477. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Thailand1

2854. Robertson saw Sarit one hour and half May 16. Ambassador, Sarit’s aide, Palmer, Kocher present.

In discussing Thai political situation Sarit mentioned two groups which undermine Thai stability: Thai who have taken refuge outside country (including Pridi) and persons of alien origin in Thailand. First group’s followers in Thailand show by attacks on Government especially its foreign policy that they Communist mouthpieces. Second group said to include three to four million Chinese “quite a few owing allegiance to Peiping.” (In connection difficulty preventing infiltration aliens across long Thai river border, Sarit thinks proposed census would help maintain controls.) He asserted Thai people have no alternative but to look either toward free world or to Communists.

Robertson pointed out question not one favoring free world but of protecting Thai people’s independence, citing examples of Communist deeds as compared to promises. In response to Robertson query re efforts Government make clear to people what would happen to them under Communist control, Sarit said Government tries its best with [Page 1004] limited means to explain. He believes dissemination detailed information to public re Communists may backfire and mentioned that some Thai allege Government suspicious of people.

Expressing concern re line taken by Thai press Robertson quoted from Sarn Seri and Thai Raiwan. (Embtel 3099)2 Said he understood how Thai might be led astray by repeated assertions of prominent Thai newspapers, which not countered, alleging purpose US aid is exploitation Thai. Relating this comment to Sarit memorandum re countersubversion he pointed out this tends vitiate purpose US aid programs as well as Sarit’s own intention counter subversion in Thailand.

Sarit indicated he expected question these newspapers to arise because many people erroneously believe he controls mentioned newspapers. He asserted they are self-supporting and independent of his control. In general his explanation was that newspapers in undeveloped country attempt create sensation in order maximize circulation, and follow inconsistent editorial policy. Responding to query from Robertson he said newspapers sell better if they blast Government and its allies than if criticize Communists. He claims he and colleagues deplore situation and will do all short of force to curb press or persuade it adopt more sensible attitude. Referring to need to counter falsehoods and distortions in news media, Robertson pointed out that even in developed countries responsible leaders take every means of getting facts before people.

Sarit agreed with alacrity to proposed ceremony for cobalt equipment. Details of presentation to be arranged later. Ambassador emphasized need for explaining to Thai people medical benefits arising from equipment.

Robertson praised Thai stand in Korea and SEATO which widely known in US and thanked Sarit for suggestions. Added frank exchange of views was only way achieve results. Sarit said if US trusts him he will act sincerely and give best advice possible promote closer friendship between Thai and American people.

In closing Robertson stressed Communists’ talk re peaceful coexistence means no change their objectives. They hope to disarm free world so that they can take over. He re-emphasized importance of preventing Communists from doing by subversion what they are unable to do by force.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 792.551/5–1759. Confidential. Drafted by Bushner, cleared by Kocher, and initialed by Robertson. Repeated to CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. See footnote 4, Document 472.