281. Information Memorandum From the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Green) to Secretary of State Rusk1


  • Reports of Abortive Coup Plot in Bangkok

On July 28, Prime Minister Thanom ordered a military and police alert, initially scheduled to be lifted at midnight, July 31 but subsequently extended “indefinitely.” On July 31, the Government asked Deputy Prime Minister Praphat Charusathien (then in Bonn) to return to Bangkok immediately. He arrived there August 3 (having originally planned to return August 9).

Events Resulting in the Alert

The alert seems to have been triggered by reports received July 27 from several junior officers that they had been approached by a young lieutenant colonel (reported now to be under arrest) and asked to join a coup against the Government. The indefinite extension of the alert and the decision to ask Deputy Prime Minister Praphat to return to Bangkok [Page 605] followed a report of an abortive plot to kidnap the Prime Minister as he left the American Ambassadorʼs residence after dinner on July 31.

Persons and Groups Reported to be Behind the Coup

Those Closely Tied With Sarit. Several reports indicate that the funds being passed and offered to junior officers come from the late Prime Ministerʼs wife, Thanpuying Vichitra Thanarat. There have also been reports that all commercial banks in Bangkok have been ordered to submit to the civil courts all records of the accounts of Sarit and his immediate relatives, which would have exposed many in high places as recipients of Saritʼs largess. This threat of exposure was said to have led those so threatened to support an attempted coup. (The names of Thanom and Praphat were not involved in the bank records, according to the reports.)
Disaffected Junior Officers. While a coup probably could not be mounted by these elements acting on their own, they could be used by other groups hostile to the Government.
Phibunites. Rites for the late Prime Minister Phibun Songkhram were held on July 30, and this fact was cited by some as a reason for the alert. Also two retired military officers prominent under Phibun have been named by various persons as being behind the plot. This may be a mere smokescreen for the first group listed, or there may have been at least an attempt to join forces against the Government.

Present Situation

Since his return to Bangkok General Praphat has conferred with Prime Minister Thanom. Praphat was reported to be relaxed and completely confident of the Governmentʼs ability to cope with the situation. Coup activity seems to have lost its momentum at least for the time being.


Assuming that the situation does stabilize now, the result will be a further great increase in General Praphatʼs already strong position in the Thai Government. The abortive plot may provide Praphat with a clear opportunity to remove potential rivals for power (Generals Krit Siwara, Chitti Nawisathien, possibly even Air Marshal Thawi Chulasap), although the degree of their involvement is far from clear at the moment. Or he might choose to curb further investigations into his rivalsʼ involvement with Sarit but use the threat of exposure to keep them in line.

We do not anticipate that Praphat will seek to unseat Thanom at this time. However, Thanom may be moved to step down more quickly than he had earlier planned because of this experience.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, POL 23–9 THAI. Secret. Drafted by Pickering. A note on the source text indicates that Rusk saw it.