Lest We Forget…

by Patrick Liew on August 20, 2019

Lest We Forget…

During my National Service as a young officer, I attended a national education course.

The purpose of the course was to update officers about foreign affairs.

At the end of the course, we were deeply concerned about the following:

1. At that point, the communists were spreading their ideology rapidly.

We were shown a world map, and the Communists had arguably the upper hand.

2. The Vietnamese armed forces was considered as one of our major threats.

3. The Vietnamese armed forces were battle-trained and comparatively stronger than the 5 countries in ASEAN in those days.

At the same time, the communists had different beach heads (penetrations) in all 5 countries.

4. Prior to that point, Thailand had at times adopted a “bamboo” foreign policy.

In other words, they could choose to bend with the winds.

They have allowed various armed forces from the U.S., France and Japan to walk through their country to attack other countries as long as Thailand was spared.

5. It’s hard to blame many for believing that Thailand might choose to do the same for Vietnam.

If that had happened, our history might never be the same.

Bear in mind, the U.S. – after having been badly bruised in the Vietnam War – might not come to our aid.

Without the U.S. leading the way, the allied forces might stay out of a battle in SE Asia.

Malaysia could not possibly withstand an onslaught of the Vietnamese armed forces, and neither could Singapore.

Indonesia might stay at the sideline and protect their large archipelago and seek a truce with the Vietnamese, rather than extend their forces in a potentially protracted battle.

6.It was in that context that Prem Tinsulanonda and his forces stood with ASEAN, and choose to have a face-off with the Vietnamese armed forces.

For that, we should be eternally gratefully to Prem Tinsulanonda.

Should we keep that gratefulness in our heart and keep our mouth shut instead of stepping on some toes?

I believe that our PM, who had lived through that era, has a responsibility to ensure that this dark spot in our history will not repeat itself – in any way, form or manner.

We need to constantly send a strong signal to the global community to deter adventurous and aggressive predators from invading a smaller or weaker country.

To quote the words of writer and philosopher George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”



I hope this message will find a place in your heart.

By the way, I have also recorded other reflections.

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