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09BANGKOK1662 THAILAND SCENESETTER FOR SECRETARY CLINTON’S JULY 21-23 VISIT

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FROM THE AMBASSADOR

STATE FOR THE SECRETARY

ALSO FOR EAP A/S CAMPBELL, NSC FOR BADER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/13/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND SCENESETTER FOR SECRETARY CLINTON\’S JULY

21-23 VISIT

 

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

 

1. (C) Madam Secretary: You will arrive July 21 in a Kingdom

of Thailand divided politically and focused inward, uncertain

about the country\’s future after revered but ailing 81 year

old King Bhumibol eventually passes. Despite a deep and

broad alliance partnership that continues to deliver

significant benefits quietly to both sides, the immediate

priorities of the U.S. and Thailand overlap less than in

years past; yours will be the first Secretary of State visit

to Thailand in four years, since July 2005. The meetings

with PM Abhisit in Bangkok and FM Kasit in Phuket offer an

opportunity to thank the Thai for our productive alliance

partnership, for Thai facilitation of shared military, law

enforcement, and intelligence efforts, as well as

groundbreaking health/research collaboration and

long-standing refugee support, and to express our support for

Thailand\’s democracy to meet its current challenges and

emerge strengthened.

 

Temporary Calm in a Troubled Kingdom

————————————

 

2. (C) The past year has been a turbulent one in Thailand.

Court decisions forced two Prime Ministers from office, and

twice the normal patterns of political life took a back seat

to disruptive protests in the streets. The yellow-shirted

People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) occupied Government

House from August to December 2008, shutting down Bangkok\’s

airports for eight days in late November, to protest

governments affiliated with ex-Prime Minister Thaksin

Shinawatra. The red-shirted United Front for Democracy

against Dictatorship (UDD), followers of Thaksin, disrupted a

regional Asian Summit and sparked riots in Bangkok in

mid-April after Thaksin, now a fugitive abroad in the wake of

an abuse of power conviction, called for a revolution to

bring him home. While both yellow and red try to lay

exclusive claim to the mantle of democracy, neither is truly

democratic in intent or tactics.

 

3. (C) The current PM, Abhisit Vejjajiva, is a photogenic,

eloquent 44-year old Oxford graduate who generally has

progressive instincts and says the right things 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 change is another matter. He is

beset with a fractious coalition, with partners more

interested in self-enrichment than good governance, as well

as a resurgent post-2006 coup military not interested in

political compromises in the deep south or reducing its

profile, at least as long as uncertainty over a looming royal

succession crisis remains to be resolved.

 

4. (C) While Thailand in 2009 has been more stable than in

2008, mid-April red riots aside, it is the calm in the eye of

a storm. Few observers believe that the deep political and

social divides can be bridged until after King Bhumibol

passes and Thailand\’s tectonic plates shift. Crown Prince

Vajiralongkorn neither commands the respect nor displays the

charisma of his beloved father, who greatly expanded the

prestige and influence of the monarchy during his 62 year

reign. Some question whether Vajiralongkorn will be crowned

King, as Bhumibol desires. Nearly everyone expects the

monarchy to shrink and change in function after succession.

How much will change is open to question, with many

institutions, figures, and political forces positioning for

influence, not only over redefining the institution of

monarchy but, equally fundamentally, what it means to be

Thai. It is a heady time for observers of the Thai scene, a

frightening one for normal Thai.

 

Engaging a long-term ally and friend strategically

——————————————— —–

 

5. (C) Both major parties in Thai politics — the ruling

Democrats and the opposition, Thaksin-affiliated Puea Thai

 

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(For Thai) party — 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 domestic

political front, you should emphasize our hope that all sides

will work out differences within the democratic framework and

without resort to violence, as well as our support for

long-time friend Thailand to work through its current

difficulties and emerge as a more participatory democracy.

 

6. (C) If there is one area of policy difference between Thai

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; Thailand\’s Burma policy has shifted

noticeably since Abhisit/Kasit came to office last December.

Both Abhisit and Kasit are eager to avoid transactional

diplomacy and engage you strategically, building on your

meeting with Kasit in Washington in April and commitment to

reanimating our Strategic Dialogue.

 

7. (C) The North Korea challenge via implementation of UNSCR

1874 and Burma policy in the wake of UN SYG Ban\’s visit, Aung

San Suu Kyi\’s trial, and recent fighting which led to the

greatest cross-border refugee flows into Thailand in a decade

are key foreign policy issues to raise with Abhisit and

Kasit, particularly given Thailand\’s current role as ASEAN

Chair. The rise of China, and the perceived absence of a

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

another strategic issue worth addressing; Thailand does not

seek to choose between the U.S. and China, prefers to have

good relations with both, and wishes the U.S. to be engaged

in the region.

 

8. (C) There are several bilateral concerns worth raising.

On refugees, Thailand continues to host more than 140,000

Burmese and facilitate resettlement of more than 17,000

refugees to the U.S. this year, for which we are grateful,

but it has been much less helpful on a small group of Lao

Hmong, which has drawn Congressional attention. Thai

authorities facilitated the arrest of notorious Russian arms

trafficker Viktor Bout in March 2008; we await the results of

the extradition hearing August 11. U.S. firms still receive

preferred national treatment in a number of sectors,

bolstering a strong trade and investment relationship, but

Thai officials need to do more to strengthen the investment

climate, particularly on Customs reform and intellectual

property rights enforcement.

 

Enduring value from the relationship

————————————

 

9. (C) Regional operational platform: The U.S. mission in

Thailand is one of the largest and most diverse in the world

– with over 2000 employees representing nearly 40 different

departments and agencies – for good reason: we can accomplish

a tremendous amount in Thailand, not only bilaterally but as

a regional platform, often in ways that would be almost

impossible to replicate elsewhere. That operational success

occurs routinely, without fanfare or headlines, and perhaps

is undervalued as a result; it would also be fair to say that

we probably derive more from the relationship at present than

the Thai do. More than half of the mission\’s employees work

regionally, not bilaterally, and Bangkok\’s role as a regional

operational, assistance, financial/IT support, and training

hub for the USG will continue to expand in the coming years.

 

10. (SBU) Health/disease research: With approximately 400

Mission staff working on health issues, the Embassy hosts 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)

collaborate with Thai counterparts on basic research and

trial vaccines, and are platforms for assistance throughout

the region. The sophistication of the Thai scientific and

 

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public health community makes collaboration as useful to the

USG as it is to the Thais. 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.

 

11. (C) Mil-Mil ties: 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, the opportunity

to conduct live fire training exercises, both bilateral and

multilateral, that are impossible to match elsewhere in Asia.

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

year; had the North Korean ship Kang Nam 1 continued on to

Burma rather than turning around, we would have staged P-3s

to Utapao to track it. Preserving such unfettered,

unquestioned access requires engagement and remains a mission

and USG priority.

 

12. (SBU) Law enforcement: 40 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.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:22 am

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