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Name: Chua Valerie Class: 12S66

Block Test Re-write The Japanese Occupation (1942- 1945) strengthened more than weakened the nationalist groups in Southeast Asia. Discuss the validity of this statement.

The Japanese Occupation (1942-1945) in Southeast Asia has often been argued to be a turning point for nationalist groups, enabling them to strengthen in terms of its military capability, ability to gain mass support and administrative opportunities, providing these nationalist groups with greater bargaining power against the colonial powers. However, it is to be acknowledged that the statement is only valid in instances where colonial attitudes prior to World War Two were more repressive in nature. Colonial attitudes that were comparatively benevolent in nature were more willing to negotiate and adopted less heavy-handed measures against the nationalist groups. This led to difference in objectives of nationalist groups in more liberal countries such as in the Philippines and Malaya, which were more concerned with socio-economic issues due to the lack of need to go against the colonial powers. The Japanese Occupation helped to strengthen the military capability of nationalist groups in Southeast Asia, which was virtually nonexistent prior to occupation days due to harsh suppression by colonial authorities. As a mean to gain cooperation by the locals and to serve as a preventive measure against the possibility of an Allied invasion, Japanese sponsored military training and weaponry to nationalist groups. This not only enabled nationalist groups to gain greater legitimacy, it also gave them a leverage of bargaining power with the colonial powers after the war, with military support. This can be seen from Burma where the Japanese sponsored the Burmese Independence Army, where at its peak, reached 30000 strong. Also, in Indonesia, the Japanese sponsored PETA, where nationalist groups could obtain military training and aid from strategic advisors. PETA, at its peak, reached 65000 strong as well. In comparison to the period before the Japanese Occupation where military capability was denied to the nationalist groups as it was seen as form of threat, the war gave them a credible force to possibly serve as deterrence against the colonial powers harsh military suppressions. Yet, that being said, Indonesias military capability after the war was still incapable to deter Dutchs re-imposition of political control, as seen from how the Dutch was able to force the Republican government into accepting the Linggadjati Agreement. However, it is still to be acknowledged that the Japanese Occupation has certainly provided nationalist groups with a physical force to enforce their influence, strengthening their ability to negotiate with the authorities, which was previously denied to them. PETA, for instance, then became the backbone of the Indonesian Republican Army, which was a crucial force in

resisting the Dutch in their anti-colonial struggle from 1945 to 1949. As such, the Japanese Occupation did certainly strengthen the nationalist groups.

The Japanese Occupation strengthened nationalist groups ability to gain mass support by providing platforms that the nationalist leaders could tap upon. This allowed greater communication between the leaders and the population, and fostered a greater sense of national unity among the locals. In comparison the situation before World War Two, such opportunities were denied to them by the colonial authorities in fear of possible subversive tendencies towards the colonial powers. Hence, it was difficult for nationalist groups to obtain mass support across Southeast Asia regions given its large geographical span, rural-urban divide and differences in ethnic groups. In Indonesia, Sukarno, who was exiled by the Butch was brought back, where he served as a figurehead of Indonesian nationalism. This helped to gain respect and support from the Indonesians. With the formation of PUTERA, different cultural and political groups were brought together, fostering greater support among different groups. Java and Outer Islands, which had always been ruled separately prior to the Japanese Occupation, caused great division and tensions. Hence, without fear of repression of the colonial powers, nationalistic sentiments could be advocated through the use of national symbols, like the Indonesian flag and the anthem, and the use of Bahasa Indonesia, in its administration, bringing Indonesians together. Yet, that being said, in countries of more liberal colonial rule, the Japanese Occupation led to greater divides instead of unification. This can be seen in Malaya where the divide and rule policy continued to be adopted by the Japanese, further exacerbating the ethnic tensions between the Chinese and the Malaya with the pro-Malay policies, leading to inter-ethnic strife which broke out at the end of the war. Also, in the Philippines, economic disparity was exacerbated between the poor peasantry and rich landed elites, fragmenting the nation. However, it is still to be acknowledged that in the countries with more repressive colonial rule, the Japanese Occupation did certainly provide various platforms and opportunities for mass support and unification of the people, which was previously heavily suppressed. The Philippines, a country under more liberal colonial rule, also saw a more united front through the Japanese establishment of the Kaliapi and the sponsoring of the use of Tagalog language. As such, the Japanese Occupation did certainly strengthen the nationalist groups. Also, the Japanese Occupation strengthened nationalist groups experience with politics and handling of political administration as well through the administrative opportunities that were given by the Japanese as a mean of promoting of local politics. The nationalist leaders thereby gained greater credibility of its ability to attain eventual independence from the colonial power after the war. This can be seen in Burma where political concessions were given to Burmese elite, such as the appointment of a Burmese government under Ba Maw to rein in the revolutionaries and establish political control. In comparison the situation prior to war, British governors controlled the key affairs within Burma, where the locals were only

allowed to voice out their opinions in the Burma Round Table Conference and had no actual legislative power. With the Japanese Occupation, local indigenous leaders were instead given critical administrative roles in the Burmese government with the removal of the British officials, such as Aung San taking the position as the head of the Burmese Defence Army and the Minister of Defence. Also, in Malaya, the collaborationist policy between the Malays and the Japanese led to the administration of Malaya taken over by the Malays. This helped provide greater experience and self-confidence in administration. Yet, that being said, it was merely an illusory nature of independence since the Japanese continued to control Burmas economy for war purposes and maintained a tight supervision over Ba Maw;s government. There were Japanese advisors for every important Burmese post, and hence nationalist groups in fact had limited political power. However, such political opportunities that were previously denied to them increased self-belief and confidence in the nationalist leaders and also helped to strengthen the credibility of these nationalist groups. As such, the Japanese Occupation did certainly strengthen the nationalist groups. In conclusion, the Japanese Occupation strengthened more than it weakened the nationalist groups in Southeast Asia since it effectively empowered these nationalist groups that previously had no power to leverage upon, to instill legitimacy and credibility to their cause and gain mass support. Certainly, there were instances where nationalist groups were weakened, as seen in the Philippines and Malaya. However, it is important to recognize the objectives of these nationalist groups were in fact not so much of achieving national unity, but more of ethnic empowerment and the gain of privileges. Hence, the nationalistic sentiments within the various factions, be it ethnicity or rural-urban divisions, which were aroused, was just what these nationalist groups were seeking to achieve. Therefore indicating that the Japanese Occupation did unquestionably strengthen more than it weakened the nationalist groups in Southeast Asia.