47. Telegram From the Embassy in Burma to the Department of State0

774. James Barrington, Permanent Secretary, Burmese Foreign Office, conferred with Secretary Rusk at Embassy residence Bangkok, 7:00 to 8:00 P.M. March 29. Ambassadors Johnson and Snow also present.1

Barrington first presented to Secretary a copy of Prime Minister U Nu’s play “The Wages of Sin”, stating U Nu particularly hoped Secretary would find time to read it. Secretary replied he had heard of play and was very happy to have a copy.

Then Barrington took up KMT issue in some detail, beginning with brief historical review. In 1953–54, because KMT irregulars had allied themselves with Shan and Karen insurgents who were seriously threatening [Page 99] continued existence of Burmese Union, GUB had taken case to UN. As Secretary would recall, GUB also terminated USG’s technical assistance program in Burma as consequence of charges it felt compelled to make against US in that connection. Evacuation of KMT irregulars undertaken in 1954 had not been thorough enough to remove them all. Moreover, Formosa Regime had re-supplied the remainder and, in recent years, increased their numerical strength and combat effectiveness.

The action initiated in 1961 to remedy situation, including current evacuation program, had been going quite well so far, but GRC had now begun to announce that program would be terminated mid-April. This was causing considerable concern in Rangoon because according to Burma army sources a group of at least 500 irregulars, who had first retreated to Northern Thailand, had now returned to Burmese territory and were moving Westward toward or into Kayah State. Back in 1952–53, KMTs, in conjunction with KNDOs, had occupied Loikaw, Capital of Kayah State. Danger now was that this group and other KMTs might again join forces with KNDOs and cause serious further trouble. In 1953–54, although Burmese government had become aroused over KMT issue to point where US-Burmese relations had suffered, the Burmese public had not been nearly as inflamed as it was now.

Barrington had been instructed to ask Secretary for all possible USG assistance in insuring that KMT problem was completely eliminated this time. Something needed to be done about the 500 irregulars he had referred to, and it would also be very desirable for GRC to extend evacuation program until combined efforts could bring about removal greatest possible number of KMTs. Barrington went on to say that Burmese Parliamentary Leaders were beginning to assert in debates that SEATO Bases had been used in support of KMTs and would be again. Burmese public opinion was picking up this theme and hostility was mounting against SEATO, whereas previously no strong feeling in Burma about SEATO other than clear decision on part of GUB not to consider membership therein. Barrington thought there were upward of 3,000 KMTs left in Burma, possible 3,500. Johnson and Snow both questioned these figures as appearing too high.

The Secretary in reply first pointed out that there were no SEATO Bases as such; there were merely bases situated in SEATO countries. Barrington acknowledged that in talking about SEATO in this sense, Burmese really meant Thailand, but since Thailand was neighboring country, Burmese did not like to accuse Thais directly for fear of damaging friendly relations.

The Secretary said that upon assuming office in January, he had been dismayed to find KMT issue, with which he had been so familiar in early fifties and even during World War II when he had served in the area in [Page 100] command of KMT troops, had arisen again as major problem. As Barrington knew, firm representations had been made in Taipei and much accomplished already toward resolution of the problem. GRC gave every evidence of sincerely and efficiently cooperating. US Government would continue to help in every appropriate way but he wished to make it clear that US was not involved; in short, the problem was not “our baby.” He had personally gone to considerable lengths since January to ascertain whether any branch of US Government, even at middle or lower levels, had been involved in or had even connived at KMT re-supply and build-up. He had found no evidence of any such thing. He realized that any country such as Burma had sensitivities but he thought GUB should appreciate that United States also had its sensitivities. President Kennedy, as his letter to Prime Minister U Nu must surely have revealed, had special interest in US relations with Burma. The President also had strong feelings and opinions on certain subjects. He had strong feeling with regard to US prestige and respect for our good faith and would not be prepared to have them put in question by anybody. There was, for example, the case of Lumumba’s death; USG had had no part whatsoever in his death and yet when certain people “pushed the button,” demonstrations occurred simultaneously against American Embassies in forty different countries. There had also been the mob action against our Embassy in Rangoon. We were not prepared to accept such actions with equanimity. Riots inspired or abetted by Governments against our Embassies were something we were “not having” and we looked to governments to take the proper steps to prevent them.

Barrington, after taking rather confused exception to implication that February 21 riot against Embassy Rangoon had been government-inspired (Note: It was in fact inspired by anti-US propaganda fed to press by Burma Army), sought to defend role of Rangoon police on that occasion, although he acknowledged police had not handled situation February 21 as well as they might have. Prime Minister had been out of town; other cabinet ministers had been indecisive; police had hesitated to start shooting; but two people were killed and fifty or more injured by police action.

After some further discussion about KMTs, the Secretary outlined briefly the current US position on Laos. The Russians had not yet replied to British proposal that cease-fire be agreed upon, to be followed by reactivation of ICC and convoking of 14-nation conference. British proposal, supported by USG, represented clear test of Communist intentions. If Communist countries persisted in their military and subversive efforts, “there would be trouble in Laos.” The Secretary believed that neither Burma nor other comparable nations wanted to see Laos go Communist.

Barrington agreed Burma did not want Communists to take over Laos. He supposed Russian hesitation in responding to British proposal [Page 101] had been occasioned by ChiCom objection to having an Indian again serve as Chairman of ICC in view of present tension in ChiCom-Indian relations. The Secretary said that since Burma realized the threat which Communism represented for Laos, GUB could play a most important part in the 14-Nation conference deliberations when the time came.

The Secretary asked Barrington if all other aspects of US-Burmese bilateral relationship were in reasonably good order. Barrington indicated he believed they were. The Secretary told Barrington that although American Ambassador in Rangoon was always available, he, himself, had retained his genuine interest in Burma and would be willing to hear personally from Barrington or other Burmese officials if they wished to bring some particular point to his attention in that way.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 690B.93/3–3161. Confidential; Priority. Repeated to Bangkok, Taipei, and CINCPAC.
  2. Rusk was in Bangkok attending the SEATO Council meeting March 27–29.