196 Note by Eastman

CANBERRA, 17 November 1949


Official relations between Australia and Thailand, as seen from the Bangkok end, are at present worse than they have been at any stage in the past. This results from the cumulative effect of our unfriendly postwar attitude and in particular from the following specific acts and decisions:-

(a) Whereas the United States ignored the Thai declaration of war, Australia, in conjunction with United Kingdom and India, insisted on more or less onerous peace agreements before terminating the state of war;

(b) Whereas the U.K. and India signed a final peace agreement on 1st January, 1946, and terminated the state of war a few days later, Australia did not present its final peace agreement until March 1946 and did not terminate the state of war until approximately July 1946;

(c) We included in our peace agreement Article XI [1], which was over and above the demands of U.K. and India and was resented as an infringement of sovereignty;

(d) When Thailand asked for financial assistance in 1946 to rehabilitate trade, we refused although U.K., India and U.S.A.

extended loans or credit;

(e) We were the only prominent nation not to extend an invitation to Pridi during his goodwill tour in 1946, although it had been hinted that he would appreciate an invitation;

(f) Although I was appointed Consul-General in Thailand in September 1946, we refused until September 1947 to agree to reciprocal representation here;

(g) We were the only country to refuse recognition to the Khuang Government (November 1947 - May 1948);

(h) Although all other countries recognised the Pibul Government immediately in May 194 8, we withheld recognition until July or August;

(i) We continue to freeze privately-owned Thai funds in Australia, although similar funds in U.K. and U.S.A. have long since been unfrozen;

(j) The activities of the Immigration Department in relation to Kularb Saipradit, Nang Cherm Bulgetr and a number of Thai students [2] in Melbourne created official as well as public resentment in Thailand. These cases have been explained fully by me to the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but they remain sceptical and resentful;

(k) The general operation of our immigration policy in relation to Asiatics is poorly received;

(l) The prominent part which Australia played in trying to prevent the handing over to Thailand of certain gold in Japan [3] aroused keen resentment;

(m) Our strong attitude in pressing for settlement of war damage claims on our own terms (which the Thais regard as unreasonable) has had a similar effect;

(n) Our blunt refusal to consider exchange of legations before full settlement of war claims has provoked an unfriendly public statement by the Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs.

2. As against this imposing list of unfriendly acts, the only tangible gestures of goodwill to which we can point in the last 4 years are the 4 or 5 UNESCO fellowships and the educational supplies which were promised over a year ago but have still not been delivered.

3. If a similar attitude had been adopted by other Allied powers, the combined effect might perhaps have been salutary and war damage claims might perhaps have been settled more promptly and satisfactorily. For various reasons of their own, however, the other powers entered into full diplomatic relations with Thailand, and U.K. and U.S.A., in particular, have been sedulously courting the Thais for some time. In these circumstances our continued bluntness and unfriendliness have had merely an irritating instead of a wholesome effect on Thailand.

4. Whether or not the Australian attitude has been wise or necessary and whether or not the Thai Government has been unreasonable in some or all of its reactions, the fact is that we have succeeded in building up a considerable store of illwill in official and political circles in Thailand. In view of the importance which the Government attaches to friendly relations with South East Asia, it is a matter for consideration whether some positive steps might not be taken to remedy the situation.


5. I should mention that a small but satisfactory amount of goodwill towards Australia is to be found in non-official circles in Thailand as a result of friendly personal contacts between Thai students and the Australian public.

1. Article XI Siam undertook to inform and confer 'with the Government of Australia regarding any proposed international arrangements relating to tin, rubber, oil or other commodities' and 'not to complete such arrangements unless the Government of Australia has bee. given an opportunity to become a party thereto'.

2 Cases involving overstaying . temporary entry permit and the alleged ill treatment of students.

3 See Document 358.

4 The Australian Consulant-General, Bangkok, was raised to a Legation in 1951. In 1952 Thailand established a Legation in Canberra.

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