Interest of the United States in the trial of Siamese accused of war crimes

[On February 6, 1946, the Legation at Bangkok informed the Department, in telegram 104, that British authorities had approached the Siamese Government regarding trial by British courts of Siamese accused of atrocities against British subjects and that the Siamese were inclined to propose trial by mixed courts (740.00116 PW/2–646).

The Department’s reply, in telegram 135, March 4, stated: “No [Page 1107] US precedent for situation. US would not like to see Brit courts either civil or military established Siamese soil to try Siamese. Brit and Siam at peace. Brit troops not occupying force. Military Annex32 requires Siamese cooperation in ‘apprehension and trial’ of war criminals. Brit membership on civilian mixed court too reminiscent extraterritoriality. Believe best solution would be mixed military court with Brit members appointed by Mountbatten as Supreme Allied Commander rather than as Brit authority. Suggest court jurisdiction should cover atrocities against Allied rather than solely Brit subjects and military law should be applied.” (740.00116 PW/2–646).

Under the War Criminals Act of 1945, the Siamese Government indicted the following eight war crimes suspects: Field Marshal Luang Pibul Songgram, Siamese Prime Minister from 1938 to 1944; Luang Wichit Wattarkarn, wartime Siamese Ambassador to Japan; Lieutenant General Seri Roengrit, who had led Siamese forces into Indochina and Burma; Major General Prayoon Phamonmontri, organizer of the Yuvachon, the Siamese Youth Movement; Phra Sarasat Pholakhan, Director of the Thai Room, a semi-official cultural organization in Tokyo, and frequent broadcaster on Tokyo Radio; two other radio broadcasters; and a member of the Assembly. On March 23, the Siamese Dika (Supreme) Court rendered a decision that the War Criminals Act, particularly that part providing for the punishment of offenses committed before the date of the Act’s promulgation, was null and void because of its conflict with Section 14 of the Siamese Constitution, and directed the unconditional release of the indicted persons (despatch 79, March 30, from Bangkok; filed under 740.00116 PW/3–3046).

In telegram 220, April 2, the Department notified the Legation at Bangkok that it had “no comment” on this action (740.00116 PW/3–2646). In a letter of May 17, the Chief of the Division of Southeast Asian Affairs (Moffat), informed Colonel David Marcus, Chief of the War Crimes Branch of the War Department, of the decision releasing the eight indicted persons and inquired whether the War Department contemplated action against any persons in Siam who might be guilty of war crimes against Americans (740.0016 PW/3–3046). Colonel Marcus’ reply on June 24 stated that no present action was contemplated against anyone now in Siam and that no cases were under investigation (740.00116 PW/6–2446).]

  1. To the Heads of Agreement signed by the United Kingdom and Siam at Singapore on January 1, 1946, in connection with the termination of their state of war; for text, see British Cmd. 8140, Treaty Series No. 10 (1951), p. 6.