548. Report Prepared by the Operations Coordinating Board1


A. Objectives and General Policy Directives

Regional Objectives

1. To prevent the countries of Southeast Asia from passing into or becoming economically dependent upon the Communist bloc; to persuade them that their best interests lie in greater cooperation and stronger affiliations with the rest of the Free World; and to assist them to develop toward stable, free, representative governments with the will and ability to resist communism from within and without, and thereby to contribute to the strengthening of the Free World.

Present Application to Thailand

2. Substantial progress has been made in achieving the regional objectives described in paragraph 1. Thailand is committed to the Free World, and has demonstrated its will and ability to resist communism [Page 1119] in every form. Principal emphasis will now be placed on continuing to maintain Thailand as the hub of U.S. security efforts in Southeast Asia; encouraging the development of stable, representative political institutions; encouraging a strong, healthy Thai economy which will continue to maintain sound economic progress while at the same time being better able to support a military establishment appropriate to Thailand’s internal and external security role; lessening tensions between Thailand and neighboring free countries in order to improve their collective and individual resistance to Communist pressures and to create a more auspicious atmosphere for the development of regional cooperation.

General Guidance

3. We should foster the development of a Thai leadership able and willing to continue the alignment of Thailand with the United States and the free world community, politically united and popularly supported, responsive to the aspirations and ideals of the Thai people, and administratively stable and constructive. We should continue to utilize Thailand’s strategic position in Southeast Asia [1½ lines of source text not declassified] to thwart Communist efforts at infiltration and subversion in neighboring free countries, to the extent that such action is consistent with U.S. policies and programs in those countries. We should continue to provide military assistance to Thailand in order to support forces adequate (a) to maintain internal security, (b) to present limited initial resistance to external aggression, and (c) to make a modest contribution to collective defense of contiguous areas within the purview of SEATO, particularly Laos.

4. We should encourage and support efforts to lessen tensions between Thailand and her free Southeast Asian neighbors, such as Cambodia, and Vietnam, and to foster closer relations with other neighboring countries, such as Burma, Laos, the Federation of Malaya and the Philippines. Without either weakening Thailand’s position with regard to the free world or detracting from the specifically Asian character of Thai leadership, we should provide tactful and sympathetic support as appropriate for Thai efforts to promote increased regional collaboration among the free nations of Southeast Asia, with particular reference to such political associations, economic cooperation and joint military planning as will serve to draw these nations closer to the free world community.

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B. Operational Guidance

Political Leadership

5. The domestic political situation in Thailand is in a transitional phase, with the old constitutional and legislative machinery having been abolished and no date having been fixed for the completion of a new draft constitution and for the holding of parliamentary elections. In spite of a developing political consciousness among a people who were until recently largely apolitical, political power remains the monopoly of the military group which controls the government. Although factionalism exists within this group it has been successful in maintaining a considerable measure of stability and continuity of policy and has shown itself to be responsive to the aspirations and ideals of the Thai people. The leadership of the ruling military group supports the country’s monarchical institutions, which command general popular respect and allegiance.


6. To insure as far as possible that the present regime continues to follow policies which promote U.S. objectives we should continue to maintain the best possible relations with its leaders while at the same time taking care to preserve useful contacts with all significant Thai political groups, particularly with non-Communist political leaders not associated with the military group. We should promote the development of a Thai leadership which is increasingly united, stable and constructive, as well as responsive to the aspirations and ideals of the Thai people.

7. Working bilaterally, through the United Nations, with other Colombo Plan countries and with other friendly countries, we should make a special, sustained effort to help educate an expanding number of technically competent, pro-Western Thai leaders, both civilian and military. In this effort we should stress the importance of developing potential and secondary leadership to support the thin stratum of the elite now administering the government and likewise of taking advantage of modern techniques of administration, information and organization.

8. We should implement U.S. programs in such a way as to facilitate political evolution toward more democratic and parliamentary procedures without disturbing national stability. We should recognize the political and psychological significance of the Throne as an important factor in the national unity, political stability and pro-Western, anti-Communist orientation of Thailand.

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Collective Security and the Communist Threat

9. The chief determinant of Thai foreign policy is the Thai leadership’s assessment of the potential threat from the Chinese Communist regime. An integral part of this assessment is the extent to which Thailand feels it can continue to count on the U.S. as the chief counter-balance to the Sino-Soviet bloc in the effort to preserve its independence. Should the Thai leadership lose faith in either the intention or ability of the U.S. to perform this role, government policy might become marked by a neutralist trend and counter-subversive measures might be relaxed.

10. SEATO is regarded by most Thai leaders as a U.S. commitment to help defend their country against Communist aggression and has thus become an essential factor in the maintenance of U.S. influence in Thailand. The Thai are inclined to consider that U.S. support extends beyond a strict interpretation of the Treaty language. As a SEATO ally and a staunch supporter of collective defense measures with a long-standing anti-Communist policy, Thailand serves as the hub of our security efforts in Southeast Asia. The degree of Thailand’s association with us in these efforts contributes to its desire to obtain preferential treatment as compared to uncommitted neutral nations and thus to demonstrate to the Thai people that the neutrals do not enjoy both indirect protection and economic benefits greater than those who sacrifice to make collective security possible.


11. In order to help reassure the Thai of U.S. support against the most conspicuous threat to their independence, we should continue to confirm by action the determination of the U.S. to resist Chinese Communist expansion. Bearing in mind Thailand’s strategic position in Southeast Asia, its membership in SEATO and its close identification with the United States, we should continue to ensure that our aid programs take into account Thailand’s noteworthy contribution to free world collective defense measures and thus contribute to the achievement of our political objectives in Thailand.

12. It is U.S. policy to ensure a strong U.S. military position in the West Pacific area as clear evidence of U.S. capability and intent effectively to fulfill all of our treaty commitments in the Far East, and be determined and show our determination to use military power as may be necessary to protect our allies and friends from Communist aggression.

13. Should overt Communist aggression against Thailand occur we should invoke the UN Charter or the SEATO treaty, or both as applicable, and subject to a Thai request for assistance take necessary military and any other action to assist Thailand, provided that the [Page 1122] taking of military action shall be subject to prior Congressional action unless the emergency is deemed by the President to be so great that immediate action is necessary to save a vital interest of the U.S.

14. In case of an imminent or actual Communist attempt to seize control of Thailand from within, and assuming some manifest Thai desire for U.S. assistance, we should take immediate steps to strengthen U.S. support of non-Communist elements, encourage other free world nations to take similar action and take all feasible measures to thwart the attempt, including even military action after appropriate Congressional action.

15. We should provide military assistance to Thailand for support of forces sufficient (a) to maintain internal security; (b) to present limited initial resistance to external aggression; (c) to make a modest contribution to collective defense of contiguous SEATO areas. We should continue efforts to persuade Thai officials to eliminate non-MAP supported forces which do not contribute to the above objectives.2

16. While respecting the right and necessity for Thai leaders to determine their national policy, we should make every effort to demonstrate to them the advantages of continued active participation in collective defense measures and to increase Thai awareness of the dangers and methods of indigenous Communist insurrection, infiltration, propaganda and subversion. We should continue to conduct group briefings of the Thai and other SEATO ambassadors in Washington as appropriate and regularly brief the Council Representatives in Bangkok on matters of importance to the member governments, thus fostering the development of “SEATO consciousness” among member nations.

Regional Cooperation

17. Although relations between the countries of the region are not at present sufficiently harmonious to permit the degree of regional cooperation which would be in conformity with U.S. policies and objectives, the Thai Government is interested in developing such possibilities as do exist under present conditions and has taken an imaginative lead in fostering this concept among the free nations of South-east Asia. The absence of a colonial past and Thailand’s relative maturity in the conduct of its international relations have facilitated [Page 1123] the Thai approach to this problem. Inhibiting factors are historic conflicts, commercial competition and Thailand’s past territorial claims against its neighbors.


18. Recognizing the importance of cohesion among the nations friendly to the free world in Southeast Asia, the U.S. should continue to encourage the development of a favorable political situation in which Thailand and its neighbors would seek the good offices of appropriate third parties to help resolve disputes. We should continue to foster closer and more cooperative relations between Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries on a basis of mutual aid and support and give discreet encouragement to Thai leadership in the field of regional collaboration, while taking care to avoid either compromising its specifically Asian inspiration or weakening SEATO and the spirit of resistance to Communism. We should participate actively in SEATO, encourage the Thai to do likewise, and seek their support in developing both its military and non-military aspects in a manner that will convincingly demonstrate the value of SEATO as a regional association, the usefulness of which extends beyond deterrence of Communist expansion.

19. In order to promote increased cooperation in the area and to deny the Mekong River basin to Communist influence or domination we should continue to assist as feasible the development of the Mekong River basin as a nucleus for regional cooperation and mutual aid. We should encourage and support closer ties between Thailand and Laos and seek to sharpen Thai awareness of the danger of Thailand’s security presented by the Communist threat to Laos. We should encourage the Thai Government to continue its present attitude of sympathy and support for the Lao Government’s efforts to preserve the integrity and independence of Laos. We should likewise encourage the Thai Government whenever appropriate to try to reach a satisfactory compromise with Cambodia on border issues and other problems and, in the absence of such a compromise, to follow a policy of forbearance and tolerance towards Cambodia.

20. With respect to problems created by the Vietnamese refugees in Thailand, we should counsel the Thai Government to bear constantly in mind that the Chinese and Vietnamese Communists are the sole beneficiaries of friction between Thailand and Vietnam arising out of the Thai-DRV refugee repatriation program. We should encourage improved and more effective cooperation between Thailand and the Federation of Malaya in wiping out the remaining terrorists along the Thai-Malayan border. As appropriate we should discourage Thai contacts with representatives of Burmese dissidents and the abetting of resupply of Chinese Nationalist Irregular troops.

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Overseas Chinese

21. The overseas Chinese community in Thailand amounts to approximately one-seventh of the total population. In conformity with the Thai Government’s anti-Communist and pro-Western orientation the public attitude of the overseas Chinese toward Communist China continues to be marked by reserve or hostility whatever their actual sentiments may be. The leaders of the Chinese community are in general obedient to the Thai Government.


22. U.S. objectives with regard to the overseas Chinese community should be subordinated to and kept in harmony with U.S. objectives for Thailand as a whole. Within the limits imposed by this basic policy we should continue activities designed to encourage the overseas Chinese (a) to organize and activate anti-Communist groups and activities within their own community; (b) to resist the effects of parallel groups and activities susceptible to leftist influences; (c) generally to increase their sense of identity with Thailand and their orientation towards the free world; and (d) consistent with their primary allegiance to Thailand to extend sympathy and support to the Government of the Republic of China.

Contacts with Buddhist Groups

23. The promotion of increased contacts between Buddhist groups in Thailand and free world religious leaders and movements poses certain problems with respect to adverse nationalist and religious reactions on the part of Thai Buddhists as well as to opposition from U.S. religious groups and Christian missionaries in Thailand.


24. While recognizing the general desirability of promoting increased contacts between Buddhist groups in Thailand and free world religious leaders and movements, we should ensure that U.S. agencies proceed with the utmost discretion in this sensitive field, emphasizing private activities and minimizing government participation, [2 lines of source text not declassified], (Ref. to OCB Operations Plan regarding Buddhist organizations in Burma, Cambodia, Ceylon, Laos and Thailand)3

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U.S. Economic Aid Programs

25. U.S. economic aid programs have performed an essential function in providing tangible evidence of U.S. interest in the continued economic and social progress of its SEATO ally. They have played an important part in assisting the Thai Government to maintain financial stability in spite of large defense expenditures. The Government’s major problem continues to center on the necessity of preserving an appropriate balance between their outlays for defense and internal security on the one hand, and a general desire for increased expenditures for economic and social development on the other.

26. The Thai economy continues to be heavily dependent upon the export of primary resources and is further handicapped by the shortage of skilled manpower, inadequate sources of power and energy, inefficient or outmoded administrative machinery, and limited capital formation and mobilization. Thailand’s strategic position in Southeast Asia, its membership in SEATO, and its close identification with the United States not only make it an important Communist objective but also underscore the importance of the American aid required to thwart realization of that objective.

27. Thai awareness of the significance of these factors is illustrated by the unfavorable comparisons which Thai leaders frequently draw between our treatment of our committed allies and that we accord to uncommitted neutrals. The extent to which our assistance programs help meet deficiencies in development expenditures and some of the most pressing development requirements contributes directly to the achievement of our political objectives in Thailand.


28. In order to strengthen the over-all effectiveness of the Thai Government and to forestall any possibility of Thai economic dependence upon the Communist bloc we should continue to provide flexible economic and technical assistance as necessary in order to attain U.S. political objectives. We should continue to review and improve basic planning of the composition and direction of U.S. aid programs and should take steps to increase the effectiveness of program operations. We should encourage United Nations agencies, other Colombo Plan countries, and other friendly countries to contribute their resources to promote Thai economic development and to broaden the base of the Thai economy.

29. We should encourage Thailand to continue to orient its economy in the direction of the free world and to rely on non-Communist markets and sources of supply for trade, technicians, capital development, and atomic development. In carrying out programs involving disposal of U.S. rice surpluses abroad under Title I, PL 480, we should [Page 1126] give particular attention to the vulnerabilities of the Thai economy and the strong views of Thai leaders and avoid, to the maximum extent practicable, detracting from Thailand’s ability to market its exportable produce. We should give particular emphasis to the use of Thai resources to promote multilateral commercial trade and economic development and point out to Thai officials and businessmen the disadvantages of Communist barter arrangements.

U.S.-Thai Trade

30. With the increase of population, land cultivation, and industrialization, the purchasing power of the Thai people, although still small by Western standards, is steadily growing, and the market potential for capital and consumer goods is showing a gradual expansion. The Thai-Japanese trade is heavily imbalanced in favor of Japan. With Thailand, therefore, looking for supplies from third countries in an effort to decrease that imbalance, Western countries, including the United States, should have an opportunity to build up markets in Thailand.


31. We should endeavor to promote trade between the U.S. and Thailand by maximizing information services to American business on trade opportunities in Thailand, encouraging businessmen to make field trips to Thailand and to undertake market surveys, continuing to arrange for U.S. and Thai businessmen to get together to develop trade contracts, facilitating the introduction of U.S. technical advisors, contractors and equipment into Thailand, and encouraging the Thai Government to introduce a system of specifications and bids which would enable U.S. manufacturers to submit competitive bids. Serious consideration should be given to sending a Trade Mission in the near future as a part of the Department of Commerce Trade Mission program. The exchange of commercial exhibits, whether or not connected with fairs, should be encouraged and supported, where appropriate. The Thai Government should be encouraged to maintain an increasingly effective commercial staff in the United States.

U.S. Private Investment

32. The Thai Government seems keenly interested in promoting an improved climate for private foreign—and chiefly American—investment in Thailand but its efforts in this direction have been marked by a certain ambivalence and confusion of purpose. While professing support for such a policy, Thai leaders have simultaneously discouraged it by expanding governmental participation in industry and by slowness to remove or alleviate various obstacles which tend to make [Page 1127] private foreign investment unattractive. We have recently sent an investment team which has made an on-the-spot survey of the general investment situation and recommendations for improvement.


33. We should continue to encourage and assist the Thai Government to take steps to improve the climate for private investment, both domestic and foreign, and to promote the maximum investment of U.S. private capital in Thailand consistent with such improvement. In expressing U.S. views on this subject we should emphasize means of improving the provisions and administration of pertinent Thai legislation, raising the technical and managerial levels of efficiency, and assisting in the expansion of domestic capital formation. An increased effort should be made to bring investment opportunities and developments in Thailand to the attention of American businessmen. The expansion of facilities for tourism in Thailand should be marked for particular attention in pointing up prospects for U.S. private investment. An investment guide comparable to others prepared by the U.S. Department of Commerce, as recommended by the investment team to Thailand, should be prepared as soon as funds become available.

Overseas Internal Security Program

34. The troubled situation in neighboring Laos, the strained relations between Thailand and Cambodia, and the continued presence of Malayan terrorists in the relatively inaccessible jungle areas of the Thai-Malayan border make it important to seek ways to continue to improve the capacity of the Thai police and related security forces and further to capitalize on the substantial progress achieved in this field. The presence on Thai territory of a large Chinese minority and a considerable number of leftist-oriented Vietnamese refugees likewise contributes to the importance of this program.


35. We should continue to assist the Thai Government in training and equipping police and security forces capable of maintaining internal security and detecting and containing subversive activities. We should direct at least part of such training toward [1 line of source text not declassified] helping to increase popular support of those forces and minimizing discontent toward them. We should encourage Thailand to improve control of border crossing by subversives, particularly to and from Laos, and promote as feasible improved Thai liaison with appropriate police and security officials in all neighboring countries. We should particularly encourage Thai officials to improve cooperation with their Malayan counterparts in wiping out the surviving “hard [Page 1128] core” of Malayan terrorists along the Thai-Malayan border. We should encourage active Thai cooperation and coordination with SEATO in the field of counter-subversion. We should use every effort to have incorporated into Thai military and police training materials elements which will foster a spirit of resistance to subversion and aggression and faith in collective defense measures.

Information and Cultural Activities

36. U.S. informational, cultural and educational activities in Thailand are conducted against the background of difficulties of communication and lack of adequate media of expression common to most underdeveloped Asian countries. However, they are greatly facilitated by the cooperative attitude of the Thai Government and by the fact that the orientation of Thai government policy, both foreign and domestic, continues to be firmly anti-Communist and favorable to the free world.


37. We should continue to strengthen U.S. informational, cultural and educational activities, as appropriate, to expose Communist aims and techniques and to deepen the sense of community of interest and purpose which binds Thailand to the free world. We should encourage and, as feasible, unobtrusively assist the Thai Government to publicize the benefits of cooperating with the free world in general and specifically to give appropriate recognition to its use of American aid as evidence of American concern for Thailand’s welfare.

38. We should encourage greater Thai participation in developing SEATO activities in the cultural, educational, labor and information fields, with a view to obtaining wider dissemination through various media of materials exposing Communist subversion and publicizing the benefits of SEATO membership. We should foster more cultural exchanges between Thailand and other free Asian nations and encourage the Thai wherever appropriate to assume leadership and initiative in sponsoring such contacts.

39. We should continue to place special emphasis and priority in carrying out our programs on the importance of reaching second echelon potential leader elements, particularly among the younger ranks of the civil service, those whose position and sense of civic responsibility enable them to exert a significant influence on actions affecting the general welfare of the urban and rural masses, and those among the youth and intelligentsia who are politically active and influential in molding public opinion and attitudes.

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Attitudes Toward U.S. Personnel Overseas

40. The acceptance by the people and government of Thailand of the presence on their soil of official U.S. personnel directly affects our capability to achieve our national security objectives. To this end, programs should be developed and improved to encourage and strengthen the natural inclination of the individual American to be a good representative of his country and to promote conduct and attitudes conducive to good will and mutual understanding. In this connection, the OCB has developed two comprehensive documents which contain recommendations for action and serve as guidance for senior U.S. representatives overseas:

“United States Employees Overseas” (April 1958) and
“Report on U.S. Personnel Overseas” (July 1959), which also contains a reprint of the Conclusions and Recommendations of the 1958 report.4


41. Insure that U.S. official personnel and their dependents are aware of the importance to the United States of their role as personal ambassadors;

42. Develop and strengthen activities that promote good personal relations between foreign nationals and U.S. personnel;

43. Develop and strengthen activities aimed at maintaining respect for local laws and customs and a high standard of personal conduct by U.S. personnel; and

44. Hold the number of U.S. official personnel in Thailand to a strict minimum consistent with sound implementation of essential programs.

Note:NIE applicable to Thailand: NIE 62–58, Thailand, August 19, 1958.5

  1. Source: Department of State, OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430, Thailand. Secret. A prefatory statement indicates that this plan was approved by the OCB with the concurrence of all participating agencies “to assist in the integrated and effective implementation of national security policy assigned to the Board by the President for coordination.” Annex A, “Arrangements or Agreements with the U.S.,” Annex B, “Agency Program Summaries,” and a Financial Annex are not printed.

    Each department or agency involved undertook to send the entire plan or relevant portions to the appropriate representatives in the field. Copies were sent to the Embassy in Bangkok on June 3 under cover of a letter from Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Livingston T. Merchant to Leonard Unger. (Ibid., Central Files, 611.92/6–3060)

  2. Instruction A–99 to Bangkok, December 21, informed the Embassy of a change in the text of paragraph 15. The new text reads: “Continue to urge the Thai Government to improve the organization of the Thai Armed Forces, so as to make a maximum contribution to the above objectives.” (Ibid., 611.92/12–2160)
  3. Not printed. (Ibid., OCB Files: Lot 62 D 430, Buddhist Organizations)
  4. Neither printed. (Ibid., Overseas Personnel)
  5. See Document 495.