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When the Japanese moved into Southeast Asia in 1941, local reactions to the occupying forces differed greatly. Evaluate the motivations that fueled these varying responses, taking into consideration particular local situations and periods of the war

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  1. Introduction.
  2. The pre invasion context: A determinant to understand the reactions of locals to the Japanese invasion.
    1. An unwelcomed colonization.
    2. The Philippines and Thailand: Exceptions in different ways.
  3. The loss of their initial support and rejection throughout Southeast Asia.
    1. Japanese victories might have fueled a certain Asian pride.
    2. Growing nationalism and the locals exasperation with the Japanese domination.
  4. Conclusion.
  5. Bibliography.

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. [...]


[...] In this context, the Japanese invasion was interpreted by most of the population as a chance to break away from France and any other foreign ruler. This explains why most of the resistance movements chose to fight the Japanese. In 1944, a terrible famine ravaged North Vietnam and the communists played a decisive role in solving it as they seized granaries aimed at feeding landlords and the Japanese army thus gaining support from many villagers. Resistance groups had definitely taken over conservative forces such as old village leaders. [...]

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