177. Memorandum of Conversation1

SUBJECT

  • Thai Security: Call on Under Secretary Johnson by Boonchu Rojanasathien

PARTICIPANTS

  • Boonchu Rojanasathien, Executive Vice President, Bangkok Bank
  • Under Secretary for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson
  • Alf E. Bergesen, Acting Director, EA/TB

After an exchange of pleasantries, Mr. Boonchu asked Under Secretary Johnson about his reaction to Thailand’s sending a ping pong team to China. Ambassador Johnson said that he agreed that communication should be established with Peking and he had no problem with that.

Boonchu evinced considerable interest in Ambassador Johnson’s views on the security situation in Southeast Asia. He asked about the Viet-Nam negotiations and was told there has been no break-through. He inquired whether Thailand could survive if its neighbors were taken over. Ambassador Johnson said yes, if Thailand’s resistance was not just military but also political and economic. He noted his concern that [Page 380]every year, since 1965, it was reported that the RTG was doing better in its counterinsurgency efforts, yet every year there were more insurgents. Boonchu said that the news in the papers wasn’t necessarily the same as the facts. He did not think the insurgency had gained stronger support or that it was gaining recruits. To Ambassador Johnson’s inquiry whether Boonchu was referring to the north or northeast, Boonchu said the problem in the north was military; it appeared that he meant the northeast as the area where there was not much new recruiting. Ambassador Johnson noted that Operation Phu Kwang (note—in the tri-province area, Jan–April 1972) wasn’t very well done. Boonchu attributed this to lack of experience on the part of the forces involved.

The Thai visitor then made a pitch for continued US material assistance to Thailand. Ambassador Johnson replied “you have plenty of military supplies.” He emphasized the importance of police, that the only RTG official that the average up-country Thai sees is a policeman. If he has his hand out for bribes, it is easy to tell what the peasant’s reaction to the RTG is likely to be.

Boonchu said military operations are expensive and the RTG is now increasing its military expenditures at the expense of development. Ambassador Johnson noted that it was not just a question of giving the Thai Government aircraft. At least as important was maintenance, up-keep and operations. It was not good for Thailand to depend too much on the US. However, Ambassador Johnson concluded, we have been helping Thailand and we will continue to do so.

Ambassador Johnson expressed his pleasure that Anand had become Thai Ambassador here. He described him as “first class”. In response to an inquiry, Boonchu noted, laughingly, that Thanat was now engaged primarily in playing golf.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 23 THAI. Confidential. Drafted by Bergesen and approved by U. Alexis Johnson on September 28. The meeting was held in Johnson’s office.