chapter  6
50 Pages

Southeast Asia: Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Northeast Thailand, Indonesia (Java and Bali)

It is difficult to imagine a more colorful region of the world than Southeast Asia, a vast area split between the Asian mainland and some of the largest islands in the world. As a result of both internal histories and colonization, the region has developed into eleven independent states, seven on the mainland and four among the islands, of which all but Thailand were earlier colonized by European powers before gaining independence during the twentieth century. Prior to the colonial period, Southeast Asia consisted of both large and small kingdoms, the borders of which constantly expanded or retreated depending on a given power center’s projection of influence. The names of some countries may be familiar, but others are understandably little known, including that of the region’s newest nation, TimorLeste (East Timor), which only gained independence from Indonesia in 1999. The nations on the mainland include Myanmar (formerly Burma), Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, while the island nations are Brunei, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Timor-Leste.