167. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State 1
Summary: During recent visit of Vice President, FM Thanom asked Vice President for increased military assistance to Thailand, specifying helicopters, armored cars, and communications equipment. In response to call to DOD from Vice President’s office, MACTHAI has been instructed through military channels to develop recommended package [Page 365]of defense equipment of approximately $15 million which might be given to Thais as special military assistance add-on. We feel this is opportunity to present constructive package which we have structure in four parts to be responsive to Marshal Thanom’s specific requests as well as re-oriented high priority requirements and which we would relate to increased Thai performance in Thai security and counter insurgency programs. End summary.
- In context of Field Marshal Thanom’s request for more military equipment for Thailand to Vice President, during VP’s recent visit to Thailand (see reftels), on May 24 MACTHAI received telephone request from OSD/ISA through CINCPAC to suggest items that might be provided to Thailand under military assistance if special add-on fund of $15 million were to become available. OSD/ISA stated request in response to inquiry from Vice President’s office.
In follow-up to Vice President’s discussions with Thai leaders, including Ambassador’s meeting with Marshal Dawee today, Mission has attempted obtain clearer idea what Thanom had in mind when he asked for additional helicopters, communication equipment, and wheeled armored vehicles (para 17, ref a). We conclude from three separate conversations with RTA Chief of Staff, General Surakij, during past week that Thanom wanted more helicopters (than Thais know are already in pipeline) delivered more quickly than projected delivery schedule. Thanom wants helicopters to fill out two existing RTA airmobile (helicopter) companies and to equip a planned third airmobile company. Although Surakij does not think Thanom sought helicopters for RTAF, need for more helicopters (including helicopters for RTAF and police) has been recurring theme in conversations with Thai leaders, from King on down.
While helicopter program recommended below should meet those needs if properly managed we will keep this question under study. We have invited Thai to explain needs as they see them but have also pointed to large MASF helicopter program over past few years and to management difficulties, including pilot shortage, which could arise by overloading. Regarding request for armored cars, Surakij felt a few such vehicles for RTA to evaluate new types would meet the requirements. He also addressed some RTA communication equipment needs, which are discussed further below.
- In course of normal MASF/MAP dialogue before Vice President’s visit, there have been several lower level RTG approaches regarding increased military assistance support to Thailand both for additional items of equipment and for increased level of support. Mission officers have responded to these requests by pointing out that military assistance funds are limited (and probably will continue to be), that US will do its best to assist Thais to meet their priority needs within these limits, and that mission will study each request very carefully.
- Additional military assistance to Thailand would offer excellent opportunity to develop constructive supplemental program to meet real Thai needs. Add-on package could provide further incentive to move Thais to improve their own response to counterinsurgency. We feel assistance beyond basic program level should be negotiated with Thais in conjunction with actions which we feel Thais should take to increase effectiveness of their security and counterinsurgency programs (as in recent AAT/Ramasoon exercise, but less formally, considering short time available in FY 72). Although we believe that we should be responsive to each of Thanom’s requests, pertinence to counterinsurgency including support for VDC and hill tribe volunteers should be a prime test of priority in expenditures for equipment in overall contemplated MASF add-on.
- Mission has prepared a list of items which might be included in add-on, grouped by category without any priority having been assigned. We consider list, which follows as most desirable make-up of program for presentation to Vice President. This list of items recommended for possible add-on is necessarily tentative pending our submission of more final mission recommendations based upon further study and exploration of Thai desires.
[Omitted here is the list of items.]