The nationalists in Southeast Asia before the Second World War had achieved little in terms of gaining political concessions and constitutional reforms from the colonial powers so as to secure autonomy. While it is true that the nationalists faced many obstacles from the start (for instance the repressive measures taken by colonial powers to minimise opposition to their rule and existing conditions of the colonies) in their quest to achieve independence; however it is an exaggeration to say that nationalist movements were thus doomed to fail. There were some conditions which could potentially lead to the growth of nationalism and even aided it to success, i.e. improved transport and communications, spread of vernacular press; and events happening in other parts of the world such as World War One also impacted the growth of nationalism. It must also be noted that nationalists in certain parts of Southeast Asia had also achieved some measure of success. Thus the negligible achievements of the nationalists before the Second World War shows that the nationalists, too had a part to play in their own downfall, their weaknesses further undermining their cause.
The oppressive measures undertaken by the colonial powers to minimise opposition did, indeed, hindered the growth and development of nationalist movements. The French in Vietnam clamped down heavily on any anti-colonial movements. The reformist manifestations that followed the deposition of emperor Thanh-thai in 1907 was met with repression. The Free School of Hanoi was closed down in 1908 and after Pham Chu Trinhfs alleged involvement in tax riots that year; he was first sentenced to death, then imprisoned on Pulau Condore, then exiled. The efficiency of the French secret police also meant nationalist movements were easily stopped and thus made it difficult to... [continues]
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