Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with George F. Muller
The main problem, and I guess why they needed a Counselor for Political/Military Affairs, was that we had no Status of Forces Agreement with the Thais. In any other country that I know of, where American forces are stationed, there is a Status of Forces Agreement. There's one with the NATO countries, there's one with Japan, and so on.
But not with Thailand. Our critical military relations developed slowly as the war in Vietnam developed. In many cases, they were founded on the handshakes and discussions between then-Ambassador Graham Martin and Field Marshal Sarit, who was then the dictator of Thailand. He had passed from the scene by the time I got there.
We had very little written record of how some of these operational arrangements came about. In many instances I was behind the 8-ball because my opposite number, Lt.General Kriangsak Chomanand, who was the Deputy Chief of Staff of their Supreme Command, had participated in discussions of which we had no record. Gen. Kriangsak (in Thailand you always address people by their first names, even in a formal context) was the one who handled day-to-day problems with me.
The range of issues covered everything that had to do with a large visiting military force, from operational matters to jurisdictional questions. If we wanted to make changes at one of the bases, this required concurrence of the Thai military Supreme Command. Very often our base commanders were so used to doing things their own way and do what made sense to them that they neglected to cut in the Thai base commander, for instance, if a new type of aircraft would be brought in, or a base enlarged.
Then the Thai base commander would complain or draw it to the attention of someone up his line of command, that the Americans had done this or that. Then it would get across from General Kriangsak to me and we would have to iron it out. This also meant that I had to have a very close working relationship with our military to keep informed what they were up to.
The Ambassador, very appropriately, insisted that he wanted one American military officer, a general officer, to be responsible for the combined presence, Army and Air Force, in-country.
Q: In other words, a commander-in-chief.
MULLER: As it were, a senior military commander. For most of the time I was there, this was Air Force Major General Ted Seith, who became a close friend of mine. We worked very harmoniously together. Ted had a very good understanding about the Thais' political concerns.