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

2550. Subject: Meeting With Prime Minister. Ref: A. State 027316 (Joint State/Def); B. State 030190; C. Bangkok 2522; D. State 023802.2

During cordial meeting with PM at Government House March 2 to discuss deployment of Sierra Romeo IX3 (reported ref c), I took the opportunity to inform him, in general terms (without divulging specific or sensitive information), of items I considered would be pertinent to his interests that were recently discussed at SEACOORD meeting. I covered the military situation in SVN, status of pacification, our views of Hanoi’s post-hostilities planning and the Vietnamization program, including a word about its relation to third country forces.
The PM was very interested and brought up several points the most important of which concerned Vietnamization. He pointedly asked whether the U.S. was training and equipping the RVNAF to replace U.S. forces only or whether we also planned to replace Thai and other allied forces. I explained to him that for the purposes of the Vietnamization program we were now discussing the revitalized VN forces were intended to replace a substantial share of U.S. forces in SVN but that in the longer run I assumed their eventually replacing FWF was also contemplated. (I had already said that some U.S. troops which would be remaining in SVN through the Vietnamization process would continue to provide the Black Panthers with the various kinds of support from U.S. forces they are receiving today; my comment was based on my discussions last week in Saigon.) He responded that he had been under considerable pressure from Parliament to withdraw Thai forces from SVN in face of continued U.S. and allied reductions. In response to my direct question on whether it was his feeling that he would be obliged to carry our reductions, he did not say he intended to reduce the Thai troop contributions in SVN, but again stressed that he was under growing pressure from the representatives in Parliament and said that “when the people feel very strongly about a situation, the government must do something to ease that situation.”
I replied that I was aware of and sympathetic to his problem. The USG had warmly appreciated his statement that the RTG intended to maintain the Thai forces in SVN as long as the GVN needs them or until Thailand itself requires those forces. I added that my government hoped the RTG would retain all of the Thai forces in SVN, or at least a substantial part of them, at least during the Vietnamization process. I had already emphasized, however, that the Vietnamization program did not have a specific schedule for completion but its rate depended upon intensity of enemy activity on the battlefield, the capacity of the Vietnamese to take over the combat role and progress in Paris, if any. I then pointed out the psychological and political importance of having not only U.S. forces but Thai and other allied forces as well to support the GVN during the period of its takeover of the combat responsibility. I also pointed out the importance of the Thai forces in protecting the eastern and southeastern approaches to Saigon and thus freeing GVN forces, as Vietnamization proceeds to establish a stronger Vietnamese military presence in remote areas along the Cambodian border. I requested that, if at any time he felt he had to decide to withdraw some of the Thai forces, I be given the opportunity to discuss his plans with him before he takes any action. He said that he would discuss such plans with the cabinet, GVN, and indicated that I would also have an opportunity to talk with him.
In connection with Vietnamization I told the PM that the U.S. forces in Thailand might have some additional functions to perform here because some of the combat support activities now being con-ducted in SVN such as air defense, air interdiction and reconnaissance might, as Vietnamization proceeds, have to be continued from outside SVN, e.g., Thailand and elsewhere. I added that while there appeared to be a continuing need to have U.S. forces and personnel in Thailand to support the VN effort until Vietnamization is well down the road, I did not believe this ruled out a continuation of the gradual reduction of U.S. forces in Thailand which we and the RTG had jointly got underway last September. I speculated that we might have a follow-on reduction to the present one in the next fiscal year which would reduce our forces by about the same magnitude and that I would consult with the RTG as our plans developed. He acknowledged these points without comment.
Comment. The PM carefully avoided saying that he would at some point have to withdraw all or part of the Thai forces. However, it was clear that he wished to register the point of Parliamentary pres-sure and I did not press the matter beyond making clear our interest in maintaining Thai forces and in being consulted about any reduction plans. I believe that in sharing with the PM some of our thinking on questions I know weigh heavily on his mind we have restored some [Page 116]substance to our dialogue. I hope I will have made available to me timely information with which to continue such exchanges of information on matters of importance to the Thai, which also give us an opportunity to gain valuable insights into their thinking.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 1 THAI–US. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to Vientiane, CINCPAC, and COMUSMACTHAI.
  2. Reftels A–D are not printed.
  3. Sierra Romeo was the codename for the Thai artillery unit which was periodically inserted into and withdrawn from Laos in response to Communist pressure against the Lao Government forces, mostly the Meo tribesmen on the mountain front; see Document 29.