Thailand History

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Beginning in 1977, the Thai government under Prime Minister Kriangsak had sought a rapprochement with Indochina’s new communist states. Trade agreements and a transit accord were signed with Laos in 1978. In September of that year, Pham Van Dong, premier of Vietnam, visited Bangkok and gave assurances that his government would not support a communist insurgency within Thailand. Troubles on the Thai-Cambodian border, including assaults on Thai border villages by Cambodian forces, however, continued to disrupt relations with Democratic Kampuchea.

Vietnam’s invasion of Democratic Kampuchea in December 1978 initiated a new crisis. Vietnamese forces captured Phnom Penh in January 1979 and proclaimed the People’s Republic of Kampuchea--a virtual satellite of Vietnam--a few days later. This action altered Cambodia’s position as a buffer between Thailand and Vietnam. Thai and Vietnamese forces now faced each other over a common border, and there were repeated Vietnamese incursions into Thai territory (see State of National Security , ch. 5). Moreover, a flood of refugees from Cambodia placed great strains on Thai resources despite the donation of emergency aid by outside nations (see The Indochinese Refugee Question , ch. 2).

As a frontline state in the Cambodian crisis, Thailand joined the other members of ASEAN, the United States, and China in demanding a Vietnamese withdrawal from Cambodia. In June 1982, the Thai government extended support to the anti-Vietnamese coalition formed by Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the Khmer Rouge’s Khieu Samphan, and noncommunist Cambodian leader Son Sann. One unforeseen benefit of the Cambodian crisis was greatly improved relations between Thailand and China, as both countries found themselves in confrontation with Vietnam. By 1983 China had drastically reduced aid and support for the Thai and other Southeast Asian communist insurgencies as part of its new policy of improved relations within the region (see Foreign Affairs , ch. 4).

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David K. Wyatt’s Thailand: A Short History is the best general survey in English and covers the history of the country from the earliest recorded appearance of the Tai peoples to events in the early 1980s. D.G.E. Hall’s classic A History of South-East Asia presents a well-written general survey within the regional context, ending in the 1950s. On the earlier phases of Thai history, Georges Coedès’s The Making of South East Asia is most helpful. In Thailand: Buddhist Kingdom as Modern Nation-State, Charles F. Keyes presents a general historical survey within the context of the Thai social and cultural setting. John L. S. Girling’s Thailand: Society and Politics provides an interesting interpretation of recent political, social, and economic developments. Periodicals such as the Journal of Asian Studies, Pacific Affairs, and the Journal of Southeast Asian Studies publish articles of historical interest, and Asian Survey and the Far Eastern Economic Review Asia Year Book provide good accounts of contemporary events. (For further information and complete citations, see thailand/th_bibl.asp"> Bibliography.)

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