
First Steps to Independence The final Japanese surrender to the Allies took placein August 1945. In Indonesia, Sukarno and Hatta proclaimedindependence and served a notice of readiness tofight against any attempt at the predisposition ofthe Dutch rule. In March 1945, six months before the end of the war,the Japanese forces overthrew the Frenchadministration.
First Steps to Independence (cont.) It became possible for the communist-led Viet Minhforces to accelerate their efforts to gain power, andtheir forces were the most able and affective. When Japan surrendered, Ho Chi Minh proclaimedthe establishment of an independent Vietnam stateon 2 September 1945. Cambodia and Laos did not have the high drama thatmarked the closing stages of WWII.
First Steps to Independence (cont.) Malaya had no significant nationalist movement. Therewas little local interest in nationalism. Even though there was no resistance to the return of theBritish themselves once the war had ended, it was notgreeted with flag-decked buildings or by cheeringcrowds. Singapore was reverted to being a British crown colony. British re-established their protectorate over the Bruneisultanate. The Portuguese resumed their colony in April 1946.