Monthly Archives: August 2011

WWII Thais

Most histories of WWII treat Thailand as being just another part of the Japanese empire, notable for its immediate surrender to the Japanese and for making up one half of the infamous Death Railway.

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They are wrong. The South-east Asian kingdom not only managed to safeguard to a considerable degree its sovereignty as a member of the risible Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere (for example, the notorious Kempeitai could not operate as freely as it did elsewhere), but her armed forces also took to the field, fighting just about everyone in the neighbourhood – an impressive achievement for a nation which had so loudly trumpeted its commitment to strict neutrality at the start of the war.

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As such a Thai wargaming force can be fielded against many opponents. Hysterical irredentism and a firm belief in France’s military weakness paved the way for a short border war with the Vichy French, which began with border skirmishes and culminated in a Thai invasion of Laos and Cambodia. The ground conflict featured  river raids, artillery duels, night-time assaults and even, in the case of Poipet, street-fighting.

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Elhiem Thais beside a generic Frontline truck.

This forgotten affair was then followed by 8 December 1941, during which the Thais had the distinction of fighting both Axis and Allies on the same day: while the Japanese were landing at various points throughout the length of the country’s southern peninsular, a British column of Universal carriers and truck-borne sepoys crossed the Malayan frontier in a bid to pre-empt the Japanese capture of a strategically important position.

DSC_0594Infantry debussing from a Moonlite Modelwerks Ford.

The Thais were unable to repel either invader, however, and by the afternoon had agreed to a ceasefire with the Japanese, who then thundered on south to deal with the British. A few weeks later this armistice turned into an alliance with Imperial Japan, and in early 1942 the Thais, like Mussolini in 1940, thought they had found a winning horse and decided to join in the fun before it became too late. Three divisions proceeded to mount a unilateral invasion of Burma’s eastern Shan States against the nationalist Chinese, who they booted out.

DSC_0581Who’s supporting whom? Carden Loyd tankettes from Moonlite Modelwerks.

More imaginative gamers may also want to consider a hypothetical what-if scenario based on the planned uprising against the Japanese (a la the Slovaks and Romanians) which was shelved following the Emperor’s broadcast.

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Doubtlessly the forthcoming range from Elhiem Figures will be ground-breaking, if only because no one has ever produced Thai figures in any scale before. Thankfully that isn’t the only reason to applaud Elhiem. The figures are well-animated and the sculpting excellent. But they aren’t without their flaws though: the helmet will  only look like an Adrian when viewed from the side, while on the accuracy front the figures lack bayonet scabbards. The biggest (no pun intended) drawback, however, are their oversized rifles. That being said, these flaws are only minor, and shouldn’t put people off from buying them.

Painting guide to follow.