266. Letter From the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Hilsman) to the Ambassador to Thailand (Martin)1

Dear Graham:

As you can readily imagine, the coup rumors emanating from Thailand recently have us all feeling a bit uneasy. Given the situation in the [Page 574] rest of Southeast Asia, a coup dʼetat in Thailand at this time “is all we need”. Quite seriously, we are concerned about the impact on American public opinion of such an event, which would undermine the present faith in Thailand as the only stable country in the area, thus adding to the growing feeling of pessimism about the future of Southeast Asia and our ability to influence favorably the course of events there. Thai stock is exceptionally high here at present as a result of their role in the Malaysian dispute, the relative restraint they have shown in the Cambodian dispute, and the smooth transfer of power to Thanom and Thanomʼs good beginning.

I know that the Mission is doing everything it can to keep us informed of the situation and to counsel moderation on the various key figures at every appropriate opportunity. I hope that the JUSMAG officers in particular are providing all possible information on the attitudes and activities of key individuals in the military services. The Department of Defense through the Defense Intelligence Agency has levied on the Attaches a requirement for continuous and thorough reporting on the coup situation. Although their reports on this subject have been frequent, it was considered desirable that this requirement be levied formally because making it formal enables the Attaches to request JUSMAG assistance in accordance with JCS memorandum 947–592 (subject to the primary mission of JUSMAG). This will enable the Attaches to draw on the excellent existing contacts that the JUSMAG officers have with their counterparts in the Thai Military Services. Naturally this should be done in close cooperation [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] most importantly of all, under your guidance.

Do you have any suggestions as to things which we might appropriately do to introduce greater stability into the situation? We are restrained from making proposals along this line for obvious reasons. We are most reluctant to see the United States become identified with any faction in Thailand, much preferring the present happy state in which all serious contenders for power are quite friendly to us. Secondly, we are not at all confident that we could exercise effective influence on the situation. This latter feeling is strengthened by persistent doubts as to Thanomʼs ability to maintain himself atop this heap regardless of anything we might do. If he lacks the acumen necessary to political survival in Thailand, we most certainly do not wish to put our prestige behind an effort to maintain him in office. On the other hand, if he has it, presumably our intervention is not required.

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I know you will give us any suggestions you may have. Meanwhile, we will watch for every opportunity to express support for the Government of Thailand.

Sincerely yours,

Roger Hilsman 3
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 THAI. Secret; Official-Informal. Drafted by Pickering on February 28.
  2. Not found.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.