86. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1

SUBJECT

  • Chronology of Moves in Connection with Provision of Regular Thai Forces for Service in Cambodia

You are aware that there have been numerous problems in putting into effect your strategy for Cambodia of mobilizing maximum U.S. and third country efforts to prevent the collapse of the Cambodian Government. As an illustration of these problems, the chronology at Tab A2 summarizes the sequence of events surrounding a plan for deploying two regular Thai regiments in Cambodia, which has now been dropped by the Thai.

When the Thai first proposed this on May 22 they emphasized the need for [1 line of source text not declassified], and (b) the need for U.S. support essentially as provided for their forces in Laos and South Vietnam. These two regiments were to be in addition to the Thai Khmer regiments which we were already committed to support. At that time [Page 170]the Thai had agreed to pay the salaries and expenses of the Thai Khmer regiments after they were deployed in Cambodia. Our initial reaction was to go slow on the regular Thai regiments, getting them ready (contributing equipment and training support) but keeping them in reserve.

When the Thai persisted, we discussed with them the possibility of overcoming the complex problems of support for these units in Cambodia by employing them as an augmentation of the Thai Black Panther unit in Vietnam. Some of the Black Panthers would then have moved into the sanctuary areas.

Meanwhile, plans for the Djakarta Conference were advancing and a great deal of emphasis was being placed on “neutrality” and “nonalignment” in the Asian capitals. Our Embassies with State’s backing were taking every opportunity to remind governmental leaders of the need to protect their “neutral” credentials to (a) get the conference off the ground, and (b) assure a reasonable prospect for its success. This probably contributed to the Thai Cabinet’s decision to defer sending the Thai “volunteers” to Cambodia—the Djakarta Conference called for removal of all foreign troops from Cambodia.

Thai desire for moving at least a regiment of the Black Panthers waxed again in mid-June, but despite our offers of indirect help to make this possible, they began to temporize. (The military situation in Cambodia, which had seemed critical in early and mid-June had improved somewhat which may have relieved some of the pressures on the Thai to move.) The way in which our offers were couched may have contributed at this point to a general uneasiness on the part of the Thai. State continued to paint a picture of the legal complexities which we had to overcome in giving any support. The effect probably was to suggest to the Thai that we really did not favor their movement. At the same time we were pursuing in all capitals the need for a vigorous follow-up to the Djakarta conference—the inferences were “remember your neutral status” and remember the Djakarta declaration that all foreign troops should withdraw.

The net effect of all this seems to have been that the Thai doubted either our willingness or at least our ability to come through with the kind of financial support they wanted. Behind their desire for financial support was also a clear hope for a U.S. commitment on behalf of their military actions in Cambodia. On this aspect, too, there must have been growing doubts. Despite occasional suggestions that they might be willing to go ahead without substantial help from us, the weight of the evidence is on the side that they wanted support of a kind they already were receiving for their forces in Northern Laos and in Vietnam. Our “explanations” of the difficulties of providing such support in Cambodia probably led them to conclude that we would only reluctantly acquiesce in such support and might not continue it for long. There would be no commitment.

[Page 171]

Thus our position probably may have been interpreted as comparatively negative. This led the Thai in turn to reach a “political” decision not to go ahead. It also reinforced their concern as to our future intentions in the region—our Vietnam withdrawals, our ground force withdrawal from Cambodia and our planned reductions in Thailand all added up to produce a growing sense of uneasiness in Bangkok. When we discouraged (with General Abrams’ concurrence) the use of the Panthers in Cambodia and didn’t come forward with a positive and simple solution to the support problems for the Thai regiments in western Cambodia, the Thai probably concluded that the better part of valor was to tighten their belts and bring the Panthers home to protect Thailand itself before we withdrew the support we were then providing.

Ambassador Unger continued to suggest to Washington his enthusiasm for the project. State’s instructions, however, tended to imply some reticence to move ahead and left Unger to carry the ball without positive evidence of full support from the Department for the project.

As evidenced at the WSAG meetings neither Ambassador Johnson nor Ambassador Green were enthusiastic at the prospect of regular Thai forces in Cambodia. This accounts for the fact that most cables originally were drafted in negative tone.

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 562, Country Files, Far East, Thailand, Vol. IV. Top Secret; Sensitive. Sent for information. Apparently drafted by Holdridge and Kennedy, as evidenced by their attached August 26 memorandum to Kissinger. There is no indication that the President saw this memorandum, and a notation in the margin of the Holdridge/Kennedy memorandum in Kissinger’s handwriting reads “Al—I think this is probably OBE. What do you think? At any rate please put in the files (as well as my personal files).” A notation next to it in Haig’s handwriting reads: “Agree.”
  2. At Tab A, attached but not printed, is the same chronology as that mentioned in footnote 2, Document 85.