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10-08-2015, 23:10


The Japanese wartime occupation had a great impact on attitudes among the peoples of Southeast Asia. It demonstrated the vulnerability of colonial rule in the region and showed that an Asian power could defeat Europeans. The Allied governments themselves also contributed— sometimes unwittingly—to rising aspirations for independence by promising self-determination for all peoples at the end of the war. Although Winston Churchill later said that the Atlantic Charter did not apply to the colonial peoples, it would be difficult to put the genie back in the bottle. Some did not try. In July 1946, the United States granted total independence to the Philippines. The Americans maintained a military presence on the islands, however, and U.S. citizens retained economic and commercial interests in the new country. The British, too, under the Labour Party, were willing to bring an end to a century of imperialism in the region. In 1948, the Union of Burma received its independence. Malaya’s turn came in 1957, after a Communist guerrilla movement had been suppressed. The French and the Dutch, however, both regarded their colonies in the region as economic necessities as well as symbols of national grandeur and refused to turn them over to nationalist movements at the end of the war. The Dutch attempted to suppress a rebellion in the East Indies led by Sukarno, leader of the Indonesian Nationalist Party. But the United States, which feared a Communist victory there, pressured the Dutch to grant independence to Sukarno and his non-Communist forces, and in 1950, the Dutch finally agreed to recognize the new Republic of Indonesia. The situation was somewhat different in Vietnam, where the leading force in the anticolonial movement was the local Indochinese Communist Party (ICP) led by the veteran Moscow-trained revolutionary Ho Chi Minh. In August 1945, virtually at the moment of Japanese surrender, the Vietminh Front, an alliance of patriotic forces under secret ICP leadership that had been founded to fight the Japanese in 1941, launched a general uprising and seized power throughout most of Vietnam. In early September, Ho Chi Minh was declared president of a new provisional republic in Hanoi. In the meantime, French military units began arriving in Saigon, with the permission of the British occupation command there. The new government in Hanoi, formally known as the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) appealed to the victorious Allies for recognition but received no response, and by late fall, the southern part of the country was back under French rule. Ho signed a preliminary agreement with the French recognizing Vietnam as a “free state” within the French Union, but negotiations over the details broke down in the summer of 1946, and war between the two parties broke out in December. At the time, it was only an anticolonial war, but it would soon become much more (see Chapter 7).