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Thanom Kittikachorn; Thai leader was US ally in Vietnam

BANGKOK -- Thanom Kittikachorn, a military ruler of Thailand who helped the United States during the Vietnam War before being ousted in a popular uprising in 1973, died Wednesday at Bangkok Hospital, where he had been treated since Jan. 19 after suffering a stroke. He was 92.

Mr. Thanom came to be known as one of Thailand's "Three Tyrants" when he ran the country in the 1960s and early 1970s with his son, Colonel Narong Kittikachorn, and Narong's father-in-law, Field Marshal Praphas Charusathien.

The three were driven into exile following a bloody student-led uprising in October 1973. They were accused of nepotism, corruption, and ordering troops to fire on protesters in the streets of Bangkok during the uprising. The official death toll in the uprising was 77, although many believe the number was higher.

Mr. Thanom's regime was noted for its close ties with the United States. During the Vietnam War, his government allowed tens of thousands of US servicemen to be stationed in Thailand and hosted US air bases from which most bombing of North Vietnam and Laos was carried out.

At the same time, his regime's heavy-handed rule brought it resentment at home. Despite a veneer of democracy, Mr. Thanom's government moved against even mild dissent, sweeping away opponents in parliament.

After Mr. Thanom and his colleagues fell, the new government seized assets from the three worth about $30 million, believed to have been illegally acquired.

Mr. Thanom, who also held the rank of field marshal and the position of prime minister, was generally seen as the more conciliatory of the three. A dapper, silver-haired man with a cheery grin, Mr. Thanom often served as a peacemaker among political factions.

Mr. Thanom was allowed to return to Thailand in 1976 to serve as a Buddhist monk.

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