486. Despatch From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State 1
- Possible Contacts between the Thai Government and Communist China
The Embassy has received within the past week significant indications that Police Director General Phao Sriyanon may be extending feelers to Communist China and/or former Prime Minister Pridi Phanomyong. It is not known at this point whether such actions, if taken, are being instigated by Phao personally or on behalf on the Thai Government. However, given Phao’s propensity for political intrigue and traditional Thai agility in international politics, the Embassy [Page 855] considers it possible that Phao independently, or with Thai Government approval, may well be attempting to establish channels to Communist China for future use if and when necessary.
On January 28, 1956, a reliable source informed an Embassy officer that MP’s Amphorn Suwannabon and Sa-ing Manangkun (rumored earlier by one paper to be going to Communist China) were definitely “on the mainland”, and furthermore, that they had been sent by General Phao. The source is known by the Embassy to be very close to Amphorn and Sa-ing, and he states that his information is “definitely reliable.” When asked what the motivation for such actions would be, the source stated that he believed Phao is disgruntled by his recent set-backs on the internal political scene and is considering turning to Pridi and/or the Chinese Communists.
. . . . . . .
Although Amphorn and Sa-ing are so-called opposition MP’s, the Embassy has considered them to be beholden to General Phao. This was supported by their own admission to an Embassy employee last spring that they were going to Europe with the assistance of Luen Buasawan, Chinese financial adviser to the General Phao-Field Marshal Phin group. (See Embassy despatch 536, May 20, 19552).
An additional report which appears to confirm this belief was received this week by an Embassy officer from … had informed him that he had heard from a reliable source that Amphorn and Sa-ing were in Communist China and accompanied by Chuan Yuthaworn, Manager of the Thai Sugar Corporation, and that Luen Buasawan had arranged the trip.
The possibility that Phao is moving to insure contacts on both sides of the fence is further supported by reports that he and his henchman, Colonel Phansak Visetbhakdi are backing the recently established leftist papers Thai Seri and Seri Thai.
Thai Seri, which ceased publication after a brief existence, was primarily a vehicle for attacks on Army Commander-in-Chief General Sarit Thannarat, but also featured serialized form Pridi’s “Economic Development Plan.” …
Seri Thai, the more leftist of the two, has been promoting direct trade with Communist China, publishing such articles as “The Policy of the Communist Party of India,” and “The Status of Women” by Kulap Saipradit, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison as a Communist. On February 3 the paper urged its readers to tune in to [Page 856] Radio Peiping. According to an Embassy report, Sanit Thanachan, owner, editor and publisher of Seri Thai was until the paper opened, an official of Thai Television Corporation Magazine controlled by General Phao. … Samut Surakkha, assistant editor was (according to Embassy biographic information) arrested in the November 10, 1952 Communist conspiracy case, but was released when he turned state’s evidence for the police. Uthai Srichan, Manager, is unknown to the Embassy.
Although it is difficult to assess the validity of these reports, they appear to be in line with indications that the Thai Government may be considering an adjustment toward the left.
The Embassy believes that these developments, if true, represent either: 1) an excursion by the Thai Government with the objective of securing a degree of insurance should it be necessary to shift the Thai position on relations with Communist China; 2) an independent attempt by Phao to achieve the same objective with the thought that it may redound to his personal advantage in the domestic political situation.
These developments do not however, in the Embassy’s opinion signify imminent action by either Phao or the Thai Government to follow up on such contacts with a drastic change in policy. On the contrary, they appear to fit into the traditional Thai diplomatic technique of hedging against probable shifts in world power.
Chief, Political Section
Action requested: Department please send copies to Vientiane, Rangoon, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Taipei.3
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 792.00/2–856. Secret.↩
- Despatch 536 provides a summary of two conversations between Amphorn Suannabon and Albert D. Moscotti, Second Secretary of Embassy in Thailand. (Ibid., 751J.00/5–2055)↩
- A handwritten note on the source text indicates that this was done.↩