Courtesy Reuters

WHICH ROAD FOR SOUTHEAST ASIA?

To a great many Americans and Europeans, Southeast Asia today must look like an incurably troubled area. They see that there has been fighting in Laos and vicinity, and that a shooting war is raging in South Viet Nam, killing not only natives but also foreign advisers who have been sent there to help the South Vietnamese defend themselves. They also have read that one nation is confronting another, threatening to crush it flat as a pancake; and perhaps they may have noticed vociferous statements by an ex- king who wants to lay his country at the feet of Communist leaders unless certain Western nations beckon him to take back a few million dollars of aid which he had spurned and proceed to fall on their knees to receive his diktat at an international conference. All this must appear a hazy, unhealthy and utterly confusing situation. Leading their own orderly and prosperous lives, they must incline to shrug their shoulders and ask why their governments don't keep out of such brawls and leave these quarreling people to their own fate.

Even in Thailand, which though not unaffected by these worrisome developments remains an island of peace and tranquillity in the sea of turmoils, people also voice the same queries. Would they not be happier if their leaders could behave like the three legendary monkeys? Unfortunately, there is no such simple way out, and much as the Thai nation wants-like nations in America and Europe-to be left alone to lead a quiet life of its own choice, circumstances simply do not allow it to do so. On the contrary, Thailand perforce must bear its share of the threats and dangers which assault Southeast Asia like furious surf from a stormy sea.

How did this state of affairs come about? The facts are complex, but a brief analysis may be attempted.

Prior to World War I, Southeast Asia, with the exception of Thailand, was under Western colonial rule. The British, French, Dutch and

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