125. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (Derian) to Vice President Mondale 1


  • Human Rights and your Asian Trip

Overall Theme: How you handle human rights issues on your trip to the Philippines and Indonesia will substantially affect the credibility of the Administration’s human rights policy—and your personal credibility on this subject. In Thailand you have an exceptional opportunity to restate our concern about Indochinese refugees.


Background: The continued pattern of human rights violations was highlighted by the recent election campaign, widely reported in the U.S. and world press. Although the opposition demonstrated wide popularity (at least in Manila) it won no seats. The country continues [Page 435] under martial law, the legitimate legislature having been abolished by Marcos over five years ago. The regime holds 500–2,000 political prisoners without trial. Torture continues, confirmed by intelligence reports and public testimony of former prisoners, and virtually acknowledged to me in January by Defense Minister Enrile.2

The press is virtually as controlled as in a communist country through ownership by Marcos cronies and outright censorship. Marcos’ chief rival, Benito Aquino, has been jailed for five years. I visited him at the Bonifacio Barracks where he is held and was impressed by his political skill and commitment to democratic processes. Marcos has sought to tie him to the CIA and the communists. Aquino’s television defense against these charges was so electrifying he was barred from further public appearances. Although confined to his cell he was the highest vote-getter of the opposition candidates. He is a remarkable man.

What you should do:

Above all, Marcos will want to use your visit3 to demonstrate business as usual between the U.S. and his government. It is this image, carefully cultivated in the past, that most upsets opposition and human rights figures. This point will be emphasized at a House International Relations Subcommittee hearing April 27 chaired by Rep. Leo Ryan, whose California district is home for many Filipinos. Prof. George Kahin (Cornell University) who was in the Philippines for the election campaign will seek to document this theme with news clippings such as the attached,4 from a pro-government paper, showing that the U.S. remains Marcos’s main support.

To avoid merely perpetuating this image, you should concentrate on ways to make clear that U.S. ties are to the Philippines, not Marcos . Your meetings with Father Reuter, Cardinal Sin, and other opposition and human rights figures will help. I hope you will give them ample time.

Of particular concern to human rights groups will be the plan for you publicly to sign a bilateral assistance package, to say nothing of the possibility of signing a new bases agreement. We are currently abstaining on a loan in the Asian Development Bank, are declining to sell a computer to the Philippine police, and are delaying (although the sale ultimately will probably go forward) the sale of six patrol [Page 436] boats. None of these negative actions are visible, however, compared to your publicly signing the aid agreements. These could be signed routinely at another time, rather than publicly during your visit.


Background: Despite the releases of political prisoners in December, the restrictive nature of the Indonesian Government remains evident. More than 20,000 prisoners, some untried or uncharged for more than a decade, remain in prison. The conditions they endure range from barely adequate in Indonesian terms to totally inadequate by any standards. There is no good reason why the releases of the remaining prisoners—whether 20,000 as the Government says or more as Amnesty5 states—could not be accelerated. During the recent election campaign, there were widespread arrests, with some 150 opposition leaders remaining in jail, and a crackdown on the press (which had become relatively free at the time of my visit in January).6

What you should do:

As in the Philippines, the essential theme should be to make clear that our ties are to Indonesia and its people. The Embassy is arranging for you to meet with a representative group of non-government figures, many of whom I also saw. This will give you a chance to hear various points of view.7

I am particularly concerned about the plan for you to participate in arrangements to sell the Indonesians a squadron of A–4’s. This is an outdated airplane of questionable efficacy—but such a sale would look bad for the President’s effort to limit conventional arms sales, and for our human rights policy. Indonesia has already recently received a squadron of F–5’s and an M–16 plant, both initiated prior to this Administration, but with the final OK coming last December, on the understanding that the release of 10,000 political prisoners would go forward. No such human rights forward step is contemplated in connection with your visit. I do not believe you should get involved in the A–4 sale.


The great majority of refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia go first to Thailand. I visited refugee camps around the country in [Page 437] January8 and am glad you will visit a refugee center. (I’m sorry your schedule won’t allow a visit to a boat camp—where the refugees from Vietnam first land.) There are over 100,000 now in Thailand, supported by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees primarily with U.S. funds.

Prime Minister Kriangsak assured me his government would continue to allow refugees to land (consistent with humane religious traditions).9 He is under pressure, however, to find additional ways to get rid of refugees. Some Thai officials have sent refugees back to Laos, there are also cases of boats being turned away. Continued programs by the U.S., France, and other countries to accept refugees are essential to enable the Thai to continue serving as a country of first resort.

You can tell the Thai of the President’s recent decision (on which I testified in the House April 12) for the U.S. to accept up to 25,000 refugees per year.10

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Trip File, Box 34, Vice President, Pacific and Southeast Asia, 5/2–10/78: Topical Briefing Book. Confidential. In the upper right-hand corner, an unknown hand wrote, “we need list of things against Philippines that we have done.” Underneath it, the same hand wrote, “cut in Grant MAP an example to MARCOS of Congressional attitude.”
  2. Derian met with Philippine officials, including Marcos and Enrile, on January 11. (Telegram 721 from Manila, January 13; National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780020–0228)
  3. See Documents 318322.
  4. Not attached.
  5. Reference is to Amnesty International.
  6. Derian visited Jakarta January 12–14.
  7. See Documents 206 and 207.
  8. Derian visited Thailand January 16–19. Telegram 2184 from Bangkok, January 20, reported on her visit to the refugee camps. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780030–1044)
  9. Telegram 1857 from Bangkok, January 18, summarized Derian’s January 16 meeting with Kriangsak. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780026–0829)
  10. Derian testified before the Immigration, Citizenship, and International Law Subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee on April 12. Regarding Mondale’s meeting with Thai officials, see Documents 167 and 168.