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

172. Reference Bangkok’s 261 to Dept.2 From Parsons for Unger.

Messages arriving here late Sunday night3 indicate Phoumi’s first reaction on learning RLG resignation is to march on rebels in Vientiane, an operation which (1) cannot be mounted overnight (2) requires US or Thai airlift and other support and (3) would probably internationalize a situation which as yet is localized in Laos with neither free world nor bloc openly intervening. We gather that Sarit and Thai are tempted to draw conclusions on basis whether or not US acts at once to support Phoumi’s apparent decision to go it alone.
Such attitude on part Thai totally unwarranted and would lead me, at least, to conclude that they need be reminded stop and count ten. US has many times in past acted to counter Communist efforts take over Laos and to deter or defeat Communist direct or indirect aggression in FE. In present Laos situation my own view is that we should not intervene on behalf of Phoumi, who apparently refuses accept his Government’s decision and who therefore now may have little status (quite apart from question of loyalty of army to him when present situation becomes known). On other hand, in my view, US is as willing as always to take all feasible steps prevent Laos from falling to Communists. There is no indication this is going to happen overnight or that we can better forestall it by committing ourselves to Phoumi now rather than working with those in Vientiane who emerge from present chaotic situation. No matter who comes out on top we are still in position exert powerful influence unless we or Thai prematurely complicate situation by intervention on behalf individual whose plans and prospects problematical to say least despite his courage and ability.
It is impossible tonight to get you firm and detailed instructions but you should seek prevent Thai from taking rash steps in what I believe would be misguided effort pursue our common goal which is preservation Laos independence and integrity. Premature support of an individual who may be isolated politically could prejudice this and our common interest in SEA as whole.
You should have no trouble in letting Thai know we have not remained “aloof.” We (1) made contact with RLG in Luang Prabang soonest (2) offered airlift if they would say the word and (3) offered them a broadcast voice in form equipment now at Bangkok. It is in my view unfortunate that RLG decided take different course and resigned but neither Washington nor Bangkok is ideally situated to second guess RLG. Rather we should deal with situation as it now is and that, I repeat, does not mean hasty commitment to act in support of an individual whose plans, even with our help, offer at this stage only dubious prospects of success. We have high regard for Phoumi and his ability and if he does not make misstep now, his position and influence will be preserved for future when it may be needed even more.
Greatly appreciate your reporting and action present crisis.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 751J.00/8–1560. Secret; Niact. Drafted by Parsons and cleared with SEA. Repeated niact to Vientiane as 171 and to Saigon, Phnom Penh, and priority to CINCPAC for POLAD.
  2. Document 362.
  3. August 13.