179. Letter From President Carter to Thai Prime Minister Kriangsak1

Dear Mr. Prime Minister:

Thank you for your recent letter.2 I share your assessment of the dimensions of the human tragedy which has overtaken the people of Kampuchea. I share as well your sense of concern that the Khmer people face a real danger of extinction. My wife Rosalynn joins me in this deep concern. I have asked her to deliver this letter to you personally3 to underline my commitment to work with you and the international community to bring about an end to the suffering and death.

Nothing has served this humanitarian purpose more than the open door policy which you have adopted toward the Khmer refugees. Thailand’s provision of temporary asylum and Thailand’s full support of the international relief efforts have already done much to help alleviate suffering. These efforts have required skillful coordination. I have been deeply impressed by your personal efforts and those of your government to coordinate the contributions of many nations and to maximize the benefits to the refugees. Your commitment to a continuing effort is also warmly welcome.

I am grateful for your hospitality and assistance to members of the U.S. Senate, House of Representatives, to Governors of a number of our states, and to other American groups which have visited Thailand. These visits have helped focus world attention on both the plight of the Kampuchean people and the burdens on the Thai people. In particular, I want to thank you for your assistance to Senators Sasser, Danforth and Baucus, and for your support of the land bridge proposals4 in Kampuchea. We intend to pursue this approach and to explore every other way to reduce the starvation and suffering. Rosalynn and those accompanying her in Thailand will be exploring ways and means by which we can usefully marshal further assistance. No single solution will be enough. Rather, the magnitude of the problem calls for a multitude of approaches.

[Page 630]

We recognize that despite Thailand’s heroic efforts, only a large-scale international response can hope to mitigate the horror. We want to continue working closely with you on increasing both humanitarian assistance and an international presence in or near Kampuchea. Our own pledge of $69 million, including $30 million for international relief efforts in Kampuchea, our support for Congressional measures to provide an additional $30 million, and my pledge of $9 million for the Thai Government program for Khmer citizens who have recently fled to your country are all designed to save Khmer lives, and incidentally to enhance long-term prospects for peace and stability in the region.

I agree with you that humanitarian aid is only a “partial solution at best” for the problems facing both the Khmer people and the people of Southeast Asia as a result of Vietnamese actions in Kampuchea. It is equally essential to pursue ways to end the fighting, to defuse tensions, and to find a political solution for Kampuchea. We will continue to devote our energies to this end. I welcome continued and close consultations with you and your government in accelerating our efforts to achieve these shared objectives.

I wish to reaffirm that a major objective of American policy is to maintain the security and territorial integrity of Thailand. The current tensions and the incidents recounted in your letter, with the possibility of even further intensified conflict on your border, are of great concern to the United States. We have made our concern known to the Vietnamese and Soviets on numerous occasions, most recently November 5 and 6 when Secretary Vance told the Vietnamese5 and Russians6 of our position in unambiguous terms. All parties involved in the border must exercise caution to encourage reduction of tensions and avoid exacerbating the present dangerous and volatile situation.

To this end the United States welcomes and fully supports your proposal for a UN fact-finding mission. It is an imaginative proposal and we hope that it marks the beginning of sustained and vigorous Thai and ASEAN diplomatic activity aimed at further constraining the Vietnamese and the Soviets.

As we proceed, I wish to reiterate my conviction that continued ASEAN unity is a key element in convincing the Vietnamese and the Soviet Union to act with restraint, and thereby relieve the political tension in the region. The United States is prepared to support Thai and ASEAN initiatives. I urge you to continue your close cooperation with my trusted representative, Ambassador Abramowitz, and to bring to his attention your concerns and ideas as you have in the past.

[Page 631]

I also hope you will outline for Mrs. Carter the new assistance you believe you will need. I will give it my careful consideration.

In closing, I would like to thank you for your hospitality in receiving my wife and her party. She will carry back her personal experiences and views, and I am confident that her report will be of great value to me and my government in our efforts to assist Thailand in dealing with this chilling human tragedy.

With warm personal regards and best wishes.


Jimmy Carter
  1. Source: Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Brzezinski Material, Brzezinski Office File, Country Chron File, Box 50, Thailand: 1979. No classification marking.
  2. See Document 178.
  3. See Document 180.
  4. A “land bridge” was proposed by the congressional delegation of Senators Sasser, Danforth, and Baucus, and by the ICRC. The proposal recommended food aid delivery to Kampuchea via land routes through Thailand, in lieu of air delivery. See Documents 67 and 140.
  5. See Document 68.
  6. Not found.