475. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Southeast Asian Affairs (Kocher) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson)1
- Sarit Visit (For Possible Use at Secretary’s Staff Meeting)
Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, Supreme Commander of the Thai Armed Forces, who is Thailand’s chief leader in fact but not in title, has returned from Florida where he was convalescing from a successful operation performed at Walter Reed Army Hospital. He has been authorized by the Thai Government to confer with U.S. officials on means of strenthening Thai-U.S. cooperation, particularly in the economic and military fields. He made a well publicized courtesy call on the President on May 7 and will see the Secretary on May 14. Thereafter we plan that Sarit should see you, Mr. Dillon, Mr. George V. Allen of USIA, and we expect that he will arrange to see Mr. Allen Dulles and high Defense Department officials.
On the basis of Sarit’s statements at the White House and other indications we believe he will emphasize Thailand’s continued close association with SEATO and opposition to Communism, and ask for additional economic aid, especially for northeast Thailand, and also for more military assistance, particularly budgetary support for the Thai Armed Forces. Aside from the question of whether it is desirable to identify U.S. aid programs with an individual leader, there is no apparent source of funds for a generous gesture toward Sarit in terms of additional U.S. aid which might properly be extended to Thailand. The only gesture now planned by the Department is the announcement of a decision to furnish Thailand cobalt teletherapy equipment requested some time ago for treatment of cancer. At the same time, Defense is considering whether any of the military requests Sarit is likely to make will be considered favorably.[Page 1001]
Because of much publicity in the Bangkok press regarding Sarit’s alleged intention of asking for more aid to help Thailand out of its present budgetary difficulties, his reputation is involved in this matter to a considerable extent. It will be necessary to handle him most tactfully if his trip—so far successful in terms of his personal health— is not to lay the foundation for doubts and criticism regarding the U.S. which his leftist confidants undoubtedly wish to promote.
- Source: Department of State, Central Files, 792.5811/5–758. Confidential.↩