24 AUGUST 1945, Page 14

The Future of Siam

EQUIPPED with first-hand knowledge extending over a quarter of a century, our last Minister at Bangkok here gives with admirable lucidity a bird's-eye view of Siam and its people, a useful outline of its relations with Great Britain, France, China and Japan, an account of its political experiments and leaders since the revolution of 1932, an informed judgment of its behaviour in yielding to Japan, and important views on its future.

Pretty much on the same plane of civilisation as Hyksos when he declared war on Thebes because the noise of her hippopotami disturbed him, a XVIth century king of Burma attacked Siam because he coveted two of her seven white elephants, and even now this would be a reason for war more intelligible to the Siamese peasant than the " co-prosperity " of Japan. But, as this work shows, Siam's rulers, whether royal or democratic, have been wide-awake and so modern that the country lately passed from democracy to the sway of a dictator who in puerile imitation of the Nazi introduced the greeting "Hail Pibul! " For, in spite of their intelligence, there has been a child-like streak of make-believe about the Siamese. Yet placed like the mousedeer in the Malay .proverb between two elephants, Britain and France, King Chulalongkorn and his successors in power were realists enough to aim at a policy of progress and neutrality that would leave no loophole for foreign trespass. And when France fell, Siam still hoped to live unmolested between Great Britain and Japan, shouting at last hysterically as the old order crashed around her that her toy army would fight for independence, but aware in the bitter end of her helpless impotence. Even though Siam abased herself to co-operate with Japan, Sir Josiah Crosby finds extenuating circumstances in the threats Japan may be presumed to have employed

Perhaps the most valuable of all are the chapters on future policy, including Siam's difficult relations with China. The author sees that democratic government to which the mass of the people are indifferent must always be at the mercy of the dictator with an army; moreover, writing before the atomic bomb changed the world, he fears that South-Eastern Asia may become Oriental Balkans if its countries are left free to arm. For Siam, past history points to Britain as her closest friend and future shield.

While in favour of raising the low standard of living for the working man in South-Eastern Asia, Sir Joshua considers " we should be doing him an ill service if we were to disturb his equanimity by implanting in him tastes and inclinations likely to impair that faculty in him for simple contentment and for the tranquil enjoyment of life, the possession of which makes him more fortunate, perhaps, than the majority of mankind."