How was Thailand able to avoid colonization when every other Southeast Asian countries got colonized?


Literally everyone of its neighboring countries was colonized by the West for centuries except them. How were they able to succeed in maintaining their independence when everyone around them took years of political struggle to be free?

In: 205

Because those surrounding colonies were controlled by Britain (e.g. Myanmar) and France (e.g. Vietnam) who were in competition with each other and desired a buffer zone between their colonies and that buffer zone was basically the valley that makes up a good portion of Thailand.

They played France and Britain against each other and allowed each to have some commercial interests. They did keep a large standing army and were ready to ally themselves to both, and neither UK not France were particularly motivated to wage a war there – note that Cambodia, immediately to the east (and an open plains all the way to Bangkok ) became a French protectorate by choice/colony by administrative wrangling and not through military action, so France was pretty content to keep it that way.

I read a article about this. The King at the time played both sides. When dealing with the British he would drop hints that he was on very good terms with the French and if he was ever attacked that he could count on them for support. When dealing with the French he told them how he was on very god terms with the English and if attacked if attacked that they would come to his support. That is the short version, but basically he very shrewdly played both sides against each other.

The secret to mass colonial conquest is political opportunism; exploiting divisions and weakness in the nations government in order to seize de facto control without ever really needing to actually literally conquer the country. Even when they fought wars the main goal was usually just siezing the capital/government (i.e. no need to take other cities/provinces etc). The result is that nations that managed to maintain strong and/or unified governments tended to resist far better than otherwise. Until eventually decades later a weak gov came along. In Thailands case they just never really had a poorly situated enough government to allow ready foreign takeover as well as being well situated in a buffer position between the french and english.


Burma is a great case that probably shouldn’t have been able to be conquered (it’s jungle terrain made operating in the country near impossible in the era) but a succession crisis led to an unpopular monarch and divided government. Seeing weakness the British pounced, declaring to the people they just wanted to replace the king, while also winning over (bribing?) the prime minister into getting the army not to resist.

They basically just went upriver in boats to the capital and the king surrendered to them out of hand.

Who says they weren’t? They ceded considerable amounts of territory, trade and legal concesssions, in a similar manner to China.