74. Telegram From Secretary of State Rogers to the Department of State 1

Secto 45/10660. Subject: Following uncleared memorandum of Secretary’s Manila Bilateral with Thai FonMin Thanat (July 3).

FonMin Thanat responded to the Secretary’s mention of Cambodia and described the position of the RTG with regard to military assistance to that country. He explained that he had exerted some restraint on the Thai military leaders on the grounds that Thailand should [Page 149]not move too quickly until the military situation in Cambodia became clearer and also until the results of the Djakarta meeting follow-up were known. Furthermore, it was essential for the RTG to have an understanding of US Government intentions and to know what support would be available for whatever Thailand felt able to do. He emphasized that the Thais could not afford to become militarily deeply involved and find themselves left high and dry with the US having washed its hand of the Cambodian problem.
The Secretary then reviewed for the FonMin the actions which we contemplate, including the provision of small arms and equipment and economic assistance as well as the provision of some continuing air support of specified types. He referred also to the help which US would provide Cambodia through a new MAP program for fiscal year 1971 (beyond the $8 million provided for fiscal year 1970), surplus weapons and equipment, the hand-over of captured items and perhaps some loans. The Secretary mentioned in addition the military help which we anticipate South Vietnam will provide to Cambodia and expressed the hope that others in the region will also help.
The Secretary expressed specific hope that Thailand will do as much as it possibly can and he inquired how the US could help in this regard.FonMin first referred to the Black Panther unit now deployed to Vietnam and suggested that it might be wise in view of the new developments in Cambodia and the dangers closer to home for Thailand to use some of the Black Panthers to provide for Thailand’s forward defense in Western and Northern Cambodia. In the discussion that followed the Secretary generally endorsed this idea after ascertaining that the FonMin was speaking of only a part, say about 4,000, of the Black Panthers and that he contemplated keeping some of the Panthers in Vietnam for some time yet. He also made clear that the US could not support the Panthers either in border areas of Thailand or in adjacent areas of Cambodia in the same way as they are now supported; specifically subsistence and various allowances could not be paid by the US under the circumstances although we could probably re-supply them with ammo, spare parts, etc. through the Cambodian MAP program. In answer to a direct question from the FonMin, the Secretary said it is US policy to encourage the Thais to provide direct military assistance to Cambodia as it may be necessary. He referred also to the President’s view that we would understand that the Thais would put a priority on the use of their troops to defend their own home ground. In answer to the FonMin’s question, the Secretary said that he did not believe that there would be any obstacles, generally speaking, put up by Congress which would stand in the way of US support of its allies who wish to help Cambodia, but there were certain specific kinds of assistance which were in question and would remain so until decisions were taken on some pending legislation.
The discussion then turned to possible Thai assistance in training Cambodians and the help which the US might provide for this. Aside from the special arrangements which have been almost completed for US support for the training of Thai ethnic Khmer, we are not able at the moment to say precisely what help we can give although it almost surely would include some outfitting and equipping and possibly additional supply of consumables in Cambodia through Cambodian MAP. FonMin emphasized the teamwork he envisaged under the Nixon Doctrine in which Thailand and other countries in the area would provide manpower and the US would assist with weapons, equipment and financial and other support.
The Secretary then turned to FonMin’s obvious distress over statements made by US Senators and US press. He said that it was essential to recognize that these are personal and individual views and do not represent position of the Administration which deeply appreciates Thailand’s position and the help it has rendered. He said it was essential to have a thick skin about critical comments and see them in perspective.
Returning to Cambodia, the FonMin again expressed Thailand’s very deep concern at this point about Cambodian situation and the threat posed to his country. The Secretary acknowedged this and said it was important for us to think about the measure it might be essential to take if a collapse of the government in Phnom Penh should threaten. He expressed the need to see that the supply route via Kompong Som (Sihanoukville) not be re-established by the Communists and he also mentioned the need to keep open access to Phnom Penh via the Mekong.
The Secretary then referred to the FonMin’s mention the previous year of his efforts to establish some contact with the government of Communist China. Thanat said that nothing had come of these. He said that he was sure that the Chinese would be glad to receive a secret mission from Thailand and then would undoubtedly seek to exploit it to Thailand’s disadvantage. The Minister had no intention of playing this game, but was ready to talk openly; the Chinese were apparently not interested in pursuing this at this time.
At the conclusion Ambassador Unger mentioned possible closer cooperation among the four nations of the region to make better provisions for their own security. Thanat generally endorsed this idea, noting the obvious common interests which Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam had in this regard. He also mentioned the reticence of the Lao to deal with the Cambodians and the South Vietnamese; the Lao preferred to work on security matters only with the Thais.

Department repeat as desired.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Conference Files, 1966–72: Entry 3051 B: Box 516. Secret; Priority; Nodis. Drafted by Unger and approved in S by Peter Johnson and William Brandt. Repeated to Bangkok and Phnom Penh. Rogers had been in Manila for the SEATO meeting and in Saigon for the TCC meeting.