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THAILAND: Appointment in Bangkok

3 minute read

This week in Bangkok, the gaily colored, spike-towered capital of Thailand, eight non-Communist nations with vital interests in Southeast Asia are gathering to decide on practical measures for blocking further Communist expansion in that uneasy area.

The pact that brought them together is the Southeast Asia Collective Defense Treaty (which the U.S. State Department would like to have called the Manila Pact, though popular usage persistently makes it SEATO). It was formally ratified and put into force in Manila last week, uniting three stoutly anti-Communist Asian nations—Thailand, the Philippines and Pakistan—with powerful overseas friends: the U.S., Britain. France, Australia and New Zealand. Meeting in Bangkok, the eight will:

¶ Set up a mutual defense organization. Australia and the Philippines want a firm military structure and precise military commitments. The British want merely a secretariat, and the U.S. position is somewhat similar. The British, acutely aware of the vulnerability of Malaya since the fall of Dienbienphu, are already building jet air bases and plan to transfer the Australian garrison from Suez to Malaya. The British would like Singapore to be GHQ of the treaty organization, but may yield to the U.S. preference for Bangkok or Manila, either of which would avoid the stigma of colonialism attaching to Singapore.

¶ Discuss means of combating internal Communist subversion. Malaya, the Philippines and Thailand, which already have extensive experience with Communist fifth columns, will exchange information with other members. A police training program will be set up.

¶ Keep an eye on Cambodia, Laos and South Viet Nam, which are not treaty members but whose independence is declared to be a specific objective of SEATO.

¶ Organize economic aid for Southeast Asia. The aim: to raise living standards by fostering economic development. Thailand and the Philippines would like to get preferential economic treatment for having signed the treaty. The British, who are already, through the Colombo Plan, giving economic aid to Asian nations (India, Pakistan, Burma, Ceylon) irrespective of their political color, prefer to continue that way. The U.S., too, prefers to distribute its own aid unilaterally.

After hours, Dulles and Anthony Eden (whose trip to the Far East is the first ever made by a British Foreign Secretary while still in office) will take up Topic A, having come halfway around the world to resume the debate on ground close to Formosa (see NATIONAL AFFAIRS).

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