44. Telegram From the Vice President’s Party to the Department of State 1

Vipto 12/19. Dept pass Bangkok. VP Channel. Subj: Vice President’s Meeting With the King and Queen of Thailand January 4, 1970.

The meeting was held at the Royal Palace. In attendance were the King, Queen, Prime Minister, Ambassador Unger, Commander Cernan, as well as other aides.
The meeting began with an exchange of gifts between the principals and presentation to the King of the Thai flag and moon rocks by Commander Cernan.
Surprisingly, there was very little small talk between the King and me, and he moved quickly to the substantive matters. He expressed his concern over the Symington Subcommittee’s testimony with particular regard to the characterization of the Thai soldiers as “mercenaries”. I assured him that this was not the prevalent American opinion and that President Nixon wished the Thai people to be aware of the continuing appreciation of the United States for their support in Vietnam and for their effective battle against insurgency in the north and northeast of their own country.
The King expressed grave concern over the situation in Laos, indicating that very serious mistakes were made at the time of the 1962 Geneva Accords—principally the failure to partition Laos in such a manner as to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail. When I inquired about the activities of the Pathet Lao, he indicated that their effort would collapse without active North Vietnamese cadres prodding them and threatening them with execution should they not continue the fight against the Laotian Government.
The King indicated that the Thais were very concerned that a possible settlement in South Vietnam would not include a satisfactory requirement that the North Vietnamese withdraw entirely from Laos. I assured him that his position was understood and that we would consult in advance with the Thai Government to make certain that the Laotian situation was satisfactorily covered in any final agreement with the Communists.
I asked the King about Sihanouk and how he appraised the present Cambodian position. I expressed concern over the augmentation [Page 99]of shipments through Cambodia, particularly since the Vietnamization program was under its severest test in the Delta area. The King said that he felt Sihanouk was playing a dangerous game, but that he was virtually the captive of a nearly impossible situation. The moment that Sihanouk ceases to cooperate marginally with the Communists, the King said, he would be faced with wide-spread and effective insurgency which would probably result in his overthrow. Moreover, the King felt that so long as Sihanouk closed his eyes to the flow of Communist materials through his country he was in a better position to at least allow some American observation. He indicated that the Thailand-Cambodia ill feeling had receded to some extent and that he appreciated the difficulty of Sihanouk’s position.
The King is very worried about increasing Communist capability in stimulating the insurgency in Thailand. The intention of the Communists is demonstrated by their focus of effort on the road construction program in Laos, and particularly the road that leads southwest toward Thailand. The King said that he did not think Souvanna Phouma wanted to encourage this venture, but that he did not know how to cut it off, having agreed to Communist road building assistance in other northern areas of Laos. The King’s fear is that a good road will allow the rapid movement of troops and materials from North Vietnam to the Thai borders and that the supplying of the insurrection will become much easier.
My general impression of the King was very favorable. I assess him to be an extremely brilliant and intense young man who has a remarkable capability of concentration. Whatever he attempts he seems to throw himself completely into, and I would judge that he has a greater effect on the foreign policy of Thailand than the conventional monarch. He seems to have great social awareness and indicated that he was moving to provide increased social assistance to his people in the areas of education, health and land reform.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 7 US/AGNEW. Secret; Immediate.