FOR a slew of historians headed by Harry Benda, World War 2 is considered a watershed era in the history of Southeast Asia, shaping the region pretty much into what it is today. By comparison, very scant attention has been given to World War 1. Heather Streets-Salter has an explanation for this:

“Very little has been written about Southeast Asia and the Great War.... This is not difficult to understand: the region did not become a major theater of war, and of all the colonies in the area, only French Indochina sent soldiers and laborers to Europe. In fact, much of the region — including the Dutch East Indies, Siam (until 1917), and the Philippines (until 1917) — remained officially neutral for all or most of the war.”

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