489. Memorandum of a Conversation, Government House, Bangkok, March 13, 19561
- Field Marshal P. Pibulsonggram, Prime Minister
- Prince Naradhip Bongsprabandh, Foreign Minister
- Major Rak Panyarachun, Deputy Foreign Minister
- The Honorable John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State2
- Walter S. Robertson, Assistant Secretary of State
- Max W. Bishop, American Ambassador
After the usual amenities, the Secretary of State opened the discussion by saying that we in the United States had heard rumors of Thai change of policy and shifts in their position. He felt that similarly they must have heard rumors of changes in United States policy or shifts in the United States position. The Secretary said that we do not believe the rumors we hear about changes in the Thai Government’s policy and we hope they will not believe any rumors they hear about any changes in our policy. The Secretary went on to emphasize the firmness of US policy and said that we anticipated no change. The Prime Minister said that he had read the Secretary’s Philadelphia speech3 and had had a report from his Foreign Minister, Prince Wan, regarding the discussions at Karachi. The Prime Minister said that he was much impressed by these two things and that he felt fully reassured. He indicated strongly that no change in Thai policy was contemplated.
Turning to the question of aid to Thailand, the Secretary pointed out that he understood that there had been many difficulties in getting started with the various aid projects. He added that in projects of this sort there is always much “red tape” and there are many procedural matters to be taken care of before actual work gets under way or deliveries begin. He said that he understood that most of this preliminary work had now been cleared away and that the aid programs should move ahead with normal speed.
The conversation then shifted to a discussion of the relations between Thailand and neighboring states. The Prime Minister indicated that relations with Laos, Burma, Vietnam and Malaya were all good. He pointed out, however, that the rather erratic behavior and unstable [Page 862] character of Prince Sihanouk, particularly his statements regarding neutralism and friendship with Communist China made after his visit to Peiping, as well as his apparent refusal to believe in the good intentions and preferred friendship of Thailand, made it extremely difficult to put Thai relations with Cambodia on a sound basis. The Prime Minister mentioned as an example the border dispute which they are having with Cambodia. (There is attached a brief memorandum on this subject giving the facts as we know them in the Embassy.4)
The Secretary remarked briefly about some of the conversations he had had with Nehru in India,5 and said that he felt Nehru was genuinely worried over the future of India and seemed uncertain where his present policy would carry India.
As he had done earlier in his conversation with the King, Secretary Dulles described at some length his conviction that in order to fight the evil forces of international Communism, it is necessary to have a strong, vigorous and active spirit of anti-Communism. Such a strong spirit is necessary as an “inoculation” to provide the “fighting corpuscles” necessary to resist the attacks of the Communists. He further emphasized his belief that a policy of indifference or of aloofness to the problem of the spreading of the Communist evil is not sufficiently strong inoculation to protect the body politic from this Communist attack. He said that while the neutralists might be correct, that in the remote and far-distant future—in 100 years or so—the Communists might cease to be predatory, it would be too late for those who had been indolent or indifferent for they would have been consumed meanwhile. The Prime Minister agreed wholeheartedly with the Secretary that it was necessary to be militantly opposed to Communist encroachment and expansion, if one is to survive in this world.
At the Secretary’s suggestion, Assistant Secretary Robertson described at length the conversation between President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Eden regarding US policy toward Communist China6 and the firm opposition in the US to any change in that policy or to any suggestion of allowing Communist China to “shoot its way into the UN”. Both the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister were obviously impressed with what they were told although they had had [Page 863] similar reports earlier. The effect of hearing this report from the Secretary himself and the Assistant Secretary obviously impressed them both. The Secretary took over the discussion and emphasized that the conversation between President Eisenhower and Prime Minister Eden showed clearly the President’s firm conviction and his determination to support the present policy of the US vis-à-vis Communist China.
The Secretary then discussed briefly with the Prime Minister some of his conversations with both the Prime Minister and the Governor General of Ceylon.7 The latter were very strong in their praise of the United States firm stand toward Communist China and indicated clearly their hope that there would be no change whatsoever. They also gave the Secretary the impression that they were greatly worried as to what might happen to India when Nehru passed from the scene.
The Secretary asked the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister if they had anything they wanted to discuss with him. The Prime Minister expressed his great appreciation for aid and assistance which the United States is giving Thailand and was also glad to learn from the Secretary that these programs would now move ahead with normal speed. He went on to say that he hoped that the telecommunications program, survey of which ICA is now undertaking, could upon completion of the survey be financed from the Asian Economic Development Fund. (Ambassador Bishop described briefly the regional telecommunications problems and the ICA survey.)
The Prime Minister made some other remarks about a need for the development of housing for the poor and the desirability of increasing the amount of economic aid for Thailand. He turned to the Foreign Minister who spoke briefly from some notes. (A copy of these notes was sent informally to the Embassy by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and is attached.8)
The Prime Minister pointed out that he was facing political difficulties in his country in view of the fact that his Government must go through an election next year. The Secretary jokingly remarked that the American elections were taking place this year but that something might be done after the American elections (to avoid political embarrassment in the US) and before the Thai elections (to [Page 864] help out the Thai Government). The Secretary, however, was non-committal on the problem of more economic aid for Thailand and the Thai did not press the matter.
The Prime Minister asked whether there was any intention to change the controls on trade with Communist China. He apparently had reference to the press reports that President Eisenhower had agreed with the UK that conversations on this subject would be held. The Secretary explained at some length that President Eisenhower had agreed to review the problem of controls on trade with Communist China from the standpoint of benefits to the free world. The Secretary indicated that it is likely that there might be some minor changes in the existing controls. He emphasized, however, his belief that the changes would be minor and explained that the United States itself has no intention whatsoever to relax its total embargo on trade with Communist China. He went on to say that there were indications that the British were “cooling off” somewhat in their eagerness to press for closer relations with Communist China. He attributed this in part to the fact that the British, following the talks with President Eisenhower, no longer could imagine any weakening in US policy. The Prime Minister pointed out that there was a great deal of pressure in this country to trade with Communist China. He went on to say that Communist Chinese goods had come into Thailand in relatively substantial quantities recently, such goods as fountain pens, cheap cotton blankets, thermos bottles and other similar commodities. Deputy Foreign Minister Rak remarked that the Chinese Communists’offensive was more psychological than economic and that it was being pressed vigorously. The Secretary said that it was hard for him to understand how people could be impressed by such activity on the part of the Communists particularly when the Communists’ purposes were so transparent. Communist China was short of such consumer goods and does not have enough to supply even the minimum wants of its own people. The Communists put out these goods merely as “bait” and for the sole purpose of entrapping their intended victims. Once a nation has fallen for this enticement, the people are engulfed and the bait is extended on beyond them to the next proposed victim leaving those who fell for the Communist proposal without their freedom and without an adequate supply of consumer goods.
Following some general conversation, the meeting broke up about 6:35 p.m. in order to proceed with the public signing of the Atomic Energy Agreement.9
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 792.00/3–1456. Secret. Drafted by Bishop on March 14.↩
- Dulles was visiting Thailand as part of a tour of Asian countries after the SEATO Council meeting in Karachi, March 6–8. Documentation on the post-SEATO trip is ibid., Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 675–CF 683.↩
- For text of Dulles’ speech in Philadelphia on February 26, see Department of State Bulletin, March 5, 1956, pp. 363–367.↩
- Not printed. As outlined in the memorandum, the boundary dispute between Thailand and Cambodia involved the Khao Phra Wihan ruins of an ancient Khmer temple, which Thailand controlled and Cambodia claimed as historically part of Cambodia.↩
- Dulles stopped in India for a series of five conversations with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on March 9 and 10. The conversations did not touch on Thailand. Memoranda of these conversations are in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 675. See also vol. VIII, p. 306.↩
- Reference is to conversations between Eisenhower and Eden in January.↩
- Dulles visited Ceylon as part of his post-SEATO trip. Memoranda of his conversations on March 11 with the Ceylonese Prime Minister, Sir John Kotelawala, and the Governor General of Ceylon, Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, are in Department of State, Conference Files: Lot 62 D 181, CF 675; see also vol. VIII, p. 266.↩
- Not printed. According to the notes, the Foreign Minister asked for expansion and better implementation of U.S. assistance programs in Thailand, and made a specific request for $20 million in additional economic assistance to finance hospitals, schools, and housing for the poor.↩
- For text of the agreement between the United States and Thailand concerning the civil uses of atomic energy, see 7 UST 416.↩