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05BANGKOK1157 SCENESETTER FOR VISIT OF FORMER PRESIDENTS BUSH AND CLINTON

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“26998”,”2/15/2005 6:50″,”05BANGKOK1157″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”UNCLASSIFIED”,””,

 

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

 

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 001157

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR S/CPR (JEUBANK AND CVANDERBROUK), EAP AND

EAP/BCLTV

PACOM FOR FPA HUSO

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: OVIP, PREL, PGOV, TH, Scenesetter

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR VISIT OF FORMER PRESIDENTS BUSH

AND CLINTON

 

SUMMARY

 

1. (U) President Bush and President Clinton, your visit to

Phuket is eagerly anticipated by our Embassy in Bangkok, U.S.

officials working on relief efforts, Prime Minister Thaksin

Shinawatra (Prime Minister TOCK-SIN), and the Royal Thai

Government. In Thailand, we are several weeks past the

crisis stage of responding to the December 26 tsunami. We

have respected the Royal Thai Government\’s request that the

United States direct the bulk of our monetary assistance

towards Indonesia and other countries more devastated or less

able to cope with mitigating the impact of the tidal wave.

The Thai have made it clear, however, that they welcome U.S.

technical assistance. Thus, we are now working with NGOs and

private companies to provide the Thai Government with that

expertise. You will come to Phuket as we are winding down

the critical U.S. military role in providing assistance to

the tsunami-hit nations in the region by using the Thai naval

base at Utapao as a regional hub. Our military has used

Utapao to coordinate the largest international disaster

relief effort in history. Your meeting with Prime Minister

Thaksin will follow on the heels of visits to Thailand by a

number of senior Americans — then-Secretary of State Powell,

Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz and PACOM Commander,

Admiral Fargo, as well as several members of Congress. Your

presence in Thailand will underscore our country\’s commitment

to remain engaged in Southeast Asia and to support our treaty

obligations here. In your comments with the press, we hope

you have the opportunity to explain to the world that our

ability to provide relief to the region by using Thailand as

a hub was a direct result of decades of joint combined

exercises, training, and cooperation between Thailand and the

United States. At a time when some of our nation\’s critics

question America\’s willingness to work with others, you can

point with pride to the outpouring of assistance and relief

that was provided by the U.S. Government, our NGOs, and

private citizens. End Summary.

 

TSUNAMI AFTERMATH

 

SIPDIS

 

2. (U) The massive rescue and recovery operation undertaken

by the United States as a result of the December 26 tsunami

is historic. Mercifully, U.S. casualties in Thailand are

much lighter than those suffered by other countries. After

all victims\’ remains have been identified, we expect fewer

than 30 American fatalities. Thousands of Thai, Europeans,

and other Asians were killed in the Phuket area, a haven for

vacationers during the holiday season. Total fatalities

continue to rise — the number currently is around 5,400 and

Thai officials privately say they expect the final death toll

to top 8,000. The Phuket/Khao Lak area was as popular a

vacation spot for many northern Europeans as the Caribbean is

for many Americans. During your visit, we anticipate you

will fly over Khao Lak, the area with the largest loss of

life in Thailand. Thousands of vacationers died in the

scores of hotels that were once spread along the coast there.

Locating, identifying, and processing the remains of victims

of the tragedy are the key focus of U.S. efforts. The Royal

Thai Government has shown the international community that it

is taking careful steps to identify and preserve bodies. We

anticipate you will have an opportunity to lay a wreath at an

international memorial site that has been set up adjacent to

the primary forensics center used by teams from over 30

countries who lost citizens in the tsunami.

 

3. (U) We expect you will also fly over the Royal Thai

Navy\’s Phang Nga Naval Base. Phang Nga represents the only

strategic naval facility on Thailand\’s west coast. Pier

facilities, the water treatment plant, barracks, and

communications capabilities were badly damaged by the

tsunami. Additionally, a patrol boat was sunk and a frigate

 

SIPDIS

was beached by the tsunami. We have provided a technical

assessment to the Thai suggesting ways to salvage the

frigate. The Thai Navy has indicated, however, that it will

undertake the salvage itself.

 

USG RELIEF ASSISTANCE

 

4. (U) In the hours after the tsunami struck, the Embassy

dispatched consular officers to Phuket who began locating and

identifying missing or lost Americans. Several officers who

assisted in this effort were actually posted to other U.S.

Embassies in the region and were vacationing in the

devastated area when the tsunami struck. Meanwhile, Embassy

civilian and military staff linked up to provide immediate

relief while we waited for the massive U.S. military

assistance that arrived later. There were numerous examples

of dedicated Americans working to help those in need. For

instance, U.S. Navy SEALS who were in country on a previously

planned mission quickly linked up with medical experts based

at the Embassy from the Centers for Disease Control to work

together to recover bodies (Prime Minister Thaksin was later

shown on the front page of Thai newspapers thanking our

SEALS). Private companies like Bechtel contacted Embassy

officers to offer earth moving equipment which we were then

able to load onto U.S. C-130\’s in Bangkok and deliver to

rescue workers in Phuket. Our military officers based at the

Embassy linked up with counterparts at other Embassies in

Thailand to offer medical evacuation flights to their injured

nationals. Embassy family members manned the American

Citizens Services centers at the airports and the Embassy 24

hours a day providing medical kits, clothing and assistance

to return home.

 

5. (U) We also worked closely with the Thai Government to

secure permission to use Utapao Royal Thai Naval Air Base to

support our relief efforts. Prime Minister Thaksin quickly

granted the use of Utapao as a hub for relief not only for

Thailand, but for the entire region. We were able to use

Utapao so quickly and so effectively (as we have for past

contingencies such as Operation Enduring Freedom and

Operation Iraqi Freedom) due to years of joint/combined

training and exercises between the United States and

Thailand.

 

6. (U) U.S. disaster relief efforts, led by the U.S.

military, have had an immediate impact on affected areas.

Third Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) Commander, USMC

LtGen Robert Blackman, was the commanding general of Combined

Support Force 536 (CSF 536), based out of Utapao and now

largely returned to bases in Okinawa. CSF 536 worked closely

with the Embassy to ensure that requests for assistance were

promptly addressed and to assist coordination of relief from

civilian agencies, NGOs and corporate donors. The Royal Thai

Armed Forces granted the U.S. military blanket overflight

clearances for relief operations in the region, including for

aircraft from the USS Abraham Lincoln battle group which

operated off Sumatra. During the height of operations, over

1,800 U.S. personnel operated out of Utapao. We flew over

1,000 sorties out of Utapao while aircraft from the USS

Abraham Lincoln, Essex, and Bonhomme Richard flew thousands

more to distribute tons of medicine, food, dry ice and body

bags. In Thailand, USAF C-130\’s, working together with Thai

C-130\’s at the airport in Bangkok were the first U.S. assets

to deliver time-sensitive, visible U.S. support to the

affected area. USN P-3\’s positioned at Utapao conducted

search and rescue missions in the vicinity of Thailand and in

the region. Teams made up of medical specialists from the

Centers for Disease Control, the Armed Forces Research

Institute of Medical Science and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting

Command in Hawaii were also deployed to Thailand to assist

with victim identification. U.S. Navy SEALS and a

representative from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance

worked closely with Thai military units to search for the

remains of American and other victims of the disaster.

Embassy Bangkok, augmented by officers and staff from around

the world, maintains a small team in Phuket to assist

Americans, claim American citizen remains, and coordinate

U.S. relief efforts.

 

7. (U) CSF 536\’s concept of operations set up Utapao as the

hub for U.S. relief efforts bound for Sri Lanka, Thailand,

and Indonesia. Combined Support Groups (CSG) were

established in each of those three countries to serve as

nodes to interact with the local government, the U.S.

Embassies and the NGO community. CSG-Thailand was based in

Phuket and redeployed on January 22. Since that time,

ongoing recovery efforts in Thailand are being managed by the

Embassy. A key part of those efforts is to focus civil

affairs projects carried out under our military exercise

authority in Thailand to assist Thais rebuilding in the

devastated areas around Phuket.

 

THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP AND CURRENT ISSUES

 

8. (U) Generally, bilateral relations with Thailand are

excellent. Thailand is a security treaty ally and has been

firmly supportive of the International War on Terror.

American businesses have over $20 billion in direct

investment in Thailand. The United States is Thailand\’s

largest export market and second-largest (after Japan)

foreign investor. Recent decisions to remove Thailand from

the President\’s list of major narcotics transit or producing

countries and to impose less stringent tariffs on Thai shrimp

exports to the United States than we impose on Thailand\’s

competitors were favorably received.

 

9. (U) Thailand sent troops to Afghanistan as part of

Operation Enduring Freedom and dispatched two deployments to

Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In December 2003,

two Thai soldiers were killed by a car bomb while on duty in

Karbala. Thailand\’s second six-month deployment of 443

medics and engineers to Iraq ended in September 2004.

Notably, despite RTG sensitivity to the prospect,

participation in OIF did not cause a domestic furor in

Thailand as in other countries.

 

10. (U) Nonetheless, there are points of friction. Human

rights remain a key concern. On October 25, 2004, poorly

trained military and civilian security forces in southern

Thailand loaded 1,300 Thai Muslim protesters into trucks to

be transported to a military base nearly three hours away.

78 of the protesters died, apparently suffocating en route.

The State Department\’s Human Rights Report also criticized

the approximately 1,300 extrajudicial killings that took

place in early 2003 as part of PM Thaksin\’s war on drugs. In

addition, Thailand\’s policy of constructive engagement with

the military junta in Burma is at odds with the U.S.

Government\’s policy of comprehensive sanctions against

Rangoon.

 

11. (U) Besides dealing with the tsunami aftermath,

Thaksin\’s biggest domestic challenge is the unsettled

security situation in the southern part of the country.

Southern Thailand, and in particular the three southernmost

Muslim majority provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat,

has experienced episodic violence since it was incorporated

into the Siamese Kingdom in 1902. However, last year

witnessed a dramatic increase in the level of violence, with

over 500 people killed either by militants or by security

forces. Local Muslim separatist militants have attacked

symbols of Thai and Buddhist authority, and there continue to

be almost daily incidents of violence, notably even after the

tsunami disaster of December 26. Attacks most often involve

 

SIPDIS

isolated shootings of local officials, although increasingly

sophisticated bombing attacks have become more common.

 

OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVING RELATIONS WITH THAILAND AND THE

REGION

 

12. (U) Prior to the tsunami, a number of analysts in the

region concluded that the United States was preoccupied with

other parts of the world and would likely be supplanted by

others, perhaps China, as the most influential nation in

Southeast Asia. Our quick, generous, and unprecedented

response to the disaster has ended much of that speculation.

It has quickly become evident to Thai leaders that no other

country could have responded to the tsunami the way that the

United States has. Our response to this tragedy has given us

new opportunities to improve relations with the region. Many

who questioned our extensive military exercise program with

Thailand and our frequent use of Thai military facilities now

understand clearly that our 50 year-old military alliance

with Thailand is needed as much today as it ever was. I hope

that during your visit here you can assure Thai officials and

the Thai public that the United States is committed to remain

engaged in the region and is determined to work closely with

Thailand and other ASEAN and APEC members.

 

PRIME MINISTER THAKSIN

 

13. (U) We expect you will have a dinner with PM Thaksin in

Phuket. In 2001, Thaksin became the first democratically

elected civilian Prime Minister to win an outright majority

in the Thai Parliament. His Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais)

political party dominates domestic politics. After the

February 6 national elections, Thaksin and his party won more

than 375 of the 500 seats in Parliament. This election was

the first time in Thai history that a Parliamentary

government filled out its entire term and was reelected.

Thaksin comes from a prosperous Sino-Thai family in

Thailand\’s second largest city, Chiangmai, and placed first

in his class at the National Police Academy. He spent

several years studying in the United States — earning a

master\’s degree in Criminal Justice from Eastern Kentucky

University and a Doctorate in Criminology from Sam Houston

State University. After a few years with the police, he left

government service to run the family business (Shinawatra

Corporation or Shin Corp), which he turned into Thailand\’s

largest telecommunications company, making himself a

multi-billionaire in the process. Thaksin characterizes

himself as a \”CEO Prime Minister\” and is a decisive leader.

Critics accuse him of staffing key government positions with

family members or classmates.

 

CONCLUSION

 

14. (U) As in your previous visits to Thailand, you will

observe first hand the true warmth and friendship that exists

between our two countries. If I could suggest three main

themes for your meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin and in

your encounters with the press, they would be:

 

–Congratulate Thaksin on his election victory;

–Commend the effectiveness of the Thai response to the

tsunami disaster;

 

SIPDIS

–Highlight the fact that the success of the U.S.-Thai joint

effort to assist other tsunami-affected countries would not

have been possible without 50 years of close

military-to-military cooperation.

 

15. (U) We very much look forward to your visit. Have a

safe journey.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 22, 2011 at 4:35 am

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