268. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State1

1864. Deptel 1947.2

In intermittent dialogue with Thai over past eight months dealing with recurrent crises in Laos, Thai leaders have consistently expressed strong reservations on value redeploying US troops to Thailand merely as isolated deterrent measure. (Embʼs A–285, Sep 25, 1963 and Embtel 1366.)3 In March Dawee explicitly turned down proposal increase F–100 unit as lacking any practical effect (Embtel 1462).4 Moreover when on that occasion I sought to draw Dawee out on general subject of troop deployment, he reiterated attitude displayed earlier by Sarit to Dep Under Secretary Johnson, namely objection to deployment in absence other firm measures against Communists.
I have no reason to believe Thai have changed their minds. They do not consider deployment US combat troops to Thailand per se represents effective deterrent to Pathet Lao/Viet Minh nibbling tactics Laos. They harbor deep suspicion that in absence such clear effect US either could be using Thailand for strategic purposes to which Thai not privy or, even worse, that we have not made up our minds on degree of involvement required and that this is merely stop-gap thrashing around until we have reached decision.
This leads to belief Thai remain skeptical over significance of troop deployment as committing US. They are impressed by fact that in providing facilities for such deployment Thailand equally committed and more permanently. In end analysis US could always revoke its commitment by pulling out, whereas Thailand would be left in place holding the bag with much less freedom to shift gears.
On other hand, I am convinced Thai ready and willing cooperate fully with us in measures which they believe have firm purpose, and which would in fact [stand] good chance of stopping Communist advance [Page 578] in Southeast Asia. From comments made to me over past two months by Thai leaders including Dawee and Thanat, it clear Thai prepared welcome, and possibly even participate in, retaliatory actions against Communists in North Vietnam and Communist-held parts of Laos. Moreover, Thai clearly recognize that decision take such step requires concomitant decision deal with any likely Communist reaction. In such event, I believe Thai would welcome, if not urge, combat deployment to Thailand as deterrent to massive Communist reaction and as signal we mean business or for purpose of supporting direct intervention in Laos. Thai would however insist on clarity of our objectives, and would be opposed if it appeared that only effect of deployment would be to restrict neutralist/right wing reaction to PL/VM violations of Geneva Agreement.
Troop deployment here would have ready Thai concurrence only if RTG convinced it part of larger effective operation to stop Communists. Deep-seated Thai doubt US really prepared grasp nettle and undertake such operation probably strengthened by absence so far for direct retaliation for continuing flagrant violations Geneva Agreement by PL/VM, for growing loss US lives South Vietnam and for such specific attacks on US as blasting of card in Saigon.
In summary, my estimate is that Thai reaction to proposal for deployment merely as isolated deterrent measure would be negative and that they could be forced to cooperate only with application of enormous pressure. However, if it clear to them deployment result of firm US decision halt Communists now and part of operation convincingly designed achieve this objective, Thai would cooperate willingly.
Wish invite Dept attention to Embtel 1366 which attempts flag numerous important aspects of troop deployment requiring advance consideration.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, DEF 6 US. Top Secret; Immediate; Exdis. Repeated to Vientiane and CINCPAC for POLAD. Passed to the White House.
  2. In telegram 1947, May 4, the Department asked for the Embassyʼs best estimate, without consulting the Thai Government, of Thai reaction to the introduction of U.S. ground and/or air forces during the next week to 10 days. The Department stated that there was “no present intention to do this” but it was “conceivable that developments in Laos would make such action desirable as deterrent to Communist effort take advantage of military situation.” The Department suggested it might consider introduction on the scale of 1962, or perhaps only half that size, or even just tactical air units. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 1366, dated February 22. (Ibid., POL 27 LAOS) Airgram A–285 is ibid., POL 1–2 THAI.
  4. Dated March 5. (Ibid. POL 1 THAI)