131. Memorandum for the Record1


  • KMT Irregulars and Their Involvement in the Opium Traffic
On 5 August Chargé Newman [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]lunched with General Kriangsak to follow up the discussion which the Ambassador and the DCM held with Marshal Dawee as reported in Bangkok Embtel 9071 of 1 July.2 Newman filled in Kriangsak on the consultations which have taken place between the Embassy and the Royal Thai Government on the subject of suppressing drugs and narcotics, the establishment of a joint USG/RTG committee to work on the problem headed by General Nitya and Chargé Newman, and emphasizing the mutual interests of both of our governments in addressing this problem aggressively and expeditiously.3 Newman then recalled the conversation with Dawee and the latter’s request that we follow up with Kriangsak to explore the possibilities for utilizing the KMT irregulars to help suppress the trafficking of opium from the Shan States in Thailand.
Kriangsak summarized the efforts in which he has been engaged for the past year to re-settle KMT irregulars in Thailand in areas where they could cultivate crops and raise livestock as an income substitute for trafficking in opium on condition that irregulars turn in their arms and submit fully to RTG authority. Part of the agreement of course involves first the clearance by the irregulars of areas controlled [Page 286]by the Communist insurgents, and after security is established they are supposed to turn in their arms to RTG controlled storehouses. The RTG is to provide tea tree seedlings and farm equipment as well as some livestock and advice and assistance in animal husbandry. KMT irregulars are also obliged to get out of the opium business. When this agreement was negotiated in the latter half of 1970, Generals Li and Tuan asked that the embargoes on KMT engagement in the opium business be deferred until after the 1971 crop had been disposed of. Li and Tuan pleaded that they would need this additional income during the period of re-establishment. Though Kriangsak never flatly so stated, it is clear that he felt obliged not to interfere with the KMT opium trafficking during the past few months when this year’s harvest was being moved. Newman cited facts and figures, drawing on the attached brief,4 indicating that Generals Li and Tuan control the movement of a significant amount of the opium crop in the Shan States to Thailand and also engage in refining it in Chiang Mai Province. Kriangsak made notes on the most recent shipments in June 1971 (see page 3 of attachment). Kriangsak was impressed with our information on the KMT opium smuggling activities and made no effort to dispute our information; in fact, he noted that it is difficult for him to obtain reliable information of this kind and solicited our assistance. I promised to give him a summary of our information on this subject, if possible by next week. I cautioned him, and he agreed, that in his use of this information there would be no reference to the fact that he obtained it from the Americans. Kriangsak seemed to be particularly interested in getting information on where the irregulars are operating their refineries.
Kriangsak was quite candid in his admission that he and the RTG cannot be certain that Generals Li and Tuan will honor fully and sincerely their commitments to the RTG. Kriangsak suggested that if they do not, the RTG will be forced to consider appropriate disciplinary action. He is trying very hard to provide enough assistance so that the irregulars can re-settle with their families, earn an adequate living, and exist as law-abiding Thai nationals.
Newman [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] expressed admiration for his program and his efforts and asked whether he thought the next step could be taken, namely, the utilization of the better fighting elements of the irregulars to disrupt and hopefully prevent the movement of opium to refineries in Tatchileck, Laos and Thailand. We noted that it is not enough to get the KMT out of the opium business [Page 287]since there are plenty of others who will be happy to move in. A force will be needed to attack caravans under the protection of Shan insurgents and Burmese self-defense forces and hopefully destroy the opium before it reaches the refineries. In this connection we asked Kriangsak whether the KMT irregulars now in Burma would be moving to Thailand to re-settle with the others already here. Kriangsak said that they are free to do so until the end of this rainy season. If they reject the Thai offer, they will presumably join the other bands in Burma if they can. In thinking about the problem, Kriangsak also commented that if KMT irregulars were sent into Burma on opium-destroying missions it would be necessary to have a few Thais with them to make certain that we are not double-crossed. He concluded by agreeing to consider the matter further, after which he will be back in touch with us. Newman reiterated the urgency of developing plans in the near future in order that effective action can be taken against the next crop which will be planted this fall. Although no specifics were mentioned and none were requested, Newman advised Kriangsak that the American mission would attempt to support the RTG if a realistically feasible plan can be developed.

[name not declassified]

  1. Source: Department of State, INR Historical Files, Country Files, Thailand, 1972–1975. Secret. [text not declassified] Forwarded to Under Secretary Johnson under an attached August 7 cover letter from Newman.
  2. Not found.
  3. In a July 27 letter to Under Secretary Johnson, Newman welcomed the news that the 40 Committee supported Unger’s position on the political money (see Document 129) and informed Johnson, in response to the “other suggestion in your letter,” that he [text not declassified] had been “looking over the field for possibilities.” He recommended that intelligence be provided Police Major General Chompon Lohachala so that the latter could go after the drug traffickers. He stated that the Embassy planned to do this [text not declassified] “in the near future on a test basis.” In his August 7 cover letter to Johnson, (see footnote 1 above) Newman stated that he [text not declassified] planned to see General Chompon later that week “to make some information on drug traffickers in the North available to him and to encourage him to move against these individuals.” However, he noted, due to “jurisdictional concerns and departmental politics within the Thai National Police Department, we are moving cautiously on this front.”
  4. Not attached.