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

2928. Subject: Message to Prime Minister.

With Field Marshal Thanom already renamed PriMin by the King, expected to announce his new cabinet momentarily, and expected to present his new government’s program to joint session of Parliament March 19 or 20, I believe it would be most appropriate for US to take formal note of Thailand’s installation of a government constitutionally responsible to Parliament. I therefore strongly recommend the President send Thanom a message of congratulations on his new appointment. Most suitable delivery time would be just after Thanom presents government policy statement to Parliament.
We have been encouraged by Thai return to constitutional government. We have not, however, sent formal official congratulatory messages either at time of promulgation of constitution in June 1968 or following February 10 national elections,2 largely because such messages [Page 11] could have been construed here as paternalistic and elsewhere if known as indicative of US influence behind Thai developments. Assumption of office by PriMin is, in contrast, an appropriate occasion to offer congratulations and to testify to our continuing cooperation without incurring disadvantages noted above.
Moreover, while RTG leaders have to date adjusted rather well to new political arena in which they are operating, taking opposition attacks during electoral campaign and failure to achieve absolute majority by balloting process more or less in stride, strains will continue and may well increase when opposition speaks out in elected House. Temptation to return to “good old days” and avoid all this parliamentary unpleasantness will still lurk in some leaders’ minds. An expression of favorable US view toward Thai constitutional development, at time and in manner that avoid any aura of interference in Thai internal affairs, could help to encourage RTG leaders to accept inconvenient aspects of constitutional government.
I suggest text along following lines: “Dear Mr. Prime Minister: I wish to congratulate you on your appointment by His Majesty the King of Thailand to serve once again as Prime Minister. Your formation of a new government, following elections under the new constitution, marks an important milestone in Thai political history and is a tribute to your leadership. I look forward to a continuation of our close cooperation in pursuit of peace and freedom.”3
Although no congratulatory messages on election results have been publicized, we have had indications that Koreans and perhaps a few others have sent them in one form or another.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 15–1 THAI. Confidential.
  2. The Thai national elections of February 10 resulted in a victory for the government parties, albeit a limited one. The Saha Pracha Thai (SPT) party of Thanom elected 75 deputies to the 219-member Lower House. Independent candidates, over half of whom were financially supported by Deputy Prime Minister Praphat, won 72 seats. The opposition Democrats won 57 seats, with the remaining 15 going to various minor groups. INR Intelligence Note No. 114, February 20, reported that the election “enhanced” Praphat’s position and was likely to result in “a stronger behind-the-scenes role” for him. Forty-four Senators were appointed later in the month in order to bring the Senate up to its new constitutional size, and it remained securely under the control of the government party. Note No. 114 reported that Praphat was “unlikely to seriously threaten Thanom’s position as Prime Minister” and was “probably aware that he would be an unacceptable Prime Minister to many Thais, from the King on down.” It added, however, that the composition of the post-election cabinet would probably reflect his wishes “that Thanom’s leadership position will be more circumscribed,” and that the influence of civilian leaders, such as Minister for National Development Pote Sarasin and Foreign Minister Thanat Khoman, could be decreased.” (Ibid., POL 14 THAI)
  3. See Document 7.