- 東南アジア -歴史と文化- (ISSN:03869040)
- vol.2010, no.39, pp.52-85, 2010 (Released:2016-12-14)
The aim of this article is to describe the characteristics of Japanese military transport on Thai railways during World War II, by analyzing the train schedules now held in the National Archives of Thailand. These schedules contain such data as the number and type of carriages on each train together with their origin and destination for almost every day from the beginning of the War until September 1945. Although the author initially compiled the data from these schedules hoping to grasp the overall volume of Japanese military transport, it soon became evident that the data did not cover all types of activity, because there were not enough train movements from Malaya to Thailand in the schedules. This forced the author to complement the schedules with an analysis of bills for Japanese military transport issued by the Thai railway department. The author divides the war time period into four stages for analysis: 1) front-line-expansion (December 1941-June 1942), 2) construction of the Thai-Burma line (July 1942-October 1943), 3) the opening of the Thai-Burma line (November 1943-December 1944) and 4) network division (January-September 1945). During stage 1), the main transport flows were found on two routes: from Bangkok to Malaya via the Southern line and to Phitsanulok or Sawankhalok via the Northern line, corresponding to the Malaya Operation and the Burma Operation, respectively. Other flows originated from Cambodia to the same destinations via the Eastern line and Bangkok. During stage 2), flows from Bangkok to Malaya and from Cambodia to Bangkok still existed, although their volumes were reduced. On the other hand, new flows emerged from either Bangkok or Malaya to the starting point of the Thai-Burma line to supply its construction. Stage 3) experienced an increase in transport due to the opening of Thai-Burma line and the Imphal Operation. Flows to Malaya and the Thai-Burma line still accounted for the majority of the transport, but flows to the Isthmus of Kra and the North also increased to supplement the Thai-Burma line. Finally, during stage 4), transport volume further expanded, while the total distance of transport dramatically dropped, as many lines were halted at several points due to Allied bombing, to the extent that all long-distance transport was suspended, except on the Eastern line. The characteristic features of wartime Japanese military transport through Thai railways are threefold: 1) long-distance railway transport as a substitute for maritime transport, 2) supplementary transport to the Burmese front-lines, and 3) the existence of commodity transport unrelated to troop movements. This transport concentrated on supplementing the Burmese front-line rather than transport to Malaya, except during the Malay Operation period. As Japanese forces arrived at Saigon or Singapore for deployment to Burma, military transport on Thai railways became the main form of long-distance “international” movement. Before the War, Thai railways were of little importance as international lines compared to maritime transport. This “international” railway activity, while limited only to military transport, eventually emerged for the first time in Southeast Asia through the creation of “international” rail links with Cambodia and Burma, and a shortage of maritime vessels during wartime. Furthermore, there was a considerable amount of commodity transport apart from troop movements, a fact which has not been sufficiently dealt with in the “official” histories of the War.