93. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs (Green) to the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)1

SUBJECT

  • Proposed WSAG Consideration of Thai SGU in Laos

We have, as you know, authorized Ambassador Unger to commence discussions with the Thai on the proposals for supporting up to 13 Thai SGU’s in Laos, of which eight would be for the South (two for Champassak/Sithadone) and four for North Laos to replace the present Thai RCT and SR–IX. A fifth is under consideration for North Laos for Sayaboury but this has not yet been agreed upon by all parties. We have wanted to consider this overall question as two separate projects, i.e. as a “Thai-in-South Laos proposal” and a “Thai-in-North Laos proposal”. Unger’s discussions with the Thai on the Thai-in-North Laos proposal was conditioned only upon a budget review to assure that presently available funds would be adequate.

Messages were sent to Ambassador Unger on September 23 telling him we wanted to go ahead with these two proposals (see State 156373 and State 156387)2 but subsequently the Fulbright Amendment to the Defense Procurement Act has given rise to a new problem with regard to the Thai-in-North Laos proposal. The Fulbright Amendment would in effect prohibit use of DOD funds for Thai troops in Laos except for [Page 193]those associated with interdiction of NVN infiltration to South Vietnam. Senator Stennis has advised Director Helms and Deputy Secretary Packard that this would permit DOD funding of Thai troops in South Laos but would not cover those in the North. CIA believes there is an outside chance that it would be acceptable legally for CIA funds to continue to be used for this purpose in North Laos and, if so, the two projects could both go forward. All that would be required is a shifting of funds to put the Thai SGU’s in the South under DOD funding and those in the North under CIA, for which Bill Wells assures us their funds would be adequate. However, the legal authority for this is extremely shaky and I believe it would be hazardous to proceed without a green light from the Hill.

In the meanwhile, it does not seem advisable to commence talks with the Thai on the South Laos project independently. To do so would inevitably open the question as to our intentions with respect to North Laos, where we and the Thai will soon have to make important decisions about the future of RCT and SR–IX. As you recall, one reason for shifting to SGU’s in North Laos was to put all Thai forces in that country on the same footing with regard to command and control and pay and allowances. While we would like to keep the two projects separate for planning purposes here, we agree with Ambassador Unger that it would be unwise to start talking with the Thai about the South before we are prepared to talk about the North as well.

I therefore recommend that this problem be brought up at the WSAG meeting scheduled for next Tuesday and that WSAG consider how to resolve the legal uncertainty regarding support for the Thai in North Laos.3 This is an urgent matter because the proposed changeover in Thai units will have to take place in January and we will need all the time we can get in the meanwhile for recruiting and training of the new SGU’s.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, DEF 19 THAI–LAOS. Secret; Nodis. Drafted by Dexter, cleared by Wilson and Corcoran (EA), and approved by Green.
  2. Both dated September 23. (Ibid.)
  3. In a meeting on October 16, the WSAG reviewed [text not declassified] plans for the use of Thai Special Guerrilla Units (SGU) in northern and southern Laos. The consensus was that these activities should continue to be justified to Congress on the basis that they constituted a continuation of programs already under way and that they served to protect U.S. troops in Vietnam by attacking enemy supply lines and sanctuaries. The WSAG also agreed in principle to the proposal to replace Thai regular units in Long Tieng with SGUs. However, the Departments of State and Defense were tasked with studying whether this would degrade “friendly military capabilities in Northern Laos.” Finally, the WSAG was reminded by Kissinger “that in considering the question of Thai military involvement in Cambodia, the President’s deep interest in insuring that all feasible measures must be taken into account.” The October 16 meeting summary of conclusions states: “In this connection, it is essential to obtain as soon as possible Thai agreement to contingency plans for employment of Thai ground and air forces in Cambodia as required.” (National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, NSC Institutional Files (H-Files), Box H–114, WSAG Minutes, Originals, 1969 and 1970)