149. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State 1
Bangkok, January 17, 1972, 0423Z.
680. Subject: Insurgency in the North.
- During my trip last week to the North, CG Third Army (LTG Samran Petyakul) emphasized to me the special advantages enjoyed by the insurgents in his region. Among them, he gave greatest weight to Communist control of contiguous areas in Laos, which affords secure hinterland for the “liberated areas” in Thailand. To my suggestion that friendly guerilla forces in Laos act as blocking forces for Third Army initiatives, he observed that the former are heavily engaged elsewhere.
- I took the occasion to stress that dealing with the insurgency is above all a Thai responsibility and a vital Thai national interest. The US can help, but only as a supplement to what basically has to be a Thai effort. I emphasized the vital necessity for Thai commanders to use their resources effectively and energetically against the insurgents.
- Samran accepted this, and replied by describing important operations—using both Third Army elements and forces from the Central Reserve—which are about to be undertaken in the current dry season, as well as paramilitary programs under development. Armed operations by the RTG have proven necessary in the North (as contrasted with the preferred “psychological operations” approach), because insurgent operational bases are strongly held and inhabited by non-Thais. Hill people share neither language, religion, nor loyalty to the King with the Thai, and RTG campaigns against opium growing are also exploited by the Communists: hill populations therefore are particularly vulnerable to Communist propaganda and recruitment efforts. Nevertheless, RTG suppression efforts are selective, and accompanied by efforts to win hill tribe loyalty. (The Thais have, in fact, developed good plans and organization to deal with the problem: implementation is now the issue.)
- Although Samran emphasized the loyalty of the lowland Thai, I was struck by his comment that about five percent of the valley population (especially migrants from the Northeast) may be cooperating with the Communists. He also agreed with my point that effective loyalty is often a function of the government’s ability to extend [Page 324]protection, which is frequently difficult to do under conditions prevalent in the north.
- This visit strengthened my impression that the insurgency in the North is a serious and growing threat: I hope that I was able to strengthen Samran’s resolution in dealing with it.
- Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23–7 THAI. Secret. Repeated to Vientiane and CINCPAC.↩