85. Memorandum From John H. Holdridge of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)1
- Your Request for Chronology of Thai Moves in Providing Regular RTA Forces for Service in Cambodia
At Tab A is the chronology of Thai moves in providing regular RTA forces for service in Cambodia2 as we have pieced it together from regular and back-channel messages.[Page 168]
In brief, I believe that these messages bring out the following points:
- —In May, soon after the U.S./GVN operations began in Cambodia, the Thai became concerned about the implications for them of the Communist aggression in Cambodia and began to consider the possibility of deploying regular RTA forces into Cambodia to help prevent a Communist takeover.
- —An initial Thai concept was to deploy a regiment of the Black Panthers from Vietnam into Eastern Cambodia, replacing it with other regular forces from Thailand. The Black Panthers would thus have stayed on in Vietnam.
- —After State determined that we could not legally support the Black Panthers in Cambodia unless operations were confined to the sanctuaries (“fighting the Vietnam war in Cambodia”) and we discovered also that the Thai intended to cover a broad area of Cambodia with these forces, an alternative was considered of supporting Thai forces (two regiments) from Thailand moving into Western Cambodia.
- —We then (about the end of May) spoke of upgrading the two regular Thailand regiments but retaining them in Thailand as “fire brigades” pending deployment of the Thai/Khmer regiments.
- —At this point we also began to engage in discussions with the Thai—from the Thai standpoint the word “haggle” might be a better term—on how U.S. support for these activities might be provided. We offered various combinations such as prior-year Thai MASF, trade-offs from economic assistance, and increased PL 480. It may have appeared to the Thai from this that we were fiddling while Rome was burning.
- —As the June 30 date for the U.S. withdrawal from Cambodia neared and no definitive arrangement for support of Thai forces in Cambodia was arrived at, the Thai began to consider the withdrawal of all Black Panther units from Vietnam to cope with dangers closer to Thailand, possibly by committing them to Cambodia.
- —However, the Thai themselves began to have some second thoughts about too obvious a Thai military presence in Cambodia. Thai public opinion did not appear enthusiastic about involvement. Foreign Minister Thanat apparently exercised some influence on planning to assure that Thai contributions to Cambodia would be kept clandestine. In addition, a “high level political decision” was allegedly required before Thai troops would be committed. The Thai were also concerned that their moving into a military role in Cambodia would vitiate their influence as one of the three Djakarta Conference convener governments.
- —Once again, misgivings about the level of U.S. support may have played a role in the Thai reservations. They have consistently found it very difficult to understand why the U.S. has not moved more vigorously to support them in coping with what they regard as clear and [Page 169]present threat to Thailand, and have apparently not comprehended the legal, financial, and Congressional complexities with which we must deal.
- —The Thai concept which finally began to emerge from the withdrawal of the Black Panthers (which has still not been formally announced) was not to use them as a fire brigade but as the trained nucleus of expanded Thai forces—apparently not for immediate use in Cambodia.
- Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 562, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Vol. IV. Secret; Nodis; Khmer. Sent for information. The memorandum is unsigned.↩
- The 5-page chronology references the regular and backchannel messages that correspond to each Thai/U.S. move; attached but not printed.↩