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192 McIntyre to Burton

Minute CANBERRA, 28 April 1948


It is now clear that Marshal Luang Pibul Songgram has openly
assumed power in Siam. Following the coup d'etat of last November,
he professed his intention of remaining out of politics; but he
has now forced the Khuang Government out of office and formed his
own cabinet which rests on military support.

This can only be regarded as an unsatisfactory development. Pibul
was Prime Minister of Siam when the Japanese war broke out, and is
therefore tarred with the brush of collaboration. He has always
been regarded as untrustworthy and as having the makings of a
dictator. The Cabinet which he has now established is reported to
be drawn from his own military clique, with the balance made up of
nonentities. It is a much less satisfactory Cabinet than that of
Khuang, which included a good many men of real integrity and was
the nearest approach to a democratic cabinet that Siam has ever
had. It had, moreover, obtained a solid vote of confidence from
the Siamese Parliament.

Pibul's vote of confidence, on the other hand, does not represent
the majority of the parliament, since about sixty members
abstained from voting. There have been, moreover, vague rumours
that even his own military clique have been making plans to get
rid of him. But these rumours are still vague, but the odds at
present seem to be in favour of Pibul's being able to remain in
office and retain all real power in his own hands.

The question arises whether Australia should recognise Pibul's
Government. Since we did not formerly recognise Khuang's
Government, we should logically be even more disinclined to
recognise this one. We could, if necessary, justify continued non-
recognition on the legal ground that we do not approve of the
manner in which the old constitution was rescinded and a new one
promulgated last November. But this would be a somewhat legalistic
argument. Our only real ground for withholding recognition now
would be that we do not think the new Government is stable enough
to remain in power and run the country. If we intend to 'write off
Siam completely, and have nothing more to do with the Siamese, we
might also justify non-recognition on the grounds that we do not
like Pibul or his Government or the way they came into power. But
apart from the question whether we would be wise to do so (and in
view of our present and future interest in Southeast Asia, I do
not think we would), it is doubtful whether we can cut ourselves
off. if we pull out of Siam altogether, we have legally no means
of binding Siam to observance of our Peace Treaty. Neither can we
continue as an active member of the Claims Committee, which as
soon as a new government settles down will be settling the
outstanding tin and other claims of Australia and other countries
against Siam. Moreover, we have day-to-day contacts with the
Siamese Government even now; we often have to ask them for
permission for our aircraft to land, etc.

If we withdraw Eastman these practical considerations will arise,
and the result can only be to our disadvantage. In addition we
shall, of course, be deprived of another useful source of
political intelligence.

On the other hand, if we leave Eastman there, we are bound to
drift into a sort of de facto relationship with the Siamese
Government-even without positive recognition on our part. This is
perhaps the best course for us to pursue, at least for the time
being. The Siamese could make difficulties about it if they wished
to, but the chances are that they will not. It will mean that
Eastman's contacts with the Siamese Government will have to remain
entirely unofficial. If he begins exchanging formal communications
with them, it is likely that he will have put Australia in the
position, according to international usage, of having formally
recognised the Siamese Government. On the assumption, however,
that he can still go on dealing informally with them, he should be
able to carry out most of his present functions without committing
us to de jure recognition. If difficulties crop up (as they may,
e.g., when the war claims negotiations get under way), or if at
any time we decide that there is no point in withholding full
recognition any longer, we can review the position and determine
in the light of circumstances whether we should grant de jure

It now appears that most, if not all, other governments
represented in Bangkok are going ahead to grant de jure
recognition without delay. They are all, of course, in a somewhat
embarrassing position because they all recognised Khuang and do
not like the new government or the way it has come into power.

I suggest the attached telegram be sent to London and Bangkok. [1]

1 Dispatched 29 April 1948, it noted that Australia did not
formally recognise the Khuang government and proposed to withhold
formal recognition also from. the Pibul government.

[AA:A1838/2, 452/8/1]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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