40. Telegram From the Embassy in Thailand to the Department of State1

17214. Subject: Thai Volunteer Forces in Vietnam. Ref: Bangkok 17181.2

During conversation I had this morning with Thanat on another subject, he volunteered brief rundown his discussions in Kuala Lumpur with RVN FonMin Lam on subject of withdrawal of Thai forces in Vietnam. Thanat told me his purpose in discussing this was to establish the principle that Thai forces were not intended to remain in RVN indefinitely and that they could be withdrawn once circumstances permitted. In response to my question whether the RTG was currently making any such plans to withdraw, Thanat said this was not the case. He said underlying objective in making his statement to the press about the possibility of Thai withdrawal reftel was to convey to Hanoi another indication of the growing capability of the South Vietnamese to take care of their own problems and also to blunt thrust of Hanoi propaganda. He asked me to keep in strictest confidence his acknowledgment that no plans for withdrawal were actually underway as well as his motivation, with Hanoi as the target, of raising in public the possibility of Thai withdrawal.
I said that we are also convinced of the value of the Vietnamization policy as means, inter alia, undercutting the NVN propaganda effort. I added that at same time we saw continuing value in having some Thai forces in Vietnam. He said he knew this and we did not need to convince Thailand on this score. He added that some of the people in the government, including some military, did not understand the political and psychological reasons for his public statement re withdrawal Thai forces from Vietnam. He then left for the Tuesday cabinet meeting at which he said this issue would be discussed and, presumably, his initiative will be explained to those less sophisticated. 3. Department please transmit Embassies Saigon, Vientiane and Paris and CINCPAC for Adm. McCain and Polad.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 560, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Vol. II. Secret; Priority; Exdis.
  2. Telegram 17181 from Bangkok, December 22, reported on Thanat’s “obviously planned” statement to newsmen upon his return to Bangkok from an ASEAN meeting in Kuala Lumpur that he had met with the South Vietnamese Foreign Minister during the conference and had discussed with him the subject of Thai troop withdrawals from Vietnam. (Ibid.)