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09BANGKOK706 LAW ENFORCEMENT COOPERATION BETWEEN THAILAND AND THE UNITED STATES RUNS DEEP

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“197904”,”3/20/2009 4:14″,”09BANGKOK706″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”09BANGKOK611″,”P 200414Z MAR 09

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6457

INFO ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI

DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC

DEPT OF HOMELAND SECURITY WASHINGTON DC

DEA HQS WASHINGTON DC

DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHDC

USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI

JIATF WEST

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L BANGKOK 000706

DEPT. FOR INL, EAP AND DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/19/2014

TAGS: ASEC, PHUM, PTER, SNAR, PREL, PARM, PGOV, KCRM, KJUS,

TH

SUBJECT: LAW ENFORCEMENT COOPERATION BETWEEN THAILAND AND

THE UNITED STATES RUNS DEEP

REF: BANGKOK 611

Classified By: Amb. Eric G. John. Reason: 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: As one of five U.S. treaty allies in Asia,

and the only such on the mainland of SE Asia, straddling a

major force projection air/sea corridor, and as one of Asia\’s

democracies, Thailand remains crucial to U.S. interests in

the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. For decades law

enforcement (LE) cooperation has been a core component of a

broad and deep relationship which has served both countries,

interests. From an initial primary focus on

counter-narcotics efforts, chiefly in combating heroin

trafficking from the Golden Triangle and promoting

alternative development to opium cultivation within Thailand,

the LE relationship has expanded greatly, defending U.S.

interests and persons. For instance, the U.S. and Thailand

co-host the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in

Bangkok, a regional platform to promote law enforcement

professionalism. Nearly every federal law enforcement agency

and even some local ones are represented in the Embassy,

often with regional responsibilities. The Embassy\’s Law

Enforcement Working Group (LEWG) has 18 different agencies

and offices as members.

2. (C) American law enforcement agencies interact with their

Thai counterparts smoothly on the whole, and the

counter-narcotics relationship has been a model for LE

development. In recent years the USG\’s LE emphasis has

expanded from counter-narcotics to encompass all aspects of

transnational crime, as well as to building capacity in the

Thai criminal justice system (CJS). This includes reforming

training and education and enhancing professionalism among

police, prosecutors, and judiciary. Thailand has

traditionally been one of the top source countries for

extradition of criminals to the U.S., though success in this

area cannot be taken for granted and requires constant

attention. Thailand cooperates well with the USG on

counter-terrorism issues, but needs considerably more

capacity in that area.

3. (C) This cable is one in an occasional series on key

elements of U.S.-Thai relations that are crucial to U.S.

interests in the region and beyond. These components of the

bilateral relationship do not often get headlines. One such

addressed MIL-MIL relations (reftel), while others describe

intelligence cooperation, refugee issues, and cooperation in

health programming and disease research (see reftel). End

Summary.

4. (C) Comment: Post\’s large LEWG, positioned to help build

capacity in the Thai Criminal Justice System, sees a real

opportunity in recent RTG requests for American assistance in

effecting reforms to its CJS. We intend to approach this in

a systematic way through the LEWG, building upon existing

relationships and seeking new ones. We regard this kind of

institution-building as an effective way to assist an ally in

a politically troubled time by bolstering a crucial but

flawed public institution. We also regard it as the kind of

assistance most likely to be esteemed by the Thai public,

regardless of their political affiliation. While improving

RTG capacities is important in and of itself, more important

is the increased Thai capability to support U.S. LE and

policy objectives in the region. End Comment.

A Strong Foundation

—————–

5. (C) The U.S. started investing in Thai law enforcement

agencies in the 1950s as part of the effort to contain

communism. The Border Patrol Police, Special Branch Police,

and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), among

other units, were established with U.S. funding to serve as

regional partners. For four decades starting in 1963, when

DEA\’s predecessor organization began operations in Thailand,

the main thrust of USG-RTG LE cooperation was in counter-

narcotics. It focused chiefly on fighting the Golden

Triangle heroin trade both through heroin interdiction and

opium eradication, with attendant crop substitution efforts.

DEA now maintains offices in several parts of the country,

enjoying remarkable freedom of action in-country and high

levels of cooperation (including the right to carry weapons

and freely conduct investigations, with the RTP making the

final arrests). This special relationship has benefited

American LE greatly, and the Thai clearly feel that they have

had the benefit of a large, well-trained and effective

organization as a partner. This is the high road to

successful capacity building in Thailand, and should be the

model for other LE development efforts. The U.S. sought to

expand this type of bilateral success throughout the region

by the launching of the International Law Enforcement Academy

(ILEA) in Bankok in 1998.

6. (C) This investment in relatioships and institutions

over decades has yielded he American official community

preferential treament in security-related matters by the

Royal Thai Police (RTP) – in intelligence sharing, in

protction of American installations and personnel, andin

overall operational leeway in-country. The U-Thai jointly

sponsored ILEA, with its regional andate to improve LE

capacity and coordination, and the transformation by INL

Bureau of the formerNarcotics Affairs Section (NAS) into a

regional ransnational Crime Affairs Section (TCAS), make

hailand a logical and welcoming focal point for mutilateral

efforts to improve international crime-fighting capacity

across the region.

7. (SBU) The leading areas of current LE cooperation are:

extradition and mutual legal assistance (Thailand s the

third largest worldwide source of wanted ciminals extradited

to the US, with pedophiles a frequent target);

counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, trafficking in persons

(TIP), intellectual property (IP) protection,

money-laundering, cyber- and other white-collar crime, and

refugee issues. The USG\’s numerous parallel bilateral

efforts are aimed not just at eliciting and sustaining the LE

cooperation we want, but also at bolstering the Thai criminal

justice system (CJS) as a whole with the long-term goal of

making of it a strong and respectable public institution. As

global priorities shift and budgets for Thai-related

programming diminish, the challenge is to keep nurturing a

relationship that has proven so productive over the years.

Dangers Old and New

————–

8. (C) The Thai CJS as a whole stands in need of

comprehensive development, streamlining, and reform. While

better than what often pertains in other countries in the

region, Thai LE is still very weak by Western standards and

the police are at the heart of the problem. Their

professional skills remain quite low (the exceptions being

SWAT and special units trained for counter-narcotics

operations), yet they face a whole new set of challenges

given new developments in the international crime situation

(especially new patterns in narcotics trafficking and

international terrorism) and Thailand\’s current turbulent

domestic political situation. For all their shortcomings,

the RTP are helpful to the USG, so it is clearly in our

interests to improve their performance.

9. (C) Thailand\’s borders are long and extremely porous and

the country is therefore vulnerable to international criminal

elements of all kinds, many of them equipped with tools and

skills the country\’s LE agencies do not yet have. The courts

lack most of the accoutrements of a modern justice system and

the police, prosecutors, and judiciary do not interact

effectively. Instead they represent jealous fiefdoms, and

the whole system relies upon confessions rather than

adjudicated evidence. In addition to international organized

crime, terrorism and institutional shortcomings, the RTP and

the CJS at large currently face two serious domestic crises

for which they are not adequately prepared: they lack the

proper tools to respond to the political unrest in Bangkok,

and they are not effective in their approach to the

Malay-Muslim ethno-nationalist insurgency in the deep south

of the country.

10. (C) Apart from a distinct regional identity based on the

historical Kingdom of Pattani, the southern insurgency is

fueled by a communal sense of grievance based on an overall

lack of justice. The police and judiciary have historically

been part of the problem in the deep south. Corrupt and

abusive police units coupled with a weak and opaque judicial

system have inflamed the long-standing animosity of majority

Malay-Muslim population towards the central government. As

these institutions have exacerbated the problems in the

South, their reform is crucial to any RTG effort end the

violence.

Help Wanted

———

11. (SBU) All the shortcomings of Thai LE notwithstanding,

some well-placed elements within the Thai CJS, including

high-ranking police and judiciary, are trying to make the

system turn a corner. They need help with such a large job

and are turning to U.S. counterparts for assistance in

reforming and up-grading both the curricula for education and

in-service police training across the board. Thai

prosecutors and judiciary have welcomed offers of exchanges

and opportunities for consultation with American

counterparts. With Embassy Bangkok\’s large inter-agency

LEWG, the Mission is well-positioned to respond to this

request for capacity-building and we regard this as an

opportunity to effect profound changes over the medium term.

An example: The RTP request for help includes

institutionalizing training in human rights and community

policing – areas in which the police in Thailand have been

wholly wanting in the past.

12. (U) The paragraphs below describe the relationships

between the RTG and the main parts of the American security

and LE community in Thailand, encompassing a wide range of

official contacts.

US Department of Justice Attach

—————————

13. (SBU) USDOJ is represented by five offices in the

Embassy. The DOJ Attache is an experienced federal prosecutor

assigned to the DOJ\’s Office of International Affairs, and

represents DOJ in all criminal matters in Thailand and other

countries in Southeast Asia. In particular, the DOJ Attache

works closely with U.S. and foreign LE agencies to facilitate

prosecutions, extradition, and mutual legal assistance for

operational matters. He also provides the RTG with advice on

criminal justice issues generally. Two treaties, one on

extradition and one on mutual legal assistance, allow and

support these cooperative efforts. On extradition, the DOJ

Attache cooperates directly with the Attorney General of

Thailand, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign

Affairs, and the RTP. Despite a history of general

cooperation, it is in the operations of this office that the

shortcomings of the Thai criminal justice system become clear

in cases of interest to the USG.

14. (SBU) Over the past 30 years 135 defendants have been

extradited to the U.S. There have also been dozens of direct

deportations to the U.S. The defendants have been prosecuted

for offenses ranging from murder and other violent crimes,

including child molestation, through narcotics trafficking

fraud and money laundering, to IP violations, cyber-crime,

and corruption. The DOJ Attache is the representative of the

\”Central Authority\” for the USG under the Mutual Legal

Assistance Treaty, which permits requests for evidentiary and

other assistance in criminal cases, such as those for

records, interviews, and assets forfeiture. The Attache

works directly with US and Thai LE Agencies to ensure the

execution of American legal requests in Thailand. The

Attache also routinely provides expert legal advice to USG

Agencies in the Mission.

15. (C) While overall numbers of extraditions from Thailand

are high and a positive point in the bilateral relationship,

there can be glitches, and some significant high profile

cases require intensive high-level USG involvement. At

present, the extradition case of Russian arms trafficker

Viktor Bout, wanted in New York on charges of conspiring to

provide arms to terrorists, is an example. Bout was arrested

a year ago by the RTP with DEA assistance, and the case

continues to slowly work its way through the Thai legal

system. Then-President Bush mentioned the importance of the

case the then-PM Samak in August 2008, during a visit to

Bangkok, and there have been several telephone exchanges

regarding Bout between the American and Thai Attorneys

General. The Ambassador and other Mission officials raise

the case frequently at all levels of the RTG. This has been

especially important in the wake of recent suggestions that

efforts may be afoot by Bout\’s associates to influence the

judicial process. Such influence has a precedent in the case

of Iranian national Jamshid Ghassemi, whose extradition to

the U.S. for arms export violations was denied by the Thai

courts last year, following intense pressure from Iranian

authorities. The Bout extradition case represents a

difficult test of the rule of law in Thailand, and we are

determined that the outcome of the Ghassemi will not be

repeated.

Regional Security Office (RSO)

————————-

16. (SBU) The RSO\’s main mission is protection of the

Embassy, other American facilities, and the American

community. To that end RSO maintains an active relationship

with the RTP, particularly through the Diplomatic Security

Anti-Terrorist Training (ATA). The RSO brings ATA

instructors to Thailand about 12 times annually to conduct

training in intelligence, VIP protection, canine operations,

small arms, and similar subjects. For its part the RTP

Commissioner has stated that the RTP are prepared to offer

the US Embassy whatever level of force is required for

effective protection. In fact a police SWAT unit has been

detailed for additional Embassy protection for almost two

decades (since the first Gulf War), and this detail is always

greatly augmented in advance of any possible demonstration or

perceived threat.

17. (SBU) Two recent incidents illustrate how easily Thai LE

can be brought into play by an American request. In the

first, an AMCIT being held against her will in a hotel by a

third-country national managed to get a cell phone call to

her family in the US, who notified the Embassy. The ARSO

simply exited the Embassy, borrowed one of the SWAT officers

from the protection detail at the front gate, and went

directly to the hotel in time to free the woman. In the

second, after the Embassy received information that a felon

wanted in the U.S. for particularly horrific sex crimes was

in Thailand, the RTP\’s Special Branch put a ten-person

surveillance team on the streets to work with the RSO until

the man was apprehended, two-and-a-half months later.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)

—————————-

18. (U) For DEA, the main mission has always been narcotics

and narcotics-related intelligence (to a lesser extent money

laundering and other satellite narco-crimes). DEA has

uniquely fruitful working relationships with 13 RTG agencies

and offices whose operations have some bearing upon narcotics

issues.

19. (SBU) The main target drug in Thailand for a generation

was opium and its heroin derivative. Opium cultivation

within Thailand was at last suppressed to the vanishing point

during the 1990s, chiefly because RTP Sensitive

Investigations Units (SIUs), modeled on American units, were

trained to a keen operational edge and deployed effectively,

at times even against narcotics operations in neighboring

ungoverned spaces. Those units can now serve as a model as

the USG seeks to improve the professional standing of other

elements of the RTP. However, a new drug threat,

methamphetamine, has emerged over the past decade, presenting

a new set of enforcement challenges. DEA also works with the

RTG\’s Money Laundering Office (AMLO), identifying illicit

assets for seizure, and has launched capacity-building

programs intended to improve the RTG\’s access to

international narcotics and other crime intelligence sources.

The organized crime aspects of the narcotics trade has

compelled a regional approach, and DEA has accordingly

deployed in several neighboring countries.

20. (SBU) In 45 years of productive LE cooperation DEA and

their Thai counterparts have worked together on many

thousands of individual cases. In 2008 alone there were 84

case investigations resulting in 1,150 arrests. Nearly 8

metric tons of marijuana, 800 kilograms of methamphetamine,

several hundred kilograms of heroin and large amounts of

precursor chemicals were seized, with a total value of $13.7

million. Several priority target organizations were

effectively dismantled by LE work during 2008, the

highest-profile case being that of the arms smuggler Viktor

Bout (para. 15, above).

Transnational Crime Affairs (TCAS)

————————-

21. (SBU) The Narcotics Affairs Section of the Embassy, the

INL Bureau\’s presence at Post, traditionally supported the

narcotics enforcement efforts of DEA with funding for

capacity building. In July 2008 the NAS became the

Transnational Crimes Affairs Section (TCAS), with a regional

role and an expanded mandate to target all aspects of

transnational crime. In addition to narcotics the section

now encompasses more capacity-building, addressing a range of

issues of high importance to the USG, such as terrorism,

trafficking in persons, intellectual property rights

protection, cyber-crime, money laundering, false travel

documents, organized crime, and sex crimes against minors.

Employing the skills of USDOJ experts from the Offices of

Overseas Prosecutorial Development and Training (OPDAT) and

International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance

Program (ICITAP), TCAS is preparing Thai criminal justice

agencies and organizations to play more effective and

civic-friendly roles domestically as Thailand moves through

an era of political tumult, as well as for new international

criminal challenges.

22. (SBU) At RTG request, TCAS is mounting a large-scale

training program for police and consultation programs for

Thai legal sector entities. The first goal is to reform and

improve education and in-service training curricula for

approximately 170,000 Thai police officers and NCOs. This

will be pursued by inserting not only a new range of

investigatory skills, but also through sustained exposure to

human rights, humane crowd control, and community policing.

These things are new to the training of Thai police, but the

RTP hierarchy, desirous of improving their public standing,

has thus far welcomed new suggestions. The ICITAP Law

Enforcement Policy Advisor focuses on police capacity in such

areas as crime scene management, intelligence management,

criminal investigations, humane interrogation, instructor

development, and crisis management. A parallel forensics

program seeks to build reliance upon scientific evidence in

accordance with international standards.

23. (SBU) The OPDAT Regional Legal Advisors concentrate on

Thai court procedures and prosecutorial capacity. The Thai

judiciary and Attorney General\’s Office have also welcomed

the participation of American legal experts, including

ranking American judiciary, for discussions of problems and

logjams in the Thai court system. Another dimension of the

LE capacity-building is helping Thailand to improve

coordination with its ASEAN neighbors, especially those with

which it shares borders. TCAS seeks to have the Thai involve

their neighbors in training programs funded by INL as the

most effective means of achieving better coordination. This

leads naturally to the following topic; the International Law

Enforcement Academy.

The International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA)

————————————-

24. (SBU) Founded in 1998-99, ILEA has been offering law

enforcement training to 10 Southeast Asian countries for a

decade. The ILEA model worldwide has shown the value of

bringing police and other LE personnel from many countries

together for a common learning experience, and in having that

curriculum decided largely by the USG. American law

enforcement thereby gains an opportunity to project itself in

the region, and the police officers of countries otherwise

not always particularly cooperative can build professional

relationships while learning new skills. ILEA certificates

and diplomas have become coveted professional credentials in

police departments across the region. As of the beginning of

2009, ILEA has trained some 9,000 LE officers in a range of

skills essential to good police work. By making community

policing and human rights an inherent part of many course

offerings, ILEA materially advances the USG\’s human rights

agenda in East and Southeast Asia.

The Legal Attach (LEGATT)

———————

25. (SBU) The Embassy\’s FBI representative, or LEGATT, like

the DOJ Attach, has an active operational interface with

Thai LE counterparts, including all the branches of the RTP.

The LEGATT\’s Office is in charge of requests for LE

assistance to the RTP from the U.S. Federal Bureau of

Investigation, with particular emphasis on terrorism, federal

fugitives and cyber-crime. The LEGATT has built a

particularly close relationship with the Thai Department of

Special Investigations, supposedly an organization modeled on

the FBI, but as yet unable to function to the level of its

mandate, and in need of considerable capacity-building and

mentoring.

Economic Section, Foreign Commercial Service, and USPTO

———————————-

26. (C) The Economic Section (ECON), The Foreign Commercial

Service, and the Regional IPR Officer from the U.S. Patent

and Trade Office (USPTO) all play a role in facilitating law

enforcement on economic issues. Since Thailand is a nation

with which the US has a business and investment treaty giving

special status to American business interests, the

functioning of the Thai civil court system is of particular

interest to the USG, and to an active and vocal American

Chamber of Commerce. The Thai have frequently been receptive

to our suggestions (for example, creating an Intellectual

Property Rights Court at USG behest). The Economic Section

of the Embassy has the lead on TIP issues. ECON produces the

annual Trafficking In Persons report in addition to regular

reporting throughout the year. Thailand, a middle-income

economy surrounded by much less developed countries, and

having long and porous borders, faces a large and diffuse TIP

problem. The RTG has taken many steps to address TIP issues

over the years, particularly in the areas of legislation,

care for victims, public awareness, and investigation of

labor abuses. Nonetheless, its ability to push forward and

track TIP-related investigations, prosecutions, and

convictions is limited by a lack of resources. Post believes

that with additional staff (police officers and prosecutors)

dedicated to TIP cases, more streamlined and dedicated

bureaucratic procedures, and improved case tracking systems,

the Thai could achieve greater prosecutorial success. The

Economic Section also monitors the operations of Thai

Customs, the IPR police and courts, labor issues, and Thai

performance in the protection of the environment and

endangered species.

27. (SBU) The Regional IPR Officer, representing USPTO,

provides expertise for USG IPR efforts throughout the region.

There have been episodic improvements in Thai IPR

enforcement in recent years, but the continuing political

uncertainty has made sustained enforcement, and engagement on

key IPR issues, a serious challenge. The Mission continues

to support a robust IPR training and assistance regime, with

the support of several USG agencies (ECON, the LEGATT,

Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and USAID), and engages

both the RTG and business leaders to gain traction on the

issue. The Commercial Section chairs the IPR Working Group

wherein the Regional IPR Officer has put forward a work plan

to engage Thai LE and administrative officials on IP. Most

training and technical assistance on IP emerges from USPTO.

Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs

Enforcement (ICE)

——————————————— ——-

28. (U) The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)

division of DHS investigates labor law violations,

immigration scams, financial crimes, trafficking in weapons

and persons, and the activities of pedophiles. The office

works closely with Thai law enforcement and NGOs to assist

victims of child sex tourism, with the goal of successful

prosecutions. Since 2003, when the office opened, ICE

investigators have pursued more than 500 cases in cooperation

with Thai authorities.

JOHN

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Written by thaicables

June 14, 2011 at 2:03 am

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