36. Editorial Note

Hearings on Thailand before the Subcommittee on United States Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad of the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, were held on November 10–14, and 17, 1969. The declassified version of the hearings was printed by the U.S. Government Printing Office in 1970, after it was released by the subcommittee on June 8. (United States Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad, Kingdom of Thailand, Hearings Before the Subcommittee on United States Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad of the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, 91st Congress, 1st Session, [Page 80]Part 3, Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1969) The record pertaining to the subcommittee hearings is further amplified by Department of State telegrams to the Embassy in Thailand, as cited below.

The November 10 hearings were described as mostly harmonious, “although the Senators, especially Fulbright and Symington, were predictably antagonistic toward U.S. policies in Southeast Asia (not confining their questions and comments to Thailand) and especially to an alleged failure of the executive to keep Congress fully informed of what it was doing and the ‘commitments’ that it was alleged to be developing. They doggedly persisted in tendentious questioning about Project Taksin and the Rusk–Thanat communiqué, both viewed by them as unauthorized executive commitments going beyond SEATO.

“The most critical questions were on contingency planning (Taksin) and U.S. payments for Thai troops in Vietnam and Laos. Symington also fulminated against failure of the Thai and other SEATO allies to bear their proportionate share of the fighting burden in Vietnam.

“An impasse developed between Ambassador Unger and Ambassador McClintock, and Symington and Fulbright over (1) the Ambassador’s position that he was not authorized to testify on the contents of the Taksin contingency plan, specifically the political implications of its provision for possible U.S./Thai intervention in Laos, and (2) on U.S. arrangements with the RTG concerning financial support of Thai military activities (especially the Artillery battery) in Laos.” (Telegram 190428 to Bangkok, November 11; National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 398, Subject Files, Symington Subcommittee, Vol. II)

In addition, the hearings record provides a wealth of statistical and descriptive information about the nature of the U.S. commitment to Thailand, U.S. assistance to and forces in Thailand (as well as USAF reconnaissance and bombing in Laos from Thailand), and Thai efforts and contributions in Vietnam and Laos. Included in this information was testimony that revealed that under a secret accord entered into in 1967, the United States had been paying $50 million a year to Thailand for sending a combat division to South Vietnam. In addition, the United States agreed to increase its military assistance by $30 million for 2 years and to supply Thailand with a battery of Hawk anti-aircraft missiles in return for the 11,000-man Thai unit in Vietnam. It was also disclosed the United States had invested $702 million in construction of military bases in Thailand. (United States Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad, Kingdom of Thailand, Hearings before the Subcommittee on United States Security Agreements and Commitments Abroad of the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, 91st Congress, 1st Session, Part 3, passim.)

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Telegram 190484 to Bangkok, November 12, summarized the first 2 days of the hearings. It reported that the subcommittee had asked probing questions about the meaning of the phrase “constitutional processes” in connection with implementing the Taksin contingency plan, and had asked about “what expectations Thai have as to how we will execute commitments.” It noted that some of the Senators had been strongly critical of U.S. payments to the RTAVF and of the alleged failure of Thailand to bear its “proper share of Vietnam war burden.” The telegram reported that when Fulbright and Symington expressed doubts that either North Vietnam or China were sufficiently serious threats to justify the costs of U.S. security programs in Thailand, Ambassador Unger and other witnesses tried to emphasize that the “bulk of U.S. presence and expenditures in Thailand have been in relation Vietnam war and not directly for Thailand’s security, either external or internal.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 398, Subject Files, Symington Subcommittee, Vol. II)

Telegram 191152 to Bangkok, November 13, reported that “today’s questions were largely directed at possibility U.S. through military assistance and counterinsurgency programs was being drawn into implied commitments or creeping involvement in Thai internal security operations. We believe, however, that Ambassador Unger and other witnesses were able to establish clear record that subcommittee’s apparent presumptions were unfounded and that mission and executive branch generally acting with great prudence to avoid the dangers mentioned.” (Ibid.)

Telegram 192811 to Bangkok, November 15, reported on Ambassador Martin’s testimony before the subcommittee on November 14, based on his tenure as Ambassador in Bangkok preceding Unger. Asked whether joint U.S.-Thai activities had enlarged the basic U.S. SEATO commitment, “he expressed conviction that they had not in a legal sense, but everyone was free to make his own judgment whether the kind of loyalty and help extended by one partner created a ‘moral’ commitment. In his opinion, the Thai performance had been such as to fully merit our continued support.” Regarding the nature of the U.S. SEATO obligation to Thailand, Martin “maintained his view that it obligates the United States to help Thailand against overt communist aggression or massive external support to insurgency but does not specify precisely what we should do or obligate us to provide combat support against purely internal insurgency.” The telegram also reported that “up to now” the hearings had received “virtually no press treatment” and urged the Embassy to “make sure you have minimized possibility information leaking out that RTG has any knowledge subcommittee hearings.” (Ibid.)

Secretary Rogers called Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs Henry Kissinger at 5:50 p.m. on November 17 to inform [Page 82]him that Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms had called “and said he was very unhappy and that it wasn’t going too well. Having Unger go up there with Helms and pretend it is intelligence.” Helms had stated that what Ambassador Unger was telling the committee about Thai troops “can’t be presented as intelligence. K said he thought it considered military operations run by CIA. Rogers didn’t think so. These are Thai troops that go into Laos. K asked what Rogers thought should be done.” Kissinger later asked, “what would happen in Thailand if we let it get into the record. Rogers thought there would be trouble. Rogers thought on these things we should go to the Committee and tell them frankly what the problem is and say this is going to be harmful to the national interest and have them keep that in mind. When Symington agreed with the President about intelligence, he didn’t have this in mind. K agreed that it didn’t mean we could shift non-intelligence issues into intelligence and keep it out of the record.” (Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Kissinger Papers, Box 361, Telephone Conversations, Chronological File)

Thus, telegram 196666 to Bangkok, November 22, reported that “as a result extensive discussions with Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Symington subcommittee over questions concerning Thai involvement in Laos and U.S. support thereof, Ambassador Unger called back to testify again today on this subject. Testimony given before full committee in executive session with understanding that it involved matters of highest sensitivity and would not appear in public record.

“Ambassador Unger’s testimony covered following questions: number of Thai troops in Laos; U.S. arrangements for financial support; U.S. pay for Thai pilots; funding procedures; Thai casualties in Laos; and various special payments such as death benefits. Ambassador answered factually and apparently to full satisfaction of committee.

“In view special consideration on which this hearing based, you should not inform RTG.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 398, Subject Files, Symington Subcommittee, Vol. II)