892.01/3–2145: Telegram

The Ambassador in the United Kingdom (Winant) to the Secretary of State

2908. ReDepts 2031, March 16, 7 p.m.52 According to Sterndale Bennett, the Foreign Office did not receive the Department’s proposal regarding the establishment of a free Thai Liberation Committee until the morning of March 20 and they have, therefore, not been able to study the plan sufficiently to comment upon it. However, Sterndale Bennett said he did wish to make a few general observations without any attempt to prejudge the present suggestion of the Department but merely to give us the benefit of some of his thoughts on the whole problem of British-Thai relations.

Sterndale Bennett again reaffirmed that the objective of the British and American Governments in Thailand was substantially the same. He stated that the Foreign Office desire is that ultimately Thailand should get a “square deal” but that before this could come about it would be necessary for the Thais to give some real evidence of a change of heart. Sterndale Bennett expressed the hope that the American Government would be patient with the British as the position of the latter with respect to Thailand is complicated by past history and is such that the British Government is not in a position to move as fast as the American. The British interest in Thailand was said to be closer than that of the US due not only to the long history of intimate association between the two countries but also due to the fact that Thailand is bounded on two sides by British territory. Sterndale Bennett also mentioned the Non-Aggression Pact concluded in 1940 between Thailand and Great Britain53 which was ignored by the Thais in December, 1941, when they declared war on this country.

Apparently British SOE54 reports from Thailand are not as optimistic as our OSS reports regarding the extent and value of the underground resistance movement. Sterndale Bennett states that they have received no evidence as yet that any great steps have been taken by the Thais to remedy the situation caused by the “gratuitous” declaration of war. Sterndale Bennett agrees that such information as the Foreign Office does have indicates that the Regent is and has been [Page 1259] completely sincere in his efforts to draw away from the Japanese and it is felt that some effective military help may be forthcoming from the resistance movement in Thailand at a later date, but it is not believed here that too great results should be expected from Thai activities.

Sterndale Bennett referred to the statement made to Sansom that the Chinese Government apparently seemed disposed to go further with the Thais than did Great Britain or the US and said that he would like to speak very informally and unofficially on this point for information which the Foreign Office had led them to expect that ultimately the Chinese might be very hard on the Thais, particularly after the complete withdrawal of the Japanese. Sterndale Bennett said he had in mind the fact that almost one-fifth of the population of Thailand was Chinese or of Sino-Siamese descent, that the Chinese had in the past dominated the manufacturing industry and the internal transport industry and had played a large part in the retail trade of the country. These facts, together with the pre-war history of Sino-Siamese disputes, are such that he believes there are present the seeds of future trouble and that this whole aspect of the problem would require careful consideration.

Sterndale Bennett also believes that we must not lose sight of the possibility of Thailand’s becoming a second Indo-China.55 However, because of the manner in which the Japanese have extended themselves in Indo-China, which is believed to have strained their immediate resources, he does not look for any similar Japanese activity in Thailand in the near future.

As soon as the officials concerned at the Foreign Office have had an opportunity to study the Department’s most recent proposal, Sterndale Bennett said he would get in touch with the Embassy and give us a more formal statement of their views. He re-emphasized that his present observations were purely unofficial and informal and were not to be considered in any sense a reply to the Department’s proposal.

The Department’s 2165 of March 20 arrived after the above talk with Sterndale Bennett. The Thai memorandum has not been shown the Foreign Office and it is believed that under present circumstances they will not desire a copy. An opportunity will be found to bring to the attention of Sterndale Bennett the observations made by the Department in the message under reference.

  1. Not printed; it gave the salient points of Department’s aide-mémoire to the British Embassy of March 15, p. 1254.
  2. Signed at Bangkok, June 12, 1940, League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cciii, p. 421.
  3. Special Operations Executive, British counterpart of the Office of Strategic Services.
  4. On March 9, 1945, the Japanese envoy served an ultimatum on the French authorities in Indochina to place their military and police forces under the sole control of the Japanese military authorities. When the French demurred, Japanese armed forces overwhelmed the French forces and assumed the administration of Indochina.