60. Memorandum From John H. Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- Potential Thai Assistance to Cambodia
In the short term, the Thai can help the Lon Nol Government by:
- —Issuing a statement recognizing the Cambodian border along the present frontiers. This is something which Sihanouk never got from the Thai, and issuance of such a statement now might help to give the Lon Nol Government extra credit in the eyes of the Cambodian people. The Cambodians have long wanted the Thai to accept the existing frontiers, since Thailand has maintained a traditional claim to large areas of Western Cambodia.
- —Getting the word to the Lon Nol Government that Thailand has no intention of causing any military problems for Cambodia along the Thai-Cambodian frontiers. This would permit the Lon Nol Government to shift military forces from the Thai borders to more critical areas in Eastern and Northeastern Cambodia.
- —Backing up Cambodian political and diplomatic initiatives, e.g. supporting UN consideration of the Cambodian situation if Cambodia wants this, and helping out where possible to bring about reactivation of the ICC in Cambodia. Thai help in this sphere would be most useful if other Asian nations without too close ties to the US (for example Indonesia and Singapore) were also in the act.
Over the longer term, Thailand might provide additional help by:
- —Offering military aid to Cambodia. Cambodia still possesses sizeable stocks of US-supplied weapons, and the Thail might be able to provide (or act as a transit point for) ammunition, spare parts, and additional arms in the event that the Lon Nol Government finds it necessary to draw upon its US-supplied stocks to supplement the Communist arms with which the FARK is now mostly equipped. Conceivably, Thai LOCs to Cambodia could become very important in sustaining the Lon Nol Government.
- —Once a sufficiently large number of other nations have recognized the Lon Nol Government, extending Thai diplomatic recognition. Lon Nol will probably need all the international backing he can get, but it would be unwise for Thailand to act too soon because of Thailand’s close association with the US and the desirability of keeping Lon Nol’s neutral credentials intact.
The Thai may already be thinking of taking some of the above steps, both short and longer-term, but could be stimulated into focussing more closely on possible actions through conversations with Ambassador Unger and others on his staff.
One step which I would not recommend would be introducing Thai troops into Cambodia. From our Laos exercise, we know that trained Thai troops are in any event hard to come by and might not be particularly helpful if the Lon Nol Government were attacked by NVA/VC forces. In addition, in view of Thailand’s territorial claims, the presence of Thai troops on Cambodian soil would probably not be welcomed by the Cambodian people or could play into Sihanouk’s hands. Finally, we would have the SEATO commitment to worry about if Thai troops were introduced into Cambodia.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 561, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Vol. III. Secret. Sent for information. A notation on the memorandum indicates that Kissinger saw it.↩
- An attached but not printed April 7 memorandum from Haig to Holdridge relayed Kissinger’s request. A notation on that memorandum in Haig’s handwriting reads: “HAK—This is a very sound analysis in my view. But who can muster the courage?” A notation beside it by Kissinger reads: “I want to discuss Thai contribution in Cambodia.”↩
- By “the situation in Cambodia,” it is assumed that Holdridge was referring to the recent replacement of Prince Sihanouk by General Lon Nol as head of the Government of Cambodia and to the North Vietnamese occupation of significant portions of eastern and northern Cambodia, in order to assist in their infiltration of South Vietnam.↩