Created: 8/1/1967

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Intelligence Memorandum

Northeast Thailand



in parts of northeastKhoratthe most recent developmentong history of political disaffection between tho people of the northeast and the central government in Bangkok. Communist exploitation of this disaffection wasas early as the, when branches of the Vietnamese Communist Party were established in the towns of Nong Khai and Khon Kaen. Since thenactivity has waxed and waned and has been repressed repeatedly by the central government. Armed insurgency increased markedly in4 andfter two Chinese Communist-oriented Thai front"Thailand Independence Movement" (TIM) and the "Thailand Patriotic Front"formed in Peking. Thai insurgents are being indoctrinated in Communist China and trained in North Vietnam.

Three factors have traditionally fostered (heof dissidence in northeast Thailand:he physical isolation of the region from the remainder of Thailand in contrast to its relatively easy accessibility to Laos,he failure of much of the population to identify with the central government in Bangkok, andhe relative povertyural population livingrecariousenvironment. The Thai Government is devoting increased attention and resources to the task ofthese problems.

eventual completion and improvement of the roadfrom the strategically importantaphao (the2 airfield) complex to Nakhon Ratchaslma, as well as the construction of two roads into thepart of the plateau (the roads from Lorn Sak in the central lowlands to Chum Phae and LoeL,will also help tie the plateau to theUnder theear highway developmentew first-class highway will replace the road from Udon Thani (Udorn) via Sakon Nakhon to the province (changwat) of Nakhonoad will also be constructed along the Mekong border area from Nong Khai to the province capital at Nakhon Phanom. Both of these roads arc underew road will connect Nakhon Ratchasima with Ubon Ratchathani {Ubon or Ubol) and the present road between Roi Et and Ubon Ratchathani will be improved to make it an all-weather, first-class highway. Many secondary roads connecting isolated villages in security-sensitive provinces are being planned and constructed under accelerated programs.

Rail and air transport facilities arc also beingThe rait line from Bangkok bifurcates at Nakhon Ratchasima and extends northward to Nong Khai and eastward to Warin Chamrap, the rail station for Ubon Ratchathani. Civil airlines link Bangkok with most major towns on the plateau.

and Transportation

Northeast Thailand covers0 square miles and comprises about one-third of the entire national area. Aboutillion people, one-third of the total population of the country, live here. The region is strategicallyrelative to Indochina. Imports to Laos from over-.scas move through the port of Bangkok and acrossThailand to their destination. In the presentthe area servesogistical base and as an "aerial back door" for planes flying to Vietnam. Dry and wet season route capacities and the location of selectedare shown on.

The regionlateau physically separated from Bangkok and the rest of the nationountainous escarpment consisting of the north-south trending Thiu Kbao (mountain range) Pbetchabun and the east-west aligned Thiu Khao Phanom Dongrak. At the right-angle junction of the two ranges, someiles northeast of Bangkok, the elevation iseet, the average elevation throughout the mountains iseet. These mountains are formidable obstacle* to surface movement either from the lowlands of central Thailand or from locations in southeast Thailand, such as the port area of Sattahip. Villages on (he plateau also are largely isolated from one another. Although tho monotonous, almost flat surface offers few physical obstacles to road-buildlug other than streams which must be bridged, many of Iho0 villages are connected to one another or to distant roads Only by oxcart tracks that may become almost impassable in the rainy season.

The Thai Government has taken important steps to breach the isolation of the plateau.8 it completed the' Friendship Highway from Sara Burl in the central valley to Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat) and subsequently it extended the road northward to Nong Khai Tlie

Thk memorandum war produced by CIA. II war prepared by Ihe Office of Bade and Geographic Inletilgtnce and coordinated wUh Ihe Officer of Current laUtiigfiuce, National Emmatei. and tcor,cmic Rfii&ch.


Cultural differences and,ery parochial loyalties, in addition to the physical isolation of the area, seem to be paramount in the failure of the plateau population to identify with the central government. The environment of central Thailand, particularly that around the great urban center of Bangkok, comesultural shock to the many [wasants from the northeast seeking temporary work in the city. Bangkoluans look down upon the northcasternerustic bumpkin who cannot even speak "proper* Thai, he therefore finds it difficult to identify with them. In contrast, the peasant who seeks temporary work in Laosulture, society, and language much like those uf his home community. Thus in some ways his identification is easier with the Lao than with the central Thai. This cultural affinity has led to somed separatist movements in the past and to the fear in Bangkok that Communist elements would try to exploit these sentiments to undermine the control of tho central government over the Khorat Plateau.

Although the peasant in the northeast tends to relate to the Lao. it seems more realistic to characterize both his cultural identity and loyalty as localism, which is often defined by the village limits. Such attitudes arc being discouraged by Thai Government programs such as radio broadcasts which encourage the villager tolocal orientations and to identify with widerof the northeast.onsequence of theseense of regionalism epitomized by the term "isan" is appearing. Isan denotes to the Thai that which is distinctly associated with the northeast, as contrasted to the interests and goals of central Thailand. Isan identity, however, docs not necessarily imply rigid distinctionthe northeast and centra) Thailand. Tlte Thai way" does have certain attractions for the northeast villager, and greater acculturation will probably be achieved through governmentrowing number of northcastemcrs are being ucceptcd in Thai society and government service.




W CojjfirjBirttirr y

traditional lack of national identification inThailand Is complicated by the pretence of several minorityajor minorities and their estimated numben include tbe., Phu, andhe degree lo which Ihese groups have been assimilated Into the predominant culture of northern Thailand varies, but very few of the people Identify with Bangkok. Only the Vietnamese are considered to bo securityor disruptive forces, and the central government has registered most of them.

The Cambodians generally retain their own language and to some extent their culture. The Kuis (more commonly known as the Soai) and the Phu Thai, tribal peoples who share in the common pattern of life in the northeast, are very much aware of their distinctive identity. They tend to marry within their own groups and often feel both envy and hostility toward ihe central Thai.

Of the more0 Vietnamese estimated lo have resided in Thailand0 were repatriated lo North Vietnam94 by agreement of the two governments.0 Vietnamese are soil in Thailand, and0 of the0 oo the Khorat Plateau areregistered (teehe majority arc not overtly militant, but tbey are subject to Northinfluence andhorn in the side of Thai security.


The poverty of the area isuralThe average Income of the northeastern peasant Is only aboutercent of that prevailing In rural areas elsewhere in the country, whereas the Income of the. trjvmsmah'here-compares favorably with that In'other

2 percent of villagers in the northeast are reported to receiveunes as much cash income per capita as theercent in the lowest incomeFarmers in the latter group averagennual cash income per capita; the inclusion of in-kind income would considerably raise thisnited States Operations Mission (USOM) advisor hashowever, that the villager in northeast Thailand, aldiough poorer than his counterpart in central Thailand, is better off materially than the vast majority of people In many other parts ofurvey of village attitudes in northeast Thailand conducted in the spring6 produced the surprising response that most villagers rated themselves "reasonably well off* rather, thanorc^tfaanercent of the^ec*

provinces devoted-in mVrest of Thailand, rice is the most important crop, but the yield is poor.6 rice production averagedounds per acre in the northeast comparedounds per acre in the central lowlands. Exacerbating the situation Is the high nutritional population density (the number of people per square mile of cultivatedin the northeast comparedn the richer agricultural lands of the central lowlands.


Tho poorer yield of rice in (hexplained largely in terms of the natural environment- Theescarpment intercepts moisture'bearing winds from the southwest andainshadow that reduces both the amount and reliability of rainfall As amost of the plateau receives far let* than the accepted minimum ofnches annually that Is required for the successful growth of rice in tropical Southeast Asia. Irrigation is therefore required for optimum ricecultivation in the northeast. Onlyercent of the cropland of the region Is irrigated, however, as againstercent of the cropland In the central lowland.permeable sandy soils and the relatively level terrain of northeast Thailand restrict the number of locations suitable for sizable reservoirs and hinder the design of effective irrigation systems.

Most low-lying land suitable for irrigated paddy rice is already under rice cultivation. This land ts located chiefly in the central and southern provinces, along the Mae Nam (River) Mun and Lam Nam (River) Chi and Iheir tributaries, and generally on the lower slopes but above the valley bottoms, which in many cases are subject to severe Hooding. The gradients of rivers on the Khorat Plateau are comparatively low (the main river, the Mun. fallseetnd Minoo is slow. Floodwatcr arrives so suddenly, is so deep, and remains io long that some of the lond other-wise best suited to cultivation cannot be used even for "floatingariety commonly grown in deeply flooded areas.

Most of the area devoted to irrigated rice cultivation is located on the so-called "Roi Et" soils, which areacid, sandy loams, giving medium yields at best. Chemical fertilizer mostultural in nova boo and has seldom been used by the peasant. Further, without heavy subsidization, the peasant rarely has the cash to buy the necessary fertilizer; to remedy thisthencouraging the formation of cooperatives which will furnish loans to tbe peasantnurnal interest rate. Outside the irrigated areas, the peasant cannot always be assuredrofitablebetween fertilizer cost and increased rice yiold even though he may be gradually accepting the concept of chemical fertilization.

Deterioration of tho natural fertility of the toil has caused rice' cultivation to be extended to marginal lands. The movement of people away from tlie most densely settled areas In parts of the Mun and Chi river valleys (as to new lands in northern Thailand) affords evidence that nutritional density in these areas is bocoming critical. Although the potential paddy lands In thinlyrovinces along the Mekong River might support greaterignificant redistribution of the population on the Khorat Plateau in the near future appears to be generally unfeasible In view of the limitations ofworks planned for early completion. Projected tanks (reseivoln) and dams will result in complete irrigation systems tor only someercent of the presentarea. Not until the huge, multipurpose Pa Moog dam of the Mekong Projecteality in the more distant future will It be possible toubstantial

n'llioa acres or aboutercent

of tbe present cultivatedthe Khorat Plateau.

Selected proposed and completed Mekong Project dams

ore shown on.

Other than rice, the .chief crops grown on the Khorat Plateau are cotton, kenaffibernd maize. These 'upland crops" are generally cultivated on higher slopes by peasantshifting typeleared by cutting and burning the forest, and the crop is fertilized by the residual wood ashes. Plots are normally cultivatedew yean; fur (her use is inhibitedapid diminution of yield.

The area suitable for growing uplandstimated to bo at least twice as large as the area of paddy land. While this shifting cultivation may be acceptable in thinly settled areasong period of bush fallow restores fertility, in parts of tbe central and southern provinces of the northeast the growing population density has progressively shortened the period of natural soil regeneration;esult, theecoming gradually exhausted. An estimatedercent of the upland now lies abandoned. The introductionystem ofagriculture to replace shifting agriculture would significantly improve ecouomic conditions in the region.

Future exploitation of mineral resources may help to stimulate the economic growth of theurvey conducted recentlyS Geological Survey team, there are an estimatedillion tons of copper ore (representingons of saleable metal) andillion tons of iron ore in tho province of.Loei. Although coking coal resources ore lacking, power generated at the planned Mekong Project dam on (lie Nam (River) Ngum in Laos might permit the use of electric furnacesmelter which could be built in the vicinity of Loet The Khorat Plateau also has one of the world's largest deposits of rock suit; well drillers have encountered layers of salt moreeet thick. The UN Mekong Committeexamining the feasibility ofhemical complex, most likely in the province of Chaiyaphuxn, which could use up0 tons of salt annually.

Termini LrriUdle-oroiind, |aFfc|ialoddy'. The and plunied to voflotobtei. Ratln, usad for torches and for waitr-boots and boskets.the targe

C kg round.

Uinfcsg* ando.-tivitiei are evidenceha subsistence forming In whichi moilnortheast peasantsmay produce chiefly for irtplr own needs.



Counter-Insurgency Measures

Tho Thai Government with the advice and aid of various US Government agencies hasumber of steps designed to strengthen its position in the northeast.

.ivic action programs that stress theof health and educational facilities, well drilling, development of agricultural techniques, and limited road building have been carried on under the aegis of the Mobile Development Units (MDU) in the NationalCommand.4 the Accelerated Rural(ARD) program was established under tbe

civilian control and guidance of the Committee forand Operational Planning (CCOP) in anto meet the Communist challenge more effectively. Itehicle for accelerated, sustained followup to MDU area operations andew concept of coordinated and concentrated programing of all rural development efforts in critical areas.

0 tho Counter Subversion Operation Commandstablished to coordinate the countersubver-Sion efforts of all Thai Government agencies operating throughout tbe country, developedlan" (name derived fromunar calendarommonly known as the "dry season plan" (operations were to be carried out during the winter-spring drybaivdooed the previously used but generally ineffective large-scale sweeps of suspected insurgent areas by Thai security forces. Instead, itman squads and police reinforcementselected villages, located inriority areasecurity-sensitive provinces, with the objective of denying insurgents access to the population and resources. This measure has proved successful In forcing Communist bands to move out of their former strongholds, butesult they have increased their activities in adjacent areas.


The insurgency .threat In Thailand is mitigated by major forces far stability that did not prevailtrong and effective centrala history of independence of foreignong tradition of reverence for the king and monarchy,universal acceptance ol Buddhism, and exceptional economic prosperity by Asian standards. It is apparent, however, that these stabilizing forces apply chiefly to centraless favorable situation prevails in the rural areas of the northeast. The generally apolitical peasant of the northeast neither commits himselfto the central government nor shares to anyxtent in the benefits of the current prosperity. There appears to be no active widespread disaffection with the government at present, but the Communistrmed insurgents, is attempting to create disaffection through propaganda, often presented at compulsory propaganda sessions in the villages, and through terrorism.

The.combined developmental and security programs of the central governmentonumental task of social and administrative reform, and one that, If it is to succeed, must persuade the villagers that their aspirations can be better met by the government than by the Communists.

Original document.

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