468. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State 1
2902. Deptel 2561.2 From US standpoint principal political problem Thailand today is lack firm, well-informed leadership and opportunity this provides for left-wingers to operate within NSP and other elements of government. NSP, govt party, is a disorganized conglomeration conservatives, leftists and politically neutral, both military and civilian, rather than disciplined political party with firm program and fixed purposes. Political inexperience Prime Minister Thanom simplifies task leftists like Net Khemayothin who have gained respectability as Cabinet Ministers.
Problem aggravated by self-deception government leaders who appear believe highly vocal left wing press, supplemented by [garble] Hyde Parkers and professional students, represents “public opinion”.
Situation further complicated by traditional propensity some important Thai for covert deals with Communist China for personal profit [2½ lines of source text not declassified] left-wingers behind moves to gain new respectability for Pridi and to prepare way for his return to Thailand.
[1 paragraph (6 lines of source text) not declassified]
With foregoing as background, I believe recent developments Thailand provide excellent opportunity point out to Sarit how unrepresentative and self-serving leftists are in Thailand. Election results clearly indicate that way to increase prestige and influence NSP and Thai Government is not through association with leftists.
All shades political opinion Thailand including far left, as well as observations interested foreigners, recognize last two elections Thailand—December 15, 1957 and March 30, 1958—were clean and representative. Yet, an entirely erroneous impression Thai political opinion engendered by Thai press. In addition, many individuals with pronounced leftist views run for political office including, in last elections, candidates on ticket NSP, an allegedly anti-Communist party. These candidates soundly trounced. Clearly, neither they nor press represent more than small minority Thai public opinion and have little public support. Free press admirable institution and if left to itself will in any country roughly correspond to prevailing state public opinion. However, this far from case in Thailand where over half of press circulation [Page 989] represented by papers expressing pro-Communist views. Obviously this result of Communist direct and indirect subsidies which constitute glaring intervention into Thai affairs. Question is what is purpose this outside support for unrepresentative political views. Clearly, leftists hope undermine existing institutions—monarchy, representative government, etc. As general principle, history demonstrates that once international Communists, even few in number, taken into central government, they ultimately take it over. Once in power, they abolish free press and other free institutions they have taken advantage of in gaining power. Peoples of Eastern Europe overwhelmingly anti-Communist but to no avail. Believe it would be useful explain to Sarit historical facts this regard.
Thai Government could at minimum expose outside support left-wing press. Thai officials could also show much more courage and forthrightness in correcting more glaring misstatements of fact in left-wing press rather than all too often appearing to accept validity left-wing criticism.
On strictly confidential basis and only for background information Department and General Erskine, there is some still very discreet discussion of possibility rapprochement between Democrats and at least some important military. Pote Sarasin took initiative in mentioning this concept approvingly to me. Understand idea has been discussed with Thanom and Praphat who expressed general approval with caveat that such development “was going take little time”. Sukit made substantially same point in recent conversation with Embassy officer. Have no indication of what Sarit’s attitude may be.3
Such a development obviously would have many ramifications and, therefore, I am not yet prepared to say to what extent it could be encouraged by us. It could, however, prove to be very salutary from US viewpoint. In any event, believe time propitious to impress upon Sarit, along lines suggested above, danger of associating with leftists and giving them respectability in public eye.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 792.00/4–1158. Secret; Priority; Limit Distribution.↩
- Telegram 2561, April 8, requested a summary of despatch 754 (see footnote 2, supra ) for General Erskine’s conversations with Sarit. (Department of State, Central Files, 792.00/4–858)↩
On this question of Democratic-military rapprochement, despatch 754 contained the following observation:
“It goes without saying that we must at all costs avoid the appearance of giving open support to this prospective rapprochement. Such open support would be fatal to the experiment and set back our efforts in Thailand by exposing the United States to serious charges of interference in Thailand’s internal affairs. [2½ lines of source text not declassified]”↩