840.50 UNRRA/8–645

The Acting Secretary of State to the Ambassador in France (Caffery)

No. 1285

Sir: Mr. Dean Acheson, as the United States member of the UNRRA94 Council, sent a communication on May 18, 194595 to each representative of the countries on the Far Eastern Committee of the UNRRA Council, enclosing a draft resolution placed by the United States on the agenda for the next committee meeting which would authorize UNRRA to operate in Korea, Formosa and Thailand96 on the same terms and conditions as in liberated areas.

On behalf of the French Government, M. Christian Valensi, Financial Counselor of the French Embassy, wrote on July 1297 favoring acceptance of the resolution with the clear understanding that the relationship of UNRRA with Siam will in no way entail any political commitment for France. He then added “France is still at war with Siam and does not recognize any validity to the Convention dated May 9, 1941 by which certain portions of the Provinces of Laos and Cambodge97a were handed over to Thailand.” The Department is not informed whether the statement quoted was authorized by the French Government or represented Mr. Valensi’s personal opinion.

On June 12, 1940 Thailand signed a non-aggression pact with France98 concurrently with the signing of a similar pact with the United Kingdom and a treaty with Japan concerning the preservation of friendly relations and mutual respect of each other’s territorial integrity. On the same day the French and Thai Governments by an exchange of letters agreed that the Thailand-Indochina frontier line would be readjusted by a mixed commission comprising Thai and French officials before ratification of the non-aggression pact. Two days later Paris fell into German hands and on June 17 France capitulated.

After the fall of France the French took no steps to appoint French members to the proposed Thai-French commission. In September, 1940 the French Foreign Office, through the Thai Legation in Vichy, [Page 1277] proposed that the pact of non-aggression be ratified immediately. On September 11, 1940, the Thai replied that before ratifying the pact agreement should be arrived at on the fixing of the frontier. The French replied on September 18 expressing willingness to settle by negotiation various border questions but expressing unwillingness to cede any territories. The Thai replied on September 25, 1940 that they were ready to proceed with the exchange of ratifications and would appreciate the early arrival of French representatives from French Indochina to begin studying the border problems.

On October 14 the Vichy Government informed the Thai Government that it wished the non-aggression pact to be ratified by telegraph and that France would not yield an inch of territory to Thailand. From the end of June, 1940 to the end of the year border incidents occurred in which there was occasional loss of life on both sides. Thai soldiers crossed the border on January 5, 1941 and fighting became sharp for twenty-two days. This included a brief naval battle. On January 31, 1941 a truce pact was signed on the Japanese cruiser Natori off Saigon. By that time Thai forces had occupied most of the territories ceded to them later by the French at Tokyo.

On February 4, 1941 the Thai delegation left Bangkok for Tokyo. On March 11, 1941 the protocol for an amicable settlement of border disputes between Thailand and Indochina was signed at the Japanese Foreign Office.99 There was no doubt that the Japanese acted as “mediators” with a view, inter alia, to forcing the French to agree to Thai demands.

On May 9, 1941 a Convention of peace was signed between France and Thailand at Tokyo. The peace convention reiterated the essentials of the agreement of March 11 with some slight alterations and with further details as to procedures in transferring territories and immovable properties. Ratification of the peace convention followed within about a month. For the remainder of 1941 a condition of peace continued while orderly steps were taken by Thai officials to assume the administration of the areas ceded.

At the time of the above agreement and for more than two years thereafter this Government took no action to indicate that the transfers of territory were regarded as invalid. However, in 1944, the Committee on Postwar Programs (PWC–134, March 22, 19441) stated that “since the transfer to Thailand …2 of the Indochinese territories was made after Japan had started on its course of aggression and France had capitulated to Germany, they [such transfers of territory]3 [Page 1278] cannot be regarded as valid acts. The status quo ante must therefore be recognized by the military authorities, without prejudice, however, to the claims of any of the parties involved in such negotiations as may take place in the future with respect to these issues.”

On October 19, 1944 the American Embassy at London was instructed4 to inform Mr. Eden that: “We do not recognize the lawfulness of such acquisitions [areas obtained by Thailand from Indochina, Malaya and Burma]5 and agree that such territories must in fact be restored to Indochina, Malaya and Burma from whom they were taken. This statement, of course, is without prejudice to the presentation of claims by any nation, including Thailand, and adjustments of boundaries or transfers of territories by orderly, peaceful processes.” The French have not been informed of the Department’s position.

In view of the above, it would be desirable discreetly to learn: (1) Whether the French Government now considers itself at war with Thailand; (2) if so, when the French Government considers the state of war to have begun; (3) whether the French Government recognizes the validity of the Convention of May 9, 1941; and (4) if not, whether all international agreements effected by the Vichy Government are considered as invalid.

Very truly yours,

For the Acting Secretary of State:
J. W. Ballantine
  1. United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.
  2. Vol. ii, p. 979.
  3. For opposition by the British Government to granting authority to UNRRA to operate in Thailand and acquiescence by the United States Government, see telegram 7860, August 4, 1 p.m., from London, and footnote 41, vol. ii, p. 1003.
  4. Communication not printed.
  5. French for Cambodia.
  6. At Bangkok. A copy of the treaty in French was forwarded by Bangkok in despatch 755, August 9, 1940; in a memorandum of October 4, 1940, Ruth E. Bacon of the Division of Far Eastern Affairs stated: “The French text in English translation appears to be identical, mutatis mutandis, with the English text of the British-Thai treaty of the same date.” (751.9211/3) For latter treaty, see League of Nations Treaty Series, vol. cciii, p. 421.
  7. A translation of the exchange of letters between the Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs and the French Ambassador in Japan was forwarded by the Ambassador in France in despatch 102, March 22, 1941 (751G.92/410).
  8. Not printed.
  9. Omission indicated in the original instruction.
  10. Brackets appear in the original.
  11. Telegram 8676, Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. v, p. 1318.
  12. Brackets appear in the original instruction.