The 100 years spanning 1850-1950 was a period of momentous change in both China and Siam. It witnessed a massive movement of labor seeking jobs in Southeast Asia. These southern Chinese immigrants evinced fierce loyalties to local, regional and speech group identities. Despite low degree of overarching Chinese identity, together they formed an enormous alien population in Siam.
The Siamese kingdom benefited from their labor, taxes and the selling of concessions. But their massive presence, attachment and links to Chinese civic (and often secret) society and Western power for protection presented challenges to law and order which could destabilize the Siamese government. The Challenges posed by a large alien Chinese presence in Siam took a new form with the rise of Chinese nationalism.
The speech by Sun Yatsen in Bangkok and the Chinese General Strike of 1910 alienated the future King Vajiravudh. The local Chinese fundraising and newspaper editorials for the republican cause further exacerbated the tensions. The ensuring decades would see competing nationalist and communist agendas divide not only China but also its overseas community. After the 1932 revolution ended absolute monarchy in Siam, anti- Chinese sentiments began to boil over.
After the parliamentary debate, the new civilian government changed the name of the country to Thailand. The new Thai nationalism of the People Party’s and the Japanese invasion of China created divided loyalties when Thailand sided with Japan in the Pacific War. These tensions created a complex and changing triangular relationship between the Thai, the Chinese and the Japanese in Thailand…