64. Backchannel Message From the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson) to the Ambassador to Thailand (Unger)1

510. Ref Bangkok 6452 (being repeated Saigon and Honolulu). For Ambassador Unger from Alexis Johnson.

This message responds, to extent we are now able, to questions you raised reftel and which were not answered in my message of May 14 (in this channel).3 In all of this we should be careful not to get too far ahead of RTG and GOC.
In addition to our previous concurrence with general philosophy of para 3 reftel, subject to approval its application in specific cases, we agree our special forces should not become involved directly in training of two regiments. We envisage a supply program which would not contemplate MAP or USOM style follow up or supervision. [11/2 lines of source text not declassified]
We note (re para 4) that you have already approached Dawee and PM (Bangkok 5941 and 6030, both notal)4 on setting up Thai-Cambodian coordinating organization and Thai internal staff to centralize management and control of Thai assistance programs for Cambodia. We concur in your suggestion and emphasize the importance of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], MACTHAI, or Embassy officers not becoming part of this organization. They should assist and keep in touch with activities only through exercise of their advisory role with Thais. No special advisor should be assigned to the coordinating body.
We concur (para 5) in keeping communications on two regiments in this channel; other questions should be handled in Nodis/Khmer or other controlled distribution series following guidelines set up in Washington (State 061378 or 066129).5
On para 6, while provision by Thais of equipment and funds which are their property need not be protected, use of U.S.-supplied or funded equipment for the two regiments should be protected on a closely held basis. Provision by Thais of U.S. supplied equipment for any other projects must also be carefully protected.
In regard second para reftel numbered 6 (number duplicated), we would expect to furnish initial equipment for the two regiments from three to four 1000-man packs of arms, ammo and communications equipment which we have allotted for Cambodian assistance. Uniforms would be required. We would hope to provide uniforms from DoD stocks in RVN which would be moved [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]to training sites to avoid any major draw down of DoD stocks in Thailand. We do not believe this project could be kept covert if DoD stocks in Thailand are used. We expect [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] covertly to fund for both regiments during period of training in Thailand, costs of food, housing and training, and following training to fund transportation to Cambodia. While in Thailand, Cambodian regiment will be paid covertly [less than 1 line of source text not declassified], but we would expect Thais to assume responsibility for paying their regiment during training period. In Cambodia, ammunition and some replacement of original equipment will be required and we are planning to do this under same arrangement we have made for support of Khmer Krom troops now in Cambodia, i.e., from DoD stocks in RVN using South Vietnamese military transportation and delivered to FANK. After arrival in Cambodia, pay, food and housing for Cambodian regiment would become responsibility of FANK. Thai regiment presents special problem. We are proceeding on assumption that Thais will take direct responsibility for pay, food and housing for their regiment [less than 1 line of source text not declassified]. It is essential that (a) both regiments (officers and men) be composed entirely of or, in Thai regiment, almost entirely of ethnic Khmer troops and (b) follow same process as have Khmer Krom of being folded into FANK. Press and public seem to have accepted return of Khmer Krom to fight in Cambodia as natural and normal state of affairs. We realize Thais may have a different concept of operations for their regiment and need more information on Thai plans before we can make final commitment on this half of project.
On questions para 7, we are and will keep aware of what others may do to assist Cambodians. Question on supply while in Cambodia answered para 6 above.
Regarding para 9, question A, we have a Presidential determination establishing a small (7.9 million dollars) MAP program for Cambodia. This determination permits use of DoD stocks in RVN or those in possession of GVN or RTG which will then be replaced (unless [Page 135]equipment is excess of U.S., Thai or Vietnamese requirements) from Cambodian MAP funds of $7.9 million. We would hope to avoid any major use of RTG or DoD stocks in Thailand for reason stated para 6 above.
In response to para 9, question B, we wish to make it completely clear to Thais that the two regiments cannot become a U.S. responsibility in event they get into a situation in Cambodia like that faced by SR VIII last June in Laos. As is case for other FANK units, U.S. ground forces could not be committed to assist them; and it should not be assumed USAF air support would be available. You should make clear to RTG that our support for this project does not carry any implication of a decision on our part to commit U.S. forces to Cambodia or Thailand.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–074, WSAG Meeting, 5/22/70. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only; Immediate. Repeated to Saigon for Bunker and Abrams and to CINCPAC for Admiral McCain.
  2. In backchannel message 645 from Bangkok, May 14, Unger urgently requested guidance on details of U.S. cooperation in the Thai-Cambodian plan to train and equip two regiments for Cambodia. In paragraph 3 Unger recommended that “our role should be to provide advice and counsel, technical knowledge, equipment and some financial support but not to become intimately involved in the conduct of the Thai-Cambodian programs.” (Ibid., NSC Files, Box 561, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Vol. III)
  3. See Document 63.
  4. Both dated May 18. (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 561, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Vol. III)
  5. Neither printed.