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

Dear Jeff: I refer to your telegram 1941 of January 30,2 repeated to Vientiane as 14, concerning Sarit’s relations with Phoumi, as well as to a letter of January 27, from Horace to me,3 transmitting further information in this regard.

As you know, I thoroughly agree that it would be most unhelpful for Thailand to be working at cross purposes with ourselves in Laos and I have tried to do what I can to minimize this possibility. As reported in my telegram 1787,4 I talked directly to Sarit with regard to the matter and in reply received nothing but full assurances of complete Thai agreement with us. However, Horace’s letter, as well as other reports we have had, tended to confirm our suspicions with respect to Sarit’s relations with Phoumi. The letter arrived very opportunely [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. Against the additional background of the information contained in HORACE’s letter, we were able to let Sarit know that his relations with and support of Phoumi were becoming fairly widely known and matters of common gossip. While he did not admit to such relations, he did not flatly deny them and I hope that our additional statements to him will have an additional restraining effect. We will continue to take advantage of all opportunities to work in this direction but I believe that we should frankly recognize the probable limitations of what we will be able to do.

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As you know, JEFF, there are potentially severe strains in our own relationships with Sarit; we are presently asking of him some additional very substantial things and we can expect increasing dissatisfaction on his part with respect to the aid program, DLF, etc. We are not, therefore, in a good position to attempt to turn the screws too tight on the Phoumi matter and I would be reluctant to do so unless it appears to be of clearly overriding importance and priority. As things seem to be developing in Laos, this does not, at least yet, appear to be the case.

In dealing with Sarit on this matter, we must recognize that, whatever we may think of it, Sarit will continue to regard himself as not only the actual but also the political Uncle and patron of Phoumi. There is a long-time close personal relationship there which he is going to maintain regardless of what anyone may think. On the basis of his success in Thailand, as well as the action of Ne Win in Burma and Ayub in Pakistan, Sarit is philosophically fully convinced that he has found the answer to problems of similarly situated countries and that the lessons are especially applicable to Laos which is even less developed than any of these other countries. No amount of argument on our part is going to change his views in this regard. However, he will be restrained in what he does to encourage Phoumi by his estimate of Phoumi’s limitations and his fear of being “found out” particularly by “the UN”. I therefore believe that our relations with him on the subject must continue to be based upon this fact.

As I see the present situation, Phoumi and the RLG have, in spite of the success of their “coup” accepted the reimposition of civilian government and it does not appear that they intend to challenge it for the time being. They are also accepting elections. I think it entirely unrealistic to expect Sarit to advise Phoumi to go beyond this and keep the army out of politics. To do so would be completely contrary to everything in which Sarit believes.

Therefore, the only course I see open to us is to continue to keep the best track we can of what Sarit is doing, exploiting whatever opportunities may present themselves to caution restraint.5


  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/2–260. Top Secret; Official–Informal.
  2. Telegram 1941 reads as follows: “No doubt you too have noticed various indications Sarit may be fiddling with Lao situation through Phoumi. This could be most unhelpful and we would welcome your continuing attention and any suggestions.” (ibid., 751J.00/1–3060)
  3. The January 27 letter transmitted the text of telegram 2030 from Vientiane, January 16, which Smith pouched to Johnson in Bangkok. (ibid., 751J.00/1–1660) The covering letter has not been found, but it is quoted extensively in Document 329.
  4. Dated January 5. (Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/1–560)
  5. In an official–informal letter of February 25, Parsons agreed with Johnson’s view of the PhoumiSarit relationship. (ibid., 751J.00/2–260; included in the microfiche supplement)