Year published :2011

Pages :285 pp.

Size :15x23 cm.

Rights :Southeast Asia

ISBN: 9786162150340

In Buddha’s Company: Thai Soldiers in the Vietnam War

by Richard A. Ruth

In Buddha’s Company explores a previously neglected aspect of the Vietnam War: the experiences of the Thai troops who served there and the attitudes and beliefs that motivated them to volunteer. Blending the methodologies of cultural history and ethnography, Richard Ruth shows how the Thais were transformed by living amongst the modern goods and war machinery of the Americans and by traversing the jungle haunted by indigenous spirits. Drawing on numerous interviews with Thai veterans and archival material from Thailand and the United States, Ruth focuses on the cultural exchanges that occurred between Thai troops and their allies and enemies, presenting a Southeast Asian view of a conflict that has traditionally been studied as a Cold War event dominated by an American political agenda.

What others are saying

“From 1965 to 1972 Thailand sent nearly 38,000 military personnel to fight in the Vietnam War. Based on interviews with rank‐and‐file volunteers, who saw themselves as Buddhist warriors, this book is the first serious study of Thailand’s involvement in the war. Richard Ruth challenges the stereotype and lazy generalizations about this forgotten episode of the war, and he offers fresh and compelling arguments to explain how this episode has contributed to the militarism in Thailand’s modern history.” —Craig J. Renolds, Australian National University

“The Vietnam War has generated a vast literature, but Richard Ruth has succeeded in producing a wholly original study of interest both to military historians and Southeast Asia specialists. Ruth displays a deep understanding of and sensitivity towards Thai culture and reveals much about how the Thai soldiers—most of them from poor families in upcountry areas—viewed and interacted with the Americans who trained and sponsored them, the rural residents of South Vietnam, and the Viet Cong enemy. His work sheds new light on Thailand’s involvement in the Vietnam War and on non‐elite Thai culture in the mid‐twentieth century.”—E. Bruce Reynolds, San Jose State University

“Breaking with the standard American‐centric portrayal of Thai soldiers as Washington’s ‘mercenaries’ in the Vietnam War, Ruth provides Thailand and Thai combatants with agency. What makes this study particularly original is Ruth’s account of how that agency manifested itself ‘down below’ in South Vietnam—and back in Thailand.”—Christopher Goscha, Université du Québec à Montréal

About the Author

Richard A. Ruth received his doctorate from Cornell University and is assistant professor of Southeast Asian history at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.


  • Examines the truth behind the Thai troops who volunteered to fight in the Vietnam War
  • Explores the relationship between the Thai and American troops as well as with the Vietnamese themselves
  • Sheds new light on Thailand’s involvement in the Vietnam War

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Southeast Asia | Thailand | history | military history | Vietnam War

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