476. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, May 14, 19581


  • United States Policies Toward Thailand and the Far East


  • The Honorable the Secretary of State
  • Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of Thailand
  • His Excellency Thanat Khoman, Ambassador of Thailand
  • Mr. Walter S. Robertson, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs
  • Mr. Eric Kocher, Director, Office of Southeast Asian Affairs
  • Mr. Rolland H. Bushner, Officer-in-Charge, Thai Affairs

After acknowledging the Secretary’s expression of pleasure at the restoration of Sarit’s health, Sarit affirmed that Thailand would always be a friend of the United States. In accepting this assurance, the Secretary welcomed this opportunity for talks. He added that Assistant Secretary Robertson and Deputy Under Secretary Dillon will study the three memoranda which Sarit had presented on behalf of the Thai Government regarding countersubversion, and United States economic and military aid programs to Thailand.2

Mentioning the limited funds Congress provides for programs to fight Communism abroad,3 the Secretary indicated a likelihood that appropriations for this purpose would be considerably less than requested this year. He stated that we ration these funds on the basis of the best judgments we can make in the light of the world situation. In [Page 1002] this connection he explained that the United States gives substantial aid to India and some other neutrals because their loss to the Communists would be disaster for the United States and its allies including Thailand. We think the failure of the neutral nations to join in collective defense measures and to alert their peoples to the Communist threat is wrong, but it is important that we try to preserve their independence. Assistant Secretary Robertson noted that on a per capita basis, economic aid to Thailand, exclusive of more than $225 million military assistance, has amounted to over six times that given India.

The Secretary indicated that the purpose of his remarks was to make United States policy clear, not to pre-judge Field Marshal Sarit’s memoranda which will receive thorough consideration. He also recognized that the Chinese Communists constitute a real problem for Thailand. He took the occasion to state that he can see no prospect of a change in United States policy of opposing the recognition of Communist China or its seating in the United Nations. He commented that the President, when asked recently what the United States would do if the Chinese Communists were seated in the United Nations, remarked that first, the United Nations would be asked to leave the United States; and second, the United States would leave the United Nations.

Acknowledging the difficulties of the United States Government in obtaining sufficient appropriations, Field Marshal Sarit stated that it is his duty to emphasize the urgent problem arising from external and internal Communist pressures on Thailand. He stated that while the Thai Government and a majority of the Thai people appreciate United States aid, perhaps some criticism may arise because aid is not applied where it would benefit the people most. He indicated that he feels some readjustment in the programs is needed. He stated that United States aid would assist the stability not only of Thailand but of the whole region.

Recognizing Thailand’s important role in military strategy for the area, the Secretary referred to the importance of maintaining a strong military shield in Asia and mentioned mobile United States forces in the Far East. He observed that, while the military situation is much better than it was eight or ten years ago, at present the greatest danger is infiltration, such as has taken place to some extent in Laos and Indonesia. He expressed the hope that we can now persuade Lao leaders, who had underestimated the Communist danger and disregarded our warnings, to take a stronger position than before. He stated that, except in case of open military aggression, Communist pressures must be stopped by the vigilance of local governments and the dedication of their peoples to freedom.

[Page 1003]

The Secretary said that the Communists have their own troubles and noted unrest and distress in Communist China. Through control of all information media they give the outside world an impression of solidarity which is largely illusory.

Sarit asserted that most Thai, and especially the Thai Government, are fully aware of Communist dangers, and added that he was asked to make this clear to United States leaders. He stated that, while there are some leftist parties in Thailand which are attempting to undermine stability and Thailand’s close friendship with the Free World, he will not, so long as he has responsibility, allow the Communists to overrun his country.

The conversation concluded with the Secretary’s expression of gratification regarding these remarks.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.92/5–1458. Confidential. Drafted by Bushner on May 17.
  2. Copies of the memoranda on countersubversion and economic aid are in the briefing materials for the Sarit talks; Ibid., 792.5–MSP/5–1358; the text of the Thai memorandum on military aid is in telegram 031115Z from the Chief of JUSMAG in Thailand to the Secretary of State; Ibid., 792.5–MSP/5–358.
  3. See footnote 3, Document 490.