271. Memorandum From the Deputy Director, Far East Region (Loftus) to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs (McNaugton)1



  • Thailand

In view of the seriousness of the situation in Vietnam and recent Communist gains in Laos which have combined to heighten apprehension among our Asian allies regarding our willingness to take effective countermeasures, I believe that some urgent thought should be given to improving Thai capabilities and bolstering their resolve to stick with us in the days ahead. I do not suggest that a few million dollars added to the MAP will do the trick. On the other hand, when the Thais learn that the FYʼ64 level is some $30 million less than the last two years, they are bound to react rather strongly. This would be most unfortunate at this juncture, and I think we should be prepared to advance a series of proposals designed to reassure the Thais of our continued interest in their security.

The attached paper was prepared with these thoughts in mind. I believe that you will find it useful in discussions in Hawaii regarding Thailandʼs role in the present crisis.2

S.A. Loftus, Jr. 3



Recent reports from our Embassy in Bangkok warn of growing Thai apprehension over their vulnerability to attack by regular Viet Minh or [Page 585] ChiCom units and their close alignment with the U.S.5 An irresolute or weakened Thailand would add unreasonably to our problems in South-east Asia. Moreover, recent developments in Laos and Vietnam clearly call for bringing Thai conventional forces up to combat strength and for other measures needed to give key Thai leaders cause to value rather than doubt their commitment to the West.

Irrespective of whether we deploy troops to Thailand again, the Thai Army of some 80,000 men is an important element in the balance of power equation in the area. By Asian standards it is well armed, led, and trained. Many of its officers and non-coms experienced combat in Korea. Thai forces could provide an effective counterweight to Viet Minh cadres or regulars operating in Laos or possibly even Vietnam, if brought up to strength and properly supported.

In the past, the Thai Army has concentrated on conventional ground defense tactics, although recently some attention has been given to counterinsurgency. The chief weaknesses of the Thai forces are insufficient combined arms and field training of units larger than battalion and lack of an effective logistics system to support sustained combat operations of a conventional type. However, at present, they are given the capability of conducting regimental and battalion sized delaying actions along the Mekong and in the north against ChiCom or Viet Minh attacks, assuming appropriate U.S. logistical support.

The present Thai defense budget, of some $82 million, which is about 2.5% of GNP, supports a total of 120,000 men. However, it does not provide adequate allowances for field training, for civic action programs, or for recruits needed to bring regular units up to combat strength.

In order to enhance their military capabilities and to minimize chances of their deserting the Western camp—either from fear of being abandoned first or from a simple calculation of opposing military strength, urgent consideration should be given to the following specific actions:

Inform the Thais of our willingness to suspend all further MAP transfers, chiefly POL, for the duration of the crises in SEA—some $1.2 million is scheduled to be transferred in FY65. The Thai reaction to our deletion of these so-called commercial consumables from the MAP was extremely bitter and not yet dissipated.
Indicate willingness to negotiate a new MAP package covering the next several years—this should include equipment and training to cover those deficiencies most relevant to improving the capability of Thai forces to defend the border areas or to intervene in Laos, if required. It should also contain specific increments of force maintenance, such as construction or consumables, necessary to induce the Thais to train, man, and deploy their forces more effectively, e.g., agreeing to assume responsibility for providing POL and/or providing additional funds for construction in certain exposed areas, if the Thais provide sufficient funds to bring their regular units up to strength, for field exercises (per diem) and better maintenance of U.S. equipment. Such an agreement would go far to dispel Thai suspicion regarding the firmness of our commitments to their security and provide them with a more reliable basis for their own budgetary planning over the next several years.
We might also propose to deploy on a “permanent” basis one or more battalion combat teams plus stocking additional war materiel should the Thais insist that the situation calls for such additional commitments, an.
AID should accelerate and augment its plans for improving the Border Patrol and other paramilitary forces, such as the Police Aerial Reinforcement Unit (PARU) and the Provincial Police.

These steps in themselves may not be sufficient to induce the Thais to take whatever measures our mutual interests may require to save the rest of Southeast Asia from Communist domination, but they do represent certain minimum measures which might be taken now as evidence of our willingness to act in the face of clear and present danger to the vital interests of our allies.

Additional MAP funds required to fulfill these agreements could be obtained from either larger transfers from AID accounts in FY64–65 or deviations from other programs judged less urgent—as we have done for Vietnam and Laos over the past several years.

In any event, it is not too soon to prepare a “second line of defense” in Asia in the event of a complete collapse of the Neutralists and FAR in Laos and/or a Communist victory in South Vietnam. The Thais and Filipinos may be constrained to accommodate to a new balance-of-power in SEA, but, at a minimum, can be counted on to defend their own independence with whatever means are available.6

  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 68 A 306, Thailand 000.1—091.3. Secret.
  2. The discussions in Hawaii were held at the Honolulu meeting attended by 55 participants, including the Presidentʼs principal foreign policy advisers, June 1–2. Most of the discussion concerned Vietnam. Accounts are printed in Foreign Relations, 1964–1968, vol. I, Documents 187189. Some limited discussion on Thailand was in the context of Laos, see ibid., vol. XXVIII, Document 69. See also Document 273.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  4. Drafted by Loftus on May 28.
  5. In telegram 2014 from Bangkok, May 25, the Embassy stated that “events propelling Thai toward massive reexamination value their commitment to West.” The Embassy believed that the Thai would still honor their undertaking, but minimal U.S. response to the threat from Laos was “almost visibly eroding confidence.” (Department of State, Central Files, POL 27 LAOS)
  6. Three tabs: A. Current MAP Situation and Deliveries, B. Commercial Consumables, and C. Basic Data—Thailand were not found attached.