Courtesy Reuters

Southeastern Asia in Escrow

THE spread of the European war to Asia has torn the whole region from Hong Kong to India from the political moorings of at least the past fifty years. Hong Kong, Indo-China, Thailand, Burma, the Philippines, the Netherlands East Indies, British Malaya and British and Dutch Borneo -- all are now held, as it were, in escrow, to be distributed according as the war goes. The process of distribution will be one of the difficult tasks confronting the makers of the peace.[i] It will be the more difficult in that obviously something more will be required than a mere restitution of territory to the victors and the restoration of the status quo ante 1939. Excepting only Thailand, each of the territories in question is a colonial possession and not a part of the metropolitan area of any of the contending states. Excepting Thailand, no one of them is inhabited by the people of the states which will have the power of decision. Thus in each case there is a third party to the struggle for possession. In addition to the United Nations on one side, and Japan and her European partners on the other, there are the native populations. By all recent historical precedent it can be taken for granted that the third party will not remain wholly a passive agent. A profound readjustment will be necessary in Southeastern Asia no less than on the mainland further north and in Europe.

However decisive the victory of the United Nations, it seems plain that Southeastern Asia will not again take on the same political shape that it had before 1939. The change in the relationship between great empires and their colonial dependencies which began after the First World War will be carried a step further after the Second. We could not foresee in 1918 that colonies which were inhabited by people of a relatively high order of national consciousness and cultural development were never again to resume the status which they had formerly occupied. But

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