In Buddha’s Company: Thai Soldiers in the Vietnam War, by Richard A. Ruth, explores a previously neglected aspect of the Vietnam War: the experiences of the Thai troops who served there and the attitudes and beliefs that motivated them to volunteer. Thailand sent nearly 40,000 volunteer soldiers to South Vietnam to serve alongside the Free World Forces in the conflict, but unlike the other foreign participants, the Thais came armed with historical and cultural knowledge of the region. Blending the methodologies of cultural and military history, Ruth examines the individual experiences of Thai volunteers in their wartime encounters with American allies, South Vietnamese civilians, and Viet Cong enemies. Ruth shows how the Thais were transformed by living amongst the modern goods and war machinery of the Americans and by traversing the jungles and plantations haunted by indigenous spirits. At the same time, Ruth argues, Thailand’s ruling institutions used the image of volunteers to advance their respective agendas, especially those related to anticommunist authoritarianism.
“From 1965 to 1972 Thailand sent nearly 38,000 military personnel to fight in the Vietnam War. Based on interviews with rank and file volunteers, who saw themselves as Buddhist warriors, this book is the first serious study of Thailand’s involvement in the war. Richard Ruth challenges the stereotypes and lazy generalizations about this forgotten episode of the war, and he offers fresh and compelling arguments to explain how this episode has contributed to the militarism in Thailand’s modern history.” —Craig J. Reynolds, Australian National University
Southeast Asia: Politics, Meaning, and Memory
September 2010 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3489-0 / $24.00 (PAPER)