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07BANGKOK5991 SOUTHERN THAILAND: A TRIP TO THE QUEEN’S PROJECTS

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“132015”,”11/29/2007 9:33″,”07BANGKOK5991″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO8625

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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L

 

SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 005991

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPT FOR MLS, NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/29/2017

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, ASEC, PINR, PREL, PTER, TH

SUBJECT: SOUTHERN THAILAND: A TRIP TO THE QUEEN\’S PROJECTS

 

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission James F. Entwistle, reasons 1.4

(b) and (d).

 

1. (C) Summary: During a one-day visit to southern Thailand

Poloff and Army Attache saw two villages in Pattani and

Narathiwat provinces the Queen\’s project is building in an

attempt to provide family members of victims of the southern

violence and teachers in the South with safe places to live.

The visit to these villages, as well as to a Buddhist village

surrounded by Muslim communities, gave a sense that the Thai

government will not soon put down the insurgency and that

local people in particularly \”hot\” areas are dependent on RTG

protection to go about their daily business. The visit

unexpectedly became a minor part of a series of ceremonies

during which a Thai businessman provided amulets to teachers

and other government officials in Narathiwat, Pattani and

Yala provinces. End summary.

 

2. (U) On November 26 Poloff and the Army Attache accompanied

General Naphon Boontub, Aide-de-Camp to Queen Sirikit, on a

visit to projects funded by the Queen in Narathiwat and

Pattani provinces. The Queen has funded Ban Rotan Batu, a

village for widows of victims of the southern violence, and a

teachers village for teachers from throughout Thailand who

volunteer to teach in the South.

 

WIDOWS VILLAGE CLOSE TO SELF-SUFFICIENT

—————————————

 

3. (U) We were greeted on our arrival at the widows village

in Narathiwat by Buddhist teachers from throughout the

province and by residents of the village. Neat rows of homes

and small agricultural plots cover most of the village, which

is located approximately sixteen kilometers from Narathiwat

city. Queen Sirikit began funding the widows village in 2004

and now approximately 150 families live in an area of about

300 acres. The Queen created the village to provide a means

of making a living to families who have lost family members

in the southern insurgency. The advanced state of

development of the village was noticeable on arrival as the

two-story concrete homes contrasted with the typical

one-story wood construction found in many rural Thai areas.

General Naphon said that population of the village was split

almost evenly between Buddhists and Muslims who live together

peacefully.

 

4. (U) Villagers raise fish, chicken and ducks, in addition

to growing rice and other crops. In addition to promoting

King Bhumibol\’s theory of sufficiency farming, the village

project also offers residents training in arts and crafts so

that the villagers can produce ceramics and other items for

sale in Bangkok. The village was not yet complete as there

were no schools, recreational facilities such, or library.

 

THE BUDDHISTS\’ LAST STAND

————————-

 

5. (C) We unexpectedly visited a village of fifty-eight

families in Narathiwat\’s Cho-airong District that General

Naphon described as the last stand of Buddhist people in

rural, southern Narathiwat. Muslim communities encircle the

village because other Buddhists who had lived in surrounding

areas had moved away, Naphon said. The villagers practice

sufficiency farming methods and produce vegetables and fish

for sale in a local market.

 

6. (U) The villagers hastily assembled to greet Naphon on our

arrival and we readily observed the effects of the southern

violence. Two of the women we met had been injured in

bombings while selling produce at a market outside the

village. One woman had lost a leg while another had lost

most of her fingers on her right hand the week before our

visit. The second woman had returned to the village from a

local hospital the day before we visited and she had to be

summoned to come back from the same market where she had been

injured and now was back selling produce. Some of the

children who were too young to go to a school within the

village showed signs of malnutrition, a condition not often

found in Thailand. Naphon said he decided to make the

surprise visit in order to lift the spirits of the villagers

 

BANGKOK 00005991 002 OF 002

 

and to let them know that they had not been forgotten by the

Queen.

 

TEACHERS VILLAGE SPRINGING UP

—————————–

 

7. (U) General Naphon said Queen Sirikit plans to fund

teachers villages in each of the three southern Thai

provinces that are affected by the insurgency. The villages

would provide teachers and their families with houses and the

teachers would commute to schools throughout the province

from the teachers village if the security situation provided

for safe travel. If the security situation did not allow for

safe travel, teachers would stay at the school where they

teach during the week and travel back to the village to be

with their families during the weekend.

 

8. (U) The first village is under construction in the Pulo

Puyo subdistrict of Nong Chik District in Pattani. General

(Ret.) Thirapongse Sriwatanakul, head of the Queen\’s projects

in Pattani, said the village currently has 120 acres of land

and the Queen\’s project foundation is negotiating to purchase

an additional 300 acres of adjacent land from a landowner who

fled the South due to the violence. Negotiations were

difficult, Thirapongse said, because Malaysian businesspeople

were trying to purchase land throughout the South. Local

contractors were in the process of constructing homes and the

Queen intends for the village to be fully self-sufficient.

The village would provide everything needed by the teachers

as food would be grown on land within village limits and all

facilities would be available including a library, a

gymnasium, housing for workers at the village, and a school.

 

PROTECTION AMULETS FOR SOUTHERN BUDDHISTS

—————————————–

 

9. (U) A surprise addition to our visit was a Thai

businessman who traveled with Naphon in order to provide

amulets to Buddhist teachers, government officials, members

of the security forces, and villagers who gathered to meet

the Queen\’s aide during our visit. Many Thai Buddhists

believe that amulets can protect the wearer from violence and

those who gathered at the villages in Narathiwat and Pattani

as well as the Fifteenth Army Division base in Pattani and

the Yala police headquarters eagerly lined up to receive the

amulets.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

10. (C) The effects of the violence in southern Thailand on

local people were readily evident and quite moving during the

visit to the South. With the insurgency\’s impact on Thai

people so sobering, the intention of the Queen\’s projects to

provide safe havens within the South may reflect a view

within the Royal family that the Thai government will not

soon solve the southern insurgency. The teachers villages,

however, could have a positive impact if the project is able

to help keep schools open in the South.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:06 am

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