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Subject: For All Nails #88: City of Angels

July 8th, 1972
Streets of Krung Thep [1],
Empire of Siam [2]

Admiral Luang Taksin was a veteran of the Global War. [3] He hadn't done
much fighting--apart from the shelling of Haiphong and the raids on
Dutch Borneo and Port Cook, all of those operations held in concert with
the Kriegsmarine, the Imperial Siamese Navy had mostly kept to the Gulf
of Siam. As much as it pained the hearts of the Admiralty, the ISN was
simply not in the same league as the British Royal Navy, or the
Kriegsmarine, nor even of the Japanese and Mexican fleets. For almost
the entire long conflict, then, the ISN had been kept on a defensive
posture, strung from Vung Tau to Kelantan on the east coast and hugging
the western coast of the Isthmus of Kra.

In a limited perspective, that was bad, since naval officers tended to
have fewer decorations than their army counterparts. In a broader
perspective, that was good, since the celebrated army that had held the
British Indochinese off from Vientiane, and reinforced the Free Khmers
from the border outposts at Chanthanaburi [4] at tremendous cost, and
which had expelled the British protectorates of Vietnam and Burma to
either side of Siam, couldn't keep up its role in the political life of
the Siamese nation. The ISN gladly fulfilled that hard, yet rewarding,
duty. And it was so that Admiral Luang Taksin, current operating
commander of the Imperial Siamese First Fleet, was fortunate enough to
enjoy the position of Foreign Minister.

The Beimler locomobile in which Taksin was riding with Paul Sebastian
was of German design, originally from the great Dresden works but made
under license in Krung Thep. The roads were bumpy, but the suspension
worked wonderfully: The German riesling that he and Taksin were drinking
barely stirred inside the long-necked glasses which they held as they
sat across from each other, talking. Taksin wondered what Sebastian knew
about him, from Kramer Associates' files. Certainly that he came from
the Taksins, and that the Taksins came from the same Sino-Siamese
bourgeoisie [5] that had provided military commanders since the 1920's,
at least. Definitely that, in addition to his education at the Imperial
Academy, he'd graduated from the Kriegsakademie in Berlin just before
the Global War broke out. Probably that Taksin had allied himself with
the growing anti-German sentiment--perhaps they'd figured out that it
was the German arrogance towards dressed-up Siamese such as himself that
made him see the current alliance as temporary.

And as for Sebastian: The public-domain information was scanty. Young, a
second-generation Kramerite descended from Californian parents, raised
in Taichung, now 34 years of age, a naturalized Taiwanese citizen,
blonde and with blue eyes that doubtless raised eyebrows whenever he
spoke in his fluent Thai (along with, apparently, Standard Mandarin,
Fukienese, Japanese, German, and of course English and Spanish). A
non-entity; but, Taksin was certain, a useful non-entity.

"As for the Global War," Taksin continued with a shrug, "It was a war
well-fought by both sides, despite the occasional .. excesses of both
sides. But it was twenty years ago. It's time to set that division
aside, and for old combatants to ally themselves against new threats."

"New threats, admiral?" Sebastian wondered. "You mentioned the Malays
[6], the piracy on the Straits of Malacca."

"Yes," and Taksin frowned sincerely. "Even our naval operations off of
Malaya's coast can't keep them down. Piracy is in the blood of the
Malays, I suppose, the Acehnese and Javanese too, and you can't take it
out. That, and religious fanaticism."

Sebastian winced appreciatively. "Joint anti-piracy operations in the
Straits of Malacca would be a good idea. Formalizing the existing series
of coordinated raids isn't something we'd disagree with. As for the
Indies--well, no one knows how to manage them. Trying to isolate them is
a good idea, but there is the position of the Straits to consider."

"Yes." Taksin paused, looked down at his glass, considered. "The pirates
in Indonesia are problematic--Malacca, Port Cook [7], they're
practically useless for the East Asian trade with Europe, aren't they?
You could avoid them with a canal--the Isthmus of Kra is a good site for
a canal, isn't it?"

Sebastian started and blinked. "A canal would require Siamese consent,"
he enunciated.

"We'd be willing to give that," Taksin said offhandedly. "I'd also
imagine that Kramer is looking for new markets for its goods. There's
Scandinavia, but who knows how that market will turn out, especially
given new German concerns. Kramer technologies--well, they're quite
sophisticated. The airplanes, the ships, the territas [8], the
explosives ..."

Sebastian raised his eyebrows. "The ... explosives, you realize, aren't
something we'd share with every country."

"No, only with associates of Taiwan in the Canton Pact. Which is why
we'd like to join." Taksin quickly took a sip of the wine, and placed
the glass down in the holder. Outside, through the darkened glass, Krung
Thep's streetscape passed by. "The time has come to end things. May I be
frank?" He continued as Sebastian looked at him, now with more aplomb.
"We're tired of Indochina, tired of Germany, and we'd like to
reintegrate--that is the catch phrase, isn't it?--with our neighbours."

"So," Sebastian said politely, as he hunched forward. "You give us the
canal, we give you the fission bomb. And what else?"

Taksin paused before he replied. "Taiwan has recognized the borders of
Siam after the Pacific War, as has Japan and the Chinese Community
states. I'd hope that the Australians can be made to follow suit."

"There is the question of Viet Nam."

"Ah, it's a big country. Plenty of room for everyone, especially when
legitimate interests of all parties are taken into account. The
Cambodians, you know, used to have a lot of Cochin China as their own
before the Viet took it. Khmer Krom, I believe their compatriots are
called. A rectification of the frontier--something that they will
recognize as final--should be all that they need." Taksin clucked his
tongue, and reclined somewhat in the seat. "It should definitely be
enough to get the more radical elements of the Khmer government to stop
supporting the Jeffersonistas. And with Viet Nam stable on that front,
well, there'd be no need for an Australian presence, would there? The
precise details we can discuss later."

"And," Taksin continued, "of course, recognition of Siamese preeminence
in Burma. Burma is a region of special importance, as you can well
imagine. There are the illegal immigrants, there are the drugs ..."
Taksin's voice trailed off. _Never forget Ayutthaya [9]._ "The Burmese
aren't capable of managing themselves, never mind all of the different
hill peoples. We can manage them, certainly better than they can manage
themselves."

"And in exchange, we'll happily buy our arms from Kramer, and drop the
protectionist barriers the Chinese Community states have been
complaining about, and the Japanese, and--if they'll do the same--with
the Australians. We all win, you see."

"Is it a deal?"

***

July 1st, 1974

Inside Hua Phan Province,
Empire of Siam

Hua Phan was selected as the test site as a matter of course. Hua Phan
was a province on the very fringes of Siam; indeed, it hadn't been
Siamese until the Global War and its liberation, only one petty
principality of British Viet Nam, another Thai hill-state, just another
hill people's homeland to be assimilated in due course. That changed,
when it was returned to the Siamese; Hua Phan once again became the
outer buffer of the great Thai nation, a march against the Vietnamese.

There was no one who lived in this particular district of Hua Phan, no
one but a few hundred Thai-speaking slash-and-burn farmers who'd been
evacuated from the steaming rainforest, with its slick rocks and high
trees. So, there was no one to see, one bright morning as the sun rose
in the east, that brilliant flare of light that briefly outshone the
sun.

***

[1] Also known as
"Krungthepnahanakhornbowornrattanakosinmahintarayutthayamahadilokpopnopparatratchathaniburiromudomratchaniwetmahasathanamornpimanavatarnsathitsakkatttiyavisnukarprasit",
"Great city of angels, the supreme repository of divine jewels, the
great land unconquerable, the grand and prominent realm, the royal and
delightful capital city full of nine noble gems, the highest royal
dwelling and grand palace, the divine shelter and living place of the
reincarnated spirits," or Bangkok. (Emperor Rama I wanted an auspicious
name for his capital when he founded it in 1782.)

[2] Unlike OTL, where Britain (from Burma and Malaya) and France (from
Vietnam and Cambodia) placed pressure on Siam from multiple angles and,
in their imperialistic demands, managed not only to strip Siam's
marginal territories but hinder its modernization, the more modest
pressure of Britain allowed Siam to modernize on its own terms. Siam has
roughly the same standing to the industrialized countries of FANTL that
Turkey does to industrialized countries in OTL 2001: it's a
middle-income country with serious problems in minority policy and
democratic governance.

[3] Siam's intervention in the Global War on behalf of Germany was
precipitated by a number of factors: pan-Thai sentiment calling for the
reunification of all Thai-speaking peoples in Siam; fear of being
surrounded by British colonies and protectorates, in Burma, Vietnam, and
potentially the East Indies; sympathies with Germany, like Siam a
country in the centre of its region that had suffered numerous
predations by its larger, united neighbours until it was unified; and, a
desire to limit Japanese influence. Although Siam's assault on British
positions in mainland Southeast Asia and the Malayan peninsula did
contribute to the collapse of European colonial rule in Southeast Asia,
the Siamese strongly resisted Mexican attempts to coordinate assaults on
the Philippines and China.

[4] Cambodia still exists, in FAN, but only as a shrunken state. Under
the British Indochina protectorate, Cambodia was practically annexed
into Vietnam, with only a shadow of autonomy as disputed territories
along the northern and western borders were handed to Siam. The Global
War liberated Cambodia, but most of the northwestern half of Cambodia
was absorbed into Siam as compensation. As of the early 1970's, Cambodia
is a rump state centred on the Tonlé Sap.

[5] In OTL and in FAN, between 1850 and 1930 Siam profitted enormously
from the immigration of millions of Chinese to Siam. These immigrants,
unlike elsewhere in mainland Southeast Asia, were quickly assimilated
into the syncretic and tolerant Siamese culture and came to play major
roles in all areas of Siamese life. In FAN, the Sino-Siamese form the
majority of Siam's urban population and of Siam's middle class.

[6] A generation after the Global War, the former Dutch East Indies are
as far from attaining a state of equilibrium as they ever were.

[7] OTL's Singapore. A possession of the Kingdom of Australia, Port Cook
is one of several "overseas" posessions of the Kingdom of Australia in
insular Southeast Asia, along with Bali and Timor.

[8] Light tanks.

[9] The capital of the Ayutthaya kingdom, located several hundred
kilometres upstream the Chao Phraya from Krung Thep. The city was
destroyed in 1767 by Burmese invaders.