Paungpetch, Sudina 1977- (2011-08). Domino by Design: Thai-U.S. Relations during the Vietnam War. Doctoral Dissertation. Thesis uri icon

abstract

  • Thailand was a strong American ally during the Cold War. Through its relations with the United States, Thailand became a recipient of American assistance in economic and social development as well as national defense. Anti-communism formed a major component in Thai domestic and foreign affairs, resulting in Thailand's cooperation with the U.S. in the Vietnam War by contributing troops and permitting the use of Thai bases to assist American military efforts. Scholars have explained the close Thai-U.S. relations in terms of mutual security concerns and highlighted the impact of the relations from an American foreign policy perspective. Some studies have focused on the course of Thai social and economic development and pointed to the strengthening of the undemocratic regime that occurred as a result of Bangkok-Washington alliance. This dissertation, while building upon these analytical frameworks, concentrates on Thai response to American influence in cultural and political terms. It is an attempt to fill the gaps in the historiography of Thai-U.S. relations by integrating U.S. documents and Thai primary sources including government documents, newspapers, and popular media to address the Thai side of the story. The impact of U.S. foreign policy in Thailand is examined within the context of Thai social and political debates leading to the rise of the democratic movement that toppled the Washington-supported, military-led Thai government in October of 1973. The research has revealed that the U.S., as a major foreign player in Thailand, not only bolstered the undemocratic regime, but also, through the transfer of American democratic ideals, social movements, and popular culture that accompanied foreign policy, contributed to the dismantling of that regime and the rise of movements for political reforms. Bangkok-Washington alliance in the Vietnam War challenged the authority of the Thai government as anti-war sentiments in the U.S. were carried over to Thailand, while the Thai public grew uneasy with the compromise on Thai sovereignty and social ills perceived to emanate from the presence of American servicemen in the country. At the same time, the American society itself provided intellectual and cultural references to Thais in questioning U.S. foreign policy and their own government.

publication date

  • August 2011