MEMORANDUM FOR: Special Group (CI) Assistant* SUBJECT: Subversion In Thailand FROM*. SpecialIA
There laecent memorandum prepared by CIA's Oiiien of National Eatlnrut.ua entitled, "The Threat of Communist Subversion lan anticipation at* tha Groupof Thailand at Itaeptember meeting this memorandum may conuln noefol background infer mat lon for Group Principals and Assistants.
ONE Special Mamorandnm. Tha Threat of Communis Subversion tn Thailand '.9
NND SI list
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
OFFICE OF NATIONAL ESTIMATES
SUBJECT: The Threat of Cccmunlst Subversion in Thailand
Thailand's chief vulnerability to Communist subversion lies in the northeast region, vhlch borders on Laos. The Chinese have recently increased their efforts to encourage dtesldenae smong poorly integrated minorities In tbls region, and the level of dissident activity, although still very lev, has risen somewhat. Bangkok Is responding with more vigorous security censures and efforts to remove economic Grievances. The chances are good that the governnent will be able to stay abreast of the likely Increase in Communist subversion. The outlook in Thailand would alter greatly, however, if the Cocmuniets achieved definitive victory in Laos orot nan.
present Thai government is steadier andeppeaxed likely at the tine of Marshal Sarlt'a Unlike South Vietnam, Thailand has long beenentity andradition of Independence; it hascolonized. Tho popularity of the King ond Queen, thoof the country, the relative prosperity of the economy,
and the personal standing of Prime Minister Thanoo combined with the ruthless stronrrth of Deputy Prime Minister Pro phot contribute to this stability. For these reasons, the countryhole Is less vulnerable to subversion than other parts of Southeast Asia.
the othor hand, tho Thai governmont has longin certain outlying regions, particularly theadjacent to Laos: ethnic diversities, chronicallyond insufficient rapport vith the control government. offer opportunities for Ceramist exploitation.
II. THE OOKMUHIST THREAT
Cccsnunlst groups in Thai land ereand generally ineffective. Their activitiesnre well bolow tho level of active insurgency at thisNorth Vietnamese and Ccanunlst Chinese havo been stirringin tho northeast area forecade vithlimited success.
The Chirrs' Coceunlata are now beginning furtherand their leaders have stated that guerrillaspread to Thailandapparently now
believes that the time Is ripe for Increasing Its propaganda and subversive effort against the Thai government. Inhe founding of the "Thailand Independence Movement" (TIM) was announced by the clandestine "Voice of Free Thailand" radio (located lnnd ln5 the "Thai Patriotic Front" (TPF) was similarly established. Subsequently, Peking announced tbe formation of various front organizations representing teachers, lawyers, and priests in support of the TPF. Apparently the TTH is intended eventually tohai version of the Viet Cong, and the TPF Is to sorve as the political action arm, similar to the Rational Liberation Front of South Vietnamdominated by Comunlsts but Incorporating other political groups to give the appearanceopular front. Other indicators suggest that the Chinese Caaaunlsts are becoming Interested In the preliminary steps leading toward an insurgency build-up against Thailand:
Poking has purchased large sums of Thai money In Hong Kong;
the study of the Thai language is being given priority ln Peking's new Foreign Language Institute; and (c) ugust,
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radio peking invited thai government officials, especially military and police, to cake covert contact with the cbnnunlst front organizations.
5. so far, these front groups arc essentially paper-organizations maintained by peking. ew have sooe membership inside thailand, but noneubstantial popular following. little is known about their leadership but those front member* identified to date are obscure personalities or exiled thai
ith little or no political following. these organizations
are probably designed to serve as potential rallying points for the various small, discontented groups ln thailand.
6*. the main thrust of the communist effort in thailand Is directed at the rural population in tbe northeast provinces where the communists arc exploiting existing thai vulnerabilities: tho physical isolation of some areas along tho mekong river, the extended bordor with laos, political remoteness from bangkok, the alienation of certain minorityepressed economy, and the presence ofefugees from north vietnam. this vietnamese ecccunlty has long been under tbe influence of north vietnamese agents. mcnbers of this community probably serve as contacts for covert communist border crossing from laos andource of intelligence and financial support for
recentuobor of village official*lnformnts have boon assassinated ln the Mekong Since late July, more vigorous patrolling byln this region has moulted In several clashes withof armed Communists. These groups reflected gooddiscipline, and Ccranunist flags, arms, equipment,were found in their camps. For some months thereevidence of the smuggling of such materials intoLeos. Furthermore, the type of propaganda containedCommunist leaflets and the timeliness of tho broadcasts of
the "Voice of Free Thailand" indicate the existence of an effective cocrnun lent Ions not and regular contact between the Ccranunist Chlneao end their agents in Thailand.
the other outlying areas of Thailand,continues, but no appreciable step up has beennorthern Thailand, the Communists are attempting tohill tribes (nuctoorlngn ethniceconomic backwardness has long been neglected bythe Thai-Malaysia border, anCOguerrillas, remnants of the force defeated byin Malaya in, emerge occasionally to perpotrato
acta of violence and terrorism. Although thla group is costly ethnic Chinese, there Is little evidence to indicate that they are directed or supported by Communist China. In Thailand's southern four provinces, separatist sentiment and activity on the part of the Muslim-Malay population has longreoccupation of Thai authorities. The extant to which these activities were merely banditry rather than organized political movements are unclear and reports of Indonesian and Coccur; 1st Chinese involvement In separatist activities also lack confirmation.
has been no significant Communist movementapproximately three million ethnic Chinese in Thailand.
In and near Bangkok, there is some evidenceommunist effort to subvert Influential Thai businessmen of Chinese originombination of blackmail and appeals to tranditional loyalties. The ethnic Chinese in Thailand, however, are better Integrated Into the community than most overseas Chinese in Southeast Asia.
assistance fron the US over the pasthas changsd the Thai armed forcesroup of loosely
organized, poorly equipped units to forces that are fairly well organized, trained, equipped, and motivated.* These forces were originally trained almost exclusively for conventional war, however, and lt la only recently that much attention has been given to the problem of conducting counterinsurgency operations. Progress In counterinsurgency train ln3 has enhanced Thai capabilities for effectively quelling dlssidencc and Isolated incidents of Insurgency before they becooo widespread throughout the country. The next several months may be crucial In testing these capabilities. We believe the Thai will prove fairly effective in countering the kind of small-scale dissident actions they are likely to face ln the near future. Should they fail to do so, however, tbe Communists would be encouraged to expand their effort. The That military forces would probably be unable toidespread Insurgency which had gained momentum and was receiving extensive support from Coccur.Ists outside the country.
Thai forces available to counter military and paramilitary threats arc:
Volunteer Defense Corps
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XI. Even at the highest echelons of the Thai government there Islear understanding of the nature and particular dangers of Internal subversion. Thai leaders seem to be confused by the problem. At times they blame the Cooaunists for all manifestations of discontent and at other times they close their eyes to actual subversive threats, especially those difficult or awkward to cope with. In addition, thereendency to point to the country's basically pacific and happy people and conclude that "lt can't happen here."
12. Nevertheless, with considerable US urging and support, the Thai government has been devoting Increasing attention to its Internal problems. It is now spending almostercent of its governmental revenues on economic and social development, designed at least In part to reduce vulnerabilities to Cotaaunlst propaganda and Insurgency. Despite heavy military expenditures, the Thai government has continued to give high priority to economic development projects over the past three to four years; among the Exist Important of these are transportation, coctaunlcations, utilities, education, and health projects. Joint US-Thai programs designed to demonstrate the Interest of the central government in popular welfarethe Mobile Development Units, the SEABEE
Technical Assistance Teams, ana the Accelerated Rural Development operationave had some favorable effect on thOBe Individual communities ln which they operate.
In order toermanent base of national stability, however, the Dial government must accelerate measures which could eventually allow the present economically depressed and socially isolated areas to participate fully in national Thai life. rog ram would be difficult to Implement because it wouldiversion of resources from other needs. Including the armed forces, and some strengthening of That security forces Is obviously desirable.
If these social and economic programo are pushed with reasonable vigor and accompanied by sustained police and military action to keep Communist Inspired paramilitary movements from growing and gaining momentum, the chancoa of keeping the subversive effort ln check are good. Even the North Vietnamese minority mi^ht be less vulnerable to Communist subversion if most of their genuine grievances were removed. The maintenance of order and government control would become much more difficult, however, if sizeable parts of the Lao bank of the Mekong became available to the Coezaunlsts to use aa bases from which to Infiltrate Thailand.
Thais clearly recognize the relationship ofIn the Indochlncso states to their internaland Thailand is making an important contribution toas an ally of the US. Bangkok has mode ground and airfor US operations Into Laos and north Vietnam,and materiel to the South Vietnamese, andto Laos. They are likely to continue to cooperate in this
vay so long es the US acts forcefully to meet tha Communist threat.
Thai leaders end people oreindependent, and desire to stay that way. Onhand, the Thaisong history of accomodatingpolitical pressures believed necessary for Consequently, if the US were driven out of Indochina, "
the Thais would almost certainly conclude that the best hope for ma in tainational Identity lay in neutralism.
FOR THE BOARD OF NATIONAL ESTIKATffl;
SHERMAN KENT Chaircon