97. Telegram From the Embassy in Burma to the Department of State1
669. For the Secretary. I hope you can find time to read mytel 6682 giving summary of my impressions after being in Burma approximately six months. You will find it pessimistic and yet I want you to know that I am not ready to write off Burma.
I did not wish to include in above reference telegram my belief that Ne Win is basically afraid of the US. From reports reaching me he seems to fear that we will do him in, possibly violently. Every rightist coup which the press associates us with increases his fear. The leftists in his Revolutionary Council feed this fear and he is of a nature to let this fear become an obsession. He doubled his guard on Kennedyʼs assassination thinking this might give ideas to his own enemies, [1 line of source text not declassified] one of his ex-comrades who had fled from Burma, in the … period expected to follow. His governmentʼs strange refusal to permit only one qualified pilot on the training team for their new F1C aircraft was later identified as connected with his fear that otherwise the aircraft could be flown with only US personnel aboard and it might be used to shoot him down.
It was reported to me that his impression of me as a person on our first and only interview was favorable. But he also said “whatʼs the use of dealing with him—he canʼt control Washington and CIA.” I have the feeling that he even thinks friendship with me might be dangerous in that it would soften him up for the kill by elements that he assumes I cannot control. He remembers all too well the publicity following Amb Keyesʼ resignation that he was not in the know about [3 lines of source text not declassified].
This situation is a real toughy. We certainly cannot afford to miss any opportunity here. Think I was able to make one breakthrough on a matter connected with our road project last week. This and the manner in which I hope our current problem (no Wash action now necessary) over fighter aircraft might make the General pause to ponder US intentions.
Had you not been on a SEATO mission I would have asked that you return from Manila via Rangoon for an assist. This might work to our [Page 235] advantage sometime in the future when you are on a trip and I shall watch your movements with this in mind. In Ne Winʼs present mood no one conference could accomplish the desired results, but it might give an opening to follow through on.
We are attempting to find ways of turning Ne Winʼs suspicious mind to the fact that his leftist personal [garble] may try to dump him when the course of the revolution has gone far enough. I think this is in fact a possibility. If he would start thinking in these terms he might come to us in a hurry.
A shock treatment approach to warn Ne Win that there are limits to which he can go and still expect US help in a crisis is tempting but until we can soften him up a bit I believe it too risky. In his present frame of mind I think we would conclude that he had already made the decision to engineer his downfall.
I wanted you to have these supplemental thoughts which I did not wish to have area distribution. Upper Burma is still just as beautiful as ever.