Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

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Futurist
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Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by Futurist » 15 Mar 2021 00:22

What if, to punish the Thai government for its support of the Khmer Rouge, Vietnam would have invaded Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s after Vietnam had already invaded Cambodia and overthrown the Khmer Rouge there?

The logic behind a Vietnamese invasion of Thailand would be for Vietnam's huge and powerful military to help bring the Thai Communist Party to power in Thailand and to end Thai support for the Khmer Rouge insurgency in Cambodia. Interestingly enough, Thailand (and other countries as well) actually was very concerned about the risk of a Vietnamese invasion of Thailand between 1979 and 1989 in real life:

https://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/fu ... ws_a_00924

Also, just how exactly would other Great Powers--such as the United States, China, and the Soviet Union--have responded to a Vietnamese invasion of Thailand?

Any thoughts on all of this?

KDF33
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Re: Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by KDF33 » 15 Mar 2021 01:15

Futurist wrote:
15 Mar 2021 00:22
Any thoughts on all of this?
Thailand was a member of SEATO, along with the U.S., until that organization's dissolution in 1977. Note that the collective security protocols are nevertheless still in force between Bangkok and Washington, even today.

Thus, at least from the point of view of official treaties, the U.S. would have to reenter the war against Vietnam to defend Thailand.

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Re: Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by Futurist » 15 Mar 2021 02:31

KDF33 wrote:
15 Mar 2021 01:15
Futurist wrote:
15 Mar 2021 00:22
Any thoughts on all of this?
Thailand was a member of SEATO, along with the U.S., until that organization's dissolution in 1977. Note that the collective security protocols are nevertheless still in force between Bangkok and Washington, even today.

Thus, at least from the point of view of official treaties, the U.S. would have to reenter the war against Vietnam to defend Thailand.
Which treaty bound the U.S. to Thailand after 1977?

Also, a U.S. military intervention in Thailand would certainly be interesting. The crucial question would, of course, be just how much of Thailand Vietnam can successfully overrun and conquer before U.S. troops actually reach Thailand. Thoughts?

I do wonder if the American people would actually have the stomach and willpower for another war so soon after Vietnam, but they might feel compelled to fight in order to preserve what remained of the U.S.'s honor and reputation among its allies.

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Re: Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by Futurist » 15 Mar 2021 02:34

One thing to consider is that Thailand has an extremely long and sometimes very narrow coastline:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ ... en.svg.png

Image

So, I wonder if it might be prudent for Vietnam to leave the southernmost part of Thailand unoccupied while building an extremely massive defensive line on the short strip of Thai territory between Burma and the Thai coastline.

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Re: Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by KDF33 » 15 Mar 2021 02:55

Futurist wrote:
15 Mar 2021 02:31
Which treaty bound the U.S. to Thailand after 1977?
The Manila Pact. Its provisions stayed in force between the U.S. and Thailand after the dissolution of SEATO.
Futurist wrote:
15 Mar 2021 02:31
Also, a U.S. military intervention in Thailand would certainly be interesting. The crucial question would, of course, be just how much of Thailand Vietnam can successfully overrun and conquer before U.S. troops actually reach Thailand. Thoughts?
I don't know the exact state of Thailand's armed forces in the mid-1970s, but presumably Vietnam would have been far stronger.

For reference's sake, we can look at the Cambodian-Vietnamese War. Vietnam launched its full-scale invasion of Cambodia on 25 December 1978. Phnom Penh fell on 7 January 1979, a campaign duration of two weeks. Afterwards, the war became an insurgency.
Futurist wrote:
15 Mar 2021 02:31
I do wonder if the American people would actually have the stomach and willpower for another war so soon after Vietnam, but they might feel compelled to fight in order to preserve what remained of the U.S.'s honor and reputation among its allies.
Fair question, but then it would be a very different kind of war: a conventional conflict with Vietnam fighting on foreign soil. Presumably, the U.S. would seek to end it after expulsing Vietnam out of Thailand, à la Gulf War.

A short, successful war might even have helped shake off the post-Vietnam blues faster.

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Re: Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by KDF33 » 15 Mar 2021 03:01

Futurist wrote:
15 Mar 2021 02:34
So, I wonder if it might be prudent for Vietnam to leave the southernmost part of Thailand unoccupied while building an extremely massive defensive line on the short strip of Thai territory between Burma and the Thai coastline.
Well, I'd argue that if the U.S. decided to intervene, this wouldn't matter in the grand scheme of things.

If the U.S. decided not to, then Vietnam could well go all the way to the tip of the Malay Peninsula, and they wouldn't risk much.

The force disparity here is just so great (both between Vietnam and its neighbors, and then the other way around between Vietnam and the U.S.) that conventional operational concerns have low salience.

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Re: Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by Futurist » 15 Mar 2021 03:13

KDF33 wrote:
15 Mar 2021 02:55
Futurist wrote:
15 Mar 2021 02:31
Which treaty bound the U.S. to Thailand after 1977?
The Manila Pact. Its provisions stayed in force between the U.S. and Thailand after the dissolution of SEATO.
Futurist wrote:
15 Mar 2021 02:31
Also, a U.S. military intervention in Thailand would certainly be interesting. The crucial question would, of course, be just how much of Thailand Vietnam can successfully overrun and conquer before U.S. troops actually reach Thailand. Thoughts?
I don't know the exact state of Thailand's armed forces in the mid-1970s, but presumably Vietnam would have been far stronger.

For reference's sake, we can look at the Cambodian-Vietnamese War. Vietnam launched its full-scale invasion of Cambodia on 25 December 1978. Phnom Penh fell on 7 January 1979, a campaign duration of two weeks. Afterwards, the war became an insurgency.
Futurist wrote:
15 Mar 2021 02:31
I do wonder if the American people would actually have the stomach and willpower for another war so soon after Vietnam, but they might feel compelled to fight in order to preserve what remained of the U.S.'s honor and reputation among its allies.
Fair question, but then it would be a very different kind of war: a conventional conflict with Vietnam fighting on foreign soil. Presumably, the U.S. would seek to end it after expulsing Vietnam out of Thailand, à la Gulf War.

A short, successful war might even have helped shake off the post-Vietnam blues faster.
Would the U.S. also seek to expel Vietnam from Cambodia in such a scenario?

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Re: Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by Futurist » 15 Mar 2021 03:14

KDF33 wrote:
15 Mar 2021 03:01
Futurist wrote:
15 Mar 2021 02:34
So, I wonder if it might be prudent for Vietnam to leave the southernmost part of Thailand unoccupied while building an extremely massive defensive line on the short strip of Thai territory between Burma and the Thai coastline.
Well, I'd argue that if the U.S. decided to intervene, this wouldn't matter in the grand scheme of things.

If the U.S. decided not to, then Vietnam could well go all the way to the tip of the Malay Peninsula, and they wouldn't risk much.

The force disparity here is just so great (both between Vietnam and its neighbors, and then the other way around between Vietnam and the U.S.) that conventional operational concerns have low salience.
You're thinking of a successful U.S. amphibious landing here? Any idea of where in Thailand the ideal spot for such a landing would have been in the late 1970s or early 1980s?

By the way, to clarify--Vietnam is likely to have the Thai Communists as its allies in any war that it decides to fight in Thailand.

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Re: Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by danebrog » 15 Mar 2021 03:34

This could have been sold to public opinion as unjustified communist aggression against an allied state.
This is where certain alliance obligations come into play, and the credibility of the USA in the event of non-interference would probably not have gone down so well with NATO.
The invasion of Cambodia was also strongly criticised by parts of the left at the time.
In the event of an invasion of Thailand, the government could certainly have profited from this, because large-scale protests against an involvement there would have been much less pronounced.

And with this background, a UN operation like the one in Korea could have been set up quite well.
In addition, measures such as an embargo would be within the realm of the conceivable.

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Re: Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by Futurist » 15 Mar 2021 06:47

danebrog wrote:
15 Mar 2021 03:34
This could have been sold to public opinion as unjustified communist aggression against an allied state.
This is where certain alliance obligations come into play, and the credibility of the USA in the event of non-interference would probably not have gone down so well with NATO.
The invasion of Cambodia was also strongly criticised by parts of the left at the time.
In the event of an invasion of Thailand, the government could certainly have profited from this, because large-scale protests against an involvement there would have been much less pronounced.

And with this background, a UN operation like the one in Korea could have been set up quite well.
In addition, measures such as an embargo would be within the realm of the conceivable.
Everything here sounds reasonable, frankly. Also, do you think that the U.S. will aim to liberate only Thailand or also Cambodia as well--albeit under a government MUCH less brutal than the Khmer Rouge?

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Re: Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by danebrog » 15 Mar 2021 10:52

Uhhh...tough question
For Thailand, I am reasonably sure, as existing alliance treaties had to be respected:

A surrender of Thailand would have meant the total loss of any influence in Southeast Asia.
Furthermore, there would most likely have been quite negative repercussions in the whole foreign policy towards the own allies.

I cannot for the life of me estimate the reactions of China and the USSR - and they would certainly have played a role, too.
After all, the Cold War was in full swing.

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Re: Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by Peter89 » 15 Mar 2021 12:41

Vietnam got a lot of international help against the intruder French and Americans (+ Chinese), and factually they've defended their homeland against invaders. However, if they'd decide to step up as aggressors, especially as an independent actor, the support might cease and an international coalition against them would crush whatever was left of their society / economy. Cambodia and Laos were different, because those were the continuation of their own, otherwise defensive war.

Also in 1979, the world was still dominated by the first and second world, and the time for Asia and the third world has not come yet.
“And while I am talking to you, mothers and fathers, I give you one more assurance. I have said this before, but I shall say it again, and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars." - FDR, October 1940

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Re: Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by danebrog » 15 Mar 2021 13:15

Interesting article on this WI topic
https://watermark.silverchair.com/jcws_ ... 7ZudZiYLSA
Strategic Culture and Thailand's Response to Vietnam's Occupation of Cambodia, 1979–1989: A Cold War Epilogue
Although Thailand was the frontline state, the geopolitical implications of Vietnam's invasion were of considerable concern to other neighboring countries, which were determined to resist the permanent incorporation of Cambodia into Vietnam's sphere of influence. China and ASEAN were especially active in opposing continued occupation and conflict.
Firmly opposed to the growth of Vietnamese power, the People's Republic of China (PRC) took significant steps to contain Vietnam's Cambodian ambitions. China sent 100,000 troops into northern Vietnam on 17 February 1979, seeking to “teach Vietnam a lesson.” Losses on the Vietnamese side may have numbered as high as 30,000 and on the Chinese side, 26,000.32 Although the invasion did not achieve the PRC's objective of forcing Vietnam to withdraw from Cambodia, the demonstration of China's willingness to use force limited the number of troops Vietnam could divert to the Cambodian theater.
The PRC also moved to channel arms and supplies to Khmer Rouge guerrillas in Thailand, thus extending the life of the Cambodian insurgency and significantly increasing the costs of Vietnam's occupation.
ASEAN, together with China and the United States, ensured that Vietnam's actions were denied legitimacy. ASEAN linked Vietnam's behavior to Soviet grand strategy. The group used the United Nations (UN) to internationalize the conflict; for example, by inviting UN observers to monitor border violations and inviting the UN General Assembly to issue resolutions on the conflict.

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Re: Vietnam invades Thailand in either 1979 or the early 1980s

Post by Futurist » 16 Mar 2021 01:27

It's this article, isn't it? :

https://direct.mit.edu/jcws/article/22/ ... esponse-to

I previously took a look at that article. It was quite interesting and very informative. Looks like Thailand strongly worried about it being--or becoming--the next target of Communist aggression as a part of the domino theory between 1979 and 1989.

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