HUMAN RIGHTS IN THAILAND
STATEMENT OF DR. PUEY UNGPHAKORN FORMER RECTOR, THAMMASAT UNIVERSITY, BANGKOK
Mr. Puey: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First I would like to thank you and the committee for having invited me to come before you today.
I have served various governments of Thailand in various capacities since 1949. My principal posts were: Governor of the (Central) Bank of Thailand for 12 years, member of the Executive Committee of the National Economic and Social Development Board, Budget Director, Director of the Fiscal Policy Office, Chairman of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, and Rector of Thammasat University. My curriculum vitae is in appendix I of this testimony.*
During my public service, I have worked with American diplomats in Thailand: Ambassadors, Embassy officials, USOM directors, et cetera. I have many close friends among American bankers, American foundation officers, American intellectuals and academics. My attitude toward the United States and regarding United States-Thai relations is well known to them. I feel,
* Appendixes I through V are retained in the subcommittee files.
however, it is a pity that there is no representative from the Bangkok Government in this hearing. Although I understand that the chairman has extended the courtesy of inviting someone to come to this hearing.
Mr. Fraser: I interject here that for reasons that I think are probably evident normally it has not been appropriate for governmental officials from another government to appear but in the past we have notified embassies of our intention to hold hearings and invited them to suggest nongovernmental witnesses that they think would help to round out the testimony that we are going to hear.
You are right in this case, we did extend such an invitation to them.
Mr. Puey: Thank you, sir. That is my point exactly.
My reason for saying this is that it would be better for you to hear both sides of the story.
In response to your query regarding the status of human rights in Thailand at present, I would say in Thailand at the present time there are numerous instances of gross violations of human rights. The violence in Thammasat University and the coup d’état of October 6, 1976, marked the beginning of the severe repression that continues to this day. My account of the events in October 1976 is appended as appendix II.
The violations of human rights has taken several forms: arbitrary arrests and detention, tortures, executions without trial; restrictions on the freedom of opinion and expression, and on the freedom of the press and other mass media; restrictions on academic freedom; suspension of normal judicial procedures; and terrorization and other aspects of social control over citizens.
Elected parliament and cabinet were abolished on October 6, 1976, and superseded by the appointed ones. Similarly, the armed forces coup leaders abrogated the 1974 constitution, replacing it with their “Constitution” drafted by the junta.
There were more than 3,000 people arrested at Thammasat University on October 6, 1976, after the killings. After 5 or 6 months of detention, with many cases of tortures and assaults, most of them were found innocent even by the Bangkok government and released without compensation or apology. The government, anxious to create a better image of itself abroad, especially in the United States, announced that only 110 of those arrested would be tried by court procedure. The Department of Public Prosecution has already washed its hands over these 110 accused by deciding that there was no evidence to prosecute 36 of them, and that the remaining 74 fell outside its jurisdiction because they would have to be tried by the military court, the charges brought against them by the police being those according to the anti-Communist law. When the military court tries them, these 74 accused will not be allowed any legal representation nor, if they are sentenced, is there any opportunity to appeal.
In any case, there is always a possibility of the Government using article 21 of the Constitution in order to punish those whom the courts might free. By this article, the Prime Minister can sentence anyone to death, imprisonment, or any other punishment without going to court. And since April 1977, the Government has used this provision several times already, resulting in a few executions and a number of imprisonments.
In order not to antagonize international public opinion, the Government has not openly announced many arrests since November 1976. It also avoids arresting well-known people in Bangkok or other big cities. But like other dictatorial regimes in other countries, it has resorted to secret arrests and detentions, and even executions, and it arms itself for this purpose with an administrative reform decree No.22 by which those considered “endangering society” could be arrested and detained for long periods. The definition of “endangering society” is very wide and vague. Anyone disliked by the police or administrative officers or fellow citizens can be regarded as “endangering society.” Detainees need not be charged by any specific activity and the authorities do not need any evidence. The charge is not brought to open court but is heard by committees of the local officials, leaving individuals defenseless against victimization by those officials because of personal vendetta, et cetera. A very respectable religious group in Thailand estimated that since October 1976, 8,000 people have been arrested under this charge, some 6,000 have been released after periods of detention ranging from a few days to many months. At present an estimated 2,000 people are still detained all over the kingdom, including many Buddhist monks, some of them having been summarily executed by their jailers— Congressman Fortney Stark, Jr., has details about them.
The ploy of secret arrests and detention serves the useful purpose of deceiving foreign observers, especially embassy people, into thinking that there is fair play in dealing with accused and defendants. The Government declares, in the same way as the dictators in the Philippines, the U.S.S.R., Chile, et cetera, that there are no political prisoners in Thailand, only crooks and criminals. In fact, among those detained as “danger to society” are doctors, teachers, students, monks, farmers, shopkeepers, and trade unionists.
The maltreatment of prisoners of the pre-1973 era has been reused in various ways: torture, solitary confinement, long-term severe detention, and “tiger cages.” An affidavit of a previous detainee on the tiger cages appears in appendix III.
The junta has outlawed political meetings of more than four people. The right to peaceful assembly is thereby denied. Laborers cannot organize themselves effectively. Strikers will be arrested. Discontented farmers likewise cannot collectively appeal for justice. Student unions have been abolished.
Newspapers and other mass media were strictly and formally censored. One committee was set up by the junta to screen and permit any newspaper seeking to publish; another committee to examine in detail the contents of the publication. Very few papers survived after October 6, 1976. Those that did were right wing, and even they have been periodically suspended or had their permits withdrawn almost without exception. At the moment of writing, ex-Prime Minister Kukrit’s paper is suspended for criticizing a cabinet minister, however mildly. Is that what the committee or the State Department or even Mr. Oakley would call that there is no formal censorship of the press? Is that what you would tolerate in the United States?
High school and University teachers have been told to keep to patriotic themes, without mentioning political systems, not even Democracy. Secret agents sit in the classes to check lectures.
Strict curfews have been imposed all through the Kingdom for several months now and are unlikely to be lifted although the Government announces that everything is back to normal. I think Wall Street and the Japanese business communities also echo that everything is back to normal. Long period curfews harm rubber tapping and other occupations both in town and in the country.
Terrorization is rampant, as in other dictatorial countries. No one dares to speak his mind, except those who are lucky enough to be permitted to travel abroad.
Mr. Chairman, there are many factors which contributed to the failure of Democracy in Thailand. There was no real reform in the period 1973-76; there were too many political parties which affected the strength of elected governments; the bad behavior of politicians, et cetera. All of these factors need time to right themselves, and there was a tendency for improvements in all respects during the free period. The most important factor, however, was the determination of those losing power in 1973 to regain it. They were backed by some large landowners and businessmen with vested interests. They were given the opportunity to organize, since mid-1974, various gangster groups such as the “Red Gaurs” which were openly armed by the army, various psychological groups such as the “Nawapol,” the “Village Scouts,” et cetera.
Here I must interject a little bit because I think this is usually misunderstood, about the period of 1976. It has been alleged that the 1973-1976 period was a period of chaos, that the students were mostly responsible for that. But my reading is this. In the face of so much social injustice which has been the result of a generation of dictatorship, since 1947, there had been a movement to try to solve those social injustices and this had been done in a peaceful way.
The students are normally not armed at all nor the trade unionists, nor the farmers, but on the other hand, the chaos that had arisen during that period, as had been said, rightly, caused by the paramilitary group that were openly armed, went in and killed anybody. On March 21, 1976, they killed, during a rally, seven or eight people, a peaceful rally. They ransacked my own University without any punishment for them in August of 1975. They also hanged people and burned people with impunity, in front of my University on October 6, 1976.
I am not one of those who believe that the violence and coup of October 6, 1976, was the result of the U.S. interference. The factors among Thais were sufficient to bring about the coup and there is no evidence of immediate American mastermind, then. But the long years of Thai-United States association in the Vietnam war, in the ways of training, arming, advising Thai Armed Forces and police would have the indirect effect upon the events of October 1976.
Mr. Fraser: We have a vote in progress on the floor so we will take a brief recess.
(A short recess was taken.)
Mr.Fraser: The subcommittee will resume its hearing. Dr. Puey
Mr. Puey: Mr. Chairman, you kindly asked me to give my opinion about the current U.S. policy toward Thailand.
As a non-American, I must first of all thank the subcommittee for allowing me to give my opinion on the U.S. policy. And I owe it to the subcommittee to state clearly my own political standing regarding my own country.
I firmly believe in Democracy and the dignity of every human being. I may have learned this from the Fathers of the American Constitution, among others. I believe in freedom and human rights as defined in the U.N. proclamation, and in the right of every man and woman to participate in the determination of the fate of the society in which he or she lives. To deny them this right because they are poor, because they are ill-educated, is to me an outrageous thing to do. I abhor dictatorship whatever form and complexion it may take. And I believe in acquiring Democracy by peaceful means because I want to avoid using armed force to keep control of government, As an example, my talk at Stanford University on January 25, 1977, appears in appendix IV.
My country is heading toward civil war. The events of October 1976 and subsequent measures taken in Bangkok vastly help the insurgents in a way never dreamed of before by either side. Not only the quantity, the number of the people that had gone into the jungle—Mr. Oakley had quoted the Government figure of several hundred–I would say stands at several thousand. I would say this because it bears on the fact that there were so many displaced persons among the universities and colleges and the farms and the trade unions, all over the country. There are 6,000 people missing at the moment. Divide them by three, you still have 2,000 people. But the number of people who joined the insurgents is not as important as the quality of the people. For the first time in the Communist Party of Thailand’s history, we have doctors, engineers, trade unionists, educators, all sorts of academicians and students joining them. That is why you can see now that the fighting in Thailand between the Government and the insurgents had assumed a dimension which approaches the civil war that I had been talking about. To quote the Government figures alone-unfortunately this is in Thai—it can be seen that for the first 3 months of this year the Government said 554 people, soldiers and police were killed.
Last year for the whole year it was 460. The year before it was
- And the year before—this is not too good—it was 522. As I repeat, for the first 3 months of this year—only 3 months—554.
Mr. Chairman, you were really right indeed in questioning the previous witness regarding the strength of the Thai Government and instead of saying that the Government is stable, I would submit to you, sir, that the present government in Bangkok is really unstable, There was a coup attempt already in March. There are rumors in Bangkok every day about a new takeover by another military group, about changes of government, about the undesirability of certain administrators, about the discontent of the colonels in the army, which is a fact. So, instead of having the desired stability that everybody wants, you now have a very precarious government in Bangkok.
You were also talking about the economic well-being of the people. As someone who had with my own hands, and intellect, tried to build up investment of the country for the past 20 years I could say that you need not worry about the problem of the country as a whole. The country as a whole is rich. We have enough reserves and we seldom have crises. But the main problem in Thailand, economic and social, is a distributive problem which has been aggravated by the coup d’état, by the dictatorship.
The minimum wages that the Government boasted about in 1973 was 60 cents per day. During the free period it was raised to $1.25. The Department of Labor has submitted respect fully to the Government to increase the minimum wage very slightly and that was turned down. The Government boasts about the land reform that we had done in the free period but of course, as Robert McNamara used to say, the investment by propaganda is quite easy. The political will is lacking. So, you see that the investment process of the Government at the present time is in the wrong way. It reversed whatever we had done in the past.
Mr. Chairman, on the one hand you have a strong Communist insurgent people. On the other hand you have a fragile, precarious government. In this situation, the onus of avoiding the danger of civil war falls on every humane Thai. My friends and I, both inside and outside Thailand, are seeking the opportunity of advocating national reconciliation whenever it is possible to do so, and we are working, slowly, admittedly, toward that.
The best thing we would wish to see is that the chance of national reconciliation is not disturbed. Therefore, we must endeavor to seek abstention on the part of the superpowers from supplying arms to either side. I, therefore, ardently implore your Government and Congress to stop supplying arms to the Government of Thailand. See appendix V.
I am asking America not to send arms to Thailand, to the Government of Thailand, because, as Mr. Holbrooke stated recently, there is no evidence in regard to the equipment from Vietnam going to the Thai Communist Party forces. Now, if the United States, or any other country, supplies one side with arms the other side will have to seek arms from the other side, and the loser will be the common man in my country.
Civil war will be longer and the suffering equally long.
If I may, I would submit that such an abstention will be in the interest of the United States, in order to avoid any commitment similar to those in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. You may think, and many Americans have asked me this question, that you are anxious about American defense in that part of the world, Southeast Asia.
I would plead with you: please learn whatever happened in the past decade in Southeast Asia. The Defense Department always assumes the amount of equipment, technology, computers, could replace alliance with a group of honest and patriotic people. Unfortunately, in the past the U.S. Government has the knack, in Asia anyway, of backing the losing side. Not only do you back the losing side but you back the corrupt, the people who enrich themselves with narcotics and there are many in Thailand. There are people who are 5 percenters, out for the commission of arms. So please be aware of this. And please advocate that the United States in any case should learn from past mistakes.
Second, my humble prayer and suggestion is for the United States to continue in other ways to be friendly to Thailand, especially in the field of economic and social assistance. I would prefer that you make sure that such assistance should reach the poorer sections of my compatriots, and not the richer bureaucracy, military or civilian, nor the landowner, big farmers, or business people.
Third, out of the friendship that you show to Thailand, I hope that you would be able to use your influence to bring the Thai authorities back to the right path on the human rights issue. The stand that the new U.S. administration and Congress are taking on these issues have heartened us all over the world. You may not be able to apply your ideal everywhere; but the lesson from the Philippines recently is very encouraging. Thus the Thai Government and military groups are sensitive to American opinion. This is a country where you can save a good number of lives and spare a great deal of suffering. Don’t be deceived by the benign appearance of the dictators, they always hide something from you, and the best of your Embassy in Bangkok could easily be deceived.
Mr. Fraser: Dr. Puey, there is another vote on. It will take another 8 minutes. I think that is the last vote so we will be able to continue after that without interruptions.
(A short recess was taken.)
Mr. Fraser: The subcommittee will resume its hearing. Dr. Puey.
Mr. Puey: Mr. Chairman, I apologize for the length of my statement but I hope I shall finish before you have to have another recess.
I was going to say that I had only three suggestions to make regarding the American policy, but listening to Mr. Oakley— unfortunately he is not here—I hoped he would be here because I would like to talk in front of him rather than behind his back. Listening to Mr. Oakley’s statement I find he keeps on quoting the Bangkok government several times. I am puzzled whether he really believes everything that the Bangkok government has told him directly via the Embassy or whatever the facts as independently acquired by the U.S. intelligence coincide with the government of Bangkok. I wonder.
What about the constant coup rumors? He did not say. What about the crimes that appear every day in the newspaper, however censored? What about the bombing? How about the curfew? All this should be brought in order to enable the committee, I think, this distinguished committee, to assess more fairly and to the advantage of the United States.
Because Mr. Oakley has no chance of replying to me I shall have to go away without hearing his answer.
Well, I made three suggestions. One is that you should abstain from supplying arms to the Bangkok government. Second, that you continue to help us in economic and social matters and most important of all, that you should try to influence the Government of Thailand to become more humane. How you should act, if you agree, on these three points, on the human rights issue in Thailand, I need not presume to make suggestions, but if its is your wish I stand ready to supply further facts and advice upon being called upon to do so.
Thank you, sir.
Mr. Fraser: Thank you, Dr. Puey.
We will turn now to our final witness for the afternoon, Prof.
- Scott Thompson of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University.
STATEMENT OF W. SCOTT THOMPSON PROFESSOR, FLETCHER SCHOOL OF LAW AND DIPLOMACY, TUFTS UNIVERSITY
Mr. Thompson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate the chance to be here in the company of so distinguished a Thai as Dr. Puey. Mr. Fraser: Thank you very much, Dr. Thompson. Mr. Thompson, What countries do you have in mind that it would be useful to hold hearings on? Mr. Thompson: Cambodia, which I gather you are doing. Mr. Fraser: We have had. Mr. Thompson: And Indochina? Mr. Fraser: Any others? Mr. Thompson: Vietnam, Laos. Mr. Fraser: We held hearings on Vietnam. We have more coming up. Mr. Thompson: Are we going to have an impact? Mr. Fraser: On them? Mr. Thompson: The point is it is not symmetrical. Allies are sensitive to what we say sometimes in the wrong way. I don’t think that in Hanoi they are terribly concerned, so one has to be
all the more forceful in his examination of this and one has to devote all the more attention to it to compensate for their greater insensitivity.
Mr. Fraser: I think you understate the problem with those countries. They are not only insensitive; they are determined to proceed in a manner in which they aggravate societies. This is one of the problems. We, generally speaking, are not giving them economic and military aid. Our leverage on them is considerably smaller than so-called allies.
I was just curious as to your view on that matter. We held hearings on North Korea, too, although we had trouble finding competent witnesses on that score.
Maybe just for a beginning, you have heard Dr. Puey’s description about the general state of affairs in Thailand now since the last October coup. I don’t mean to pin you down here but do you have any basic disagreement with him about what has transpired or how things are?
Mr. Thompson: I would think he had overstated—I would respectfully say he overstated the extent of the decay. I think there are rumors of coup in Thailand, yes. But I have never been in Thailand when there have not been rumors of coups. I have been there off and on since 1969, so I think that is the way the Thais do things, at least that has been true since 1932. So that would not be surprising.
I do not think what he calls a civil war is yet really what I would call civil war. Incidentally, one of my fields is in that area. I teach a course entitled “Low Level Violence.” I would not have proposed to “stop selling arms” as he proposes, because I don’t think there are two sides in that sense yet. I don’t think the Thai society is that divided.
Thailand has three insurgencies and they get some of their support from external sources. They have also been joined by a certain number of students as a result of the October coup. I think that is a marginal fact. I would have thought that is a concern but it is nowhere near as central as the greater liberty the Thai neighbors have now for sending in arms with impunity and providing as they see fit.
Mr. Fraser: Dr. Puey, do you have any thought on that?
Mr. Puey: Professor Thompson and I disagree about the facts. I wonder what his source of information would be. Every letter that I receive from Bangkok and the newspaper which was allowed to be published in Bangkok also talks about rumors. It is true we have rumors about a coup all the time but the recent one is more intensive. Would you agree with that?
Mr. Thompson: I would but I think the pertinent point is what is going to happen as a result of that. There will be another military government and what difference is it going to make.
Mr. Puey: If you look at it in an indifferent way, OK, but I cannot be indifferent to my own country.
Mr. Thompson: You are an economist. Don’t you have an indifference curve between authoritarian.
Mr. Puey: I am not speaking as an economist. I am speaking as a Thai citizen.
Mr. Thompson: Wouldn’t one have an indifference curve as between the various military governments that might come to power now?
Mr. Puey: Various people have various difference curves as you will be teaching to your students. So let us leave it at that. I also feel that foreigners normally say, with a wave of the hands, “The marginal number of students had gone into the jungle and therefore the civil war that I was talking about”—by the way, I am talking about heading toward it, not that the civil war has started, and I have supported that by figures.
Now it is a matter of guesswork. As for myself I feel that I am a bit more on solid side because I did not only take the trouble to take the people missing from their usual home since October 1976. I also have correspondence with my friends and students and so—of course, one should not believe them all – but I feel that this particular exodus of scholars and students and liberal people into the jungle is very significant indeed.
Now we can neglect that at our peril. I do not like it at all because it reinforces the Communist regime in the jungle. I do not like it but I must take this into account in order to assess what we should do.
Mr. Thompson: I would just say we academics in Bangkok or Boston have a terrible tendency to overemphasize our own importance. I get a lot of letters from Thailand, too, and most of them would confirm your general line. Most societies can survive despite the defection of some academics, however.
Mr. Puey: Perhaps Professor Thompson forgets that I also was a realistic Governor of the Central Bank for 12 years.
Mr. Thompson: I appreciate that – but I wasn’t referring to you. I am saying right now that the people that are bearing the largest burden from the present Thai Government, are academics and that would be my impression and I think one does not want to blow that out of proportion to the problem as a whole.
On the whole my impression is that the average Thai is, as Mr. Oakley suggested, relieved that the country is back in the hands of military. I am sorry it is that way but that would be my impression. Would you disagree with that?
Mr. Puey: I disagree because if you don’t terrorize the common people and allow them freedom of expression, would they flatter the Government in this way or would they say they are content in this way. It is not a fair assessment at all because whatever you say freely you can be held for it being a danger to the society.
Mr. Thompson: Societies have different dangers. In the fall of 1973 or early 1974 when the new Thai Government drew up its list of priorities I think there was a list of 13 or 14 or 15, not one of which was the insurgencies. Thereafter there was a period of real neglect during which the insurgencies got worse because the Government did not take them seriously. That is one of the concerns.
In other words, I am saying one cannot be too focused on any one thing. I am not in the position here as an advocate of the present Thai Government, and I thought I made that very clear. I am distressed by the same things that you are distressed by. I would see them as having a different order of importance in relation to the overall scheme of things and particularly in relation to American interests.
I am sure if I were a Thai in exile my position would understandably be a very different one.
Mr. Fraser: Dr. Puey, you were in Bangkok at the time of the October 6 events?
Mr. Puey: Yes; I left Bangkok under threat of being lynched in the evening of October 6.
Mr. Fraser: Who was threatening to lynch you?
Mr. Puey: The paramilitary group that we were talking about.
Mr. Fraser: Why were they going to single you out?
Mr. Puey: They said I was responsible for the unrest in Thammasat University.
Mr. Fraser: Were you?
Mr. Puey: If you ask me a direct question I will say that I was not, On the contrary, I was the one to try to contain the students.
Mr. Fraser: What gave rise to the students’ demonstration?
Mr. Puey: I beg your pardon?
Mr. Frase: What was the cause of the students’ demonstration on October 5?
Mr. Puey: The students started the demonstration in various ways. Since field marshals arrived back in Bangkok, since September 19th—on the 4th of October because the Government then did not do anything – so the students together with the people demonstrating moved into my university. As soon as they moved in, I as rector, informed the police. I informed the Prime Minister and I informed the minister in charge of the University and I evacuated my office into the National Education Council Office because at that time it was examination time.
If you did not declare the University closed then you run the risk of having fighting inside Thammasat. In the previous time when Field Marshal Praphas came in Thammasat quite a few people were hurt and some even died because of the bombing inside my university so this time we learned the lesson and then we moved out. I talked to several of the organizers of the rally and tried to persuade them that Thammasat was not a suitable place for them to demonstrate and that is true because once the police moved in and anybody could shoot them, then there is no escape.
I tried to dissuade them. I asked the police to come of course you cannot use this brutal force—to try to protect Thammasat University, but the crowd was so big that in the evening of the 4th the chain and the gate were broken down by the crowd and they moved in.
Mr. Fraser: What was the enrollment at the University at that time?
Mr. Puey: The University was not involved at all as a university. It is only the National Center of Students of Thailand that organized this. It was not merely a Thammasat University affair. It was the national body of students. They chose Thammasat because of historical reasons, because of geographical reasons.
In 1973 they gained power. They gained freedom at Thammasat University, and Thammasat is quite near the various government departments including the Prime Minister’s residence and quite near what we call the Hyde Park where political rallies usually take place.
So they chose always Thammasat, my own university, as the place to demonstrate. But it is not Thammasat versus field marshal at all.
Mr. Fraser: In your judgment was there an intention on the part of the military to take control of the Government? In other words was there a plan in effect or did it happen spontaneously?
Mr. Puey: The coup d’état had appeared for several months before October—I don’t mind saying that myself, I had to have my suitcase in the car every day and decide before I go home whether I should go home or stay with my friends or relations because if there is a coup d’état definitely I was the target-one of the targets-because I have been against military dictatorship all the time.
Mr. Fraser: You have worked under prior military governments?
Mr. Puey: Yes; but even so, even while I was serving under dictators I did not limit myself in my criticism of the military when they did wrong. I am not really against military as military but I am against narcotics, corruption, corruptive practices. I cannot stand that and in my 3 years as budget director—as you know, a budget director has always many enemies—but in my 3 years as budget director I have created many more enemies that the ordinary budget director might have created.
So all this made me very careful, especially after 50 or 60 people had been assassinated during that period including one of the Socialist leaders, Dr. Boonsanong. So we had to be careful all the time. That is why I had to be careful, because of the coup possibilities.
In fact, there were many coup attempts during that period. Now, Mr. Chairman, when you ask about the 6th of October, whether it was spontaneous or it was planned before, I would say in general the coup leaders had planned before to stage a coup. The timing was right for them on that night. That is why they staged a coup.
Mr. Fraser: Dr. Puey, what is your view—I think Dr. Thompson has perhaps referred to it-but what is your view of the idea that the notion of democratic liberties, civil and political rights particularly, are something that are valid only by the intelligentsia and for most of the peoples especially in Third World countries this is not a matter that lies either within their experience nor is it a matter to which they attach great importance?
Mr. Puey: Well, Mr. Chairman, sir, civil liberties is a funny thing. It is only when you yourself are deprived that you feel the pinch. You can always say that other people can live under repression. If you are a farmer and if your son had been taken away by the police without provocation, without anything, without charge, then you will feel very hard. So I don’t think that it is really a matter for intelligentsia to worry about. All the small people that had been hit by the lack of liberty, by the bullying that they had at the hands of this tyrant, then they suffer. It is only the intelligentsia who can speak out. Farmers do not know how to speak out, but they feel strongly.
I would like to remind you, sir, that the word “Thai” means free and we Thais, living in Thailand, must be free, whether we are poor, whether we are Third World, whether we are illiterate. I don’t see any way of living for my own compatriots except to be free, reasonably free.
Mr. Fraser: There is a view that no matter how much or how many international communities would like to live under general conditions of freedom, free press, the right to elect a government, that sometimes there is lacking in the society a degree of coherence, lacking the traditions, in other words, that it may not be ordained from on high that self-government will always work or provide an adequate level of governing competence so as to enable society to function.
What would your view be of that? In other words, maybe this 3 years was destined to fail.
Mr. Puey: I would agree in the view that conditions may not be ripe in order to benefit fully from Democracy, from full freedom, but my conclusion after that is quite different from those advocated that you were quoting. I would say that let us work for it rather than let us have a dictatorship. Democracy takes time, certainly, and we must work toward the establishment of that.
It cannot be taught in the classroom at all. I don’t particularly care in what form Democracy takes place in my country. It has got to suit the condition and the cultural background of my own country. Western Democracy, Parliamentary Democracy in the Western way may not suit us. I would agree to that.
But let us be free to research into this and after all I would like to have two things, one is the freedom, normal freedom, and the other one is the right to participate in the fate of the society. After all, these two things are not exclusively a Western concept. In the concept of Sangha in the Buddhist teaching, we have consolidation and representation in the concept of Sangha, only that we neglect that and we thought that democracy is beyond our reach and therefore we tend to think that we must look for the stability of dictatorship.
Mr. Fraser: Dr. Thompson, you wanted to interject?
Mr. Thompson: I wanted to raise the question of whether in fact the word “Thai” in its sense of meaning free didn’t refer more to the state of the Kingdom in relation to its environment; That it was free of colonial oppression, that Thailand survived as no other country in Southeast Asia survived independently, rather than “free” in any relation to the Western sense of freedom of the individual and so forth. I had a sense that when you were talking about the Thai people as reacting now against the tyrant that somehow for many generations they had lived in a state of Democracy and I was struggling, other than the past 3 years, to remember, what those periods were. I am sure under Marshal Sarit you would not argue they were in a springtime of freedom. Of before 1932 obviously there was a traditional order that accorded much better with the times than the period thereafter.
It is a complex question on which it is difficult to shed light on. I wonder if we can come back to the question of what we can do about this in reference to what Dr. Puey just said. If we stop selling arms to the Thais, does this in fact alter their practices? Do they in fact become so vulnerable and so desperate that many worse things could happen?
If you look at the order of battle, compare Thailand and Vietnam, it is really quite pathetic. Thailand is just unbelievably vulnerable. It is partially their own fault. That does not change the situation. I am wondering why Dr. Puey would want us to stop selling arms to Thailand?
Mr. Puey: If I may. The reason I want the United States to abstain from selling arms is from Thai point of view, in order to minimize suffering. I stated that if the Thai Government in Bangkok Takes arms from the United States, the people in the jungle will certainly be pushed hard into accepting or seeking the arms from the other side or from the other superpowers. This is the mere reason from the Thai point of view.
Mr. Thompson: But they are doing that anyway aren’t they?
Mr. Puey: I quoted Mr. Holbrooke as saying that there is no evidence in regard to equipment coming from Vietnam.
Mr. Thompson: He may not know of any but I do.
Mr. Puey: Can you cite evidence?
Mr. Thompson: Yes, I think there is abundant evidence that equipment has come. I think it is available in this town.
Mr. Puey: Did you know that the arms that the Thai Communists are using are mostly American arms?
Mr. Thompson: Sure, but that was true in Vietnam also. You know that does not mean—
Mr. Puey: I said mostly.
Mr. Thompson: That is the exaggeration. Don’t worry, if we stop selling arms to Bangkok the insurgents would still manage to get arms. If not from us they would get them from their friends.
Mr. Puey: From the black market in Bangkok.
Mr. Thompson: They would get American arms from the leftover stockpiles in Vietnam, from their friends there. I am asking what you seriously expect would happen if the United States were seen not only to have pulled the rug out completely from under the Thai Government as it has, in so many ways in the last few years but then, then committed the final insult, of not selling them arms. Do you think the Vietnamese would then refrain from the temptation of launching more than the kinds of operations they have in the past, supplying arms and the like? do you think they could resist the temptation?
Mr. Puey: My information at this moment which may disagree with you, is that North Vietnamese have other things to consider— apart from supplying arms—to the insurgents—they first of all wanted formal relations with their neighbors including Thailand. That right is. If that is right then—
Mr. Thompson: On their terms.
Mr. Puey: On whatever terms. When you negotiate you negotiate on your own terms.
Mr. Thompson: They were not prepared to make any concessions.
Mr. Puey: Let us not quarrel. The fact remains there is no—at this moment any way—
Mr. Thompson: Do you seriously believe there are no Vietnamese arms going to the Thai insurgents?
Mr. Puey: I would not say no but I would say very little.
Mr. Thompson: You feel there is no direction and support, important morale-building support at all, along with the various other things that motivate insurgents?
In other words, can you really see the Vietnamese, who certainly found it difficult to resist the various temptations between 1973 and 1975 which were there, and with their longer experience in not resisting temptations, they would be able to resist this temptation in Thailand if we completely scuttled our alliance with the Thai state, the Thai nation. This is irrespective of the regime, quite apart from the merits or demerits of the regime—and in large measure, I am in agreement—but from the point of view of our alliance which transcends the present Thai Government. It is with the Thai state.
Mr. Puey: Mr. Chairman, Professor Thompson and myself will have to agree to disagree on this. Professor Thompson’s information may be from some sources but my own information is from another source, that the Vietnamese have told everybody that they wanted the principle of “Panja Sila.” Panja sila means non-interference with their neighbors. Now, you may say that the Vietnamese are big liars.
Mr. Thompson: Is that why they have 6,000 troops in Laos?
Mr. Puey: Whatever it is. We may disagree about this, but I think that they are very anxious to appear to the world as one of the good neighbors in Southeast Asia. So from that point of view, I don’t think that they are as anxious as you said to send arms to the insurgents in Thailand. I don’t see that.
Mr. Fraser: Dr. Puey, during the 3 years of democratic rule, the insurgency was active.
Mr. Puey: They were less active as my figures show. There was less fighting.
Mr. Fraser: If the then Government had asked the United States for assistance in dealing with whatever level of insurgency continued, would you have thought that the United States should provide military arms?
Mr. Puey: No, I would not have. I would advise against it similarly because I feel that the solution of insurgency in my country cannot be solved by armed forces alone. Of course, I cannot stop them fighting at this moment. Nobody can stop them fighting. But I believe that the way to do away with insurgency is to try to develop the country in the right way and have the artificial barrier removed.
Now, what I am saying here is that we should learn from the lesson of combating insurgents a la military. In 1964 when we started we had three provinces as insurgents provinces of the whole Kingdom—we poured money and arms. We asked U.S. advice and so on in order to combat insurgency. At this moment we have 32 provinces already declared by the Government as sensitive provinces. There may be some fallacy there but whatever fallacy there might be it just showed that armed fighting with the insurgents does not produce the result you hope to.
Mr. Fraser: There is another example in Southeast Asia and that is Malaysia which went through an insurgency which did not succeed. There were arms used against it.
Mr. Puey: They are still contained.
Mr. Thompson: But it was defeated. You are right, there are 500 or so CT’s but would you argue that if nothing had been done since 1964, if there had been no arms, no combat, no CSOC, no ISOC, et cetera, the insurgency would be less?
Mr. Puey: If there is nothing else there is insurgency. The insurgency will be more but the Government does not pursue the right policy.
Mr. Thompson: I can agree with that. The main thing that one would say about the Thai Government’s attitude toward the insurgencies was, whether they took a military or a political approach, they did not take enough of either. The insurgencies were always an extremely low priority. It was very difficult to convince the Bangkok-minded elite in Bangkok that anything beyond Bangkok mattered anyway. You know that if it was up in the Northeast, they would say that those are Lao-Thai anyway; “who cares.” It was difficult to combat this attitude.
If one wanted to do something in Bangkok to convince people it was important, then they should try to apply a combined military-political approach with the emphasis on a political solution.
Mr. Puey: Again, I disagree with Professor Thompson because in 1964-when I talked about the three provinces, the budget allocation was baht $30 million and 10 years afterward the budget allocation was nearly baht $1 billion. It is true the military did not get the support in fighting from the budget. I personally feel that those moneys had been wasted.
Mr. Thompson: Judging from the results, I think you are right.
Mr. Fraser: Do you have evidence of torture that you believe exists since the October 6 coup and is that fairly solid evidence?
Mr. Puey: Yes, sir.
Mr. Fraser: How extensive is it?
Mr. Puey: That I cannot say. But, certainly there was evidence of torture and execution, summary executions as well.
Mr. Fraser: Without the benefit of a trial?
Mr. Puey: Without the benefit of trial and not by the Prime Minister but by the local police. Three Buddhist monks in Pipoon District in the south, just were detained and disappeared and a local priest also reported that. There was an instance of a school headmaster in the South by the name of Mr. Udom Pakakrong who was arrested with 10 others. They were thrown into sacks and thrown into bundles until they confessed. Many instances of torture appeared in the report that Congressman Stark had details about.
People are willing to testify on this provided their names should not be revealed. You have also an affidavit of someone who had been detained so it is quite substantial, I think.
Mr. Fraser: That is the so-called tiger cage?
Mr. Puey: Yes.
Mr. Fraser: The affidavit describes cells 11/2 meters long, 1 meter wide and just over 1 meter high.
Mr. Puey: If I may add a personal note. On the 6th of October 1976 in the evening when I was about to leave the country a policeman came and arrested me and he detained me for 3 hours until the coup leaders ordered him to let me go. I asked him why he arrested me. He said that three students had implicated me in the plot to upset the monarchy. I said who are they and how did they say so. The policeman, whether he is stupid or not, he said these three students would not admit anything at all until they were burned by cigarette butts. Then they implicated me. This sort of thing. Eyewitnesses could be called for the 6th of October but after the October event those people who had been free can testify to the kinds of tortures that they themselves had undergone or have seen other people undergo.
Mr. Fraser: Dr. Thompson, is it your view that how the Thai Government conducts itself in relation to Thai citizens may have an effect on the outcome of the incipient struggle in Thailand?
Mr. Thompson: Marginal one. Obviously if it goes around behaving nastily in the provinces it is not going to engender support but I don’t think that is the issue. The question in the provinces is whether they can find the right mix of policies, sociological, military, to diffuse the insurgencies and that does not have anything to do with the fate of the regime in Bangkok. It is more likely that certain types of regimes will find that mix but it isn’t going to be a civil rights campaign in Udorn that is going to stop the insurgency there. It is going to be some combination they found like, for example, was found in Malaysia and the problem with military regimes is they usually overreact on the military side. One would hope that this government would not do so.
Mr. Fraser: Well, they seem to have made a beginning here by whatever numbers enlarging the recruits to the insurgency.
Mr. Thompson: Yes. I would again say that is probably, in the over-all military balance of the thing, fairly marginal; although I think it probably does have morale effect that is deleterious. I am not trying to define it out of existence. I am just saying that was considered to be a very major factor after the coup. The military analyses I have seen of the effects 6 months later would tend to suggest that it evanesced a bit.
Mr. Fraser: You heard Dr. Puey cite the increased level of violence.
Mr. Thompson: That has nothing to do with the students joining it as far as I can see. That separates right out.
Mr. Fraser: What does account for it? He cited figures that suggested the first 3 months—
Mr. Thompson: Dramatic increase in the first several months.
Mr. Fraser: By whom, by the Thai military?
Mr. Thompson: More Thai casualties as I understand it.
Mr. Puey: Thai police and military.
Mr. Fraser: Why should the casualty rate be as low as it was in 1976?
Mr. Thompson: Because it was heating up. It has been heating up all along. I would disagree during the 3 years of civilian rule that in fact the level of the insurgencies calmed down.
There were a few little turndowns on the graph but the trend has been up since 1965 generally. I would say it would be quite predictable at the beginning of a new military regime’s power that the insurgency would launch a tough thrust to try to send them a message to knock it off. Precisely the way the Viet Cong did in several stages when we were thinking of escalating in Vietnam. There are a number of precedents. A lot of people were predicting that—at the time of the coup in Bangkok the insurgency experts in town here were saying if there is a military coup in Bangkok you know what will happen, the communist territories will heat up the battle very rapidly in the next few months. That is precisely what happened.
As Dr. Puey correctly stated, there was a 300 or 400 percent increase in casualties. It has been on a low to gently rising level and it is now at a new level of magnitude. I would expect it to continue to accelerate until the Thai polity in its totality finds a way of dealing with the insurgencies that works. They have not found it. They didn’t find it under civilian rule. They didn’t try.
In the previous military government they had some good formulations. They unfortunately were not of indigenous derivation and that was probably the main problem. I think there were good formulations. But they were not credible and nobody really believed in them.
Mr. Fraser: Dr. Thompson, what is the ultimate interest of the United States as to what kind of government rules in Thailand?
Mr. Thompson: I would take it with any ally we would hope for as many shared beliefs as possible with the way we govern. We would hope that every country in the world shared our approach to things but we learned we don’t have the power to go around enforcing that and with our allies in distressed situations, I think we have even less. Our interest in it is that Thailand is still strategically situated, and highly vulnerable.
Mr. Fraser: Vulnerable to what?
Mr. Thompson: Vulnerable to Indochinese and possibly.
Mr. Fraser: Say a Communist government takes over, it probably is not vulnerable anymore.
Mr. Thompson: Sure, Western Europe can fall and then.
Mr. Fraser: I am talking about Thailand. Mr. Thompson: Thailand can fall. Mr. Fraser: Thailand won’t fall, it will have a change of government. Mr. Thompson: It will have a change in government. Mr. Fraser: It won’t disappear. We won’t lose it. Mr. Thompson: The Government would fall. Mr. Fraser: The Government would fall just as the last one did
Mr. Thompson: It is more basic when you go to a Communist government. Mr. Fraser: Much more durable. Mr. Thompson: In a hard and harsh sense. Mr. Fraser: What is our interest in that? Mr. Thompson: The same as our interest in preventing
Communist governments from appearing anywhere.
Mr. Fraser: That does not help me. What is our interest in Thailand? Mr. Thompson: How can you say it doesn’t help you? Mr. Fraser: Because I would like to deal with a concrete specific. Mr. Thompson: The concrete specific is that it would add to this
sum total of human misery. It would strategically be deleterious to our interests. Mr. Fraser: In that way?
Mr. Thompson: The sense of this is strategic air space, this is. Mr. Fraser: You mean the overflight? Mr. Thompson: More than that. It is an air crossroads of great
importance. It is a listening post. Mr. Fraser: Listening to whom? Mr. Thompson: Listening to the Chinese for example. Mr. Fraser: But we have many opportunities for that. Mr. Thompson: We did have and we could well have again. Mr. Fraser: What do you want to listen to the Chinese for? Mr. Thompson: Why not? Mr. Fraser: It could be convenient. We have lots of mechanisms
for listening to them, satellites.
Mr. Thompson: Our best intelligence, technical intelligence, we gave up. Fortuitously. That was the Ramasoon facility in Thailand. Mr. Fraser: Are you saying our interest in the question of which
government rules Thailand is based on the fact it would be
convenient for us to listen in on Chinese activities? Mr. Thompson: No; you asked me what the specifics were and I was listing them in descending order of importance.
Mr. Fraser: Start at the top. What is the most important thing? Mr. Thompson: The most important reason for our having an interest in what kind of government is in Thailand is simply the abstract one. We don’t want a Communist government in Thailand because it would add to the overall power of Communist
governments in the world, however many branches of the “church” there are.
Mr. Fraser: In other words, you see this as an addition to the aggregate Communist power to attack the United States or.
Mr. Thompson: Not to attack the United States.
Mr. Fraser: Vital interests of the United States?
Mr. Thompson: No.
Mr. Fraser: Then what are you talking about?
Mr. Thompson: To weaken the Western international system. I am saying that there was an international system constructed at the conclusion of World War II that had the World Bank, the IMF, United Nations, and such other institutions at its core. The rules of the game were organized largely by us, perhaps one could say for our convenience. This system has been under steady erosion, you may have noticed in recent years, with attacks at the United Nations on us and so forth and so on. We are not in the same position we were in the immediate post-war era. The addition of more governments to the general cluster of governments that are not open to free enterprise, not open to our institutions, not open to trade, not open to the free exchange of people and ideas, simply diminishes—do you see what I am getting at ?
Mr. Fraser: Yes; I see. You say not open to trade. That is not right. We have traded with quite a few.
Mr. Thompson: We don’t have much.
Mr. Fraser: You are talking about ideas and institutions. These are concepts that I tend to put under human rights consideration.
Mr. Thompson: Maybe we construe human rights as different things.
Mr. Fraser: I am really interested in this. It may be one thing for us to have shared concern about how people are forced to live under governments in which they may have very little voice as a matter of our concern about their future, sharing a common market. It is another thing to say we want to have something to say about this because it affects the economic interests of the United States. In other words we don’t worry about the Thai people but we worry about the United States. It seems to me there is a fundamental difference here. The fact that we may not be able to share values with the Thai people, I would think is a concern to us because we see it as a deprivation to the Thai people but it seems to me that is a qualitative difference from saying loss of Thailand as a loss of Vietnam is a significant factor in our security or our economic well-being as Americans.
I am not clear where you come out on this.
Mr. Thompson: You are drawing a distinction without a difference.
Mr. Fraser: It makes a lot of difference in what we do and how we are prepared to go about it. If American interest is at stake we don’t care what happens in Thailand as long as we protect our interests. If we are concerned about the Thai people we might want to think somewhat more sensitively.
Mr. Thompson: You are concerned about the Chinese people in China. There are a lot more of them than there are Thai, if you want to go at it by this approach.
Mr. Fraser: That is right. I remember the Chinese increased in population every year by the total population of Vietnam over which we expended an enormous treasury. I never understood the argument you advanced.
Mr. Thompson: What argument?
Mr. Fraser: That there is an incremental shift in the world climate because now they are lost to us. We are going to have another voice attacking us in the United Nations.
Mr. Thompson: You don’t think there has been a shift in the world climate since 1975?
Mr. Fraser: Yes; I think there has been. However, I don’t see that these countries which are relatively powerless add or subtract importantly to this and I am wondering exactly what price we are prepared to pay there in terms of just human misery that we may perpetuate in our efforts to serve our interests rather than serving the interests of the people.
Mr. Thompson: Where are we perpetuating misery?
Mr. Fraser: I don’t want to reargue the whole Vietnam debate but I thought it was a useless war although I supported it for 6 months. But I don’t see we have learned anything. What I am interested in is how much we have learned from the Vietnam experience. Enormous misery caused by the United States in Vietnam.
Mr. Thompson: We caused it?
Mr. Fraser: I think it is fair to say we caused it.
Mr. Thompson: You don’t put any responsibility on Hanoi’s side?
Mr. Fraser: They won the war against the French and were entitled to the freedom. We decided we didn’t like their ideology and we set up a train of events.
Mr. Thompson: That is why refugees were going away, how many thousands in 1968 and 1975? Why didn’t they go north?
Mr. Fraser: They didn’t like the regime.
Mr. Thompson: Why are refugees now coming to Thailand rather than going from Thailand to Cambodia?
Mr. Fraser: Because they don’t like the regimes. Do you think a loss of several million lives and 50,000 of our own, an expenditure of over $100 billion to delay the outcome by 20 years was a worthwhile undertaking? I think we imposed a lot of needless misery on these people.
Mr. Thompson: Who could have said in 1954, 1955, that it inevitably was going to end up that way.?
Mr. Fraser: If we listened to the French we might have understood.
Mr. Thompson: If we tried to learn anything from the French –which we made no effort to do—we might have seen its futility.
Mr. Fraser: In other words, it seems to me our interest in Thailand ought to be based on the Thai people. It seems to me beyond that, the U.S. strategic interests, commercial interests, have to be marginal.
Mr. Thompson: I would disagree profoundly with that. I would be interested to know what you mean by the Thai people.
Mr. Fraser: We have a belief that such ideas as freedom of expression, right to be free of arbitrary governmental interference in one’s live, that these are important values and that we have an interest in that because they are shared values and that our belief is, that in long run, where we can promote decent governments that do respect these kinds of rights, in the long run perhaps the environment for our values worldwide is going to be improved.
Mr. Thompson: Do you do that in Thailand by cutting off their military aid right now?
Mr. Fraser: I have not reached that point. I am puzzled as to what we do. But what is not clear to me is that no matter what that Government does, if we feed it military aid we are pursuing a destructive course but this goes to question of whether they are going to hold the loyalties, especially of the young people if they pursue the course that they seem to be on. Now my problem is that this is not a judgement for me to make. It is a very difficult judgment to make. Dr. Puey, who lived there a long time, seems to think we should discontinue military aid. He seems to think that would be true no matter what kind of government exists there.
Mr. Thompson: He is very consistent. He was known to be one of the few people courageous enough during the period of the Praphas-Thanom dictatorship who spoke out forcibly within government counsels, and was well known for his views so this is not a sudden change in views.
Mr. Puey: Mr. Chairman, if I may remark upon your interchange. I wish very much in my country people like you and Professor Thompson could do the same. I admire the United States for having this.
Mr. Fraser: None of us contests that, Dr. Puey. What is it the United States constructively can do that will increase the prospect that you and I or Dr. Thompson and I could go to Thailand and have this kind of dialogue. Where do we come out on this?
Mr. Puey: That is more difficult. But, my main purpose at this moment is to minimize suffering and to save lives in Thailand, unnecessary loss of life.
Mr. Thompson: Isn’t one of the things we learned from Vietnam that we not be messianic about our feelings? I think right now around the world people are getting the feeling the United States is on another one of its virtue kicks. John Foster Dulles all over again. Take out the old editorials. We are using the same jargon except it is not about non-alinement; it is about human rights. Same thing as Teddy Roosevelt. We have done it throughout our history.
Is it going to useful for us to have a “virtue kick” so soon after Vietnam? I really wonder whether this is terribly useful. I think governments like in Thailand should get some private criticism. I think they know what we feel but I think they are entitled to some understanding in the circumstances and we would hope that within a reasonable period of time the situation would calm down and that they would improve their image and so forth in their own interest.
But I am wondering if the way to do that is by virtue crusade. I am not addressing that to you, needless to say. I think this is ceasing to be very constructive from what I hear, but the problem is of its getting out of hand with everybody competing to be on the power curve of virtue.
Mr. Fraser: As one member of the State Department, who has been interested in human rights said, for 3 years there was a rain dance to promote human rights and now they are drowning. It is a flood. I agree. I think my own view is that public confrontations on human rights issues are normally not productive and the only thing, though, that I have sensed about American policy is an insensitivity. One of the reasons I think an interest in human rights is important is simply to have a better understanding of the dynamics of our society.
You made the point which I agree with. I think sometimes human rights violations are often the symptoms of underlying malfunctioning societies. That may be a poor choice of words but they reflect the stresses that are in societies.
Mr. Thompson: Another thing we could do, which I indirectly pointed out here, is in cases where there are good performances, we could do more to strengthen them.
Mr. Fraser: That in my view is clearly the way we should be going. For one thing, you cannot lose doing that. If you find governments moving in a direction we think is helpful to their own people and to our interests, we give them help. We don’t say we caused it. Simply where we find friends—I wish we could define “friends” as people with shared values rather than military alliances—but where we find friends we should back them, give them help when they need it and want it.
Mr. Thompson: For example, were there any congressional exchanges with the Thai Parliament during the 3 years—I would have thought that sort of thing would have been reinforcing and could have been done in the few places in the Third World where there are democratic instituitions.
Mr. Fraser: Those parliamentary exchanges can never compete with those in Europe.
Mr. Thompson: But they would have more effect.
Mr. Fraser: Mr. Smeeton.
Mr. Smeeton: I will pose these questions to both of you. On the specific subject of human rights in Thailand, one of the things that I have taken note of with respect to foreign press reports emanating from Bangkok—at least the datelines seem to be Bangkok—is that a number of them have been quite critical of the regime’s human rights record.
From that, am I wrong in deducing that there is not much of an effort, if any, by the current regime to censor foreign press reports?
Mr. Thompson: Then they threw out Norman Peagam?
Mr. Puey: I guess, and they threatened to ban his Far Eastern Economic Review. In the days immediately after October 6 last year, any foreign newspaper sent into Thailand that had news about Thailand was cut off. One of my nephews was very cross because he found his newspaper all mutilated and he could not read about Thailand at all. The present Minister of Interior said that all Western foreign correspondents in Bangkok tell lies. Every one of them without exception. So that is still the attitude.
Mr. Smeeton: But at the same time he allows these reports to continue to be disseminated from Bangkok. There appears to be no effort to stop them from being sent out to their home offices.
Mr. Puey: The Economic Review, Far Eastern Economic Review, has to be very careful. I know that a reporter of the New York Times and the Guardian in London had been warned several time about sending news on Thailand. Some newspaper had—referring to the newspaper that I read in London—used pseudonyms for their reporter in order to protect their own reporter. That is a practice at this moment.
Mr. Thompson: I would say in terms of the other oppressions of the present Thai Government it is relatively loose in the press side. You would have expected it to be tougher.
Mr. Puey: Inefficiency in Thai dictatorships is our saving grace.
Mr. Thompson: I would say a neighboring very small country which will remain nameless may be overall a slightly easier country to live in but its press policy is much tougher than in Bangkok now.
Mr. Puey: I admit.
Mr. Thompson: Because it is more efficient.
Mr. Puey: I would not put it nameless either.
Mr. Smeeton: Turning to some of the other freedoms, is it pretty easy to travel around Thailand? Are there any restrictions placed on travel within Thailand?
Mr. Puey: I think foreigners can travel.
Mr. Smeeton: I was thinking of natives.
Mr. Puey: There are certain areas where they are not allowed to be free. There was a story which we can substantiate about a group of villagers in the south that had been evacuated from their village and told by the police without giving any reason that they were not allowed to go out. Well, after a few days the villagers thinking about their harvest, the rice is ripe, they went out without the police knowing and they were all killed, most of them were killed.
I would not say all. Most of them were killed by gunfire from helicopters. They are thinking this is a Communist group.
Now in Thailand you are told not to go anywhere in the evening, in sensitive areas. In the daytime you can travel but do not go into official cars, transport.
Mr. Smeeton: By sensitive areas do you mean those 32 areas you talked about earlier?
Mr. Puey: Thirty-two provinces but otherwise they are still free to travel.
Mr. Smeeton: How about property rights? Are there any restrictions on owning or moving property?
Mr. Puey: Move property?
Mr. Smeetion: Or continue to own property. Has there been any confiscation of property?
Mr. Puey: No.
Mr. Smeeton: Personal property and so on.
Mr. Puey: That is all right.
Mr. Smeeton: That has not been touched?
Mr. Puey: No.
Mr. Smeeton: Dr. Puey, I think you alluded to the factionalism within the military and I gather some of that factionalism reaches into the Royal palace.
Could you elaborate a little bit on what lies behind the friction that seems to be developing?
Mr. Puey: I think there are always rumors about the King favoring this group or that group of officers. So far I don’t think that the rumors have been substantiated and I believe that the King himself tried to be really neutral. Weather he had any part in the event of the sixth at all I do not know. And I have no evidence to say one way or the other.
Mr. Smeeton: Would you say the King remained neutral?
Mr. Puey: Between the factions?
Mr. Smeeton: Did he remain neutral at the time of the October coup?
Mr. Puey: I heard the same stories about the King.
Mr. Smeeton: I got the impression that maybe for the first time in history the royalty had sided with one faction.
Mr. Thompson: That is my understanding. This is really of quite enormous importance to Thai developments although it is a difficult one to discuss with Thais because their attitude is so reverential with respect to His Majesty that it is almost impossible to discuss. Yet something has happened.
Mr. Puey: I must say the Government has denied so far that the King had any interference.
Mr. Thompson: I think what is assumed is that sometime between January of 1976 and October 1976 the King let it be known he would not be displeased if the military came back to power. This was quite surprising to most students of Thai politics to put it mildly.
Mr. Smeeton: One final question, Mr. Chairman. It has been noted by a number of people—those who have been described as veteran observers of the Thai political scene—that during this last period of democracy, the 1973-1976 period, neither the left nor the right had much patience with the democratic experiment and this led to the showdown of October of 1976.
I would be interested in getting both of your comments. Is that an on-target observation or an exaggerated claim as to what happened during this democratic interlude?
Mr. Thompson: That is true but it is a necessary but not sufficient part of the explanation of what happened.
Mr. Smeeton: You would say it is more peripheral than anything else?
Mr. Thompson: it was not really central. To me the central issue was the growing domestic anarchy, in the context of the revolution next door, that made the Thai military feel that it was a hopeless situation. They simply could not have threats, both externally and internally.
Historically the Thais always tried to balance the two and have made alliances with great powers to balance off difficulties internally or vice versa. To have threats on both fronts was considered more than they felt could be tolerated.
Mr. Puey: I would agree with Dr. Thompson as far as to say that that was a necessary condition but not a sufficient condition. But I would not agree with the rest of his statement. Considering that even with Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam remaining as before, not being Communist governments at all, I think that the event of the 6th of October would still occur because, in my opinion, the most important factor is that the military wants to come back to power. It is as simple as that. And they have been preparing this—while we were drafting the Constitution in 1974, they have been preparing all the time. And in 1974 you must admit that Vietnam had not become Communist yet.
Mr. Thompson: Yes, but the question is would the plots have succeeded. Why didn’t they succeed until 1976 and until after the Americans had let them down and vacated the bases? They were plotting; they were always plotting, but I think there was fair knowledge among Thai observers that what really finally precipitated their willingness to go “whole hog” was the collapse of their security arrangements in the region. We ran out on them. I think here again we agree to disagree.
Mr. Puey: I agree with you but I think the weight we put to each factor is different.
Mr. Thompson: It is possible there would have been a coup anyway but the particular coup that occurred happened as a specific part of a logical sequence of events in 1976 and all the coups attempts previously, between 1973 and 1976, had not been able to generate enough enthusiasm because the Government was not strong enough. The Government could not provide the kind of strength that the military felt was necessary for the country to have.
I didn’t mean military strength, I mean the combined assets of economics, sociological stability, and internal security. I don’t think countries can really concentrate on developing when they don’t have their security clear in their own minds. This was certainly the case in Thailand the latter part of the period.
Mr. Smeeton: Thank you Dr. Puey and thank you Professor Thompson. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Fraser: My thanks to both of you. I apologize for the hearing running so late but this has been very constructive. We appreciate your responses to the questions. The subcommittee stands adjourned.
(Whereupon, at 6 p.m., the subcommittee adjourned, subject to call of the Chair.)
Hearings before the Subcommittee on International Organizations of the Committee on International Relations House of Representatives, ninety-fifth Congress first Session, June 23 and 30, 1977, US Government Printing Office Washington: 1977