Gareth Jones

[bas relief by Oleh Lesiuk]



Stop Press


Complete Soviet Articles & Background Information


Précis of Gareth's Soviet Famine Articles


All Published Articles




Tell Them We Are Starving




Eyewitness to the Holodomor



More Than Grain of Truth



Manchukuo Incident





'Are you Listening NYT?'  U.N. Speech - Nov 2009


Gareth Recognised at Cambridge - Nov 2009


Reporter and the Genocide - Rome, March 2009


Order of Freedom Award -Nov 2008


Premiere of 'The Living' Documentary Kyiv - Nov 2008


Gareth Jones 'Famine' Diaries - Chicago 2008


Aberystwyth Memorial Plaque 2006





Scholarship Fund


Site Map




Legal Notices


Sponsored Links



Japanese Influence in Siam

Far East Contents

by Gareth Jones
Bangkok, Siam. 

The recent Japanese invasion moves in North China have again drawn the attention of observers in the Far East to plans of Japanese expansion and the fear is often expressed that Japan is extending her sway not only over parts of China, but over distant regions such as Siam.  It is a commonplace of club-room conversations that Japanese influence is spreading so rapidly among the Siamese of the new revolutionary regime as to endanger Britain’s control over the path from the Pacific to Asia, and the old Kra Canal rumour, which the Japanese are said to wish to build a canal through the Isthmus of Kra, thus shortening by about two days the route between China and India and curtailing the usefulness of Singapore. 

This fear of a Siam dominated by Japan has even led the Times of India to write on April 11th, 1935: “India has this great interest - that the establishment of Japanese economic hegemony ever Siam would bring a new international influence into an area which is contiguous with the frontier of Burma.  In the past India’s foreign and defence policies have been dictated by considerations of the risk attaching to the North West frontier, where first the Russian menace and later, the Afghan unrest were present.  Should a new militant power establish itself on the eastern border of Burma India’s foreign and defence policies will need radical revision.” 

A problem, which is capable of changing the whole military and foreign policy of India and of costing Britain many millions of pounds in defence schemes, needs careful consideration.  During a stay in Siam I heard the views of the leading foreign and Siamese authorities on the problem of Japanese influence and for the reasons I shall set down, I came to the conclusion that Japanese control in Siam is a myth; that Japanese penetration has been greatly exaggerated and that while there are many signs of a rapidly growing friendship between the Siamese and the Japanese, talk of building of the Kra Canal and of Japanese domination of the route India is little more than sensational smoke room gossip. 

The nationalism, which inspires the present rulers of Siam, is not of a type, which would allow them to abandon their control of affairs to Japanese and for reasons of personal power and sensitiveness.  They are jealous of their grip over politics; “Siam for the Siamese is a far more potent slogan than “Asia for the Asiatics”, and while there are some supporters of “Pan Asianism” the vision of most young Siamese is still limited to their own fatherland.  Strategic reasons such as their wedged-in position between British territory, British Malaya and Burma, and French Indo-China prevent the Siamese rulers from placing too great strat­egic stress on Japan many thousand miles away. 

Within Siam there is a large Chinese population, powerful in its control over business life, which would lead the Siam­ese to hesitate in adopting too readily Japanese advice.  In spite of’ the usual absence of national feeling among Chinese and of their disregard of what happens away from their own province, there was a considerable boycott of Japanese goods by Chinese in Bangkok, and Chinese servants in some British and American families were known break any Japanese crockery they found in their master’s houses. 

In informed circles alarm about the building of the Kra Canal is held to be unjustified, and rather humorous.  It would be impossible to raise the capital in London or New York for such a great undertaking, while Tokyo even if it were a great monetary centre has too many financial problems at home and in Manchuria to be able to spare money for the Canal.  Should the unlikely occur and the Canal be built, the dues would be so heavy that few ship­ping companies would use the Canal in order to save two days voy­age, and take a route which would make them lose many valuable freights in the rich free-trade entrepot of Singapore.  The Kra Canal is thus dismissed with a gesture of amusement by reliable observes in Singapore and Siam. 

Finance is a final barrier to Japanese control over Siam.  There have been British financial advisers since 1896 and the Siamese currency is linked to sterling.  Siamese financing is centred in London and there is little likelihood of the Siamese rulers exchanging the solid rock of City support for the shifting sand of a Yen backing. 

While the scare a Japanese grip over Siam may be dismissed as sensational, there is no doubt about the growing friendship between Siam and Japan.  Young Siamese look with respect upon the achievements of the rising Asiatic island empire and say: “We want to be the Japan of the South.”  A leading Japanese official in Bangkok said to me: “The Siamese regard Japan as an elder brothers.  To them Japan is an example of a country that has freed itself and is progressing rapidly.  We are, however, not a leader but a mentor and it is right that we play a big part among the Asiatic peoples.  Thus the youth here say: “If only we could do what the Japanese have done.” 

In the last two years there has been an increase in the intercourse between the Nations, due largely to the cheapness of Japan.  A number of students have gone to Japan to study and find that the travel1ing expenses, university fees and the cost of living are lower than in Eng1and.  Thus a Siamese student can study for a year in Japan including travel for rough1y £120, while a year’s study at a British University, including travel, will cost at least £300. 

The depreciated yen has been a most important link be­tween Siam and Japan leading to an increase of travel between the two countries.  Japan has received this year a Siamese parliamentary commission, while prison experts from Bangkok and elsewhere have studied Japanese treatment of criminals.  Abandoning the tradition that Britain shall train the young naval officers of Siam, the Siamese Government has this year sent a number of naval cadets for training in the Japanese fleet. 

Race and religion are other bonds between the two peoples, which are both Buddhist.  The Siamese, while first and fore­most nationalistic, are none the less growing conscious of being Asiatic, and the Siamese Expeditionary Force witnessed in France during the War the spectacle of a Europe of blood and. hunger.  There has been a decline, therefore, in the esteem paid to Europeans and a decrease in the Western experts.  The Siamese State railways, which formerly had many British experts and foremen has today, I was told, only one British employee.  Japanese experts are increasing although there is no Japanese of the rank of ad­viser.  Japanese cotton experts have been engaged and there are Japanese officers in the Siamese Army. 

            Another sign of friendship is Siam is that refrained from the vote against Japan at the League of Nations meeting, which con­demned Japan’s action in Manchuria in March 1933.  Siam was alone in her refusal to vote.  Moreover the news agency, which mainly supplies the Siamese newspapers, is the official, Japanese agency, Rengo; a fact, which tends to increase the stress laid upon Japan’s importance.  

It is in trade, however, that Japan is advancing in Siam.  Imports direct from the United Kingdom declined from l22, 750,000 bahts (approximately 11 bahts to a £) in 1932 to l0, 866,675 bahts in 1934, while Japanese direct imports increased from 5,850,000, bahts in 1932 (the year of the Chinese boycott) to I4, 648,969 bahts in 1934.  In 1929-30 British imports into Siam were more than double the imports from Japan to Siam.  By 1934 Japanese imports had exceeded British imports.  To illustrate the advance of the Japanese in textile imports the statistics on singlets are revealing.  In year 1932-3 Japan imported 1,725 dozen singlets, while the next year she imported 105,049 dozen singlets into Siam. (These figures omit the Japanese goods imported from Singapore and Hong Kong and from the Japanese owned mills in China.  Siamese trade figures are so complex, however, that it is dangerous to rely too thoroughly upon them.  The general fact stands out that Japan is going ahead rapidly: has surpassed Great Britain as a supplier of Siam and now is the main source of the imports of cotton goods, wireless accessories, cement, bicycles, paper, artificial silk, silk and some other goods.  A store selling Japanese  “Datsun” cars at a lower price than the Austin Seven has been opened in the main street of Bangkok: a sign that Japan is entering into the Motor car export trade, although last year she imported only one car into Siam.  Japanese bicycles imported into Siam in 1932-3 numbered 947, while one year later they numbered 5,246 compared with 469 British bicycles in the later year.  A few months ago Japanese contractors were given large orders for railway bridges in the face of serious competition from number of European firms. 

Friendly though the social and trade relations between the two countries may be growing it would be rash, however, to leap to the facile conclusion that Japan dominates Siamese policy.  The new nationalist regime is not likely to throw itself into the arms of a foreign government.  


Top of Page




Original Research, Content & Site Design by Nigel Linsan Colley. Copyright © 2001-17 All Rights Reserved Original document transcriptions by M.S. Colley.Click here for Legal Notices.  For all further details email:  Nigel Colley or Tel: (+44)  0796 303  8888