11. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State1

6750. Subject: Secretary Rogers, Prime Minister Thanom Bilateral. Following is an uncleared record of the Secretary’s conversation with Prime Minister of Thailand Thanom Kittikachorn.

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Following seven nation meeting Thursday, May 22, Secretary Rogers, accompanied by Amb Unger, Deputy Assistant Secretary Sullivan and DCM Hannah called on PriMin Thanom accompanied by Foreign Minister Thanat, Minister of Communications and Chief of Staff Marshal Dawee Chullasapya, Minister without Portfolio General Sawaeng Senanarong, and General Jira Vichitsonggram, Special Advisor to the Prime Minister (on security).
After pleasantries, Secretary Rogers expressed our deep interest in Thailand and our intention to continue to cooperate and assist in any way we could. The Prime Minister said that the main thing Thailand needs today is military equipment to assist it in coping with the infiltrated Communist subversion. He mentioned specifically transport equipment, helicopters, signal equipment and hand-held radar. Secretary Rogers asked Ambassador Unger to comment on this point. The Ambassador explained that we are in regular touch with the Thai with respect to military equipment programs in various fields. With respect to transport, helicopters and signal equipment, we have fully coordinated continuing programs, primarily in MAP. Much equipment has been delivered and more is programmed. With respect to the hand radar, this is a subject on which we require further knowledge of Thai requirements.
Secretary Rogers asked if the most serious subversion is in the North. The Prime Minister replied that there are infiltration and subversion threats in both North and Northeast. Marshal Dawee interceded at this point to explain that there is serious infiltration in both areas and this is why the hand radar equipment is needed as well as helicopters with miniguns. He also mentioned reports of infiltration by enemy helicopter and pointed out that the Thai had disagreed with their American friends who had contended that enemy infiltration by helicopter was impossible and there were no authentic instances of craft having been seen. Marshal Dawee indicated that several confirmed sightings have in fact been made.
Ambassador Unger invited the Prime Minister to give the Secretary a fuller appraisal of the Communist terrorist campaign, particularly in the North where the counter-insurgency concept of the RTG may not yet be entirely clear. The Prime Minister said that internally there is no need for undue worry because subversion within Thailand can be controlled. But the Thai Government is very deeply worried about the external threat which comes from Laos. He said the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese are advancing in Laos. The Chinese Communists are building roads to points close to Thai borders. The North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao are developing concentrations at points near the Thai border for purposes of infiltration. In this connection he mentioned particularly Campassak Province in Southwestern Laos which lies west of the Mekong, creating a special danger for Ubol Province. The Thai support the Lao Government and want it to keep up the fight in Laos outside of Thailand, but the Lao Government is very [Page 22] weak. Dawee interjected that recently General Quan visited Thailand saying “my pockets are empty.” Dawee said the Lao Govt is in very severe financial difficulties and is unable to pay or care for its soldiers. He feared this would create a dangerous sag in morale, desertions, etc.
Secretary Rogers inquired as to the quality of Lao soldiers. Ambassador Sullivan replied that it depends on how well led they are and where they are fighting. He said that shortly before leaving Laos he had recommended provision of M–16s to the Lao Army and also conversion of 2 AC–47s into gunships of the kind which have worked so well on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in recent months. With respect to the financial situation, he pointed out that the RLG has always paid its own forces but we, with help from some others, have put in considerable financial help to bolster the kip. He thought that Japan could very well make a significant contribution to this cause without infringing its “constitutional limitations”. He suggested that FonMin Thanat urge the Japanese to make such a contribution. Thanat said he has talked with the Japanese in the past about making a greater effort in this area and is not optimistic that they will do so.
Secretary Rogers expressed his satisfaction with the two meetings that have occurred this week, and paid tribute to Thanat for his role in them. After a courteous response, Thanat expressed the Thai Govt’s appreciation for Secretary Rogers’ reaffirmation of US commitments in his opening speech at SEATO,2 indicating in particular the 1962 communiqué. Thanat thought the Secretary’s speech had an excellent effect on the whole meeting. Secretary Rogers indicated that this was why he had reiterated our commitments in his opening speech at the beginning of the meeting. As for the 1962 communiqué, he said that he regards it merely as a valid statement, not an interpretation, of the commitments undertaken in the Manila Pact.
Before the meeting broke up, Secretary Rogers made a special point of expressing his deep appreciation to the Thai for the excellent treatment they have accorded US servicemen in Thailand.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, ORG 7 S. Secret; Priority; Limdis. Also sent to New Delhi for the Secretary’s party.
  2. Rogers, in his opening statement at the SEATO Council of Ministers meeting in Bangkok on May 20, said that SEATO had provided “a credible sense of security” in Asia and that “this is why we continue to adhere to the treaty and to regard the RuskThanat communiqué as a valid restatement of the responsibility set forth in Article IV (Para 1) of the Treaty.” (Telegram 14754 from Bangkok, October 30; ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 398, Subject Files, Symington Subcommittee, Vol. I) Article IV (1) of the SEATO Treaty provided that “Each Party recognizes that aggression by means of armed attack in the Treaty area against any of the Parties or against any state or territory which the Parties by unanimous agreement may hereafter designate, would endanger its own peace and safety, and agrees that it will in that event act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes.” When the Treaty was executed the U.S. government clarified that its response was limited to Communist aggression.