489. Letter From the Ambassador in Thailand (Johnson) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson)1

Dear Walter : Thank you so very much for your most helpful letter of May 28 giving me additional background on the Sarit talks.2

I have also today received your letter of June 4,3 suggesting that I have a conversation with Pote Sarasin, to include the material in the first paragraph of your letter of May 28.

I appreciate your suggestion and entirely concur. As a matter of fact, I have been keeping Pote generally informed and feel sure that he has been passing it along where he thought it would do the most good. I believe that he may well have indirectly been behind the most excellent statement Prince Wan made the other day deprecating the possibility of any increase in the aid level. There have also been several unattributed newspaper stories from ostensibly Foreign Office sources to the effect that the whole operation has been handled very badly on the Thai side. Thus I believe my talks with Pote have already borne some fruit, and that the Thais are now generally prepared for no substantial results from the Sarit talks. I, therefore, hope that adverse reactions will be minimized.

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I think it significant that though we both know people in Bangkok were instructed to get in touch with USOM and myself to obtain support, nobody has approached either USOM or myself since the talks started. There was a great blare of publicity about Sukit being charged to conduct negotiations with me and occasional implications that he is actively engaged in supporting with me Sarit’s negotiations in Washington. However, since his original brief call on me before the talks began to give me a mimeographed summary list of economic projects for which Sarit was going to ask, he has never since called or even raised the subject in any way. I have a definite feeling that he knew from the beginning the whole operation was poorly planned, that nothing could be expected of it, and he does not Want to identify himself with it any more than necessary.

When I mentioned Khoman’s attitude to Pote, he suggested that I tell Prince Wan. I am not sure that this is a good idea and have not yet done so. However, I am keeping it in mind to see what it might be wise to do. Incidentally, Pote told me the other day that there was a rumor in the government (I would not be surprised if it had been planted by Prince Wan) that one reason Sarit was not obtaining any aid was that the Thai Government was trying to reverse its previous decision not to assess income tax against the huge commissions paid Rips4 for his supposed role in getting the Thai gold back from Japan at the end of the war. (This is a long, complicated story which your Thai Desk people will know and which supposedly involves Prince Wan.) In any event, in accordance with Pote’s suggestion, I today tried to scotch the story by very privately telling the Prime Minister that we had no interest whatever in what they did or did not do with regard to Rips’ income tax. He seemed to appreciate this information.

I’ve told the Prime Minister that as soon as Sarit’s talks are finished I Want to have a good long talk with him on the whole subject of aid. My thought is to review with him what took place in Washington and to point out some of the decisions that will be required by the Thai Government if they wish to change present priorities on our aid projects. My intent is to leave the matter so that the initiative for any change must come from them. Incidentally, I was gratified when the Prime Minister told me today that he had distributed to all Cabinet Ministers the Thai translation of my June 3 American Association speech on aid. I tried in there to say in as easy a way as I could some of the things that I thought needed saying here.

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While I think it inevitable that Sarit will, temporarily at least, suffer some loss of prestige here when it becomes firmly known that there has been no substantial result from his talks, I’m not yet in a position to estimate how serious this may be. However, I doubt that it will materially affect his position as long as he has the guns. In any event, we will fully report on this when results become generally known here.

Again, with many thanks and with kindest regards.

Sincerely,

Alex
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 792.551/6–1158. Secret.
  2. Document 481.
  3. Not found.
  4. Serge Rips was a lawyer and economic consultant who had worked for the Thai Government in helping to negotiate the so-called yen settlement agreement with Japan, which involved questions relating to economic and financial transactions between Thailand and Japan during World War II.