214. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Thailand1

044847. Eyes Only for Ambassador. Ref: State 44787.2

Following is text of letter for immediate delivery by Ambassador to Foreign Minister:

“Mr. Foreign Minister:

“I refer to my letter of March 233 in response to yours of March 224 concerning the proposal that Thai infantry forces be dispatched to Laos to assist in the defense of Long Tieng. Meanwhile President Nixon has received a second letter from Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma5 urging this course of action and I assume that he has addressed a similar request to your Prime Minister.

“The President, after careful consideration, has decided to meet the request, it being understood that the Thai infantry forces involved will be a battalion of Thai troops, some 700 or 800 strong, now in Udorn.6 It [Page 740] is further understood that these forces will be moved as soon as possible to Long Tieng to assist in its defense and that the United States will provide material and logistic support for these Thai forces on generally the same basis and through the same channels as it does for the Sierra Romeo IX unit now at Long Tieng. I also want you to know that we are taking immediate steps to improve the effectiveness of our air operations in support of your forces.

“You will recall that in my letter of March 23 I said that perhaps the best move that could be made at this time would be for you to assemble a RCT at an advance base like Udorn and that it be trained and readied against the contingency of further moves the North Vietnamese may make. I still believe this would be a prudent course although one battalion will now be moved to Long Tieng.

“The President trusts that our two Governments and that of Laos will maintain the closest contacts and cooperative relationships in the defense of Long Tieng and the President is hopeful that these measures can help to hold this important position.

“Ambassador Unger will be in close touch with you in regard to any questions you may have or issues that may arise.7

“With warm regards, Henry A. Kissinger.”

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 19 THAI–LAOS. Secret; Immediate; Nodis. Drafted and cleared by Johnson and approved by Eliot and Kissinger. In a private letter on March 26 Kissinger informed Thanat that as a “one time exception and because of the need to initiate coordination and local action promptly,” he was responding to the Thai offer of troops through Ambassador Unger. (Text of special channel message to Thanat, March 26; enclosed in a memorandum from Haig to Karamessines, March 26; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 101, Vietnam Subject Files, Sensitive, Souvanna Phouma/Long Tieng)
  2. See footnote 6 below.
  3. See footnote 6, Document 209.
  4. See footnote 2, Document 207.
  5. Telegram 2130 from Vientiane, March 25, contained the text of a second letter, also dated March 25 to Nixon. In it Souvanna wrote: “Without any doubt the movement of Thai troops towards northern Thailand might, to a certain extent, aid us, but I fear that it would be too late to stop the enemy offensive which is becoming more and more powerful. In my opinion and that of my immediate advisers, our defensive base at Long Tieng is the key to the defense of all central Laos. If this base were to fall it would have a disastrous psychological effect and would open to the enemy a way to Vang Vieng and Vientiane. It is for the foregoing reasons, Mr. President, that I ask you to reconsider your decision in the light of current circumstances.” Godley commented that the Embassy had been discouraging talk of a rightist coup in Laos, but if Long Tieng fell, Souvanna would be in a “most difficult position.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 546, Country Files, Far East, Laos, Vol. IV, 1 February 1970–31 March 1970)
  6. Telegram 44787 to Vientiane, March 27, transmitted the text of a letter from Nixon to Souvanna informing him that the United States would support the airlift of a Thai battalion into Long Tieng. (Ibid., Box 101, Vietnam Subject Files, Sensitive, Souvanna Phouma/Long Tieng) In telegram 2179 from Vientiane, March 27, Godley reported he gave the President’s letter to Souvanna at 11 a.m. local time that day and Souvanna’s “face burst into a smile and he was obviously most relieved.” (Ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 19 THAI–LAOS)
  7. In telegram 3639 from Bangkok, March 27, Unger reported that he delivered Kissinger’s letter to Thanat who would forward it to Prime Minister Thanom. (Ibid.) In a private channel message to Kissinger, March 27, Thanat wrote that Thailand wished to convey to Nixon Thailand’s deep appreciation and believed the decision would strengthen the defense of Laos and Thai security. Thanat stated his government took note of the understanding stated in the message transmitted from Unger and “We shall abide by it.” (Enclosed in memorandum from Karamessines to Kissinger, March 27; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 101, Vietnam Subject Files, Sensitive, Souvanna Phouma/Long Tieng)