Bangkok, February 26, 1962.
- Comments by Prime Minister Sarit
- On 22 February 1962 Prime Minister Sarit, after his discussions with Attorney General Robert Kennedy,1 called [1 line of source text not declassified] for an outspoken and frank discussion of the political situation in Thailand and contiguous areas. Sarit apparently desired, to amplify and express his views more forcefully than he chose to do with Ambassador Young and Attorney General Kennedy. During the course of the discussions Sarit was joined by General Suthi Suthisarn Ronakary, Deputy Commander in Chief of the Army; General Chitti Nawisathien, Minister of Defense; Lt. General Wallop Rochanawisut, Director of Joint Intelligence of the Army; and Major General Chalermchai Charuwat, aide to Sarit and Director of Tourism. All Thai participants expressed themselves outspokenly on SEATO, Laos, U.S. aid and other subjects and set forth the following points:
- SEATO—Sarit stated, “We are not threatening to get out of SEATO, we are getting out.” [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] countered every argument put forth by Sarit and Sarit then called in the generals named above to assist him in his attack on SEATO. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] reiterated U.S. policy concerning SEATO[Page 916]and made it clear to them that if the Thais pull out of SEATO they will be playing directly into the hands of the Communists whose aim is to destroy SEATO. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] believes his arguments made an impression, Sarit thanked [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] for his frankness and said that he was going to send Thanat to discuss SEATO with the U.S. Secretary of State and the President. He then ordered General Wallop to accompany Thanat.
- Laos—Sarit and his generals criticized the U.S. position in Laos, complained about sporadic aid to Laos, our foolishness for thinking that Souvanna could form a neutral government, our throwing money down the drain in Laos and other places in the area, and having a very tight purse string as concerns Thailand. They praised U.S. action in South Vietnam but stated that any military commander knows he must protect his flank. In this case, the South Vietnam flank (i.e., Laos) is not being protected but instead is being given over to the Communists who will continue to use it as a route into South Vietnam for their troops. Sarit and his generals claimed that a two-pronged attack is necessary—South Vietnam and up from Thailand into Laos—if Laos, South Vietnam and the whole area, including Thailand, are to be saved. They admitted that Phoumi was not the best soldier in the world but that he is anti-Communist and willing to fight on the side of the free world. However, he has not been given the proper support and assistance. Sarit and his generals maintained that the U.S. does not know how to help Asian people.
- Needless to say, the discussion was heated. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] did make one thing very clear, that it was the U.S. President’s decision that we should make a supreme effort to have a truly neutral Laos and that it was absolutely essential that the Sarit government give the present plans for the Souvanna government its wholehearted support. The U.S. did not want to put troops in Laos. [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] knew that the Thais did not want to do that either and therefore urged that all concerned try to make the planned Souvanna government work. Sarit had many things to say about this, all of which have been reported already either through Embassy [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] channels, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] told Sarit “not to be a fool”, that he was only hurting himself by his bullheadedness, that he should whip Phoumi into line. After much heated discussion on this matter, Sarit threw up his hands and said, “You win”, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] asked Sarit to tell Phoumi to stop being so stubborn and bullheaded [Page 917] and give the plan a try (conversation between Sarit and Phoumi on 22 February has been reported [document number not declassified].2Sarit again spoke of Souvanna, bringing up the usual points and then added, “And I had much of this confirmed to me by an American, Igor Oganesoff of the Wall Street Journal” (Apparently Oganesoff gave Sarit the results of an interview which has been reported by the Embassy in Vientiane.) [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] finally told Sarit that Sarit had no alternative but to go along with the Souvanna government. The only thing he would do by opposing it was to hurt himself and his government.
- U.S. Aid—Sarit repeated what he had said to Mr. Kennedy regarding aid. He said, “We are not begging for more aid, but what is promised should be expedited and should not be strung out as our military aid is now.” He mentioned specifically planes and tanks, delivery of which is now being spread out until 1964. He stated that, “This year we will only get two tanks.” General Chitti said that the Royal Thai Army is, in fact, a conventional army and since it will always be that it needs all the conventional military weapons immediately. Regarding guerrilla warfare, he stated, “We have sufficient forces now in the form of the Rangers and the police units. Wars are not won by guerrilla units, you have to have conventional forces.” [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] explained the important role of guerrilla warfare in this area, but was positive that this did not change the minds of Sarit and Chitti.
- Sarit stated that he was very happy to meet with Mr. Robert Kennedy but was sorry that the visit was so short, adding, “Mr. Kennedy has a fine, sharp mind and I would have liked to discuss matters with him at greater length. He is one of the most impressive visitors the U.S. has sent to Thailand but he did not stay long enough.” Sarit grumbled about the fact that he only spent 22 hours in Bangkok, while in Japan and Indonesia he spent many days.
- Sarit made his usual remarks about Cambodia, especially Prince Sihanouk, and about India.
- A complete report of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] meeting with Sarit has been made to Ambassador Young.2