On the 8th September 1954 in Manila, Great Britain, the Philippines, New Zealand, Australia, The United States, France, Pakistan and Thailand formed SEATO Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation. It was also known as the Manila Pact.
The Manila pact was a military alliance between the countries with the purpose of preventing communism from gaining ground in Southeast Asia.
Despite the name Southeast Asia Treaty Organization there was only two Southeast Asian countries in the pact the Philippines and Thailand.
The Philippines joined because of concerns about communist insurgency and Thailand because they were concerned about the possibility of Chinese communist subversion in Thailand.
Other countries in the Southeast Asia were ever unwilling to join or prevented from doing so by the Geneva Agreements of 1954.
Indonesia preferred to stay neutral as did Burma. Politically it would have been difficult for Malaya and Singapore to join.
Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were prevented from joining any international alliance under the terms of the Geneva Agreements of 1954, however they were allowed observers status and also included in the protected area of the Manila Pact.
Most of the other members of SEATO were not located in South East Asia, some might say they had an interest in the region, others might say they were sticking their noses in for their own gain.
Pakistan was really more interested in trying to get support for its struggle against India.
The United States claimed the area was crucial to its fight to stop the expansion of communism, and to the Cold War, however we can now be pretty sure it was part of their military expansion across the globe.
Britain did still have colonies in the area.
Each year all member states of the Manila Pact held joint military exercises, but SEATO never had no military forces of its own.
The threat of communism changed with there being no longer a fear of an outright attack and more of small internal subversion, so did the role of the Manila Pact. SEATO started trying to strengthen economics and improve living standards in the region as a way to combat communism.
SEATO and the Vietnam War
The United States used SEATO as a tool to maintain its continued involvement in Vietnam, they used SEATO as justification to not go forward with election that were intended to reunite North and South Vietnam. Instead they kept the country divided.
Pakistan and France did not support America intervening in Vietnam.
Britain refused to send troops and only gave a token gestures to support the Americans. The truth is the British government at the time also did not support America’s intervention in Vietnam.
Harold Wilson who was Prime Minister got a lot of criticism from his own government for even the token gestures of support. Wilson replied to this criticism “Because we can’t kick our creditors in the balls!!”.
Britain was fighting a stealthier and much cheaper war in Borneo, utilising the SAS and SBS to fight a covert jungle war.
The End of the Manila Pact
in 1973 Pakistan left as SEATO had failed to give assistance with its ongoing conflict against India.
America had taken a major defeat in Vietnam and the American public would not have supported them getting involved in any more conflicts in the area.
On the 30th June 1977. SEATO was disbanded and that was the end of the Manila Pact.
SEATO always had a lot of weaknesses, one of the main ones being it left each nation to deal with its own internal threats. This meant SEATO was of no help to guerrilla movements in the region at the time.
The Manila Pact also had no intelligence mechanism and the fact it only had 3 members in South East Asia it had cultural difficulties which could not be overcome.