35. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State 1

15295. Subject: Symington Subcommittee Hearings. Ref: Bangkok 15212.2

[Page 78]
Foreign Minister Thanat received me at his home Tuesday morning before going to Cabinet meeting. I conveyed the substance of State 189585.3 Thanat listened attentively and expressed appreciation, but made clear his sense of deep concern, not only over the Symington subcommittee hearings but over the fact Plan Taksin had been shown to Senators.4 He said that despite our assurance, he must assume that for all practical purposes “Plan Taksin is out in the open now.” I pointed out that we hoped to keep the content of the plan secret, but he shrugged his shoulders and remarked that the essence of the plan has already been revealed in the papers to the extent of revealing that it is a Thai-U.S. contingency plan for responding to a threat through Laos. He therefore feels that the other side knows more about our plans than we do about theirs.
I reminded him of the assurances contained in para 2 of State 1603685 to the effect that we still support Plan Taksin. Thanat replied that he accepts implicitly the President’s support of the plan but that he cannot overlook the fact that “a lot of water has flowed under the bridge in the past two or three months.” He said that it is no longer possible to have confidence that the Senate would permit the plan to be executed even were the appropriate contingency to arise.
He appreciated my offer to keep him informed regarding the progress of the hearings and concurred with my expression of hope that press leaks or critical public statements would not be allowed to pit US and the RTG against each other. Nevertheless, he argues that the problem is in the United States—not in Thailand, which he described as “a silent partner.”
On the whole I believe that my representation to him, and in particular the expression of desire to coordinate with the Thai to avoid [Page 79]misunderstandings, was useful. Although it is quite apparent that Thanat is deeply worried about the hearings and their impact and that he relates this to “the water which has flowed under the bridge,” which in his view undermines the solidity of our relationship. I believe the foregoing illustrates how important it is that we be provided with daily reports on the hearings in order that we may maintain regular liaison with the Foreign Minister.
Since drafting foregoing, I have just received State 1903756 describing Assistant Secretary Green’s briefing of Sunthorn. I will relay substance of this telegram to Thanat. When I told him earlier this morning that Sunthorn would be briefed, this reminded him that he had received a letter two or three days ago from Sunthorn in which the latter had said that he had called at the Department (possibly on Under Secretary Johnson)7 and had been told that we would not reveal Plan Taksin to the Senate. I explained that the Department intended to call Sunthorn in again and bring him up to date.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 398, Subject Files, Symington Subcommittee, Vol. II. Secret; Exdis.
  2. Telegram 15212 from Bangkok, November 9, reported Deputy Chief of Mission Hannah’s recent contacts with Thai officials concerning the upcoming Symington subcommittee hearings. Hannah included an account of Hollings’ statement to Thanat on November 7, in which Hollings warned that the hearings would produce press accounts contrasting sharply with the expressions of friendship which both sides had made during the just-concluded Codel Sparkman and urged “very close coordination between the United States and Thailand governments during this difficult period immediately ahead.” Hannah also requested that the Department provide him with daily reports on the hearings, so that he could maintain close liaison with the Thai Government on this matter. (Ibid.)
  3. Telegram 189585 to Bangkok, November 6, requested that Hannah confer with the Thai Government about the fact that the Taksin contingency plan would soon be shown to select Senators of the Foreign Relations Committee, and to inform its officials about other aspects of the subcommittee hearing. (Ibid.)
  4. The Department of Defense finally let the Senate Foreign Relations Committee see a copy of the Taksin Plan on November 7. A Marine one-star general brought it to the Capitol, where it was perused by Senators Fulbright and Church; it was returned to the Pentagon later that same day. As reported by major newspapers the next day, including the Baltimore Sun and The New York Times, Fulbright said, “I really don’t want a copy … This resolves it.”
  5. Not printed.
  6. Telegram 190375 to Bangkok, November 11, reported the highlights of Green’s meeting with Ambassador Sunthorn on November 10, including Green’s notice to the Ambassador that the Project Taksin Plan had been shown to certain selected Senators, but that the classified nature of the document would continue to be protected. Green said that it had been decided that it was “a tactical necessity” to let the committee see the document itself to forestall further criticism so that the committee “would recognize it for what it was, a contingency plan.” During the Symington subcommittee hearings, Green informed Sunthorn, “there were some topics on which there would be no testimony, others which we would explain but keep classified, and a third category which would eventually appear on public record.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 560, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Vol. II)
  7. See Documents 30 and 31.