Organized Panel Session
Who was the anticommunist right wing in Cold War Southeast Asia and what were its political, ideological, and cultural weapons? Anticommunism was not simply an antonym of communism. It was an evolving concept which emerged, particularly in the second half of the twentieth century, in order to assimilate both the global Cold War system and local postcolonial nation-building agendas. Through empirical case studies on the Republic of Vietnam (RVN), Laos, and Thailand between the 1950s and 1970s, this panel examines political and ideological debates through which anticommunist rightwing politicians and other groups fought the local Cold War in Southeast Asia.
Tran’s paper examines debates over democracy in the RVN in 1955-56. While virtually all anticommunist politicians demanded a democratic government strong enough to defeat the communists, they disagreed on its form with most favoring a degree of authoritarianism. Wolfson-Ford argues that in royalist Laos democracy triumphed over dictatorship due to overlooked traditions of democracy, which were older than the military among anticommunist politicians. Finally, Hyun offers a critical analysis of anticommunist movements in Thailand through Thai Border Patrol Police and Village Scout perspectives on the October 6, 1976 massacre in Thailand. Discussant Creak considers how the three studies of local anticommunist movements integrate and enhance Southeast Asian and Cold War historiographies.
By examining right-wing anticommunist politics and ideology, the papers highlight what made communism so appalling for some people, despite being so empowering and inspiring to others, thereby connecting local Southeast Asian experiences with global histories of the Cold War.