The Japanese occupation of Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaya impacted and hence triggered a response in Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaya in the form of various nationalist groups. Some groups were formed and sponsored by the Japanese, yet others were formed to oppose the harshness of Japanese rule. Economic: The economic drain on the colonies in South East Asia resulted in the opposition of the natives towards the Japanese. In Malaya, the devastation and collapse of the economy caused a nightmare for the people of Malaya. However, many nationalist groups were formed within racial groups.
The Chinese formed the Malayan Peoples’ Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA). However they were not able to unite the society because membership was limited to Chinese only and they practiced excessive revenge against collaborators, causing the Chinese community to regard them with fear and wariness and the other racial communities could not join, hence fragmenting the effort. The Japanese sponsored the formation of the Indian National Army (INA) led by Chandra Bose, however the independence struggle lacked unity and ultimately failed.
They also sponsored the formation of the Union of the Peninsular Indonesia (KRIS), however there was not much support from both the ethnic Malays and Japanese and also failed in the end. In Vietnam, the rampant inflation and the scarcity of basic necessities caused the nationalism in Vietnam to flourish. When the famine in Tonkin broke out in 1944, the Viet Minh took over granaries belonging to the Japanese and rich landlords and distributed the rice to the peasants. This contributed to the rise of the Viet Minh as they were viewed as heroes.
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Hence, in both cases, the harsh conditions caused by the Japanese occupation led to the rise of nationalist groups in Malaya and Vietnam. Social: The Japanese Occupation changed the society of Vietnam and Indonesia. It gave the people of Vietnam an obvious nationalist cause, to expel both the Japanese and the French. This allowed to Viet Minh, who promoted the struggle for independence, to flourish. The negative effects of Japanese policies roused the nationalist feelings of the people, making them more united in their fight for independence.
In Dutch East Indies, the Japanese pursued active policies which affected the development of nationalist groups. The Muslim teachers were given better treatment and respect in contrast to the Dutch who generally ignored them. The Japanese also sponsored the formation of the Consultative Council of Indonesian Muslims, also known as Masjuni, for the Muslims as a channel to voice their views directly to the top Japanese administration. They also imposed a uniform legal and education system, making Indonesian society more united and hence making it easier to cultivate nationalist feelings.
The social changes caused by the Japanese to these two South-East Asian countries contributed to the rise of nationalism, which in turn served as the backbone of the natives’ struggle for independence after the Japanese occupation. Political: The political changes in Indonesia and Vietnam aided the rise of nationalism in these two countries. In Indonesia, the Japanese released several notable pre-war leaders from prison, allowing the released leaders to lead the nationalists. They also promoted the formation of the Pemuda Movement, which together with PETA helped to mobilize many youths and exposed them to nationalist ideas.
Hizbullah, an organization for youth who opposed colonialism, was also formed. Furthermore, Soekarno, one of the released leaders, gave numerous nationalist speeches to active youths. These youths formed a significant base for the nationalist opposition to the re-imposition of Dutch colonial rule. In Vietnam, the rise of nationalism led by the Viet Minh and Ho Chi Minh, is seen when the harsh conditions caused by the Japanese resulted in the solidification of the struggle by the Vietnamese for independence from the French and Vietnamese.
Furthermore, the Japanese also actively strengthened religious groups like the Cao Dai and Hoa Hao to counter the influence of the communists and nationalists. However, these groups would later become major nationalists groups after the Japanese Occupation. The Japanese directly caused the rise of nationalism in these two South-East Asian countries due to the effects of their policies, effectively aiding the nationalists in their struggle for independence from not only the Japanese but also their former colonial masters at the end of the war.
In conclusion, the groups that mushroomed as a result of the Japanese occupation served as the main backbone of anti-colonial struggles for independence both during and after the Japanese occupation. Though the rule of the Japanese varied in different countries in the region, the end result was the same in all, nationalist groups ready to lead the struggle for independence with or without Japanese support. The reaction of the people in response to the Japanese forever changed the history of South-East Asia.
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