Document Type: 
Document Number (FOIA) /ESDN (CREST): 
Release Decision: 
Original Classification: 
Document Page Count: 
Document Creation Date: 
December 20, 2016
Document Release Date: 
May 8, 2007
Sequence Number: 
Case Number: 
Content Type: 
PDF icon CIA-RDP83B00551R000200130013-0.pdf772.1 KB
Approved For Rel - 000200130013-0 Recent Economic and Political Developments in Thailand Five months after surviving a coup attempt, Prime Minister Prem Tinsulanon still faces a troubled political-economic scene. A number of issues will test Prem's staying power: continued military factionalism, the return of former Prime Minister Kriangsak as a political force, or the emergence of an especially difficult economic issue each has the potential to precipitate a change in the government. 25X1 While Prem will remain vulnerable, recent developments have added some stability to his domestic position. Prem has used the annual military shuffle to solidify temporarily support in the armed forces. Critics of his economic management remain unorganized, and Kriangsak needs wider support at high levels before he becomes a credible political threat. Finally, an important factor maintaining Prem in office is the absence of an alternative figure or group acce table to the palace and the various military factions. 25X1 Political Variables The April coup attempt left the military--Thailand's fore- most power broker--uncommonly factionalized. The largest political force in the country, the military is involved in every facet of Thai political and economic life, and little can be accomplished in the civilian sector without its acquiescence. The impetus for the abortive coup came primarily from junior field-grade officers and highlighted growing generational divisions within the military elite. The plethora of factions does not represent clear-cut divisions by age, ideology, or social background; they often coalesce around a particular officer, while an one individual can belong to more than one faction at a time. 25 X1 Members of all factions are trying to exploit the current, unsettled conditions. Titular leader of the abortive coup Gen. San Chitpatima has returned to the Senate. Some of the "Young Turk" colonels who were the driving force behind the coup--and were granted amnesty by Prem--have declared their support of former Prime Minister Kriangsak. Others are reported considering entering civilian politics to take advantage of popularity they retain among the ranks, and a few clandestine coalitions reportedly discussed mounting a coup against Prem earlier this year. We know of no group, however, that possesses strength at present to pose a serious threat to Prem. 25X1 Moreover, Prem has been able to use the just completed annual promotions and transfers for senior Thai military officers to solidify at least temporarily his support in the armed forces. He has advanced professional and technocratic officers who tend to follow the chain of command and should remain loyal to him. Officers affiliated with the Young Turk group were generally moved to SECRET Approved For Release 2007/05/08: CIA-RDP83B00551 R000200130013-0 inactive positions. Some of the senior supporters of Kriangsak were displaced in the shuffle. 25X1 Former Prime Minister Kriangsak's landslide victory in a National Assembly--the elected house of parliament--byelection in August eventually could add to the political difficulties of the government of Prime Minister Prem. Kriangsak now can recruit a considerable number of elected legislators to join his new Democratic Nation Party, and he will receive some support from members of the appointed Senate. Before Kriangsak can pose a credible threat to Prem, the former Prime Minister will need to overcome his low standing with the Palace--particularly the Queen. Moreover, as a result of the recent military shuffle, Kriangsak appearck strong support among the top levels 25X1 of the military. Assembly. The largest of Thailand's four major parties, however --the Social Action Party--no longer is included in the cabinet2.5 Although the King is concerned about Prem's poor performance and by his attempts to use his palace connections to improve his political position, any shift to another favorite is likely to be gradual. The King probably will try to convince Prem to step down before the general elections in 1983 if an acceptable alternative can be found. If the royal coolness toward Prem becomes widely known, however. aining support in the Army could erode rapidly. 25X1 Weak Coalition - Prem's coalition government is marked by disunity at the top levels. It is made up, in part, of opposing political parties selected to represent the balance of forces in the National The government thus represents a minority of the legislature. The appointed upper house--the Senate--is composed predominantly of active and retired senior military officers dedicated to pre- serving their social and economic status, who can be counted on to resist any legislation that implies precipitous change. Its members are directly selected for six-year terms by the prime minister upon approval of the king. All of these factors combine to prevent passage of legislat' to solve Thailand's economic and political difficulties. II 25X1 Economic Problems Since Prem took office in March 1980, he has personally focused on Thailand's economic problems, but his ministers have often been preoccupied with narrow political interests. As a result, the Prem government made no headway against inflation in 1980 as the impact of higher oil import costs, drought-induced food prices increases, and wage increases pushed inflation to a 20-percent rate, up from 15 percent in 1979. During 1975-78 in- SECRET Aooroved For Release 2007/05/08: CIA-RDP83B00551 R000200130013-0 Approved For Release 2007/9 RESIA-RDP83B00551 8000200130013-0 flation averaged less than 8 percent annually. Poor export performance--largely a result demand for rice, tin, and rubber--earlier this internal debate over the need for import restr of weak foreign year produced an of the IMF, the government devalued the baht, despite the opposition of domestic Thai business interests and some within the Central Bank. Prem was able to deflect most of the ensuing criticism by blaming the IMF for the move. I 25X1 ictions to stem the deterioration in the current account. Instead, at the urging - The Prem government has succeeded in gaining public acceptance of periodic utility and oil price increases mandated by inter- national financial institutions in return for development credits and balance of payments support. The World Bank, in fact, has stated that the government has made substantial progress toward achieving realistic domestic oil prices, and the IMF has supported the Bank's optimistic assessment by agreeing to a two-year $940- million stand-by credit. In return, the Prem government agreed to tighten fiscal and monetary policies, and to enact measures aimed at boosting agricultural productivity and shifting industrial developmen n emphasis on import substitution to export promotion. 25X1 Persistent pressure from the IMF and the World Bank should result in gradual structural changes in the economy, but the results will be barely visible within the next few years. More- over, if economic conditions deteriorate to the point where adhering to the IMF's performance criteria threatens entrenched business interests, the reform package could be quickly discarded. In the meantime, the country's strong agricultural resource base will continue to cushion Thai politicans from their failure to push harder for export-oriented industrial development. I 5X1 Aprroved For Release 2007/08 . 6A-RDP831300551 R000200130013-0 Approved For Release 2007/05/ OA R000200130013-0 Military Situation Along The Thai-Kampuchean Border The military situation along the Thai-Kampuchea border is generally quiescent. Thai leaders are highly concerned, however, over the potentially serious external threat posed by the deploy- ment of umbers of Vietnamese troops along their eastern border. n 25X1 During the rainy season, Vietnam's 150,000 to 180,000 troops in Kampuchea have been under steady and occasionally intense pressure from resistance forces. In areas along the borders of'' Laos and Thailand as well as central and eastern Kampuchea, Viet- namese forces in largely defensive positions have been unable to protect their supply and communications lines. Similarly, they have been unable to close infiltration routes that Pol Pot's Democratic Kampuchea forces are using to move from Thai sanctuaries to inside Kampuchea. Now that the rainy season is ending, the Vietnamese have increased operations throughout much of the country, and they have begun upgrading their forces along the Laos-Kampuchea border in a move to counter DK forces active in that area. One Vietnamese division near the Thai border has also been strengthened and has resumed its efforts to block DK forces moving from Thailand into Kampuchea. Elsewhere along the Thai-Kampuchean frontier, the Vietnamese are continuing their cross-border probing. s in an effort to keep the pressure on resistance forces 25X1 Vietnamese operations along the border have led to several incidents involving Thai forces. In mid-September, Vietnamese forces reportedly attacked a DK force and a Thai special forces unit, which provides logistical support to the insurgents operating opposite Thailand's Trat Province. The Vietnamese have also launched occasional artillery and rocket barrages against insurgent .positions on both sides of the Thai-Kampuchean frontier and, in some instances, Thai military positions and villages have been hit. 0 25X1 Approved For Release 2007/05/08: CIA-RDP83B00551 R000200130013-0 ASEAN AND TIE INDOCHINA REFUGEES: A TOUGHER LINE 25X1 The ASEAN countries most directly affected by the Indochinese refugee outflow--Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore--are beginning to toughen their policies on accepting refugees. Indonesia and the Philippines are more sympathetic and are likely to maintain their pres- ent cooperative first asylum policy as long as countries of final resettlement--especially the United States-- continue to guarantee acceptance of all refugees. 25X1 ASEAN countries believe the time has come to stop the exodus at the source and want Washington to take the lead. Their fears are based on the belief that: -- Current policies pursued by all parties in- volved--the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR), first asylum countries, and final resettlement countries--encourage refugees to leave by offering permanent relocation in the West, where life is-infinitely better than in Vitnam, Laos, or Kampuchea. -- The debate in the United States over the admit- tance of Cuban and Haitian refugees may lead to a halt or the US acceptance pro- gram. If other Western countries did likewise, ASEAN would become permanently burdened with large numbers of refugees. This could create serious domestic problems in Malaysia and Thai- land, where public sentiment runs strongly against the presence of refugees. -- There are no longer any compelling humanitar- ian reasons to accept refugees because most are leaving for economic reasons and not be- cause of political persecution. Given the appalling state of the economy in Vietnam, Laos, and Kampuchea, the refugee outflow could continue indefinitely. 5X1 Approved For Release 2007/05/08: CIA-RDP83B00551 R000200130013-0 nes.s. the -Led accepguaaran States and other countries to renew renew tees-for final resettlement. If the policies areimple- mented, the effect will be to dampen but not completely deter the refugee outflow. Vietnamese boat refugees demonstrated over the past couple of years a remarkable determination to flee regardless of the dangers involved. They would, however, be forced to remain longer on the high seas and be more exposed to the hazards of pirates and weather. In any event, the number of boat. refugees, which rose sharply in the first six months of 1981, will probably decrease from now until early 1982 because of unsuitable wpAthp-r and tightened security measures inside Vietnam. 25X1 F I On the other hand, land refugees from Laos and Kampuchea seem already to have been deterred by a harden- ing Thai repatriation and camp relocation policy--aided by a temporary improvement in internal conditions and by the blocking of refugee traffic by Vietnamese/Heng Samrin troops--and the number of overland refugees dropped off sharply this year. Nevertheless life inside both coun- tries remains unstable and unpredictable. The borders with Thailand are longrand porous; even if Bangkok makes refugee facilities inside Thailand as unattractive as possible, refugees will continue to flee when com- pelled by factors suc3'i as the unavailability of food, disruptive military or guerrilla activity, olitical repression, and economic mismanagement. 25X1 Thailand Of the ASEAN countries Thailand has the largest number of refugees inside its borders and is the most likely to be affected in case of another refugee crisis. Bangkok recently announced tough new measures to dimin- ish the attractiveness of Thailand to those seeking ref- uge. It says it will approach the Voice of America and the British Broadcasting Corporation to assist in spread- ing word of its new policies: -- It will close several Vietnamese boat refugee camps on 15 August. -The ASEAN countries concerned may have floated their new policies in part to try to Approved For Release 2007/05/08: CIA-RDP83B00551 R000200130013-0 Thereafter new arrivals will be ineligible for asylum or resettlement and will be held in a centralized "austere" camp before being re- patriated to Vietnam. -- It will close the Nong Khai camp for Lao ref- ugees and re ate it in the more remote a'C1 of Ubon. F Bangkok apparently has not coordinated its new policies with its neighboring ASEAN partners. if the new measures are implemented, Malaysia and Indonesia will be upset because boat refugees pushed off from Thailand probably would end up on their shores. xi Thailand ultimately wishes to repatriate Kampuchean and Lao refugees to their homelands. Bangkok may fear that a continuing flow of refugees would leave Kampuchea and Laos underpopulated, opening the possibility that these countries could then be settled by colonists from Vietnam. In the Thai view, this would add to the Doten- tial for Thai-Vietnamese conflict in the future. Malaysia Malaysia sees its problem compounded by the fact that Thailand map'already have started pushing off ref- ugee boats, and Sringapore may close its camp later this year. Kuala Lumpur is looking at new options, although none is being considered for early implementation: -- Establishing a moratorium on accepting new arrivals. -- Setting a firm date after which all new boat arrivals will be pushed off. -- After a certain date repatriating to Vietnam A, 1 s at present in Malaysian camps. 25X1 Singapore Singapore has never been a country of first asylum; it has only accepted for transit purposes those Viet- namese refugees from camps in Malaysia, Thailand, or Approved For Release 2007/05/08: CIA-RDP83B00551 R000200130013-0 Indonesia, and from ships that pick up refugees on the high seas, who have been guaranteed passage to countries of final resettlement. Singapore recently told a UNHCR offrcial that it-will close down the Hawkins Road transit camp as of 31 December and thereafter get out of the ref- ugee business altogether. Apparently it will allow the UNHCR to arrange private accommodation for small numbers of refugees who ar teed transit to final reset- tlement countries.) I 25X1 Indonesia and the Philippines Jakarta and Manila are likely to continue their present liberal first asylum policy as long as the United States and other Western countries guarantee to take all refugees for final resettlement. Indonesia and the Philippines have been more sympathetic to the plight of the refugees than have Thailand, Malaysia, or Singapore. In Indonesia the refugee camps are located on remote outer islands and have little direct impact on the Indonesian people. Similarly, because the com- paratively small numbers of boat refugees who arrive in the Philippines directly from Vietnam do so in the south, the refugee issue is not a public controversy. Both countries will continue to operate their refugee proc- essing centers--Galang in Indonesia and Bataan in the Philippines--although hJakarta has refused to expand the c apacity on Galang frbm 10,000 to between 15,000 and 20,000 for fear the move might attract more refugees. Vietnam The expulsion of refugees from Vietnam remains a devastating weapon for Hanoi if it wants to destabilize ASEAN countries. There are still thousands of potential refugees in Vietnam, both Vietnamese and ethnic Chinese, who would leave the country if given the chance. A current joke in Vietnam claims that "if telephone and elect il es could grow feet they would try to leave too."u Hanoi could use the refugee weapon for political blackmail. A Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister re- portedly remarked to a Hanoi-based diplomat last month that Vietnam would not accept repatriation of refugees except as part of an overall political settlement in the Approved For Release 2007/05/08: CIA-RDP83B00551 R000200130013-0 region--presumably meaning recognition of the Heng Samrin regime in Phnom Penh and the cessation of outside aid to Khmer resistance groups. The United States, other West- ern countries, and ASEAN can do little either politically or economically to bring immediate pressure to bear on Vietnam to accept its refugees back or to stop the exodus. 0 25X1 Nevertheless, Hanoi is apparently trying to enforce increased measures to prevent illegal departures. In- ternal security officers have stepped up land and sea patrols, penetration of groups likely to try to flee, and surveillance of corrupt cadres, boat pilots, and marine mechanics. Escape is becoming more dangerous; escapees who are caught are given three years in prison, and some escape organizers have been given life sentences or executed. 25X1 Corruption in Vietnam, however, remains rampant, and escapees can get out if they have the money and determination. Flourishing escape organizations in Vietnam use middlemen in the United States, Hong'Kong, and elsewhe.'-e to collect money from overseas Vietnamese or ethnic Chinese to purchase places on boats for friends and relatives. False documents can also be purchased for Vietnamese wishing to land journey across 25X1 Kampuchea to Thair'land. 1 W It is difficult to differentiate between "political" and "economic" refugees except perhaps by means,of an arbitrary, capricious definition. Recent random surveys of Vietnamese boat arrivals in Malaysia and Hong Kong suggest the refugees fled because of a mix of factors: -- Increasing numbers of highly motivated, anti- Communist former officials of the pre-1975. government in South Vietnam are being re- leased from "reeducation" camps and want to get out of the country. -- Many young men in the south want to avoid con- scription. Many would be assigned after mini- mal training to serve in Kampuchea under north-ern officers. Most have no desire to partici- pate in Hanoi's expansionist adventure in Kampuchea. Approved For Release 2007/05/08: CIA-RDP83B00551 R000200130013-0 -- Economic conditions are deteriorating. Many refugees leave because they hear over the radio--from the VOA, the BBC, and the Austra- lian Broadcasting Corporation--and also from relatives and friends already resettled over- seas that the prospects for economic betterment and political freedom in the especially the United States, are good. 25X1 The orderly departures program for relatives of those already resettled, set up at the 1979 international refugee conference in Geneva, is still in effect but pro- ceeds slowly. A charter plane leaves once per week out of Ho Chi Minh City. The approximately 1,000 persons who leave monthly in this t in the refugee problem. Approved For Release 2007/05/08: CIA-RDP83B00551 R000200130013-0 THAILAND: COMMUNIST INSURGENCY FACES DECLINE 0 The pro-Chinese Communist Party of Thailand (CPT), while still able to carry out terrorist activities, faces declining support from both internal and external sources. Bangkok's cooperation with Beijing against Hanoi and China's decision two years ago to stop supplying the CPT have drastically lessened the party's ideological impe- tus as well as its material stores. Furthermore, the external Communist threat created by the presence of Vietnamese troops on the Thai-Kampuchean border has reduced sympathy among rural residents for antigovern- ment insurgents. The government claims there are about 10,000 Com- munist insurgents in Thailand, but this. figure has not changed for years and is probably too high. The CPT is organized on regional lines, with little national-level coordination, and its leaders probably have no idea of the total number themselves. Although most members are ethnically at least part Chinese, they range from ideo- logically motivated university students to bandits seek- ing a legitimizing banner. The number of defections from Communist ranks cur- rently is at an all-time high. The abysmal living condi- tions of the insurgents is a major factor, as is the ideological identity crisis caused by China's de facto alliance with the Thai Government. Last June, CPT representatives--in an attempt to bestow political legitimacy on the outlawed party--asked the government' to allow their organization to cooperate in a united front against the Vietnamese. The proposal was rejected out of hand. instead, the government reiterated its demand that the Communists surrender and accelerated its armed operations against them. The CPT poses no immediate threat to the stability of the Thai Government but is viewed as a "festering sore"--unsightly and potentially dangerous if left Approved For Release 2007/05/08: CIA-RDP83B00551 R000200130013-0 untreated. Counter-insurgency continues to be the primary concern of Thai security forces. The government fears the development of a pro-Vietnamese wing of the CPT, even though the predominantly Chinese ethnic background of most of Thailand's Communists militates against this. Bangkok also fears the party will shift to recruiting urban ter- rorists. Although the recent discovery of arms caches in Bangkok suggests that this situation deserves watching, urban residents so far seem resistant to the Communist lure. In the rural areas, an increasingly enlightened ap- proach by the government to provincial administration is lessening the popular appeal of Communist doctrine. Offi- cials are urged to avoid the imperious and exploitative attitudes of the past and to develop an understanding of local problems. Although the regime's new ideal still has a long way to go to achieve reality, the gesture toward better relations seems genuinely appreciated. Counterinsurgency techniques developed under General Prem--who appears sensitive to regional difficulties-- have also helped the government advance its campaign. Of particular'value is the "carrot and stick" approach,'al- ternating military pressure with leniency in welcoming insurgents back into toe fold. Rank-and-file insurgents are urged to.surrender and generally are treated gently.. Usually only a perfunctory period of surveillance precedes their return to society. More renowned Communists may .almost become celebrities, sometimes working for the government afterward. Although there is considerable recidivism--one provincial official estimated that 80 per- cent of all who give themselves up eventually go back to the jungle--the public relations value to the govern- ment is high, plus there is a net decrease in the number of Communists. A dedicated hard core of insurgents is likely never- theless to persist despite anything the government does. They will remain capable of engaging troops in firefights in remote areas and conducting terrorist activities such as railway and urban bombings. Desperate acts of terrorist violence, however, while straining the country's security services, are likely to further discredit the Communists in the eyes of the people. Approved For Release 2007/05/08: CIA-RDP83B00551 R000200130013-0 Approved For Release 2007/05/08: CIA-RDP83B00551 R000200130013-0 Approved For Release 2007/05/08: CIA-RDP83B00551 R000200130013-0