The Vietnamese, Burmese, and Khmer people made up the three main kingdoms of mainland Southeast Asia, referred to as Indochina. The Hindu kingdom of Champa also played a dominant role. The region was a center for trade between China and India, greatly influencing the culture and religion of Southeast Asia over the centuries.
Trade with India and China brought Hinduism and Buddhism to the region. Hindu and Buddhist royal dynasties were established. In the 13th century, Islam was introduced, resulting in the creation of Muslim nations. Buddhism eventually overtook Hinduism in the mainland nations. The only surviving Hindu area is the small island of Bali.
In the mid-1600s, Europeans arrived due to the trade opportunities, which led to a period of colonial occupation and then domination. By early 1900s, the British occupied some territories, while the French controlled others. Only Thailand (at the time, the Kingdom of Siam) was never under foreign colonial control.
Colonial rule brought changes that led to major development of agricultural, mining and exports. The region invested in education and the media.
During World War II, Japan invaded the region and occupied most of the area. At the end of the war, many new nation states in the area declared independence. Due to resentment against the colonizing European countries and heavy U.S. interference in the region, a number of the countries turned to the Communist party and Soviet support.
The Southeast Asian countries now have large economic growth and an enhanced spirit of cooperation among the independent nations in the region.
Source: A Brief History of Southeast Asia
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