DECLARATION OF WAR
Seni, Usna, and their two small sons flew to the West Coast of the United States via Manila and Honolulu, then took a train across the country and arrived in Washington at the end of June 1940. France had just fallen to the Nazis. Britain was beginning its battle to survive. The United States was trying to stay out of war.
Washington made Seni homesick that summer because it was "hot like Bangkok." His younger son, Usni, born in 1934 two years after Seri, found the people funny. "When they're white they're too white, when they're black they're too black," he recalled the boy saying. But climatic and cultural adjustments for the young Pramoj family were not as urgent as Seni's coming to terms with relentless forces pushing both Thailand and the United States, each isolationist in its own way, into world conflagration.
"There was big insularity. The Americans didn't want at all to go to war—of course you can't blame them, they're a big country, a rich country, people are well off, why should they take the risk?" observed Seni. "They hadn't wanted to enter the First World War either, and so there wasn't much concern in the United States about what was going on in Europe." Thailand had entered World War I on the side of the Allies, only after the United States had in 1917, sending a small expeditionary force to France shortly before the war ended.
Before leaving Bangkok, Seni had been instructed to counter "rumors" in the United States that the Thai government was persecuting ethnic Chinese. At a time when American sympathy for Chinese was running high because of the Japanese invasion of China, these reports were a consequence of Pibul's implementing in 1939 his "pro‐ Thai" economic and cultural measures. Seni was also instructed to promote sale of Thai rice to a flagging market in Cuba.