471. Despatch From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State1

No. 496


  • Department’s Circular Telegram 559, March 23, 19552


  • U.S. Assistance in the Development of Forces Adequate to Provide Internal Security in Countries Vulnerable to Communist Subversion

There is attached as Enclosure No. 1 a paper prepared for the Operations Coordinating Board in accordance with the outline contained in the reference instruction. The paper was drafted by … , JUSMAG and the Embassy in consultation with USIS and USOM.

It will be noted that the recommendations of the paper are for continuation of current efforts to improve administration, personnel and training in the Thai security forces rather than for any basic changes at this time in the present force basis and programs of military equipment. In contrast to the situation in a number of other countries vulnerable to Communist subversion, there has been underway in Thailand for some time a … program designed to create Thai police-type forces capable of dealing with subversive activity. It is recognized, of course, that changes in the program may prove to be desirable in the light of further experience with and improvements in the capabilities of the Thai security forces.

John. E. Peurifoy
[Page 817]




I. State of Development of Threat of Subversion.

It is difficult to ascertain the exact extent of subversive activity in Thailand. It has been expected that, following the Communist achievements in Indo-China, they would undertake a large-scale subversive program against Thailand, but it appears that this has not yet been launched. Nevertheless, the threat of subversion is a very real one and represents a potential danger to Thailand.
Principal sources of potential danger are:
The Chinese minority throughout Thailand principally concentrated in the urban areas. (The Thai security service claims to have identified over 2,500 members of the CPT and CCPT.)
The Viet Minh minority in the Northeast Provinces3
Infiltration from Communist China, including the Thai Nationality Autonomous area in Yunnan.4
Chinese Communist terrorist forces from Malaya supported by elements of the Min Yuen living in the Southern border area of Thailand.5
Disaffected Thai elements in Thailand, particularly those in the Northeast, and those abroad, some of which are under Communist control.
The Communists have the capability of:
Infiltrating agents to indoctrinate, organize and train indigenous forces.
In conjunction with the above, of infiltrating small organized units from Communist China, Laos or Malaya to conduct small-scale guerrilla operations.
[Page 818]

II. Adequacy of Indigenous Counter-Measures.


Recognition of the threat and will-to-act on the part of the local Government:

The Communist threat is recognized by Thai Government leaders and many educated Thais, and counter-measures are being taken. The will to act exists in some quarters but, especially at higher levels, is usually subordinated to personal considerations. Any action is largely predicated on continued support and guidance by the U.S. In addition, action is handicapped by the ignorance and lack of ability of many highly placed officials.

Capabilities of indigenous forces:
For police type preventive activities:
The various sections of the C.I.D. responsible for the detection and identification of the Communist apparatus and other subversive elements are staffed by relatively capable and experienced police rather than intelligence officers. These sections are further hampered by over compartmentation and a lack of central file system or any method of cross referencing the vast body of accumulated but uncarded information now on hand. Much duplication of effort ensues and seldom can or do operational leads get the kind of cooperative attention from the various responsible division heads that such matters require.
The police are fully capable of rounding up and detaining all presently known Communist personalities and groups, including the approximately 40,000 Viet Minh sympathizers among the Vietnamese refugees in the Northeastern Provinces in the event that these became an open threat to Thailand. (Rounding up the Vietnamese would probably require the use of armed force.) However, it is generally agreed that many Chinese Communist leaders are not known to the security services and that private and business connections between Communist-inclined Chinese businessmen and police officers tend to vitiate the effectiveness of vigorous action.
Thai legal system appears to provide adequate means for the arrest, prosecution and enforcement of measures against persons engaged in Communist and other forms of subversion and sedition. The weaknesses lie in the actual operation of the legal system, particularly in the inefficiency and venality of officials and cumbersome, protracted trial procedures. However, despite any shortcomings of the legal system, the top Thai military-political leaders have always found means to deal with persons they consider a threat to their positions.
The Thai National Police which includes the Gendarmérie Patrol Force (border patrol) is by statute responsible for border security as well as internal security. The present organization of the Municipal Police, Provincial Police and the Gendarmérie Patrol Force (GPF) has the capability of handling all but major internal uprisings in which case the Army would step in. The GPF is not yet capable of directing and supporting a sustained action against border infiltration by [Page 819] well organized guerrilla forces. The VDC (Volunteer Defense Corps), which is expected to have a strength of 18,000 by 1956, is still in the organization and training stage and has little if any present military capability.

For military type action:

With present organization and dispositions the Army is believed capable of suppressing any spontaneous uprising, particularly in the urban areas. In the conduct of field operations against organized guerrilla forces the Army has at present only a limited capability.


Support of counter-measures by local population:

The Thai population is generally apathetic regarding the Communist threat. Their apathy is in part due to the debilitating influence of the climate and to the passivity engendered by Buddhism, but more importantly it is due to the lack of adequate information regarding Communist techniques and purposes. This lack of understanding can be attributed in part to the low level of education and the lack of contact with the outside world among rural Thais. However, the situation has been improving somewhat as a result of an indoctrination program undertaken by the Thai Government with USIS initiative and support. Although the Thai people would probably volunteer little support for counter-measures, most Thais would probably obey the instruction of local representatives of the central government in supporting counter-measures, except in limited areas in which popular local leaders, disaffected with the central government succeeded in alienating the local population. The VDC recruited at the village level throughout Thailand can with continued indoctrination be expected to help to create an increasing awareness among the local population of the nature of the Communist threat.

The Viet Minh sympathizers among the Vietnamese refugees in the northeast would probably support Communist guerrilla operations in their area and would furnish a source of recruits if there were any indications of Communist success. Some Chinese would assist the Thai Government in its efforts to combat Chinese Communist subversive elements, although the majority would attempt to remain uncommitted. The hill tribes in Thailand, who have no political loyalties or awareness, would provide a limited amount of intelligence to whichever side could gain their friendship or pay them. Hill tribe areas might provide a base for guerrilla operations.

III. Analysis of Local U.S. Programs of Assistance Which Support or Could be Adjusted to Support Indigenous Counter-Measures Outlined in II Above.


The present JCS troop basis is designed to:

Preserve internal security.
Deter external aggression.

It is believed that the present force units are adequate in organization and equipment if properly trained, led and supported. Weaknesses are lack of an honest and competent administration, training [Page 820] deficiencies, a large number of incompetent and unqualified higher officers and officials, and the inability of the high command to plan, execute or support military operations.


The present GPF and VDC training programs are designed to:

Increase the internal security potential of the police.
Provide forces to maintain border security.
Provide forces able to combat infiltration and to conduct successful anti-guerrilla action in the event infiltration is accomplished.
Provide forces (VDC) to act as a reserve for the regular Army and Police forces.
To provide an indoctrination channel from the government to the local populace and a channel for information flow from isolated areas to the government.

As with the Army, it is believed that the present force units are adequate in organization and equipment if properly trained, led and supported. Present weaknesses are lack of competent administration, lack of adequate staff and command structure and, in high places, a lack of understanding of the need for same, training deficiencies, and inadequate communications personnel.

The psychological offensive being undertaken by the Thai Government with the assistance of USIS is designed to indoctrinate government officials, Buddhist monks, teachers, members of the armed services and the general public with the evils of Communism and the dangers of Communist subversion, and at the same time to arouse in the people a greater awareness and appreciation of Thailand’s national heritage as an independent nation, the efforts of the Thai Government to promote the well-being of the people, and the important role Thailand is playing as a member of the Free World. This indoctrination is necessarily a slow educational process.

IV. Recommendations.

That no major change in the present force basis be made.
That efforts be continued to vitalize the command and staff of the military and police forces.
That junior officer and specialist training (commo, intell, etc.) be emphasized in the GPF and in the Thai military services.
That “defense orientation” courses be continued as an integral part of the training cycle of the GPF, VDC and military forces.
That the Thais be encouraged to continue the psychological offensive program over a period of years in order to achieve a basic appreciation of the Communist threat.
That when the state of training and administration warrants it, a program to cache stacks of specialized arms and equipment for unconventional warfare be instituted.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 792.5/4–2255. Top Secret.
  2. In telegram 559, the Chiefs of Mission to whom the telegram was sent were instructed “to have the country team, including representatives from FOA, MAAG (or service attachés) … prepare a report on the possibilities and requirements for U.S. assistance in increasing the effectiveness of police-type forces to deal with communist subversion and, in those countries where communist subversion has reached the stage of actual or potential large-scale insurrection, increasing the effectiveness of the regular armed forces to deal with communist subversion and insurrections.” (Ibid., 700.5/3–2355) The purpose of the exercise was to provide the OCB with the information necessary to formulate a concept for U.S. assistance in the development of forces adequate to provide internal security in countries vulnerable to Communist subversion. The OCB was given the task of developing such a concept by the National Security Council on December 21, 1954. (NSC Action No. 1290–d; Ibid.,S/S Files: Lot 66 D 95, Records of Action by the National Security Council, 1954) For the country study on the internal security situation in Thailand, produced by an interagency working group for the OCB on January 4, 1956, see Document 484.
  3. The Government of Thailand was concerned that the Vietnamese community in northeastern Thailand might become a base for Communist activities in Thailand. Documentation on Thai efforts to encourage the repatriation of Viet Minh supporters to North Vietnam, and American encouragement of those efforts, is in Department of State, Central File 751G.00.
  4. The Thai Autonomous Area in the southernmost part of Yunnan Province was established in 1953 by the Chinese Government as one of a large number of such ethnically-designated areas in China.
  5. The Min Yuen were the Communist-oriented Malayan guerrilla forces which operated on both sides of the border between Malaya and Thailand.