155. Telegram From the Embassy in Indonesia to the Department of State 1
Djakarta, March 13, 1972, 0515Z.
2452. For The Secretary From Ambassador Unger. Subject: Marshall Green and John Holdridge Call on King of Thailand. Ref: Bangkok 3318.2
- On March 9 Assistant Secretary Green was received by His Majesty the King. Also present were the Under Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Charunpan, the King’s Aide-de-Camp, Admiral Diskul, Mr. Holdridge and myself. Our conversation lasted about one hour and forty five minutes.
- After conveying the appropriate expressions to His Majesty from President Nixon, Green proceeded to describe at length the President’s visit to China and the discussions which took place there in terms very similar to those of the previous day before the NEC, which meeting is recorded in reftel. Emphasis was put on those points which I had identified to Green as being of particular interest and concern to the King.
- His Majesty showed immediate understanding of the importance of the trip in the light of the situation in the U.S. and particularly the attitudes of young people there. He saw the value of the trip to the President in establishing better understanding with some alienated groups in the U.S. and therefore providing support for the President to enable him to carry out his larger programs. The King understood the value this also could have with regard to U.S. programs in Thailand.
- Otherwise, however, the King tended to minimize the possibility of this reopening of contact between the U.S. and the PRC having any beneficial effect on the policy or actions of the latter. He discussed at length his view about Chinese intentions, particularly in Southeast Asia, where he feels that the Chinese are determined to establish their dominance. He cited maps which are a standard item in Chinese schools which show Thailand as an integral part of China and he is persuaded that the Chinese are not likely to be deterred from trying to make it so. Whatever might be our good intentions, he professed to be virtually persuaded that Thailand will be gobbled up. The King insisted that while the Chinese had very good understanding of Westerners, the reverse was not the case and he implied that our reestablished contact with the PRC may lead us to some false conclusions and unrealistic expectations.
- In respectful terms but in firm tones Green challenged the implication that the U.S. would stand idly by and let her allies be taken over, pointing out that the U.S. has been second to none in the world in standing by its friends, he also insisted that we are in fact looking at the matter of reestablishing relations with the PRC entirely realistically and without false illusions. Moreover, we have a number of individuals who are exceptionally well informed about China and have worked almost all their lives on this one subject. He cited Mr. Holdridge as a case in point. Somewhat chastened, his Majesty made conciliatory comments to the effect that he recognized the desirability of the President’s initiative on China in terms of the interests of America’s friends as well as of the United States itself.
- Most of the remaining discussion related to U.S. assistance to Thai armed forces and police in the field of helicopter and Stol aircraft, a subject which His Majesty has raised with me innumerable times in the past. After indicating his reluctant conclusion that the U.S. would not be providing further aircraft to the Thai National Police His Majesty then also commented on our apparent unwillingness or inability to provide a substantial additional number of UH–1H aircraft for the RTAF. He did not mention the large number of UH–1Hs which are in the program for the RTA, nor did he accept the explanation that the Thai Armed Forces themselves are not seeking additional helicopters for the RTAF RTG around 25 of the UH–1Hs now in surplus in Vietnam and awaiting shipment elsewhere. I said we would look into this immediately and also mentioned that we are seeking helicopters from that source ourselves to accelerate considerably the delivery already scheduled for the RTA, as well as a few additional helicopters for the RTAF.
- In the course of this discussion the King commented that he could understand that the Ambassador might be afraid to press for [Page 341]some of these urgent needs of Thailand for fear of risking criticism in Washington. I replied that if I ever felt that I was unable or unwilling to report things from Thailand as I saw them, or make recommendations according to my best judgment, I would ask to be transferred the next day. His Majesty said perhaps he had gone too far but he was again critical of the bureaucratic complications and trials in meeting what he saw as urgent needs for his country in a deteriorating security situation. In the course of this discussion the King, on a number of occasions, was also sharply critical of the present Thai government, and armed services.
- Comment: This was at times an uncomfortable audience, although I was not greatly surprised. I have had a number of lengthy discussions with His Majesty over recent months, particularly on the subject of U.S. aid programs and some of his favorite projects for which he expects prompt and full support. The King’s frustration with his own government is understandable and may be aggravated by his dissatisfaction with his own status in the absence of a constitution. There are some delays and shortfalls on our part which also can be justifiably criticized. On the other hand, the strong and sometimes even intemperate nature of his comments probably arises in part from his lack of experience with criticism from his own people and limited opportunities for full and frank discussion with his subjects. I believe he appreciated the effort to convey to him our impressions and conclusions growing out of the President’s visit to China and while he, and most other Thais, are very skeptical of seeing an end to Chinese interference in Thailand’s internal affairs, he probably accepts the usefulness of the resumption of communication between the PRC and the U.S.