Thailand's Strategic Reappraisal

June 27, 1975

Report Outline
Thailand and the Domino Theory
Pragmatism and Shifting Alliances
Thailand's Role in Changing Asia
Special Focus

Thailand and the Domino Theory

Podt-Vietnam Teassessment of U.S. Relations

Thailand has become a central piece in the domino game. In the lastfew months, neighboring Cambodia, South Vietnam and Laos have fallen to theCommunists. The governments in these countries, as well as their patronin North Vietnam, are not likely to forget that Thailand sent troops to fight with the Americans in Vietnam and allowed its territory to be used asa base for the massive U.S. bombing of Indochina. Thailand is threatenednot only by victorious neighbors but by Communist-led insurgents in the country, a shaky coalition government faced with military and student discontent, and serious economic problems.

According to the domino theory, these conditions make Thailand a primecandidate for a Communist takeover. The theory, first enunciated by President Eisenhower, is that communism must be stopped in a specific country lest it spread inexorably to neighboring states, causing them to topple, one by one, like dominoes. The theory won wide acceptance during the Cold War and served to justify U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia. But by the late 1960s the theory fell into disfavor from public disillusionment with the war in Vietnam and the realization that world communismwas not monolithic.

Recent events in Indochina have reawakened interest in the domino theory, however. There is speculation that Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, South Korea and the Philippines may be the next dominoes, and this fear has encouraged foreign policy reassessments throughout non-Communist Asia. Thailand is seeking to avoid the fate of South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos by improving relations with North Vietnam, China and theSoviet Union. At the same time, Thai leaders have become openly criticalof the United States.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Regional Political Affairs: East Asia and the Pacific
U.S. at War: Cold War