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05BANGKOK1233 THE AMBASSADOR’S MEETING WITH PRIVY COUNCILOR GENERAL SURAYUD

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“27206”,”2/17/2005 10:10″,”05BANGKOK1233″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”SECRET”,”05BANGKOK8629″,

 

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

 

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001233

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPT FOR EAP, INR

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/16/2015

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PINR, TH, BM, BURMA, Southern Thailand

SUBJECT: THE AMBASSADOR\’S MEETING WITH PRIVY COUNCILOR

GENERAL SURAYUD, FEBRUARY 16, 2005

 

REF: BANGKOK 8629

 

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, Reason 1.4 (d)

 

US INVOLVEMENT IN SOUTHERN UNREST

 

1. (S) On February 16, 2005 I, met with Privy Councilor

General Surayud Chulanont former Supreme Commander of the

Royal Thai Armed Forces (RTAF) and Royal Thai Army (RTA)

Commander-in-Chief. The meeting, held at Surayud,s request,

took place at his residence in the Eastern suburbs of Bangkok

and lasted about two hours. Surayud, a soft-speaking and

quiet personality, had just returned from a trip to Yala

province, where he met with a local Imam (unnamed) who told

him that rumors were circulating about CIA involvement in the

surge of violence that has plagued the deep South for over a

year. I denied any such U.S. involvement, to which Surayud

replied, &well, that\’s the rumor.8 Surayud said the Imam

claimed that former Ambassador Johnson had been to the South

three times and &offered to help8 in any way possible, a

proposal to which the Imam demurred. I told Surayud that I

had no current plans to go to the deep South. Surayud said

that, in his view, it was not a good idea for me to travel

there, and mentioned a recent \”troublesome\” trip by an

Embassy \”political officer.8 (Note: Ambassador Johnson

never traveled to the far southern provinces of Yala, Pattani

and Narathiwat, although he did visit Phuket and Nakhon Si

Thammarat. The embassy officer Surayud referred to is

probably our RSO who, during an initial security survey of

the South in December 2004, was \”ambushed\” by local

journalists. Per reftel, their news stories distorted the

purposes of his trip and fed the kind of conspiratorial

thinking reflected by the Imam\’s comments to General Surayud.

Various Embassy officers travel frequently to Thailand\’s

deep South. End Note.)

 

2. (S) Surayud stated his support for Thailand\’s role in

sending troops to Afghanistan and Iraq but noted that a

redeployment in either country now would be ill-advised and

could be used by rabble rousers in the South to portray the

RTG as eager to get involved in anti-Muslim activity, prodded

by the U.S.

 

THAKSIN,S SOUTHERN SECURITY STRATEGY

 

3. (S) Surayud commented on the volatile situation in the

deep South. He said that when General Prem Tinsulanonda (now

President of the Privy Council) was prime minister, he had

established a security structure in the South, the Southern

Border Peacekeeping Center, which was continued into the

second administration of Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai. That

Center was organized as a combined civilian, police and

military command structure to pool intelligence, but also to

serve as a legitimate means for citizens to send in

complaints. PM Thaksin dismantled the Center in 2002.

Thaksin\’s explanation to Surayud at the time was that there

were &only 35 rebels hiding in the woods with guns\” and the

Royal Thai Police (RTP) alone could handle the situation. In

fact, Surayud suspected, Thaksin had dismantled the Center,

thereby effectively shelving Thai military involvement,

because of his own police background and sympathies towards

the RTP, and as part of a plan to win the South back from the

opposition Democrat Party (DP). Surayud summarized the

problems in the South as complex, and therefore needing a

complex solution. He said the government must learn more

about the local culture, needs to invest in education, and

should not resort to new southern command structures that

rely on the Ministry of Defense for authority and

accountability.

 

4. (S) Surayud noted his amazement that Agriculture Minister

Wan Muhamad Noor Matha\’s Wadah faction candidates were

defeated in the recent general election, given Wan Noor,s

central prominence for years in the South, with a variety of

political parties.

 

5. (S) Commenting on HM Queen Sirikit,s speech in November

2004 where she spoke about the plight of Buddhist villagers

in the South, Surayud said that he had suggested to the Queen

before the speech not to go into too much detail about the

South. I told Surayud that the Queen\’s remarks seemed to

reflect general views of most Thai people about Thai Muslims

in the South. Surayud agreed, adding that her comments had

not been helpful. Furthermore, Surayud surmised that the

King\’s silence on matters in the South in his December 5

birthday speech was one result of the Queen\’s remarks. The

King had different views on the South than did the Queen, but

was not about to make that publicly evident. Surayud agreed

with me that most moderates in the south just want to be left

alone, but are caught between an onslaught of globalization

and a sense of increasingly imposed &Thainess8 from Central

Thailand and a swan song of radical Islamist efforts locally.

 

BURMA POLICY TOO SOFT

 

6. (S) I asked Surayud about the current RTG policy of

\”constructive engagement\” with Burma. Surayud\’s assessment

was that it was &too soft8, because the SPDC never listens.

He said that the government should return to the policy of

the second Chuan administration, which had used a harsher

rhetoric and kept closer to Thailand\’s national interests.

Surayud stated that as RTA Commander-in-Chief he had

emphasized the importance of education and going after the Wa

if the SPDC didn,t. He recounted that Thaksin had initially

agreed with this approach and Surayud had moved forces to the

North of Thailand (disguising them as maneuvers from the

Northeast). While he was in Washington giving a speech on

Capitol Hill, Surayud said he had learned that Thaksin was

expressing strong opposition to the troop movements, even

though they had already discussed them in apparent agreement.

Surayud speculated that about that time the Shin satellite

deal with Burma was being fixed and had trumped his moves

against the Wa. After that, Thaksin had tried to sideline

him, if not remove him altogether. &I was too independent,8

Surayud summarized. (Note: Surayud was promoted to Supreme

Commander in 2002 — a move regarded in Thailand as being

kicked upstairs, away from real authority — and retired in

September 2003. End Note.) Surayud also commented that the

Thaksin Administration\’s highly publicized and controversial

\”war on drugs\” — which began in early 2003 — has not been

successful, even if it appears to be popular.

Methamphetamines are still widely available in Thailand.

Thaksin, he said, only eliminated the &small fry8 along the

border and didn\’t go after the Wa, the producers. (Surayud

also said he thought many innocent people had been killed in

the drug suppression efforts in southern Thailand.)

 

FINAL NOTE ON THE CROWN PRINCE

 

7. (S) I asked Surayud about the heir to King Bhumhibol,

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. Surayud replied that he

had tutored the Crown Prince some 20 years ago and surmised

that &He\’ll never measure up8 to the present monarch, but

\”somehow the Thai people will make do.\”

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:09 am

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