33. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State 1
Bangkok, November 1, 1969, 0402Z.
14847. For Under Secretary Johnson & Asst. Secretary Green.
- Before departing Bangkok to return to Washington I would like to give you a sketch of the way things look from here with regard to Thai-US relations. Some of the points mentioned are not at this time known to the Thai but if and when they are, I anticipate a cumulatively negative reaction which could well jeopardize close and effective relations which we have sought to maintain with the Thai over many years. My concern is further heightened because of the unfavorable publicity which I very much fear may result from the Symington hearings on Thailand.
- The factors I have in mind are in a number of different fields but
they all have in common what the Thais will take as an indication of
acceleration disengagement on our part. These are the more pertinent
- The decision which has apparently been taken to terminate the activities of USIS in Thailand which are “on behalf of the Thai Government” (see memo from Henry Kissinger to Frank Shakespeare October 9, copy to SecState).2 We have been working steadily for some time now to get the Thai Government to assume more and more informational activities but I have been intent on continuing our support of necessary functions until the Thai were ready and able to take over. The order cited appears to foreclose any such orderly handover.
- Reduction of US military forces in Thailand: Although this action also has its constructive side if carefully executed, it nevertheless adds to the preoccupation of the Thais when combined with the other factors mentioned here. Furthermore, it would become a strongly negative factor if we should move too quickly to proceed beyond what is already programmed.
- The serious doubts raised about the continuing validity of the contingency planning with the Thai (Project Taksin) and therefore growing doubts about the credibility of our SEATO commitment.
- The downward trend in our economic aid as contrasted with high level assurances that we will continue to assist Thailand to handle its own problems through economic and military aid.
- The continuing Congressional and press criticism of Thailand (and our other allies in this region) which seems to concentrate on castigating just those who are most willing to help the US; the most recent [Page 75] unhappy case is Otto Passman in the Thai and other loans to the US to help out on the balance of payments.
- Our apparent reluctance to continue Sierra Romeo which has been a major element in our close cooperation with the Thais to employ all of the limited means available to us to try to stave off disaster in Laos.
- I continue to assume that Thailand is of importance to us and that we wish to continue to enjoy the facilities and privileges we have here, such as those relating to the prosecution of the war in Vietnam and our actions in Laos, as well as certain highly classified vitally important activities. I also assume that Thailand, as the heart of Southeast Asia, is important to us as the key probably to assuring that that part of Southeast Asia which lies beyond continues in friendly hands.
- Unless my assumptions are in error, the independence and friendly disposition of Thailand towards us must continue to be a priority objective in this part of the world. Heretofore our shared conviction with the Thais that we were working toward essentially the same goals and that we were both prepared to make contributions toward those goals assured a relationship of mutual confidence. We are now beginning to raise real doubts about our future intentions and beginning to undermine our close relations without which we could not expect to enjoy here the advantages we have had in the past. The reports about the RTG’s reviewing its foreign relations (Bangkok 14722)3 is one of a few significant straws in the wind of and “agonizing reappraisal” which the Thais may in due course reluctantly decide they must take.
- These are fundamental points which have to be considered when we are weighing the nature and the level of our programs in Thailand in the coming period. Decisions on these matters which cumulatively signal growing US disinterest and disengagement will surely undermine and perhaps in due course destroy the effective and constructive relations we have had with the Thais for so long. I hope this is not where we mean to be heading.