165. Telegram From Vice President Agnew to the Department of State 1

Vipto 31. Subj: Memorandum of Conversation: Vice President’s Meeting with Chairman Thanom and NEC Leaders, May 17, 1972.


US—The Vice President, Ambassador Unger, Mr. Sohmer, General Dunn, Mr. Reynders, Mr. Masters, Maj. Gen. Evans, Mr. Pickering.

Thai—Chairman Thanom, Deputy Chairman Praphat, Assistant Chairman Pote, Supreme Command Chief of Staff Dawee, Supreme Command Deputy Chief of Staff Kriangsak, Army Chief of Staff Surakit, Under Secretary Charoonphand, MFA America Division Chief Thep Diskul, MFA Southeast Asia Division Chief Asa Sarasin.

Time: 3:00–4:30 p.m.

Place: National Security Council Headquarters.

[Omitted here is discussion of Japan, Vietnam, and Cambodia.]

Thanom referred to Moose–Lowenstein report and its references to Thai volunteers. He asked VP what effect this report would have on Thai/U.S. relations. VP said he was not too worried about this. Today’s Senate vote will cool somewhat ardor of dovish elements in Congress. President is firmly committed to a course of action in SEA and will do whatever necessary to see it through. Thanom said he concerned because RTG has consistently maintained that, while it trains Lao forces in Thailand, only volunteers from Thailand serve in Lao forces.RTG concerned reports such as this will give impression that RTA forces are or will serve in Laos. VP said some elements of the press have behaved irresponsibly but public opinion surge he had described will discredit to some extent this kind of sniping. However, we must not expect a cessation of anti-war activism in U.S.
On VP’s invitation to discuss priority matters to be conveyed to President Nixon, Thanom said insurgency situation in North, North-east, and South is worsening. RTG is taking measures to suppress insurgency and frustrate enemy’s effort to win over the people, but continued U.S. assistance is needed. Dawee said priority needs are [Page 359] additional communications equipment, helicopters, and wheeled armored vehicles. Often Government forces know where enemy forces are but cannot get to them before they disappear. Government forces often encounter land-mines. More helicopters and armored vehicles would allow RTG forces to do better job and also boost their morale. VP said President Nixon pleased with recent RTG action to suppress insurgency. He would convey request for equipment.
On narcotics question, Thanom said Thai are deeply upset that Congressman Wolff is calling Thailand the center of opium trade and belittling its suppression effort. Recent NBC T.V. program used picture of Deputy Chairman Prapass to imply he involved in opium traffic. Thais very concerned about this. Drugs destroy lives of Thai youth too, and they wish to eradicate this menace. William A. Wanzeck and Jack Greene of BNDD being considered for Thai decorations for their role in suppression activities. Allegations that Thais not cooperating completely untrue as record of seizures and destruction of opium show. Thanom asked VP to make statement reassuring U.S. public on Thai effort. General Praphat made several interjections during presentation, obviously intent that VP understand seriousness with which Thais view subject. VP said President Nixon fully aware of Thai cooperation in this field, had asked VP to convey appreciation for efforts of Thai leaders. Some politicians use this kind of attack as personal launching pad, and media sometimes unfortunately support such efforts, as in case of misleading documentary on Thailand. VP assured Thais such criticism does not square with prevalent U.S. view of Thailand, personally regretted incident and expressed willingness to state support for Thais on this subject.
Thanom said Thailand is taking strong actions to eliminate opium traffic. Some of those caught have been executed. RTG has program to help hill tribes shift from opium to other crops. VP again gave recognition to Thai efforts, and said he knew Wolff had tried to show that his recent intervention had produced programs which in fact are result of long-standing cooperative effort.
Thanom asked VP to convey to President Nixon hope that President will continue vigorous and determined policies in SEA which are so important to morale of small countries making an effort to maintain their independence and freedom. Thailand will continue to defend its independence against communist attack, but needs military assistance in form of equipment from U.S. Enemy is equipped with foreign armaments, and as a developing country Thailand cannot afford equipment needed to match enemy. Thailand wants to avoid being caught short, as was GVN with NVN’s 130 mm artillery.
VP promised to convey this message to President, added he will get information from Ambassador Unger to help refute false [Page 360] charges concerning narcotics. VP expressed thanks to Thais for speaking frankly on all issues as friends can and should do.
Thanom again thanked VP for visit, and President, VP and Secretary Rogers for their understanding of Thai problems. He hoped President will appreciate that Thailand asks for assistance only because it truly and urgently needed. VP agreed to convey this message, said U.S. has no more dependable friend in Asia than Thailand.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Conference Files, 1971–1972: Lot 73 D 323, Visit of Agnew to Asia. Secret; Immediate; Priority. Repeated to Bangkok and Saigon. Printed from a copy with no transmittal time; a handwritten notation at the top of page 1 reads “CINCPAC # 1822212 May 72,” and later telegrams reference this number. However, no copy of CINCPAC 1822212 has been found.