792.94/159: Telegram

The Minister in Thailand (Peck) to the Secretary of State

476. My 465, October 3 [4], 4 p.m., paragraph 8. On October 7 and October 14 the Minister for Foreign Affairs asked me to call, his purpose being to restate the Government’s earnest plea that the American Government make available at the earliest moment possible the [Page 321] 24 planes concerning which the Thai Minister approached the Department in August. Air Force officers also have been pressing the American Naval and Military Attachés to support this request. The Foreign Minister informed me yesterday that his Government feels apprehension amounting to conviction that the Japanese are planning to invade Thailand in the near future. He described the truculent Japanese press campaign charging the British with anti-Japanese activities here and Thailand with being pro-American and pro-British. The Thai Ambassador in Tokyo has reported that the Japanese press stigmatizes [the Thai Government?] as being a creature of the Foreign Office which has traditionally been British in complexion. The Foreign Minister pointed out that the Thai Government has officially announced its determination to resist invasion from any source and has endeavored scrupulously to preserve neutrality in its actions. If, however, the country is to fight for its independence it must at once augment its present meager means of defense. He therefore excitedly pleaded that the planes the Government has been seeking to purchase be supplied. I asked whether the Japanese would not protest against the purchase by Thailand of planes from the United States and the Minister for Foreign Affairs answered that the Government had prepared a reply in advance, that is, that Thailand had already purchased some Japanese planes and wished to acquire more but that Japan had refused to sell them.

The British Minister informed me this afternoon that he had just seen the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the latter had made to him representations similar to those I received and had urged him to impress me with the serious view of the situation taken by the Thai Government. My British colleague said there was no doubt but that the Government was in a panic. As further confirmation of this he told me for secret official use only that the Foreign Minister had conveyed a personal message from the Prime Minister to the effect that he was convinced by the whole trend of events that the Japanese intend an early invasion of Thailand possibly within the next 2 weeks; when this occurred Bangkok would almost certainly be threatened with air attack and lacking means to defend the city the Government would have to move elsewhere, thus removing all legitimate excuse for bombardment; the Prime Minister thought that the apparent failure of Russian resistance to Germany was encouraging the Japanese to begin their further expansion southward; the Premier asked the British Minister to telegraph urgently to his Government inquiring what measures the British Government intended to take in South Thailand if the Japanese invaded the north and what steps the Thai Government should take in conjunction with British dispositions; the Premier wanted to receive this information within 1 week. In this connection, I ventured the supposition that the British authorities in Malaya [Page 322] might be persuaded to take steps to preserve the rubber and tin resources in the south and he replied that he assumed they would do so. He again urged that the Prime Minister’s inquiry be safeguarded with the greatest secrecy. (A generally well informed American resident recently told me he had reliable information that the British would use troops to prevent Japanese seizure of the rubber and tin area.)

When I informed the British Minister recently that I had suggested to the Department that the Singapore authorities follow your army [should now?] release to Thailand some of the apparently surplus planes on hand, he countered with the statement that the conference he lately attended in Singapore had adopted the view that it was very desirable that 24 planes be allotted to the Thai forces and had suggested that the Chinese seemed to be getting many more Vultee fighters from the factory in India than they had trained pilots to use and that some of these might be diverted.

In discussing the probability of an invasion the British Minister told me that British consular authorities in Indochina reported that the Japanese had asked the French Government to approve an increase of 40,000 in the Japanese garrison there but that Vichy had refused. The reports stated, however, the 20,000 additional troops were being imported through Haiphong and that various airfields were being created or extended.

Not repeated elsewhere.