497. Memorandum From the Director of the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (Cumming) to the Acting Secretary of State1


  • Intelligence Note: “Revolutionary Council” Assumption of Power in Thailand

The formation of a “Revolutionary Council” in Thailand announced today does not represent a coup d’etat. Although the Council has declared martial law, abrogated the constitution, and dissolved the National Assembly, the arrangement, in fact, is an orderly attempt by the present ruling group to solidify its position. This action was taken with the support of the government of Prime Minister Thanom Kittikachorn, which has resigned. There have been no known changes in the military or police hierarchy, and the “Revolutionary Council” has pledged its support to the King. Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, who has been in control since he ousted former Prime Minister Phibun by a coup d’etat in September 1957, heads the “Revolutionary Council” consisting of leaders of the armed forces and civilians as yet unidentified. The publicly stated reason for the seizure was the “increased pressures from external and internal tensions, especially from strong Communist threats.”

The actions of the “Revolutionary Council” were motivated primarily by the desire to strengthen control over the government, and possibly to forestall the outbreak of a struggle for power stemming from increased factionalism within the present ruling group. It is likely that the new constitution will be drafted so as to permit the ruling group to exert a more direct control, and that either Thanom or Sarit will form a new government excluding leftists and other undisciplined elements.

Political tensions, chronic to Thailand, recently have become more serious than at any time since September 1957. The ruling group has been unable to exert adequate discipline over the disparate civilian elements who made up the government bloc in the National Assembly and to maintain a satisfactory degree of internal unity. The solidification of ruling group power will result in a diminution of the influence of elements within the government coalition which Sarit has had difficulty in controlling and will ease the way for constitutional change. Moreover, the “Revolutionary Council” action should serve to [Page 1046] forestall any plans Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Praphat Charusathien may have had to seize leadership of the ruling group from Sarit.

Thai leaders also have become concerned over the dangers of Communist subversion, especially since Cambodia’s recognition of Communist China last July. The resignation of the Thanom government will provide the ruling group with the opportunity to form a new cabinet without leftist representation and to institute more vigorous anti-Communist measures, particularly against elements of the press. While censorship has not been imposed, the Council has announced that support for “harmful ideologies” will bring a crackdown.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 792.00/10–2058. Secret.