178. Letter From Thai Prime Minister Kriangsak to President Carter1

Dear Mr. President,

It was with great gratification that I recently learned from press reports that the U.S. Government, under your initiative, has pledged to contribute a sum of $70,000,000 towards the relief aid for the suffering people of Kampuchea.2 This is indeed a most welcome news not only for these people who now number close to 200,000 on this side of the border, but also for all concerned who have dedicated themselves to the task of making the lives of these people bearable again. The Government of Thailand wholeheartedly applauds such a decision on the part of the U.S. Government. This is truly an act of profound generosity and genuine sympathy for other less fortunate people that has been traditionally reserved for American people.

The plights of the Kampuchean refugees are beyond anything humanly imaginable. There appear to be few scepticisms today as to the extent of the tragedy that has befallen the unfortunate people of Kampuchea and their nation. We in Thailand are heartened by the fact that the international community, with all due credit to the leadership of the United States, has at long last come to appreciate how vital and urgent the matter has become for more concerted efforts and accelerated [Page 627] worldwide response to be forthcoming in order to prevent further loss of lives. It is altogether clear that the entire Khmer race and civilization is now facing a real danger of extinction if nothing is done in time to alleviate their situation.

This was one of the reasons which has prompted my Government to adopt the new policy of giving asylum to all Kampuchean refugees on a temporary basis.3 Out of humanitarian consideration, we have chosen to undertake this step even though it is clear to us that our action will have created for us not only grave security risks, but also the unbearable burden of having to care for these refugees out of our own limited resources. In this connection, I can assure you, Mr. President, that Thailand has done all that it can and will continue to do our utmost to help these people. We will continue to cooperate with donor countries in channelling assistance through designated international organizations for the Kampuchean relief so that these people may yet see better days again.

In this connection, however, it should be understood that relief aid, no matter how enormous it can be acquired, can only provide a partial solution at best. There can be no light at the end of the tunnel for the Kampuchean people, both inside and outside Kampuchea, so long as the war resulting from the armed intervention on the part of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam continues in that country. The mass exodus of the Kampucheans has been caused by widespread famine and starvation, which is a direct result of the ongoing armed conflict in that country. Above all, all this has already become an important factor which now adversely affects the relations between Thailand and Vietnam. The tense situation has led to an increase of incidents along the Thai-Kampuchean border resulting in frequent violations of Thailand’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The prospect of the armed conflict to widen its scope and spillover into adjacent areas and possibly also the entire region is therefore ever-present and can no longer be discounted.

That is why it is the firm conviction of my Government that, in regard to the situation in Kampuchea, there must be continued world efforts to arrive at a political solution to the problem. We feel that continued military solution as pursued by Vietnam will only add to the untold miseries already suffered by the Kampuchean people, and that it could well lead to a larger conflagration with serious consequences for the world at large. This was the reason for which I wrote a letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, a copy of which [Page 628] has been attached hereto for your information,4 requesting for a fact-finding mission to monitor the situation as it exists along the Thai side of the Thai-Kampuchean border. I would venture to hope that this initiative will be appreciated by the U.S. Government. For we believe that the establishment of such mission will serve to defuse the potentially explosive situation in the region. At the same time, I would also urge that the United States continues its efforts in convincing the Soviet Union and China that peace and stability in Southeast Asia would serve to advance rather than hinder the interests of all concerned, most particularly the countries of the region including the Socialist Republic of Vietnam itself. On our part, the United States can rest assured of our readiness to cooperate fully with all concerned in bringing the war in Kampuchea to an early end in the interest of peace and stability in the Southeast Asian region.

In concluding, Mr. President, I would like to emphasize once again the importance which we attach to the situation in Kampuchea. For us in Thailand, there can be no higher purpose than to see that the people of Kampuchea be given the opportunity to determine their own future free from outside interference or coercion.

With warm personal regards and best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

General (Kriangsak Chomanan)5
Prime Minister of Thailand
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, President’s Correspondence with Foreign Leaders File, Box 19, Thailand, Prime Minister Kriangsak Chomanan, 12/77–5/80. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 63.
  3. On October 19, Kriangsak announced that Thailand would take in refugees rather than forcibly send them back into Cambodia. (“Thailand Shifts Policy, Vows to Accept Indochinese Refugees,” Washington Post, October 20, 1979, p. A12)
  4. Not found attached.
  5. Kriangsak signed “Kchomanan” above his typed signature.