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

Dear Bill:

I received Roger Hilsmanʼs letter of March 2 too late to reply to before he left the Department.2 In that letter he voiced concern over the possibility that there might take place in Thailand a coup dʼetat, and over the impact which such an action would have on American public opinion.

Our analysis of coup possibilities is so well on the record that there is no need to analyze it here. I would only say in summary that shifting allegiances may, of course, trigger a coup at any time. But as we see the situation now, there appears to be none in the offing.

It is a very delicate matter for us, as Roger recognizes in his third paragraph. From the moment it became apparent that it was unlikely Sarit would survive, we took every opportunity to indirectly indicate our desire for a quiet and orderly transition. In the three-week interval between the death of President Kennedy and Sarit, we quietly drove home the lesson of our own smooth transition and our expectation that theirs would be equally so. All of this was done without stress and always with the concern that it not minimize our influence with any potential successor group. I think we have evidence that the message was clearly understood.

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Now in regard to Rogerʼs second paragraph, you are far more familiar than am I with the jurisdictional cross-currents within DOD. In addition, certain inter-departmental differences are inevitable. I am sure that in the discharge of your current responsibilities you will exert effort to keep these arguments from being exported. For example, this Washington action, putting great pressure on the Attaches and JUSMAG not to be scooped, had the potential of encouraging what we wished to avoid. Going around every hour on the hour asking “Whatʼs new on the coup” inevitably conveyed the impression that we expected one and might welcome one. It certainly conveyed no impression of confidence on our part in the stability of the Thanom regime.

I had instituted a rather tight coordinating control so that we might present a balanced and accurate evaluation of the endemic rumors. It is still in effect.

In summary, I completely and totally reject the idea that I needed any Washington action to permit two elements of my mission to work together. This was a matter wholly political in context and one of extreme delicacy and sensitivity. As long as I hold this position, I intend to continue to discharge my responsibilities as the Presidentʼs representative in Thailand. As such, the Attaches, the JUSMAG and CAS all belong to me and if a particular emphasis is desired, a brief message from you to me is all that is needed to achieve it.

It was good seeing you here. All the best,


  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 26 THAI. Secret; Official-Informal.
  2. Roger Hilsman resigned as Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs on March 15. William P. Bundy was appointed to replace him on March 16. For Hilsmanʼs March 2 letter, see Document 266.