431. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State 0

1242. Attorney General visit. I took Attorney General Feb 19 to meet with PriMin Sarit. There were also present Foreign Minister Thanat, Finance Minister Sunthorn, General Wallop, Director Armed Forces Intelligence School, and Sarit’s aides—Generals Chalermchai and Egasak. General Chitti, Chief of Staff of Army, joined group later. DCM Unger and Francis accompanied me.

In opening meeting Atty Gen told PriMin President Kennedy was anxious that he explain to Thailand’s leaders administration’s strong feelings for Thailand and its clear commitments to Thailand. He emphasized friendship between two countries, both involved in struggle with Communism, and hoped close working relations would continue.

After brief discussion on Laos (reported Embtel 1231),1 Atty Gen asked about problem of Communism within Thailand. PriMin stated this is serious problem although Communists have no real indigenous organization within country. Their activities in Thailand depend on reinforcement from abroad, principally Pathet Lao. Appeal is to poverty stricken and those ignorant of real nature Communism. Also noted some, but not much, activity by Communists in press.

Sarit stated Thai Govt efforts meet challenge Communists must therefore concentrate on improvement standards of living and removing illiteracy, especially in northeast. For this reason PriMin himself is chairman of northeast development committee through which a beginning is being made improve living situation population there. Success of these endeavors depends in part on timely receipt American aid, currently being discussed between RTG and USOM. If cooperation which has been under discussion with US officials is realized, RTG will be in position to meet danger.

Atty Gen referred to President Kennedy’s strong feeling that our ability to survive in struggle with Communism will depend on being able fight unconventional warfare. He described how President has formulated [Page 914] new policy in this field and instituted extensive guerrilla and counter guerrilla training. In response to his query about what RTG is doing in this, PriMin at first asked Generals Wallop and Chitti brief us in very general terms of Thai Govt intentions and programs in this field which was not very enlightening. Referring to current dangerous situation in Laos, Sarit then explained how he had recently ordered moving of Thai units to border areas adjoining Laos to help control growing threat Communist infiltration. He also referred to Thai personnel currently active in counter guerrilla warfare in Laos, in conjunction with or in cooperation with the US, and other special units such as the Rangers. The Atty Gen stressed the important role of the Border Police.2 General Chitti described the cooperation between this unit, the army and civil volunteer corps. Work in the psychological warfare field was also described.

After some further discussion of the need to develop unconventional war capability, Atty Gen concluded this discussion by referring once more to changes which President had ordered in US military and by offering some of newly trained experts to come to Thailand and help with similar work here. He stressed absolute necessity building up anti-guerrilla forces while there is still time; for at least next ten years military answer is not atomic bomb but counter guerrilla capability and it especially important that Thailand move forward.

The Atty Gen next inquired about Thai Govt efforts on social front and asked PriMin whether satisfied with progress to date. Sarit referred to preparation of various blueprints and plans for activities in educational, informational and other fields which are still at talking stage; important now start to move forward and get beyond planning stage. I reported briefly on last week’s trip to northeastern Thailand and identified small roads, water, health and education as the primary needs, together with knitting of villages together. There was agreement on all sides that as soon as possible actions must be begun to take place of planning. Atty Gen said President Kennedy feels strong need to move ahead these days recognizing some mistakes may be made but forward progress is essential.

Atty Gen emphasized need for cooperation among Southeast Asian countries3 and noted present US administration impressed with determination and fighting spirit of Thailand, as result of which we can work well together. He added same spirit prevails South Vietnam where US is [Page 915] determined that we will win in struggle against Communism. Both he and PriMin agreed free world must go on political offensive and use the truth as the principal weapon in demonstrating that the free and democratic system is revolutionary idea and a forward move in history and that Communism is a backward step.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 033.1100–KE/2–2062. Secret. Repeated to CINCPAC POLAD, priority to Rome, and to Saigon and Vientiane.
  2. In telegram 1231, February 19, Young reported that, at his suggestion, Robert Kennedy took the initiative on Laos and and made an effective, succinct statement based on telegram 929 to Bangkok, February 16 (see footnote 1, Document 430). Sarit responded that while Thailand did not completely agree with U.S. views, it would nonetheless adjust its policy accordingly. Should neutralization of Laos under Souvanna Phouma fail, however, Sarit expected close U.S.-Thai consultation in examining other policies. (Ibid., 033.1100-KE/2–1962)
  3. In telegram 1232, February 19, Young added a postscript to the Kennedy-Sarit conversation by reporting that Kennedy had asked about improving and expanding equipment for Border Police during his discussion with Sarit. When Kennedy learned that an agreement to this end had been signed a month ago, he said he would cable Washington and ask that the project be expedited. (Ibid.)
  4. Kennedy had called on SEATO Secretary General Pote Sarasin in the afternoon of February 19; see Document 21.