Vietnam, collected U.S. aid and got rich through truly-colossal corruption."
The country's economic resources are controlled by a tiny segment of the population, with the overwheling number of people being very poor peasants. Nevertheless, Thailand has been relatively stable by Southeast Asian standards and the United States has relied heavily on it as an ally and operations base for its various intrusions into the affairs of Vietnam, Laos and, lately, Cambodia. Americans have built 11 air bases in Thailand and have been kicking a total of about $500 million annually into the Thai economy through "defense" expenditures. U.S. military personnel also have been equipping and training Thais to fight in Vietnam and Cambodia -- and paying well for it.
But Thailand is experiencing increasing insurgency movements within its own borders now and is coming to realize the necessity of fighting there instead of America's battles elsewhere. So serious is the insurgency problem that, on occasion, even U.S. planes and men have been used to fight Thai insurgents. Most of the trouble has occurred in Thailand's South, Central, North and Northeast regions, with the most serious threat being in the latter one. The insurgents are mainly ethnic minorities long neglected by the Royal Thai Government.
U.S. corporations in Thailand are numerous, although American investment there ranks second to our Asian trading partner, Japan. That doesn't mean that America intends to remain number two forever. As a 1969 Economic Research Division report of the Chase Manhattan Bank puts it, "Thailand promises to be an excellent investment and sales area for Americans if the rebel insurgency can be contained. "
The University of Kentucky's project in Thailand calls for establishing an Applied Agricultural Research Center at Tha Phra. Tha Phra is located in Thailand's economically-depressed Northeast region, the area experiencing the most serious insurgency problems.
Members of the UK contract team are engaged in setting up research facilities in Tha Phra to develop agricultural practices useful to farmers in the area. They are also, training Thai students to take over the instructional and research positions at the center. To that end 52 Thais so far have come to the University of Kentucky for advanced study in agriculture.
UK's contract is with the Agency for International Development (AID), an agency of the State Department. In the past AID has posed as a nonpolitical creature whose only purpose was to help underdeveloped countries with their problems. That was never the case, but in Thailand even AID itself doesn't attempt to maintain any nonpolitical pretenses.
AlD's 1968 pamphlet declares, "The U.S. AID program in Thailand is concentrated upon a single objective: supporting the Royal Thai Government in its efforts to contain, control and eliminate the Communist insurgency in rural areas."
It continues, "Northeast Thailand is the major focus of USAID support to the Royal Thai Government in promoting rural development and security, and to a lesser extent the rural areas of the North and South . . . The assumption appears to be that, given present resources and CT (communist Thai) activities, the most effective means of counter-insurgency is to devote developmental and suppression resources to the Northeast. "
How the UK project fits in with AID's various "rural development and security" programs of road building, training and equipping of security forces, studying village behavioral patterns, organizing district level farmers associations and so forth is revealed in the agency's congressional presentation made last year on its proposed 1970 fiscal year operations.
AID reported to Congress on its Agriculture Development Project thusly: "This project's goal is to improve the lot of the Thai farmer in the Northeast. The Thai farmers constitute over 90 percent of the population of that region. It is necessary to give tangible evidence of the Thai Government's concern for the farmers' welfare by carrying out programs to increase farm income. An Applied Agricultural Research Center is being developed for the North-
east under a contract with the University of Kentucky. A variety of short-term impact activities intended to help counter-insurgency are funded from Supporting Assistance. One of these is a program to organize district level associations of farmer clubs to serve as centers of economic and social development. (Although the UK project had no part in organizing these groups, AID recently requested that the UK team start working through them soon to carry out agricultural extension services.). . . With cooperation from the Rockefeller Foundation, distribution of new high-yielding varieties of millet, sorghum and corn is being expanded. The Northeast Agricultural Research Center now has 11 advisors from the Universities of Kentucky training and assisting in research in 27 areas of importance to the Northeast. "
That, in brief, is how UK is contributing to counter-insurgertcy efforts in Thailand. UK officials say they are unaware of any such implications of the project.
he program originally was coordinated through UK's Center for Developmental Change but has since moved to the College of Agriculture. Dr. S. C. Bohanan, who administers the Thailand project from the campus, says the contract with AID specifically prohibits any counter-insurgency involvement on the part of the University's project.
Noting the location of the Research Center in Thailand, he adds, "Of course, anyone would be a little naive to say this program has absolutely no counter-insurgency implications. "
He made the point that Northeast Thailand is analogous to Eastern Kentucky in that both areas are economically depressed and underdeveloped and said he felt working with Thai farmers was similar to the University'^ Agricultural Extension Services in Eastern Kentucky.
Asked if he would recommend that UK's contract with AID be terminated if it were established that the project had definite counter-insurgency implications, he answered, "That is an awfully difficult question becuase it's hard to know where to draw the line. "
Dr. Bohanan said he feels the issue is whether "we are doing the farmers of Northeast Thailand a real service. But, basically, we can't think about counter-insurgency at all. "
Dr. Howard Beers, director of the Center for Developmental Change and a member of the University's feasibility survey team which recommended that UK take on the Thailand project, has spent 10 of his 31 years at the University abroad working with various governmental and foundation programs. He worked in the area of rural projects with the Near East Foundation and the European Cooperation Administration (a branch of the organization that was the predecessor of AID) in 1949-50 in Greece following the guerrilla uprising there in 1958-59 as a Ford Foundation consultant in community development in India, from I960 to 1966 (though the last four years he was on an inactive basis becuase of his work with UK's Indonesian project) as an Indonesian associate of the Rockefeller-funded Agriculrutal Development Council and from 1962 through 1966 as a rural sociologist and chief of party of Kentucky's contract team at Bogor, Indonesia.
In addition, Beers has been associated with the State Department's Southeast Asia Development Advisory Group (SEADAG). SEADAG's executive secretary wrote in a 1966 memo to its members that the organization's aim "is to tap for AID the widest possible personnel resources in the country. " Beers attended a joint meeting of the SEADAG Rural Development Seminar and the Academic Advisory Council for Thailand held in Ann Arbor, Mich., in December, 1966, shortly after be returned from Indonesia.
Beers said the seminar was "a mixture of miscellaneous bureaucrats fairly well up in the echelons administratively, AID, personnel representing the various private foundations engaged in technical assistance and then a miscellaneous group of social scientists; most of them, I guess, were economists. " Among those listed as present were such people as David Wilson, Lauriston Sharp, Millard Long, Gayl Ness and Michael Moerman -- all of them hard-core academic counter-insurgents who pop up repeatedly in revelations made by "The Student Mobilizer" and the Pacific Studies Center reports. They're the kind of