157. Backchannel Message From the Ambassador to Thailand (Whitehouse) to the Director of the White House Office of Drug Abuse (Bourne) and the Senior Adviser to the Secretary of State and Coordinator for International Narcotic Matters (Falco)1

569. I am sure you are following closely, [less than 1 line not declassified] the joint Thai-Burmese operation targeted against narcotics refinery in Burma close to Thai border north of Mae Hong Son. While cooperation between the two countries seems good and forces of both countries are moving steadily towards target, the latest indications are that the traffickers are aware of approaching forces and are beginning to disperse and bury refined narcotics. Operation could wind up with occupation of abandoned refinery with most of narcotics gone.

We are pleased at the recent, detailed exchange of telegrams we have had with Washington on our proposed bonus program for seized narcotics,2 but, as you know, a program has not rpt not yet been approved. On a one-shot basis, I propose that you arrange to allocate $30,000 for bonus payments for any narcotics which may be seized in this present Thai-Burmese operation, to provide incentive to forces involved to locate narcotics which may be buried by the withdrawing SUA forces. Indications are that there may have been 100 kilos of heroin equivalent at refinery and thus I suggest a tentative allocation of $30,000, using our proposed schedule of payments.

If you respond favorably, I plan to inform Thai BPP commander in Chiang Mai that we will pay $300 per kilo of No. 4 heroin found by elements engaged in the current operation with payments in accordance with the schedule with which he is familiar. I am sure there will be a variety of friendly, Thai-Burmese contacts in course of this operation, and the word that we will pay $300 per kilo seized in the course of current endeavors may encourage both Thai and Burmese to show [Page 567] additional diligence in searching for buried narcotics and getting it to DEA office in Chiang Mai.

I would propose to have DEA office in Chiang Mai handle the payments, after verifying narcotics contents and weights with Thai police remaining in physical possession of the narcotics. If this one-shot operation does not work at all, we will not rpt not have spent anything. Level of the bonuses we have proposed is, of course, well below current market prices of narcotics, and this keeps us free of sliding into a kind of pre-emptive buy program, whose disadvantages we are all familiar with.

  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinksi Office File, Subject File, Box 7, Backchannel Messages, Far East, 1/77–5/78. Secret; Sensitive; Immediate. Printed from the copy that was received in the White House Situation Room.
  2. Telegram 9765 from Bangkok, May 6, dealt with the Embassy’s proposed narcotics bonus payments. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770160–0741) Telegram 133974 to Bangkok, June 9, provided the Department’s response to the Embassy’s proposal. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770207–0753) Telegram 13561 from Bangkok, June 22, provided the Narcotics Executive Committee response to the proposal. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D770222–0341)