Assess the Impact of the War on Civilians in Territories Occupied by Japan in South-East Asia

9 September 2016

Assess the impact of the war on civilians in territories occupied by Japan in South-East Asia. There was a significant detrimental impact of the war upon the civilians of occupied territories in South East Asia. The Japanese intended the Greater East Asian Co Prosperity Sphere (GEACPS) to be a united zone of mutual co-operation promoting economic development, social and political freedom from western imperial domination. However, the reality of the GEACPS was really a facade and a mere justification for Japanese military expansion.

This had a detrimental economic, social and political effect on the civilians of South East Asia. As the war progressed economies became stripped of resources which led to famines. This suppression would lead to deteriorating social condition which would fuel political activism. It is evident that the war had a vast and significant impact upon the civilians of territories occupied by Japan. The GEACPS was initially seen as the hope for future independence for the occupied territories in South East Asia.

Assess the Impact of the War on Civilians in Territories Occupied by Japan in South-East Asia Essay Example

In some colonies, the Japanese were welcomed as liberators by native nationalist leaders anticipating that the new order in East Asia would remove western powers in South East Asia. GEACPS was believed to provide South East Asian civilians a united zone of mutual cooperation, bringing both economic developments to the region and ensuring social and political freedom from imperial domination. However, the GEACPS in reality was a mere justification for Japanese military expansion to provide the raw materials that Japans industrial army lacked.

There was a significant political impact upon the civilians of South East Asia. This impact was dependent upon resistance or collaboration of the people towards Japanese efforts to create the GEACPS. Japanese expansion fed the impetus of the nationalist movements to seek independence from the western colonial rule in South East Asia. This positive impact of the war began to the destruction of the European superiority notion, leading to the eventual western decolonization of South East Asia.

The civilians of the Dutch East Indies welcomed the Japanese as liberators. Consistent with Japanese propaganda the nationalist leaders held belief that Japan was “the leader, protector and light of Asia”. However, this perception of liberation from colonial rule was a facade as the civilians of occupied nations experienced harsher treatment under the Japanese than they did under the colonial authorities. The tight control of the Japanese Army promoted resistance from the civilians of South East Asia.

This occurred in areas of strategic importance for the Japanese. Starvation and brutality towards civilians in territories led to outbreaks of political violence and strong resistance. The civilians of Malaya met the Japanese forces with strong resistance in the form of guerilla warfare and sabotage to capture Japanese outposts and encourage social revolution. As Falk argues the Japanese responded to the networks of resistance by ‘drawing out forces and firing on them unexpectedly’, leading to the death of over 50,000 people in Malaya.

It is evident that the increase in political violence led to a considerable amount of occupied death in territories of South East Asia. Political violence and strong resistance to Japanese occupation caused a devastating social impact in South East Asia. A measure of control implemented by the Japanese was the use of slave labour. Slave labour had a profound social impact in Burma and the Dutch East Indies, contributing to millions brutally punished to death or starvation. As stated by Tan Malaka “Romusha (manual laborers) were provided with insufficient food, no care at all given to the sick and dying”.

Forced labour on the Burma – Thailand railway resulted in an estimated 70,000 civilian slave labour deaths which is a significant social impact on South East Asia. The GEACPS had a significant impact upon civilians in occupied territories. GEACPS was based upon Japanese notions of racial superiority and high disciplined society. The Japanese soldiers displayed this superiority through undermining native culture and imposing their own culture assimilation. The civilians of Korea were imposed into suppressing their own culture and incorporating the Japanese language.

Women were also subjected to harsh treatment during Japanese occupation of territories as they became labeled as ‘comfort women’ for the Japanese army. Comfort women were recruited through abduction, deception and through force. Sexual violence portrayed the extreme impact of war on all civilians under the occupation of the Japanese. The removal of colonial powers by Japanese occupation in South East Asia also led to the harsh and brutal treatment of colonial civilians in occupied territories.

Japanese military action carried out by the Kempetai (secret police) and army involved execution raids and slave labour enforcements. As Karnow argues “we didn’t have enough wood for coffins so we buried them in bamboo”, emphasizing the cruelty and brutality of Japanese occupation on civilian resistance to social changes. The Japanese had a devastating social impact on occupied territories in South East Asia. Japanese exploitation of resources and agriculture in South East Asia had a dramatic economic effect. The deprived natural resources led to starvation in many occupied territories which often created violence.

A positive social outcome of this suppression was the uniting of people towards a common cause. Nationalism and native resistance increased with the harsh treatment by the Japanese in Indochina. Native resistance in Indochina was initiated by communist leader Ho Chi Minh as Karnow stated “patriots of all ages and all types, peasants, soldiers, merchants” became united. Ho chi Minh’s push for independence came at a significant social cost as the nations rice production was directed to the Japanese Army leading to at least 1 million civilian deaths due to famine.

Another significant economic impact upon the civilians of South East Asia was the decline of flourishing industries and technological advance. The war stripped these nations of their natural resources as the Japanese war effort was sustained through the exploitation of agriculture and resources. The economy of Malaya was particular hurt by Japanese occupation. Its economy was subjected to the decline of its rubber and tin industries as these commodities are of little use in a wartime economy.

It is evident that the future economic development of these nations was setback by Japanese occupation. Thus, it is evident that the war had a detrimental effect upon civilians in territories occupied by Japan in South East Asia. The Japanese war machine was fueled by South East Asia’s vast resources with the oil of the Dutch East Indies. As the Japanese stripped the civilians of South East Asia of their resources; the living standards of civilians begun to decline as they were subjected to harsh rationing and famine.

Civilians were stripped of their civil liberties as in particularly the women of occupied nations were stripped of their dignity. As this oppression continued the people of occupied territories would resort to political violence that would lead to significant rates of death. The war did not create a zone of mutual co-operation; the war attempted to create a vast empire for Japan and did so to the detriment of the civilians living in occupied territories in South East Asia.

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