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Documents Relating to New Zealand's Participation in the Second World War 1939–45: Volume III

44 — The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the acting Prime Minister of New Zealand

page 51

The Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to the acting Prime Minister of New Zealand

1 August 1941

Circular telegram. My Circular telegram M.199.1 Thailand.

Indications have been accumulating that the Japanese may be contemplating an early move into Thailand. Information has reached us from a secret source that the Japanese have already made demands on the Thai Government promising territorial acquisitions in Indo-China in return for military co-operation. Both the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (who is very friendly to us) have assured His Majesty's Minister that they know nothing of any Japanese demands, but the Under-Secretary of State had previously sent a secret warning to His Majesty's Minister that something of the sort might be afoot. He explained that he had done this merely as an intelligent observer of coming events. His Majesty's Minister believes that the denials given him are genuine, but fears the Thai Prime Minister may have received demands from the Japanese but has not disclosed them to all the members of his Cabinet.

2. We are not satisfied that the above information concerning Japanese demands is necessarily reliable, but it is clear that Thai Government circles are seriously apprehensive and this apprehension is no doubt reinforced by the continued agitation about Thailand in the Japanese press. For example, a recent Domei agency telegram from Bangkok alleged increasing British military preparations and pressure on Thailand to which sinister purposes are attributed.

3. Further telegrams from His Majesty's Minister report that both the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs made earnest appeal to him to the effect that, if Japan was not to overwhelm Thailand completely, it was imperative that we and the United States should come to their assistance in some open and forcible manner. They were convinced that nothing less would suffice than a public warning to Japan that any attempt by her to violate the territorial integrity or sovereignty of Thailand would involve her in war with the United States and ourselves. They fully realise that with our pre-occupation in the West we could not take the lead in this matter, but they repeated that the remedy lay with the United States Government, who had so far failed to show the requisite firmness in their Far Eastern policy.

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4. On 30 July His Majesty's Minister reported that the Thai Prime Minister had not only approved and associated himself with this appeal, but had given him the following urgent and very secret message for the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs:

‘It is to be expected that Japan will press on him to make military and economic concessions and generally to adopt a policy which will be incompatible with the position of Thailand as a neutral power and as a friend of Britain. If he refuses these proposals it is possible that Japan may threaten force and announce her intention of violating the neutrality of Thailand under the pretext of protecting her against ourselves. In that event, what would be the attitude of Britain and what course would His Majesty's Government advise him to follow?’

5. We are consulting with the United States Government at once in regard to the Thailand situation, with special reference to the Prime Minister's message, and will telegraph further as soon as possible.

1 Not published. Reported a discussion between the British Minister at Bangkok (Sir Josiah Crosby) and the Prime Minister of Thailand (Field Marshal Luang Pibul Songgram) on likely Japanese moves against Thailand.