448 Eastman to Department of External Affairs

Cablegram 20 SINGAPORE, 12 December 1945


Further to my telegram 18 of December 11th. [1]

1. Siamese talks were resumed at 1,000 hours on December 11th.

Delegations were informed that I did not wish to address them at the commencement of the meeting but at a later stage in the talks I would deal with the form and details of the agreement on the basis of which the Australian government would be prepared to terminate the state of war. As explained in paragraph five of my telegram 18 I took this action to avoid embarrassment in case any likelihood of variation of your instructions as a result of Dominions Office telegram of December 8th. [2]

Prince Viwat, head of the delegation, stated that his government welcomed participation by Australia with whom they would be glad to restore the former friendly relationship.

In my opinion the Siamese credentials do not make clear that the delegation is empowered to negotiate with Australia. Have furnished suggested amendments to the Prince who will now seek wider powers.

2. Dening opened the session with recital of Siamese misdeeds and shortcomings and reminded the delegation that the draft terms were the minimum on which Britain was prepared to terminate the state of war. He also repeated the substance of his letter of December 3rd of which MacMahon Ball has a copy for you. [3] He reiterated that no bargaining on matters of substance would be permitted though he was prepared to listen to requests for elucidation of wording.

3. The Prince stated that Siam was anxious to come to an agreement as soon as possible but the internal political situation and the fact that draft heads were likely to be the prototype for agreements with other countries presented difficulties. Therefore he requested sympathy and help in the 'elucidation' of certain clauses.

4. The Prince stated that Siam was prepared to negotiate with France [4] but was unable to produce convincing reasons for failure to do so up to the present.

Dening reserved the right to include appropriate provisions in the British heads if no Franco-Siamese agreement was reached before exchange of letters.

5. The Prince said Siam was prepared to offer one and a half million tons of rice but requested sympathetic consideration of certain difficulties. He stressed dislocation of agricultural labour, lack of implements, loss of cattle, shortage of transport and alleged that British demand exceeded average annual export figures and that this year's crop would be well below average.

Considers cost of gift would be three times the annual national revenue and that this added to heavy cost of occupation forces and compensation would produce grave financial problems. He requested indulgence in respect of rate of delivery and substitution of broken for sound white rice when latter not available.

Dening replied that these modalities in respect of Siam might make representations to Britain as necessary during the performance of the agreement but could not be accepted as amendments of text.

6. The Prince also requested 'elucidation' of the following clauses of the draft heads:

B1(C) B1(E) B3 C3 D1 D2 D3 D4 E2(B) and annex clauses 3, 4, 8, 11 and 14. [5] Some suggestions appeared to me reasonable requests for enlightenment but others involved amendments of substance.

Dening gave them little satisfaction on the former and none on the latter. None of the Siamese suggestions are relevant to Australian terms proposed in your telegram 7. [6]

7. In conclusion Dening reminded the delegation that they must accept or reject the terms as they stand and warned them of the probable consequences of rejection or procrastination. He offered an aeroplane to convey members to Bangkok for further instructions from the Government. Offer accepted by the Prince who departs to- day and will probably return on 14th December.

8. Despite previous propaganda and semi official protests, the attitude of the delegation was mild and placatory and the majority of the suggested 'elucidations' were insubstantial. I formed the tentative impression that the delegation desired to conclude an agreement but were flying kites in the hope of getting some scraps of amendments which would enable the Government to give to the assembly and people the idea, real or false, that its diplomacy had obtained alleviation of the terms. However, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating when the Prince returns on 14th December but I am more optimistic than previously as to the outcome.

9. The British are meeting to-day or to-morrow to consider relaxation of rice terms. Dening naturally did not inform the delegation as it was considered that this would be taken as evidence of weakness and raise hopes of further concessions.

10. If the British terms are accepted there should be little difficulty in securing an undertaking on Australian terms. To avoid hitch, vital that I receive a reply to my telegram 18 not later than 14th December.

11. The Prince told me unofficially that he was most anxious that formal agreement should follow quickly on the heels of the exchange of letters.

1 On file AA : A1838/2, 451/3/2/2, i. It reported that the Foreign Office had altered its postition on a separate agreement between the Commonwealth and Siamese Govts, and now favoured a joint exchange of letters followed by a joint formal agreement.

2 Cablegram 516, on file AA : A1838/2, 452/8/3, i. It conveyed the U.K. Govt's agreement to Australian participation in the Heads of Agreement and eventual formal agreement, and to Eastman as joint signatory of the exchange of letters.

3 Not located.

4 Following Japanese military successes in early 1942, the Thais had annexed the Malayan states of Kelantan, Kedah, Trengganu and Perlis and the Shan states of Mongpan and Kengtun in Burma. These were to be retroceded under the agreement, but the Siamese Govt argued that the portions of French Indo-China ceded to it under the Franco-Thai Treaty of May 1941 had been acquired legally by treaty and should not be subject to retrocession.

5 The text of the draft Heads of Agreement is given in savingram D311, dispatched 1 December. On the file cited in note 1.

6 Document 437.

[AA : A1838/2, 451/3/2/2, i]