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Historical documents

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

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]
Last Updated: 11 September 2013
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