193 Eastman to Burton

Memorandum BANGKOK, 18 June 1948


Up to the present time my relations with the Siamese Government have been conducted strictly on the basis of the instructions in your telegram No. 31 [1], received here on 7th May, 1948. Although I could not avoid meeting the Minister of Foreign Affairs at two or three private functions which I attended, I did not call on him officially and my business with the Siamese authorities was conducted solely through permanent government officials. I also indicated discreetly to the Foreign Adviser that I would be unable to accept invitations to any official functions.

2. Both Government officials and private Siamese individuals have said to me that they are puzzled and surprised at Australia's unexplained refusal to grant formal recognition to the Government.

They have pointed out that every other country has granted recognition and have asked me the grounds of Australia's continued refusal. The matter is also the subject of humorous remarks from time to time by some of the other foreign representatives here.

I have, of course, given non-committal replies and have avoided the subject as far as possible.

3. It is of interest to note that I have found resentment at our attitude not only amongst Government supporters but also amongst some opponents of the Government. As the political pattern here is totally unlike that to be found in Australia or other more politically developed countries, non-recognition of a particular government is interpreted by even some intelligent people, not as an objection only to the group in power, but as an indication of hostility to the country as a whole.

4. Up to the present time I have offered no criticism of your decision beyond that contained in para 3 of my telegram No. B78 of 3rd May, 1948. Australia having once refused to recognise the Government (and having thus incurred such unfavourable local reaction as might result), I had felt that we might perhaps turn the situation to our advantage by using the question of formal recognition as a bargaining point in the preliminary discussions on the lump sum settlement of war damage claims; as mentioned in my telegram B78, however, formal recognition would be a prerequisite to any final settlement on the lump sum negotiations.

5. The situation has been entirely altered, however, by the visit of the Mission headed by Mr. Macmahon Ball. [2] The latter bore a personal letter from the Minister addressed to 'M.C.

Pridideppongse Devakul, Minister of Foreign Affairs' stating that Mr. Ball was his personal representative and inviting M.C. Pridi to discuss with Mr. Ball matters of 'general interest to the two countries'. As a result Mr. Ball called on both the Minister of Foreign Affairs and on the Prime Minister and had discussions with them. To avoid adding further complications I did not attend these discussions but, so as not to give undue offence, I joined the Prime Minister and Mr. Ban at afternoon tea after their discussion and also accepted an invitation to a small private dinner party which the Minister of Foreign Affairs gave for Mr. Ball.

6. On my understanding of the rules of protocol the Siamese Government would be fully justified in treating the method of address and contents of Dr. Evatt's letter, together with Mr.

Ball's calls on the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister, as formal recognition of the Government. So far they have refrained from embarrassing us in this way but they must find it most difficult to reconcile these friendly overtures with our silent refusal to recognise them.

7. Mr. Ball handled the situation in a most tactful manner and did not commit the Australian Government on the question of formal recognition; on a number of occasions, however, it was quite impossible for him to avoid expressing the customary platitudes with regard to the development of friendly relations between the two countries.

8. In the face of all of this it is quite impossible for us to persist in our attitude of silent non-recognition. And it is far too late in the day for us to announce for the first time our grounds of dissatisfaction with the Siamese Government, however well-based they may be. I would therefore strongly urge that we grant formal recognition to the Government with the least possible delay.

9. I fully realize that the impression created amongst the Siamese will be that our former non-recognition resulted from unfavourable advice which I had given you, and that our subsequent grant of recognition was due to over-riding advice given by Mr. Macmahon Ball. (The former opinion was in fact expressed to a member of the Mission by one of the Siamese officials and is quite understandable, as my duties visa-vis the Siamese authorities have been practically limited to insistence on the honouring of Siamese obligations in respect of claims etc.; the only tangible gesture of goodwill on our part was made through the visiting Mission.) Such an impression will not tend to increase my prestige as your representative here but that appears to be unavoidable; all the other circumstances point to the urgency of granting immediate recognition to the Government.

1 Dispatched 7 May 1948; it instructed Eastman to deal with Siamese Government on de facto basis insofar as Australia's interests were concerned and advised that no communication or announcement was necessary.

2 On Ball's mission, see Document 156.

[AA:A1838/283, 451/3/1/1, i]