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

691. For Ambassador Unger from Alexis Johnson. Ref: Bangkok 680.2

You authorized to proceed as requested reftel in further exploration of scheme for expansion of Black Panthers and for their use [Page 140] in Cambodia along lines discussed para 3 of Bangkok 669.3 In exploring this proposal with Thais, you should make clear to them that Black Panthers would have to be used in a fashion consistent with the theory of operations which we developed here and which was sent to you as para 3 of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] 637.4
You should emphasize to Thais that particularly since this matter remains in exploratory stage, and no decision yet made, it is essential that Thais do not make any public comment concerning it.
During course of exploration you should also make clear to Thais that as in the case of two Thai Khmer regiments ([less than 1 line of source text not declassified] 510, para 9),5 it should not be assumed by Thais that USAF air support would be available to Black Panthers.6
For our planning purposes here, it would be helpful if in the course of exploration you could also elicit from Thais their thinking with regard to the timing of this deployment.
  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 562, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Vol. IV. Secret; Sensitive; Eyes Only. Repeated to Saigon for Ambassador Bunker and General Abrams and to CINCPAC Honolulu for Admiral McCain.
  2. Backchannel message 680, June 2, reported Unger’s belief that he would be approached by the Thais the following day to resume the dialogue on the “short range proposal,” in the form of an expansion of the Thai Black Panthers division in Vietnam and for its partial use in Cambodia. (Ibid.)
  3. Backchannel message 669, May 30, discussed various aspects of the “short range proposal,” the quick deployment to Cambodia of two regiments of Thai regular troops to meet the emergency need for forces. Paragraph three covered a number of points, including that the Black Panthers were not up to their allocated full strength, would probably deploy personnel “presently in South Vietnam” after being reinforced, would receive “all repeat all support arrangements” for the two additional regiments as for those already there, and would consult with the South Vietnamese Government concerning “some reduction in Black Panther area responsibility in Vietnam.” (Ibid., Vol. III)
  4. See footnote 3, Document 66.
  5. See Document 64.
  6. Unger responded, in backchannel message 687, June 3, by stating that “it is hard to see the logic of air support changes” (considering U.S. air support for Thai forces in Laos and also its use of Thai air bases). Unger concluded by stating that “I would not be surprised, for example, if my telling the Thais that USAF air support could not be assumed to be available to Black Panthers operating in Cambodia would mean the end of any further consideration of that project by the RTG.” Attached but not printed.