Raising the question of the reactions to the Japanese takeover in Southeast Asia is very delicate and original for many reasons. Firstly, Southeast Asia is a broad region and it is most likely that the reactions of locals will differ greatly from one place to another. Secondly, there is not one Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia but many local invasions that do not take place in the mean time but which span several years. Thirdly, there is almost no serious study on the reaction of the population. Most scholars focus on particular aspects such as battles or specific decisions made at some point but not specifically on the true feelings of the population. This topic is hence tricky and has to be treated in a cautious way as a variety of very different groups with diverging interests are classed under the term locals. Consequently, reactions may be very different according to the group in question.
[...] Nevertheless, Indians were a large part of those who died building the Burma railway alienating part of the community to the Japanese. When war began to spread over Indochina, Thailand took some advantages of the war to gain new territories over Laos and Cambodia that Japan had conceded. Therefore war was firstly well considered by a majority of Thais who felt like their country benefited from thereof. When the Japanese took over Indochina, they had to face a well- organized resistance from mostly communist groups led by Ho Chi Minh. [...]
[...] However, a growing Islamic consciousness was noticed as many Malaysians went to study in the Middle East and brought back new conceptions of Islam well less likely to cope with a foreign and even Christian domination. Although these new trends in Islam did not take over the former Malay Islam it constituted a certain factor of destabilization and contestation. A Malay nationalism also started to spread in the late 1930s but remained at a very embryonic form as state loyalty was not to be undermined so easily. [...]
[...] However on the other hand, decisions such as bowing mosques in the direction of Tokyo and the teaching of Japanese instead of Arabic in religious schools frustrated Muslims and finally alienated them to the cause of Japan. Thus, Indonesia followed a similar process as the Philippines but in reverse, first welcoming the Japanese but progressively growing wary of them and eventually rejecting them. With respect to Malaysia, during the course of war, a certain disaffection towards Japanese rule increased and at the end thereof, one can even say that locals rejected any form of foreign domination, as it seemed to bring only chaos and destruction. [...]
[...] This nationalism also spread through the population and asked for a separation from India no later than the end of the First World War and eventually obtained a power share between India and a local Burmese government. However, the diverse movements of opposition did not unite within a common political party as they were inherently antagonist. This anti- British and anti-Indian atmosphere favored eruptions of violence that took place after the world depression that increased the price of rice and other indispensable goods. [...]
[...] Thus, imperialism was repackaged as altruism and most of the local elites were seduced notably in terms of the empowerment they benefited from. It was clear from the beginning of the American domination that the Philippines would eventually be an independent nation from the United States and such a certainty led many nationalists to cope with and even support the American colonization. Strangely enough and probably for the first time ever, nationalism and colonization seemed to strengthen each other and when the war started, the locals were much more supportive of their colonizer than they used to be. [...]
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