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Archive for July 21st, 2011

09BANGKOK2405 THAILAND’S MARCHING SEASON: BRAWL NEAR BORDER CONTRASTS WITH PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION IN BANGKOK

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“226127”,”9/21/2009 11:23″,”09BANGKOK2405″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“08BANGKOK3032|09BANGKOK2369|09BANGKOK2386|09BANGKOK983″,

“VZCZCXRO0385

PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

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INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1946

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 7494

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“C O N F I D E N T I A L

SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002405

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR BADER, WALTON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/21/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND\’S MARCHING SEASON: BRAWL NEAR BORDER

CONTRASTS WITH PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION IN BANGKOK

 

REF: A. 08 BANGKOK 3032 (POLITICAL CRISIS RETURNS TO THE

STREETS)

B. BANGKOK 983 (THAI PM ABHISIT BRIEFS AMBASSADORS)

C. BANGKOK 2386 (RED SHIRTS PREPARE TO MARCH )

D. BANGKOK 2369 (THAI-CAMBODIAN BORDER DISPUTE)

 

BANGKOK 00002405 001.2 OF 002

 

Classified By: POL Counselor George Kent, reason 1.4 (b,d)

 

1. (SBU) Summary: September 19 proved to be a day of dueling

political rallies in Thailand. The United Front for

Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), aka \”the red-shirt\”

supporters of fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin

Shinawatra, gathered in Bangkok to mark the third anniversary

of the military coup which removed Thaksin from office. The

rally, which featured a phone-in from the fugitive

billionaire, was peaceful; the crowd dispersed shortly after

midnight. Members of the People\’s Alliance for Democracy

(PAD), aka \”the yellow-shirts,\” marched in Sisaket Province

near the disputed Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian border

to protest what they see as Cambodian encroachment on Thai

territory. A reported twenty people were injured in clashes

between PAD supporters and local red-sympathetic villagers

before officials negotiated a compromise which allowed PAD

leaders to issue a statement from a hilltop near the Preah

Vihear temple. The main column never reached closer than

three kilometers to the Thai-Cambodian border.

 

2. (C) Comment: In marked contrast to the violent

demonstrations that rattled Thailand from August-December

2008 and March-April 2009 (REF B), security forces in Bangkok

and Sisaket held their lines and prevented protesters from

both the red and yellow camps from reaching their stated

destinations (General Prem\’s residence and the border

hilltop, respectively). While Bangkok braced for possible

trouble from red-shirts that ultimately failed to

materialize, the real action this past weekend took place in

Sisaket, with the first red-yellow direct clashes since late

2008. In addition, elements of the so-called \”blue shirt\”

supporters of coalition party de facto leader Newin Chidchob

played an ambiguous and potentially provocative role, and the

police failed to keep locals and PAD marchers separate, but

the military eventually ensured the PAD march stopped well

short of the border. End summary and comment.

 

ALL QUIET ON THE BANGKOK FRONT…

———————————

 

3. (SBU) The red rally in Bangkok was peaceful as advertised

(REF C). An afternoon rainstorm scattered the early

arrivals, but by 9:00 p.m., when Thaksin addressed the crowd

by videolink, Bangkok police estimated there were about

32,000 people at Sanam Luang. Speeches by Thaksin and other

UDD leaders addressed the usual litany of red-shirt

grievances: the economy was doing worse; the judiciary was

politicized; Prime Minister Abhisit was feckless; and Privy

Council chair Prem was to blame for all of it, often-times

characterized in crude and profane terms. Thaksin again

played coy about his eventual return, concluding: see you in

Thailand, though I don\’t know when.

 

4. (SBU) The rally continued for several hours after Thaksin

spoke, breaking up at around 12:30 a.m. Thanks to concerted

police action to block the streets leading to Prem\’s

residence nearby, the red-shirts did not follow-through on

their previously stated intent to march to Prem\’s home.

 

…BUT A HOT TIME IN SISAKET NEAR PREAH VIHEAR

——————————————— -

 

5. (SBU) In contrast, the PAD march in Sisaket province near

the Preah Vihear temple and Cambodian border turned nasty.

PAD secondary leader Veera Somkwamkid led an estimate 4,000

PAD supporters (note: none wearing yellow; they were clad in

either the black of the self-styled \”Sri Vichaya warriors\” or

the blue of the civilian followers of the Santi Asoke sect,

end note) to demand Cambodia withdraw its presence from the

disputed territory around the Preah Vihear temple site and to

protest Thai government and army inaction in the face of

Cambodian actions.

 

BANGKOK 00002405 002.2 OF 002

 

6. (SBU) Local authorities and up to 2000 red-sympathetic

villagers were in no mood to facilitate the march, however,

and formed a blockade in a town roughly 10 km from Pha Mo I

Daeng hill, the PAD intended destination. At about 1320, the

PAD marchers broke through the police line, and the PAD

marchers and villagers began a rolling brawl which lasted on

and off for three hours. Veera subsequently claimed to us

the local authorities paid the intoxicated villagers 300 baht

each.

 

7. (C) As captured on film and published in the next day\’s

papers, both sides were armed with rudimentary weapons:

sticks, rocks, clubs, machetes, and slingshots — the most

dramatic shot showed a machete-ared villager looking to

slash a barefoot PAD marcer sprawled on his back in a field;

twenty peopl were injured in the melee. XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX said that \”blue shirt\” brawlrs

associated with Newin, the political godfathe of Sisaket

province, played a role in sparking he clash, as they

allegedly did in Pattaya with ed-shirts in April (note:

Newin\’s faction was allied with Thaksin and part of the

red-shirt movemet until December. End note). Sisaket

Governor aphi Phongbunphakit, a political ally of Newin,

old us that five of those injuries warranted an ovrnight

stay in the hospital, without specifying to which faction

they belonged. PAD leader Veera nsisted that 15 of those

wounded were PAD supporers.

 

8. (SBU) Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuasuban authorized

acting National Police Chief Thnee Sombounsap to negotiate

with the PAD on behalf of the government. Thanee

participated via phoe, while Governor Raphi, the second area

army comander and Sisaket deputy police chief, negotiated

face-to-face with Veera and the PAD. Raphi toldus the

resulting agreement permitted a limited group of PAD members

to climb Pha Mo I Daeng hill o Sunday, September 20 to read

the PAD statement.The army steadfastly refused to let the

main PADcolumn get within three kilometers of the border.

The reading of the PAD statement took place without incident

September 21, and the PAD protesters dispersed.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:58 am

09PHNOMPENH664 CAMBODIA’S MINISTER OF DEFENSE PREPARES FOR WASHINGTON

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“223512”,”9/3/2009 10:23″,”09PHNOMPENH664″,

“Embassy Phnom Penh”,

“UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,

“09PHNOMPENH638″,”VZCZCXYZ0000

PP RUEHWEB

 

DE RUEHPF #0664/01 2461023

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

P 031023Z SEP 09

FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1153

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RHHJJPI/PACOM IDHS HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

“,”UNCLAS PHNOM PENH 000664

 

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PREL, MOPS KTIA, CB

SUBJECT: CAMBODIA\’S MINISTER OF DEFENSE PREPARES FOR

WASHINGTON

 

REF: PHNOM PENH 638

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a September 3 call on Deputy Prime

Minister and Minister of National Defense Tea Banh, the

Ambassador previewed the Minister\’s upcoming travel to

Washington where he will meet Secretary of Defense Gates,

congratulated the Minister on Cambodia\’s diplomacy with

respect to the dispute over Preah Vihear, highlighted the

continued strengthening of military-to-military relations,

and introduced the new U.S. Embassy Defense Attache. Tea

Banh expressed his commitment to reduce troops and help

settle the Preah Vihear dispute peacefully. He also stressed

the importance of Cambodia\’s upcoming Capstone training event

and detailed peacekeeping operations planned for Chad and the

Central African Republic. The Minister rounded out the

meeting by outlining areas of defense reform and continued

engagement. END SUMMARY.

 

Tensions Subside in Preah Vihear

——————————–

 

2. (SBU) In preparation for his upcoming Washington visit,

which will include a meeting with Secretary of Defense Gates,

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defense Tea

Banh provided an overview of areas of mutual interest,

specifically noting the calmed situation in Preah Vihear.

Tea Banh detailed the history of the dispute over Preah

Vihear and recent troop reductions in the border area (Ref

A). He stated that both the Thai and Cambodian sides have

drawn back in order to decrease the potential of further

tension. Declaring that \”there is no longer a worry of

conflict,\” Teah Banh said that some troops would remain to

stand guard and maintain the area as normal, but that a large

number of troops is no longer necessary. He indicated that

he is optimistic about further troop reductions and

redeployments away from Preah Vihear in the future. However,

Tea Banh said that the lower levels within the Thai and

Cambodian armed forces still need to meet in order to avoid

small flare-ups.

 

3. (SBU) Decreased tensions with Thailand have resulted in

small numbers of tourists returning to the Preah Vihear

temple. The Ambassador congratulated the Minister on the

restraint and diplomacy required to get to this point, and

noted the need to fully resolve the military and border

situation in order for Cambodia to take full advantage of the

World Heritage site designation and to increase tourism and

development in a very poor area. Tea Banh responded that

both he and the Thai Minister of Defense will meet to discuss

and find solutions to the border issues in order to create an

open area in Preah Vihear for development, trade and

business. He said that Cambodians are already beginning to

move and build houses along a better-understood border, and

he is optimistic that there will soon be a defined border

with Thailand.

 

Increased Military-to-Military Relations

—————————————–

 

4. (SBU) Both the Ambassador and the Minister praised the

strong and growing military-to-military relations between

Cambodia and the United States. Tea Banh specifically

expressed his appreciation of U.S. assistance with the Global

Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI). He stated that his

office is working closely with the Embassy\’s Defense Attache

office in order to prepare for the July 2010 multilateral

Capstone training exercise, which will showcase Cambodia\’s

increased capacity and expertise. Tea Banh also detailed

current and future peacekeeping assistance, stating that

Cambodia\’s PKO work in Sudan has received positive reports.

When asked about publicized future operations in Chad and the

Central African Republic, Tea Banh indicated that there are

some issues to be worked out before Cambodian peacekeepers

can be deployed. He said that thus far, 40 members of the

Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) have been trained and are

prepared for deployment. However, an RCAF observer went to

Chad and based on his report, it was determined that the

total number of required peacekeepers should be increased

from the originally agreed upon 100 to 200. In order for

this to happen, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must initiate

a new MOU for the increased numbers.

 

The Road Ahead

————–

 

5. (SBU) The upcoming meeting between Minister of National

Defense Tea Banh and Secretary of Defense Gates marks an

 

important step forward for both countries. As further

evidence of the improved and growing military-to-military

relations, the Ambassador introduced the Embassy\’s new

Defense Attache, Col. Mark Gillette, noting that the two

countries have an exchange of attaches for the first time in

some decades. Col. Gillette will escort Tea Banh to

Washington, and both will participate in a portion of the

Defense Strategic Review, supported by DoD, prior to meeting

with Secretary Gates. The Minister stated that based on a

recent bilateral defense dialog held in Hawaii, specific

areas for defense reform and continued U.S. engagement

include maritime security, border security, humanitarian

disaster response, and counterterrorism – an area where the

two countries already have close cooperation. Tea Banh

stated he is proud of what the two countries have

accomplished thus far, and said there remains much work to be

done, with reform a key priority.

 

RODLEY

 

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:56 am

09PHNOMPENH638 CAMBODIA WITHDRAWS TROOPS; STILL WAITS FOR THAI MOVEMENT ON PREAH VIHEAR

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“222705”,”8/28/2009 8:49″,”09PHNOMPENH638″,

“Embassy Phnom Penh”,

“UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,””,

“VZCZCXRO3253

OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

DE RUEHPF #0638 2400849

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

O 280849Z AUG 09

FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1126

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY”,

“UNCLAS PHNOM PENH 000638

 

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, P, D

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PREL, MOPS, KTIA, CB

SUBJECT: CAMBODIA WITHDRAWS TROOPS; STILL WAITS FOR THAI

MOVEMENT ON PREAH VIHEAR

 

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED. NOT FOR DISSEMINATION ON THE

INTERNET.

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC)

sources confirmed a recent reduction in Cambodian troops from

around the disputed Preah Vihear border area, but could not

readily give the full scope or extent of those movements. The

senior RGC border official assigned to the Preah Vihear

dispute noted that Cambodia is \”still waiting\” for the Thai

parliament\’s approval of already agreed communiques marking a

clear path forward for border negotiations, including joint

demining and demarcation, but expressed deep skepticism that

the Thai government would act soon. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (SBU) Following through on a public vow made by Prime

Minister Hun Sen on August 22, senior military leaders from

the Cambodian and Thai armed forces met on August 24 in Phnom

Penh, and declared an end to hostilities on the border. Thai

General Songkitti Jaggabatra announced that \”the border will

not be the cause of any further disputes.\” Cambodian troops

started withdrawing from the Preah Vihear temple area on

August 26. Military officials in Phnom Penh could not yet

confirm how substantial these withdrawals have been, but

field commanders have confirmed the target is a 50 percent

reduction in the Cambodian troop presence. Var Kim Hong,

Senior Minister and Chairman of the Border Committees, told

Pol/Econ Chief that Deputy Prime Minster and Minister of

Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong had raised the Preah Vihear

border dispute with both Thai Prime Minister Abhisit

Vejjajiva (Aug. 4) and Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya

(Aug. 5) during participation in the Cambodian-Thailand Joint

Policy Commission in Bangkok. Hor Namhong \”pushed to have

the Thai parliament agree to the communiques we already

negotiated with the Thai,\” said Var Kim Hong. Commenting

that it is already the end of August, he said the RGC was

\”still waiting.\”

 

3. (SBU) Confirming the Cambodian troop reductions, Var Kim

Hong also noted that Thai soldiers still had not withdrawn

from the small pagoda at the base of the Preah Vihear temple

and thus agreed-upon joint demining and border demarcation in

that area could not commence. Citing a \”negative\” article in

Bangkok\’s English-language daily \”The Nation\” on August 27

which took a stand against the Abhisit government settling

the Preah Vihear dispute, Var Kim Hong expressed skepticism

that the Thai government would honor the agreements made with

his Thai counterpart in the bilateral Joint Border

Commission. Nonetheless, he said, Cambodia would keep

waiting.

 

4. (SBU) Separately, when questioned at the opening ceremony

for a Kampong Speu health center refurbished by U.S. Marines,

on August 27, the Ambassador noted to the local press that

reports of the withdrawal were an encouraging development and

a positive sign that showed the border dispute could be

solved by peaceful means.

 

5. (SBU) COMMENT: The Cambodian troop withdrawals from

Preah Vihear follow the very positive talks between the Thai

and Cambodian commanders in chief in Phnom Penh earlier in

the week. If the Thai military responded with troop

\”re-deployments\” to match, including from sensitive areas in

the disputed territory which they had not occupied before

July 2008, then a first concrete and positive step to resolve

this dispute bilaterally will have been completed, providing

a good basis for further diplomatic progress.

RODLEY

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:54 am

09BANGKOK2187 THAI-CAMBODIAN BORDER DISPUTE: THAI ARMY ASSESSES NO REDUCTION IN CAMBODIAN TROOPS AT PREAH VIHEAR

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“222744”,”8/28/2009 11:23″,”09BANGKOK2187″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

“VZCZCXRO3380

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INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING IMMEDIATE 7407

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RHMFISS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE”,

“C O N F I D E N T I A L BANGKOK 002187

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/28/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PBTS, TH, CB

SUBJECT: THAI-CAMBODIAN BORDER DISPUTE: THAI ARMY ASSESSES

NO REDUCTION IN CAMBODIAN TROOPS AT PREAH VIHEAR

 

Classified By: Political Counselor George P. Kent, reasons 1.4 (b) and

(d)

 

1. (C) Thai and Cambodian press reports over the past week

indicated that Cambodia would reduce the number of troops in

the Preah Vihear area after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen

August 22 announced a troop reduction, possibly by much as

fifty percent. Hun Sen\’s announcement preceded a visit by

Thai Chief of Defense Forces General Songkitti Jaggabatara to

Cambodia that included a meeting with Cambodian armed forces

leader Pol Sarouen. Songkitti was reported to have said that

there would be no more problems between Thailand and Cambodia

after his meetings in Phnom Penh.

 

2. (C) At this point it is unclear whether the reduction, if

true, would apply to the number of troops within the temple

grounds (reported to be about 10 on each side), troops

located in the disputed territory, or to the larger numbers

in the vicinity of the disputed territory. While estimates

of troops numbers vary, Colonel Werachon Sukondhapatipak,

Director of the Royal Thai Army\’s Foreign Liaison Division,

had told us earlier that Thailand had 3,000 troops in the

area and that the RTA assessed Cambodia to have approximately

5,000 troops in the vicinity of the disputed territory.

 

3. (C) Colonel Saranyu Viriyavejakul, Aide de Camp to RTA

Commander General Anupong Paochinda, told us late August 28

that the RTA had not observed any troop reduction on the

Cambodian side. Thai Army observations from the disputed

area were that Cambodian troops had shifted positions in and

around the disputed territory, but that there had been no

change in the number of Cambodian troops. Saranyu told us

that the RTA believed that Cambodian statements over the past

week were posturing in regard to a deadline imposed by the

World Heritage Committee for Phnom Penh to institute an

International Coordinating Committee for the Preah Vihear

temple. The original deadline for establishing the Committee

was February 2009 but Cambodia had received an extension.

The RTA believed Phnom Penh would miss the deadline again and

was trying to make public statements of troop withdrawals to

garner support from the international community, Saranyu

said.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:53 am

09BANGKOK1939 AMBASSADOR ENGAGES FM KASIT ON US-THAI RELATIONS, DRPK, BURMA, CAMBODIA, LAO HMONG, VIKTOR BOUT

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“219861”,”8/7/2009 9:18″,”09BANGKOK1939″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”09BANGKOK1842″,

“VZCZCXRO7195

PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #1939/01 2190918

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 070918Z AUG 09

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7816

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1784

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 7300

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 5653

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 9835

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 6840

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 001939

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR BADER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/07/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PREF, PHUM, BM, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: AMBASSADOR ENGAGES FM KASIT ON US-THAI

RELATIONS, DRPK, BURMA, CAMBODIA, LAO HMONG, VIKTOR BOUT

 

REF: BANGKOK 1842

 

BANGKOK 00001939 001.2 OF 004

 

Classified By: Ambassador Eric G. John, reason 1.4 (b,d)

 

1. (C) Summary: Ambassador engaged Thai FM Kasit Piromya

August 6 on U.S.-Thai relations, DRPK and the ARF Chair

Statement, Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK), Cambodian

border issues, the Lao Hmong, and Viktor Bout\’s extradition.

Ambassador and Kasit agreed on the need to elevate the nature

of the U.S.-Thai diplomatic-security dialogue to a more

strategic level. Ambassador stressed U.S. displeasure with

the July 23 ARF Chair language on North Korea; Kasit asserted

that ASEAN had intended to keep channels of dialogue to

Pyongyang open while emphasizing to the DPRK that following a

path of confrontation was futile. Kasit characterized

increasing ASEAN pressure on Burma and said that ASEAN could

not move forward absent fundamental change in Burma.

Recently concluded Thai-Cambodian meetings showed progress,

but Kasit said there would need to be a grand package of land

border and off-shore Joint Development Area (JDA) agreements

to overcome bilateral distrust and nationalists in both

countries. Ambassador thanked Kasit for recent increased

access to the Lao Hmong in Phetchabun and pushed for a rapid

change in the status of Hmong held in Nong Khai; Kasit

expressed hope there would be progress in the near future.

Ambassador reiterated U.S. interest in a successful

conclusion in the Viktor Bout extradition case, with a

decision due August 11. End Summary

 

Kasit: Thanks again for S engagement in Phuket

——————————————— -

2. (SBU) FM Kasit once again conveyed a \”profound\” thank you

for Secretary Clinton\’s presence at the ASEAN Regional Forum

(ARF) in Phuket July 22-23. Her participation engendered

good will, elevated the quality of the discussions, and

helped make ARF a success, he said.

 

3. (SBU) Kasit urged quick and substantive follow-up to the

Lower Mekong initiative, and asked for U.S. plans for next

steps, including on the Mississippi-Mekong partnership in

exploring riparian state responsibilities. For his part,

Kasit planned to meet soon with the ESCAP Executive Director,

the ADB, and the World Bank to take stock of possible

programming in the Lower Mekong region, with a focus on

technical cooperation and human resource development.

 

Bilateral Relations – Strategic Dialogue

—————————————-

4. (C) Ambassador and Kasit traded thoughts on implementing

the promise of an enhanced strategic dialogue discussed by

Kasit and the Secretary during Kasit\’s April visit to

Washington. Ambassador emphasized the need to switch from

the transactional approach of the past several years to a

more strategic partnership. Kasit agreed, reiterating his

views shared with the Secretary, Deputy Secretary Steinberg,

and S/P director Slaughter in April: Thailand for the past

eight-ten years has been reactive to piecemeal U.S. requests

(\”send troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, give us access to

Utapao\”), rather than being a partner in discussing policy

together. That was his goal, even if Thailand only rose to a

\”junior\” strategic partner.

 

5. (C) If the U.S. were to explain its overall approach to

the Asia-Pacific region for the future, Kasit continued,

Thailand\’s role as an ally in advancing a shared agenda of

promoting peace and stability in the region could flow

naturally. Cooperative efforts in disaster relief

management, upgrading civil-military capacity, peacekeeping

in a UN/regional context, and capacity-building in countries

like Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam, and eventually Burma, were all

prospective topics to be discussed in his view. Ambassador

added that the Thai position in ASEAN, the relationships with

China and India, and a socio-cultural component including

educational exchanges should also be part of the agenda; late

October/early November might be appropriate timing.

 

6. (SBU) Kasit mentioned that PM Abhisit planned to attend

the UN General Assembly in September. Abhisit would seek

business meetings in New York, and plan to engage Congress in

 

BANGKOK 00001939 002.2 OF 004

 

Washington, even if executive branch meetings proved too

difficult to arrange.

 

7. (C) Referencing his conversation with NSA GEN Jones in

April, Kasit passed a list of equipment the Thai military

hoped might be available via Excess Defense Articles (EDA) or

other military assistance mechanisms as the U.S. drew down in

Iraq. Most of the current Thai armored unit equipment was

30-40 years old, Kasit noted, making it difficult to stay

interoperable with the U.S. Ambassador agreed to pass the

equipment list via our Military Assistance Group but

suggested equipment requests would best be discussed in

context of Thailand\’s strategic needs as part of a broader,

deeper political-military strategic dialogue component.

Kasit acknowledged this point, and agreed with Ambassador on

the utility of closer collaboration between Foreign and

Defense officials in both countries as part of the strategic

dialogue. Kasit noted he met or spoke with Defense Minister

Prawit weekly.

 

ARF Statement\’s DPRK language

—————————–

8. (C) Kasit raised his July 31 telcon with Deputy Secretary

Steinberg on the ARF statement\’s language on North Korea. He

said China had pushed Thailand hard to give the DPRK room and

to avoid language that would cause the North Koreans to walk

away and possibly never come back to the ARF or the Six Party

process. The Thai and ASEAN also believed a quiet and soft

approach was the order of the day. Kasit had told the DPRK

head of Del in Phuket, Ambassador Pak Kun-gwang, that North

Korea could not continue on its current confrontational path;

firing rockets and testing nuclear weapons would get it

nowhere. The outside world was prepared to provide

assistance if it adopted a different approach; confrontation

was futile. Kasit felt that the North Korean delegation left

Phuket understanding their obligations, that the channel of

dialogue had remained open, with the expectation that the

North Koreans should return to the Six Party Talks.

 

9. (C) Kasit and the Chinese FM had a long discussion about

this issue in Phuket; China would be working hard behind the

scenes to bring the DPRK back to the Six Party table. Kasit

had thought about going to Pyongyang as ASEAN Chair to

facilitate progress; the Thais had been in a dialogue with

Pyongyang for 5-6 months, with Vice Ministers Panich having

traveled to Pyongyang to try to secure high level attendance

at the ARF, and Kasit raising it on the margins of the

mid-July Sharm-el-Sheik NAM meetings.

 

10. (C) Ambassador emphasized there remained significant

disagreement over the ARF statement, and Secretary Clinton

had asked that he convey her disappointment with the

language. The July 2- AMM communiqu language on the Korean

Peninsula was good, the July 23 ARF statement not so

(reftel). While we understood the Thai position that China

and Russia had come to the Thai claiming they did not want to

be associated with the language, the fact remained that there

had been agreement among representatives of the five

countries on the language. Furthermore, when the Secretary

and Kasit had met, Permsec Virasak had characterized the

state of play on DPRK language very differently, suggesting

the DPRK wanted a call on all parties to exercise restraint,

and that the DPRK was willing to engage in dialogue. The

final language was much different, was imbalanced, and

suggested an equivalence between the two positions – near

consensus of ARF vs. DPRK propaganda, which was substantively

wrong, and procedurally had been handled poorly. Ambassador

urged that the RTG consult more closely with the U.S. on this

issue in the future.

 

11. (C) Kasit acknowledged that the Thai were fully aware of

the possible consequences of the statement as issued, but he

reiterated his view of the importance of keeping open the

channel. By accommodating them \”a bit\” on language, it kept

the DPRK in play, with no other direction to turn but to

re-engage in talks. \”This is a process,\” and ASEAN felt it

had a role to help push the parties in the right direction.

Russia and China now had to deliver on their end of the

bargain. Kasit expressed hope the release of the two U.S.

 

BANGKOK 00001939 003.2 OF 004

 

journalists on former President Clinton\’s visit to Pyongyang

would provide positive momentum to substantive negotiations

as well.

 

Burma and impact on ASEAN

————————-

12. (C) Kasit reconfirmed that PM Abhisit\’s visit to Burma

had been postponed to avoid potentially coinciding with the

expected verdict in Aung San Suu Kyi\’s (ASSK) trial. Kasit

predicted that the Burmese would sentence ASSK to three

years, but \”whatever it is, it will be unacceptable.\” After

constant pushing in recent months at a series of ASEAN

meetings, most recently in Phuket, Kasit asserted the Burmese

knew well the damage they would do to themselves and to ASEAN

with a conviction. ASEAN countries are consistently harping

on the \”centrality of ASEAN\” in regional architecture but

ASEAN must earn its role, in Kasit\’s view. Without

fundamental change in Burma, ASEAN would have no credibility,

and would not be able to advance further as a community,

Kasit stated.

 

13. (C) Kasit said that he would travel to Indonesia and

Malaysia in the near future to consult about the way forward.

He predicted various ASEAN states would complain separately

in the aftermath of an ASSK conviction. Thailand would seek

to ally with \”old ASEAN\” members to push a more forceful

line. He and Singapore FM George Yeoh had repeatedly pushed

their Burmese FM counterpart to convey the views of ASEAN,

and the need for change, fully to Than Shwe. The recent

visit of Singapore Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong to Burma to

hammer home ASEAN concerns was also important; \”there needs

to be more of such regional pressure.\” For his part, Kasit

planned to suggest to the Burmese FM in their next discussion

that if the regime were to convict ASSK, they pardon her

immediately.

 

14. (C) The Burmese had asked Kasit to facilitate another

round of talks with the Karen, Kasit revealed. Kasit had not

yet set a place and date, but his message to Karen National

Union (KNU) leaders would be: go negotiate. The KNU had no

chance whatsoever at a military victory; their situation only

worsened with constant pressure by the Burmese Army and Karen

DKBA proxies. Kasit felt the KNU\’s best option was to

negotiate a deal, and then coordinate with the other cease

fire groups with similar interests. Kasit personally

believed Burma should be configured as a federation, not a

union. The military would of course \”cheat\” and dominate the

lower house of any parliament, but the states could have

representation in an Upper House, and a process of

self-cleansing of the system could begin.

 

15. (C) Ambassador thanked Kasit for the rapid Thai reaction

to the influx of new Karen refugees in June. Kasit said that

he had pushed the Burmese FM to create a safe area in Karen

state to which the new arrivals could return without

guaranteed harrassment from the Burmese army.

 

Cambodia – border negotiations and JDAs

—————————————

16. (C) Kasit characterized the August 4-5 meetings of the

Thai-Cambodian Joint Committee, and the visit of Cambodian

DPM and FM Hor Namhong, as successful. He asked Hor Namhong

to tell the Cambodian media that Cambodian-Thai relations

were actually much smoother that the press indicated. The

Thai were financing roughly 80 technical assistance and

development projets, drawing on soft loans and the resources

of the Ministry of Finance and several other ministries. Hor

Namhong suggested the Thai invite the Cambodian Minister of

Information for a visit, identifying him as a one of the key

officials stoking a more confrontational public line.

 

17. (C) While border issues were not directly discussed,

Kasit said that both sides are aware of the rough parameters

of what each side could accept, and not; there would need to

be give and take on disputed areas and jointly developing

areas (JDAs) off-shore in the Gulf. The promise of peace and

mutually economic gain should eventually win the day, in

Kasit\’s view. In the meantime, fixing the location of

boundary stone 73 (note: near the coastline), and agreeing on

 

BANGKOK 00001939 004.2 OF 004

 

the watershed definition of six points near Preah Vihear,

would pose the chief challenges. Thai DPM Suthep and

Cambodia\’s Sok An had led the JDA discussions, coming close

to an agreement in principle, but the maritime deal would

need to be packaged together with a deal on the disputed land

areas near Preah Vihear. This would be necessary due to the

elements of distrust in the relationship, as well as

nationalists in both countries who would oppose any

compromise. Leaders in both countries would have to be

brave, and explain the pluses and minuses to a packaged deal.

 

18. (C) Kasit said that he had passed critical comments to

Total over the recent announcement of a provisional deal for

exploration rights in the disputed Gulf areas and would file

a note of protest to the Cambodians. In the end, any

unilateral concessions for exploration would not go forward,

and would be superceded by whatever JDA agreement emerged,

just as had happened in the late 1990s when Thailand and

Malaysia reached a similar JDA agreement.

 

Lao Hmong

———

19. (C) Ambassador thanked Kasit for PM Abhisit\’s assurances

to the Secretary that there would be no forced repatriation

of the Lao Hmong in Phetchabun. Referencing recent moves by

the Thai military to provide more access to the Phetchabun

camp and the first meaningful U.S. participation in

discussions about the Lao Hmong August 7, Ambassador also

pushed Kasit for a quick resolution of the 158 Hmong in the

Nong Khai detention center, perhaps allowing them to return

to relatives in Lopburi. Kasit said that he was trying to

bring the Ministry of Social Welfare into the picture to

improve the situation at Nong Khai. If the discussions at

Phetchaburi went well, he hoped there would be forward

progress. Kasit said he had underscored the need for humane,

humanitarian treatment of the Hmong to his military

counterparts.

 

Viktor Bout

———–

20. (C) Ambassador reiterated the Secretary\’s message to PM

Abhisit and FM Kasit on the importance we placed on a

successful conclusion to the Viktor Bout extradition case,

with the judge\’s decision expected August 11. The U.S.

continued to be concerned about ongoing Russian efforts to

influence the decision. Kasit said he understood and agreed.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:52 am

08BANGKOK1933 THE PARLIAMENT’S TURN – NO CONFIDENCE DEBATE SCHEDULED

leave a comment »

“159242”,”6/23/2008 11:02″,”08BANGKOK1933″,

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SUBJECT: THE PARLIAMENT\’S TURN – NO CONFIDENCE DEBATE

SCHEDULED

 

REF: BANGKOK 1917 (ANTI-GOVERNMENT DEMONSTRATORS)

 

Classified By: A/DCM Anne Casper, reason 1.4 (b) and (d).

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: While peaceful demonstrators continue to

surround Government House, the government has agreed to send

the affected ministers to participate in the no-confidence

debate requested by the opposition Democrat Party on June

24-25, and to appear before the Senate to answer questions on

June 23. The Democrats have little expectation that the

no-confidence motion will pass, but in the wake of weeks of

street demonstrations, they want to bring the political

process back to the Parliament. It is not clear how the

demonstrators will respond to the no-confidence vote. It is

possible that further concessions by the government –

particularly pledges not to interfere in the court cases

against former PM Thaksin — could be enough to end the

demonstrations. However, a PAD supporter told us that the

protests might also escalate, if the demonstrators viewed the

Parliament\’s action as ineffectual. The government will take

a pounding from the Parliament this week, but it still

appears to have the votes to weather the no confidence

debate. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) With the People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD)

demonstration surrounding the Government House and calling

for the PM\’s resignation, the government agreed to put the

opposition request for a no-confidence debate on the

Parliament\’s schedule for this week. The government also

agreed to accede to the request by a group of senators who

wanted to debate the government\’s performance. The Senate

action is taking place on Monday, June 23, while the

no-confidence debate in the lower house will be held on

Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

3. (C) The Democrats — the sole opposition party — say that

there is little expectation that the government coalition

will crack as a result of the no-confidence debate or the

current level of protests. The party\’s Secretary-General

told us on Friday that there was no coordination between the

Democrats and the PAD about the timing of the motion, which

he did not expect to pass. Former Ambassador to the US

Kasit, who is both a Democrat party advisor and a frequent

speaker at PAD rallies, told us much the same thing today.

He did add that the strong emotions evoked by the

Thai-Cambodian negotiations over the inscription of the

ancient Khmer Preah Vihear temple could sway some of the

coalition parties and even some of the ruling People\’s Power

Party (PPP) MPs, particularly those from the Northeastern

provinces close to the temple. Amb. Kasit said, as had the

Party\’s SecGen, that the Democrats did not want to bring down

the government of PM Samak. In fact, as the Dems are broke,

they really do not want to face new elections too soon.

 

4. (C) The Democrats, according to Kasit, are holding the

debate because they want to bring the political process back

into the Parliament. The Democrats and the PAD share some

goals, but differ widely on tactics; the PAD reflects the

views of much of Thai civil society in disdaining and

distrusting political parties and politicians. Kasit was

unsure how the PAD would respond if the no-confidence motion

failed and PM Samak continued to resist stepping down. On

the one hand, the PAD leaders might agree to end their

demonstration if the government agreed to certain conditions,

including a promise not to interfere with the judicial

process in any of the cases against former PM Thaksin, a

pledge not to harass or transfer officials who had cooperated

with the post-coup government on those investigations, and

agreement to drop support for inscribing the Preah Vihear

site, at least without significant modifications to the

agreement with Cambodia. On the other hand, Kasit was

concerned that the failure of the no-confidence motion would

only confirm in the mind of the PAD leaders that the

Parliament was largely irrelevant to the political process,

and encourage PAD to escalate their protests. One possible

next step would be for the state-owned enterprise leaders to

make good on their threat to start cutting water and

electrical service to some areas. Kasit said some union

leaders had met with him and told him they were prepared to

take that step.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

5. (C) The government has probably made the right call in

permitting the debates in the Parliament, but we will see how

 

BANGKOK 00001933 002 OF 002

 

the excitable PM Samak handles the grilling he and his

ministers are likely to receive. There is a lot of buzz

about the possible resignation of the PM, but the governing

coalition still has more than enough seats to weather the

no-confidence vote. Samak is embattled, but not defeated.

 

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:49 am

09BANGKOK1901 THAILAND SCENESETTER FOR SENATOR WEBB’S VISIT

leave a comment »

“219534”,”8/5/2009 10:22″,”09BANGKOK1901″,

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SUBJECT: THAILAND SCENESETTER FOR SENATOR WEBB’S VISIT

 

BANGKOK 00001901 001.2 OF 004

 

1. (SBU) Senator Webb, Embassy Bangkok looks forward to

welcoming you back to Thailand. Your visit will afford a

chance to express the United States’ commitment for

Thailand’s democracy in meeting its current challenges and

emerging strengthened, as well as to engage Thai officials

and others on the U.S. foreign policy agenda in Asia,

particularly challenges like Burma and North Korea. It is

also an opportunity to underscore our appreciation for the

long-standing bilateral relationship, which has facilitated

shared benefits in the fields of security, law enforcement,

and intelligence efforts, as well as groundbreaking

health/research collaboration and long-standing refugee

support.

 

CALM IN THE KINGDOM, BUT FOR HOW LONG?

————————————–

 

2. (SBU) Nearly eight months after your last visit, which

came in the immediate wake of the late 2008 airport takeover

and change in government, the political scene on the surface

has calmed considerably, but it is likely the calm of the eye

of a still churning storm. Thailand remains deeply divided,

politically and socially, and struggles to break free of an

inward focus. The traditional elite, urban middle class and

the mid-south are on largely one side (Democrat in

parliament, “yellow” in the street) and the political allies

of Thaksin, with largely rural supporters in the North and

Northeast on the other (opposition Puea Thai in parliament,

“red” in the street).

 

3. (SBU) Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is a photogenic,

eloquent 44-year old Oxford graduate who generally has

progressive instincts about basic freedoms, social

inequities, policy towards Burma, and how to address the

troubled deep South, afflicted by a grinding

ethno-nationalist Muslim-Malay separatist insurgency.

Whether Abhisit can deliver on change is another matter.

Although he has performed well, holding his government

together and restoring stability in the face of significant

political pressure is a persistent challenge. He is beset

with a fractious coalition, as well as a resurgent post-2006

coup military. His Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is a

capable strategic thinker, but Kasit is controversial due to

his 2008 affiliation with the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance

for Democracy (PAD) movement. Kasit recently had to answer a

court summons regarding the 2008 PAD takeover of Bangkok’s

airports, leading to calls that he step down.

 

4. (SBU) Since your last visit, the most dramatic political

development was the mid-April red-shirt riots in Bangkok and

Pattaya. The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship

(UDD), disrupted a regional Asian Summit and burned busses in

Bangkok, leading to two deaths, after ex-PM Thaksin, now a

fugitive abroad in the wake of an abuse of power conviction,

called for a revolution to bring him home. The opposition

Puea Thai Party and red-shirt movement will continue to seek

to drive Abhisit from office, call for changes to the

constitution which ban Thaksin’s cronies from participating

in politics, and demand the amnesty for the former Prime

Minister, who was convicted in a 2008 abuse of power case.

The latest red-shirt move is to appeal to the King for a

pardon for Thaksin, a not so subtle effort to drag a monarchy

which is supposed to be above politics into the political

fray; after several months of quiet after the April riots,

the red-shirts have resumed weekly rallies. The PAD

yellow-shirt movement has indicated it will oppose all of

these UDD initiatives.

 

5. (SBU) Both major parties in Thai politics are favorable

towards the U.S.; in fact, there are no radical, non-middle

of the road parties represented in the Thai parliament. On

the street, while both yellow and red try to lay exclusive

claim to the mantle of democracy, neither side of this split

is as democratic as it claims to be. Both movements reflect

deep social concerns stemming from widespread perceptions of

a lack of social and economic justice in Thailand, but both

seek to triumph in competing for traditional Thai

hierarchical power relationships. New elections would not

appear to be a viable solution to political divide, and

political discord could very well persist for years. We

continue to stress to Thai interlocutors the need for all

parties to avoid violence and respect democratic norms within

the framework of the constitution Qd rule of law, as well as

our support for long-time friend Thailand to work through its

 

BANGKOK 00001901 002.2 OF 004

 

current difficulties and emerge as a more participatory

democracy.

 

6. (SBU) Linked to the political uncertainty in Bangkok is

the RTG’s inability to resolve an ethno-nationalist Malay

Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand which has claimed an

estimated 3,500 lives since 2004. The fundamental issues of

justice and ethnic identity driving the violence are not

unique to southern Thailand, and ending the insurgency will

require the government to deal with these issues on a

national level – which the on-going political instability in

Bangkok has, to this point, prevented. In the mean time, the

insurgents use IEDs, assassinations, and beheadings to

challenge the control of the Thai state in the deep South.

The government has responded through special security laws

which give security forces expanded power to search and

detain people.

 

7. (SBU) Underlying the political tension in Bangkok is the

future of the monarchy. On the throne for 62 years, the

U.S.-born King Bhumibol is Thailand’s most prestigious

figure, with influence far beyond his constitutional mandate.

Many actors are jockeying for position to shape the expected

transition period Thailand during royal succession after the

eventual passing of the King, who is currently in poor health

and rarely seen in public anymore.

 

THAI FOREIGN POLICY

——————-

 

8. (SBU) If there is one area of policy difference between

Thai political parties affecting U.S. interests, it may well

be certain elements of foreign policy. PM Abhisit and FM

Kasit have stated that Thailand’s foreign policy should

reflect that it is a democracy, rather than being reduced to

mere commercial interests of cabinet members, as they claim

pro-Thaksin governments did.

 

9. (SBU) Thailand’s Burma policy has shifted noticeably since

Abhisit/Kasit came to office last December. Abhisit and

Kasit met with Burmese activists, exiles, and 1990 MPs elect

in March on the margins of an ASEAN summit, the first such

engagement since 2000, pre-Thaksin. As the Chair of ASEAN,

Thailand released a May 18 ASEAN Chairman’s Statement

reminding the Burmese regime that ASEAN Leaders have called

for the immediate release of Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK) and that

Thailand, as the ASEAN Chair, was gravely concerned about

recent developments relating to ASSK. The ASEAN and ASEAN

Regional Forum (ARF) Ministerial statements issued in Phuket

by Kasit in late July adopted a similar tone.

 

10. (SBU) Border tensions with Burma have increased since

June as approximately 3,000 Karen have entered Thailand. The

refugee influx resulted from a Burmese Army and Democratic

Karen Buddhist Army offensive against the Karen National

Union. FM Kasit has directed the MFA to work closely with

NGOs to address the refugees’ needs while in Thailand and to

ensure they return home voluntarily.

 

11. (SBU) Relations with Cambodia continue to be volatile,

primarily due to a border dispute centered on 4.6 square

kilometers of overlapping territorial claims adjacent to the

Preah Vihear temple. While Thailand and France in 1904-8

agreed in principle on the Thai-Cambodian border, ownership

of Preah Vihear was not decided until 1962 when the

International Court of Justice ruled in favor of Cambodia.

Tensions spiked in mid-2008 when the pro-Thaksin Thai

government in power at that time supported Cambodia’s

application to UNESCO for the unilateral listing of the

temple as a world heritage site. The decision was seized by

the opposition in order to attack the government. Periodic

clashes between the two sides’ militaries since then have

resulted in the deaths of at least seven Thai soldiers. We

continue to stress to the Thai interlocutors that the dispute

should be resolved peacefully and bilaterally.

 

12. (SBU) The rise of China, and the perceived absence of a

focused U.S. presence in the region in recent years, is

another strategic issue of concern to Thailand and the

region. Thailand does not seek to choose between the U.S.

and China, rather preferring to have good relations with both

and hoping the U.S. strengthens engagement in the region.

There was universal praise for Secretary Clinton’s

ARF-related visit to Thailand in late July, including U.S.

 

BANGKOK 00001901 003.2 OF 004

 

accession to the Southeast Asian Treaty of Amity and

Cooperation (TAC) and the holding of a U.S.-Lower Mekong

Ministerial that underscored Secretary Clinton’s comment

that: “The U.S. is back in Asia.” That said, Thailand

continues to develop closer relations with China. The Thai

military employs a range of Chinese weapons systems, and Thai

and Chinese special forces have in recent years conducted

joint exercises.

 

ENDURING, PRODUCTIVE BILATERAL ALLIANCE

—————————————

 

13. (SBU) As one of five U.S. treaty allies in Asia and

straddling a major force projection air/sea corridor,

Thailand is crucial to U.S. security interests well beyond

Southeast Asia. Our bilateral military relationship provides

distinctive force projection opportunities from Thai military

facilities amid vital sea and air lanes that support combat

and humanitarian assistance missions, and the opportunity to

conduct live fire training exercises, both bilateral and

multilateral, that are impossible to match elsewhere in Asia.

The COBRA GOLD exercise is PACOM’s largest exercise. The

event has evolved to facilitate important objectives such as

a greater role in the Asian Pacific region for Japan and

Singapore and re-establishing a partnership with Indonesia.

We access the Utapao Naval Air Field alone a 1000 times a

year. The base was a key for air-bridge operations to Iraq

and for combat operations in Afghanistan. Preserving such

unfettered, unquestioned access requires engagement and

remains a mission and USG priority. Thailand has performed

well on international peacekeeping missions, particularly in

leading UN forces in East Timor, to which Thailand

contributed 1,500 troops. The RTG is currently preparing to

deploy a battalion of peacekeepers for Darfur.

 

14. (SBU) The U.S. and Thailand have extensive cooperation in

medical research. Approximately 400 Mission staff work on

health issues, making the Embassy one of the USG’s largest

efforts to fight the world’s most dangerous diseases:

malaria; TB; dengue; HIV/AIDS; and pandemic influenza. CDC,

USAID, USDA/APHIS, and the Armed Forces Research Institute of

Medical Sciences (AFRIMS) closely collaborate with Thai

counterparts on basic research and trial vaccines. The

sophistication of the Thai scientific and public health

community makes collaboration as useful to the USG as it is

to the Thai. A number of important breakthroughs, such as in

the prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission from mothers to

children, were developed here, and several phase III, double

blind trials for potential HIV vaccines are currently ongoing.

 

15. (SBU) Forty years of law enforcement cooperation

initially focused on counter-narcotics efforts has expanded

to all aspects of transnational crime, defending U.S.

interests and securing extraditions of both U.S. citizens and

third country nationals, and building capacity in the Thai

criminal justice system. Eighteen federal and local law

enforcement agencies are currently represented in the

Embassy. The U.S. and Thailand co-host the International Law

Enforcement Academy, a regional platform to promote law

enforcement professionalism. The extradition case of Russian

arms trafficker Viktor Bout, wanted in New York on charges of

conspiring to provide arms to terrorists, is our current law

enforcement top priority. The court decision is expected

August 11, your first day in Thailand.

 

16. (SBU) On refugees, Thailand continues to host more than

114,000 registered Burmese refugees and has allowed the

resettlement of nearly 10,000 refugees to the U.S. this

fiscal year, for which we are grateful. We continue to push

for greater self-sufficiency activities to end the

“warehousing” of refugees unwilling or unable to resettle

abroad. About 4,000 Burmese refugees crossed into Thailand in

June in response to an offensive by government-allied militia

groups. Thailand has provided temporary protection to this

latest influx, comprised mostly of women and children. A

group of 5,000 Lao Hmong is also of concern. 158

UNHCR-recognized refugees have been confined in an

immigration jail for 2.5 years. Another 4,700 are in an

army-run camp in Phetchabun. The RTG and Government of Laos

have insisted the issue will be handled bilaterally, although

the RTG recently assured the United States that none will be

forcibly returned to Laos. We have also been invited for the

first time to discuss the issue in a trilateral format on

August 7 at the Phetchabun.

 

BANGKOK 00001901 004.2 OF 004

 

THAI ECONOMY CONTINUES TO STRUGGLE

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17. (SBU) The United States and Thailand have long enjoyed a

robust trade relationship; annual bilateral trade has been

over $32 billion in recent years. Cumulative U.S. investment

over the past twenty plus years is estimated at $23 billion.

There is a large American Chamber of Commerce with some 650

members; you will have an opportunity to address the AMCHAM

membership at lunch on August 17. While U.S. direct

investment is down this year largely due to the global

economic crisis, many U.S. firms receive preferred national

treatment in a number of sectors under the bilateral Treaty

of Amity and Economic Relations, the bedrock of our economic

relationship since 1966. A number of large U.S. investments

in petrochemicals, computer parts, and automotives use

Thailand as an export manufacturing base for the region.

Thai officials still need to do more to strengthen the

overall investment climate, particularly on customs reform

and intellectual property rights enforcement.

 

18. (SBU) The global economic crisis hit Thailand’s

export-driven economy particularly hard over the last year.

Exports, historically the bright spot of the Thai economy,

declined 23.5 percent over the first six months of this year

when compared to the same period last year (with exports to

the U.S. declining 27.1 percent). The tourism industry,

another longtime economic growth generator, has experienced a

serious decline in the number of tourist arrivals for the

past 10 months; tourist arrivals in June alone fell 18.6

percent year-on-year. With the lessons of the 1997 financial

crisis under its belt, the banking sector remains sound due

to strong regulation and minimal exposure to risky or toxic

assets. The economy went into official recession with a 7.1

percent drop in GDP the first quarter of this year. Forecasts

show a three to five percent GDP contraction for all of 2009.

If global trade activity remains depressed, Thailand’s

export-dependent economy likely will continue to suffer

significant losses this year.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:48 am

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