1. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State 1
513. 1. This morning I called at my suggestion on the Prime Minister2 and took advantage of my prospective visit with Ambassador Johnson in Saigon later this week to raise with him questions about important developments in Thailand. Present at our conversation were Foreign Minister Thanat and Government House Secretary-General, General Sawaeng.
2. I first said that Amb Johnson will undoubtedly have been informed in general terms about the insurgency situation and I would like to pass on the Prime Minister’s assessment, particularly with regard to the recent intensified action in the three-province area of the North. The Prime Minister replied in rather general terms noting the importance to the counter-insurgency effort of the kind of matériel and equipment which the US is providing, both for security forces and for development activities. The Prime Minister specifically mentioned communications equipment for the police, the helicopter delivery schedule, modernization of weapons, and assistance to support programs to improve the livelihood of the hill tribes and we agreed that we would have our respective staffs see that everything necessary was being provided. This gave me an opportunity to emphasize the importance of the Thais making full utilization of equipment already on hand and being sure that they were ready to receive and use on arrival new equipment in the pipeline. I also warmly endorsed the Prime Minister’s reference to helping the hill tribes and mentioned to him our impression from discussions in the North that Thai officials had not been given as concrete policy directive concerning their dealings with the hill tribes as would be useful. I emphasized the importance of Thai Government officials recognizing the hill tribe population as part of the [Page 2] Thai nation and dealing with them in such a way as to make friends and avoid building any additional hostility. The Prime Minister readily agreed with these observations. I also emphasized the importance of collecting more and better intelligence and we noted as a useful first step the setting up of a new JSC in Phitsanulok. In general we concluded that Mr. Tanham will keep in close touch with Generals Surakij and Saiyud and others as pertinent to follow up on these matters.
3. I then asked the Prime Minister whether there was anything on the coming elections and he said that there was “nothing worth saying” to Ambassador Johnson at this time, although he indicated his general satisfaction with the way matters were proceeding.
4. I then mentioned that the new administration will undoubtedly be occupied with the question of security and US military posture with regard to Southeast Asia in the period following a Vietnam settlement. I asked the Prime Minister whether there was any Thai Government thinking on this subject which he would like me to pass on to Ambassador Johnson. After some expressions of concern about the military situation in Laos the Prime Minister in effect passed the ball on this question to Foreign Minister Thanat. The latter first went through his familiar recitation about American journalists, senators, professors and others who obviously wanted no part of any American presence or activity in this part of the world. Contrary to earlier comments, he did not express confidence about the new administration in this regard. He concluded by saying, with the Prime Minister’s agreement, that the Thai Government was not in a position to comment on these matters until the new US administration was able to provide some kind of a picture of what will be its security policy for Southeast Asia, and Thanat emphasized that given all the uncertainties of the past many months, the RTG hopes that clarification on this matter will be available soon. Before we left this subject the Prime Minister volunteered that, with regard to the current situation, Thailand does not need any more US forces; I accepted his point but noted that my question had related to a period following a Vietnam settlement when there would be a new situation.
5. At one point in our conversation the Prime Minister referred to the Anderson article in Parade and indicated his distress. He seemed to feel that my statement to the press had been helpful and was pleased that I had made my position clear to His Majesty when received in audience last Saturday morning.3