Sarit and Phibun

“You cannot see Sarit because he is drunk”: PR problems for Thailand in 1954

A letter from British ambassador Berkeley Gage in November 1954 records growing unease about the disastrous public relations performance of Thailand’s ruling junta when dealing with the foreign media and important visitors.

Gage said Field Marshal Marshal Phibun Songkram, the prime minister, was “thoroughly smug” during an audience with a visiting foreign banker.

Worse, when Doak Barnett, a Hong Kong-based U.S. correspondent for 50 syndicated American newspapers, asked to interview army commander-in-chief Sarit Thanarat, he was told by the director general of the Thai public relations department: “You cannot see Sarit because he is drunk”.

As Gage remarked, this was “no doubt a perfectly true statement but not one likely to give a United States correspondent confidence to encourage the readers of his newspaper in the belief that United States money was being well spent in Siam”.