The Franco-Thai War (1940–1941) was fought between Thailand and Vichy France over certain areas of French Indochina that had once belonged to Thailand.
Negotiations with France shortly before World War II had shown that the French government was willing to make minor changes in the boundaries between Thailand and French Indochina. Following the Fall of France in 1940, Major-General Plaek Pibulsonggram (popularly known as "Phibun"), the prime minister of Thailand, decided that France's defeat gave the Thais an even better chance to regain the territories they had lost during King Chulalongkorn's reign.
The German occupation of metropolitan France made France's hold on its overseas possessions, including Indochina, tenuous. The isolated colonial administration was cut off from outside help and outside supplies. After the Japanese invasion of Indochina in September 1940, the French were forced to allow Japan to set up military bases. This seemingly subservient behavior convinced the Phibun regime that Vichy France would not seriously resist a confrontation with Thailand.
While nationalistic demonstrations and anti-French rallies were held in Bangkok, border skirmishes erupted along the Mekong frontier. The superior Royal Thai Air Force conducted daytime bombing runs over Vientiane, Sisophon, and Battambang with impunity. The French retaliated with their own planes, but the damage caused was less than equal. The activities of the Thai air force, particularly in the field of dive-bombing, was such that Admiral Jean Decoux, the governor of French Indochina, grudgingly remarked that the Thai planes seemed to have been flown by men with plenty of war experience.
In early January 1941, the Thai Burapha and Isan Armies launched their offensive on Laos and Cambodia. French resistance was instantaneous, but many units were simply swept along by the better-equipped Thai forces. The Thais swiftly took Laos, but Cambodia was more difficult to take.At dawn on January 16, 1941 the French launched a large counterattack on the Thai-held villages of Yang Dang Khum and Phum Preav, initiating the fiercest battle of the war. Because of over-complicated orders and nonexistent intelligence, the French counterattacks were stopped and fighting ended with a French withdrawal from the area. The Thais were unable to pursue the retreating French, as their forward tanks were kept in check by the gunnery of French Foreign Legion artillerists.
As the situation on land was exacerbating for the French, Admiral Decoux ordered the available French naval forces into action in the Gulf of Thailand. In the early morning of January 17, the French navy caught a Thai naval detachment at anchor off the island of Ko Chang. The subsequent Battle of Ko Chang proved a victory for the French and resulted in the sinking of two Thai torpedo boats and a coastal defence ship.
On January 24, the final air battle took place when Thai bombers raided the French airfield at Angkor near Siem Reap. The last Thai mission commenced at 0710 hours on January 28, when the Martins of the 50th Bomber Squadron set out on a raid on Sisophon, escorted by thirteen Hawk 75Ns of the 60th Fighter Squadron.
The Japanese mediated the conflict, and a general armistice was arranged to go into effect at 1000 hours on January 28. On May 9 a peace treaty was signed in Tokyo, with the French being coerced by the Japanese into relinquishing their hold on the disputed territories.
The resolution of the conflict was received with wide acclaim among the Thai people and was looked upon as a personal triumph for Phibun. For the first time, Thailand had been able to extract concessions from a European power, albeit a weakened one. For the French in Indochina, the conflict was a bitter reminder of their isolation following the Fall of France. In the French view, an ambitious neighbour had taken advantage of a distant colony cut off from her weakened parent. Without hope of reinforcements, the French had little chance of offering a sustained resistance. But in the Thai view, the French had unfairly taken those areas which used to be parts of Siam (Thailand). And then the French-Thai War was a reasonable effect.
However, the real beneficiaries of the conflict between Thailand and the Vichy French colony were the Japanese. They were able to expand their influence in both Thailand and Indochina.
The Japanese won from Phibun a secret verbal promise to support them in an attack on Malaya and Burma. However, the Thai Prime Minister was fickle and he was quite ready to forget this promise if circumstances changed. His government also asked both the British and Americans for guarantees of effective support if Thailand were invaded by Japan.
On 8 December 1941, the Japanese invaded Thailand at the same time they invaded Malaya.
After the war, in October 1946, northwestern Cambodia and the two Lao enclaves on the Thai side of the Mekong River were only returned to French sovereignty after the French provisional government threatened to veto Thailand's membership in the United Nations.
|This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Thai_War http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franco-Thai_War|