The Foreign Service Journal - December 2013 - page 23

stretching across the Pacific. The inbound classified diplomatic
pouch information for each post is confirmed in the cable,
and posts are requested to inform the Bangkok office of their
classified dispatch to ensure efficient scheduling. Once all U.S.
entities have been informed, the mission can proceed.
Getting the classified pouches planeside without being
X-rayed is not an issue in Bangkok, as our relationship with
Thai Customs & Immigration couldn’t be better. The cleared
American escort takes the material directly onto the tarmac
while I process through the terminal like any other passenger,
paying for the excess diplomatic pouch weight before arriving
at the gate.
With the assistance of Thai Air staff and an airport badge, it’s
routine to descend to the tarmac to meet the escort planeside
for a piece count and to observe the diplomatic pouches being
loaded into the aircraft. With the escort securing the hold, I’m
free to board the aircraft via the air bridge.
East to Manila
Taking off to the south from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi
Airport with a belly load of classified diplomatic pouches, the
flight soars over Samut Prakan. It was there, on Dec. 8, 1941,
that the 3rd Battalion of the Japanese Imperial Guards Regi-
ment came ashore with orders to take Bangkok. But after a
tense standoff with a Thai Police detachment, they agreed to
wait for formal negotiations to conclude before fighting their
way to the capital. There were five other Japanese landing sites
further south along the Gulf of Thailand that morning, and
many confrontations with Thai resistance resulted in casualties
on both sides.
The invasion was all part of the larger Japanese strategy of
quickly seizing the Malay Peninsula, Singapore and Burma
from the British. On Dec. 21 of that year, a formal alliance was
signed between Bangkok and Tokyo allowing Japan access
to Thailand’s infrastructure to launch cross-border attacks.
On Jan. 25, 1942, Thailand’s Field Marshall Phibun formally
declared war against the United States and Britain.
Interestingly, Thailand’s ambassador to the United States,
Seni Promoj, not only refused to deliver Field Marshall Phi-
bun’s declaration of war to the State Department, but began to
organize the Free Thai (Seri Thai) movement (in cooperation
with the Office of Strategic Services) that helped liberate the
country three years later.
Three hours after departing Thailand, my flight begins
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