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05BANGKOK1578 ASEAN INTER-PARLIAMENTARY BURMA CAUCUS VISITS BANGKOK

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“28049”,”3/3/2005 11:52″,”05BANGKOK1578″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

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

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001578

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/03/2015

TAGS: PREL, PHUM, PREF, TH, BM, BURMA, ASEAN

SUBJECT: ASEAN INTER-PARLIAMENTARY BURMA CAUCUS VISITS

BANGKOK

 

Classified By: Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke. Reason 1.4 (d)

 

1. (U) Summary. Several members of the informal Association

of Southeast Nations (ASEAN) Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar

Caucus visited Thailand this week, hosted by Senator Kraisak

Choonhavan, Chairman of the Thai Senate Foreign Relations

committee. In a March 2 press conference, the Caucus called

for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK) and a more open

and democratic National Convention process in Rangoon. The

Caucus also stated that Burma should not be allowed to assume

the rotational chairmanship of ASEAN next year, unless

significant progress is made on democratic reforms. Caucus

members met with Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, who

told the group that their concerns and suggestions for change

in Burma should be taken seriously by ASEAN member

governments. Surakiart also confirmed that the Royal Thai

Government (RTG) would continue its policy of \”constructive

engagement\” with the Burmese regime, although he said

privately that the RTG did not object to the

parliamentarians\’ public criticism of the military government

in Burma. End Summary.

 

2. (U) Thai Senator Kraisak Choonhavan, chairman of the

Senate Foreign Relations Committee, hosted a meeting on March

2-3 of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar (formerly Burma)

Caucus, which was formed in 2004. Parliamentarians from

Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines

met in Thailand to discuss strategies for promoting

democratic change in Burma. The informal Caucus consists of

elected representatives from five of the 10 ASEAN member

states. In the case of Malaysia, participation is from both

government and opposition members of parliament (MPs).

 

3. (U) At a press conference on March 2 attended by poloff,

Caucus Chairman Datuk Zaid Ibrahim of Malaysia admitted that

the group had encountered some skepticism about its chances

for changing the Burmese regime\’s dictatorial ways. But

Datuk stated that he and other ASEAN parliamentarians felt

that it was time for ASEAN to move past its stated policy of

strict \”non-interference\” in the internal political affairs

of member states in the case of Burma. Many of the Caucus

members acknowledged that each of their countries have

significant domestic problems, but Burma truly stands out in

ASEAN since there is not even a hint of democratic governance

or a free press, to say nothing of its egregious human rights

abuses. Rather than focus on the many abuses of the Burma

Army and the military government, Datuk said, the Caucus

hoped to focus on two issues first: unconditional release of

democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, and a complete review of

the upcoming ASEAN chairmanship of Burma. Other members of

the visiting Caucus delegation included Lim Kit Siang of

Malaysia, Nursyahbani Katjasu-gakana and Mulfahri Harahap of

Indonesia, Loretta Rosales of the Philippines, and Son Chhay

of Cambodia.

 

4. (SBU) Caucus members expressed their desire to visit

Rangoon as a group in the future. Some members, however,

speculated privately to poloff that they might not be able to

get a visa for Burma or at best be met with a polite, \”not

now, we\’re too busy\” from the generals. Son Chhay of

Cambodia said if the group did not go together, he would try

to visit alone and see ASSK. Son Chhay also threw out the

idea of having Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen help

negotiate with the SPDC in Burma. \”Sometimes it takes

another dictator to talk to a dictator,\” he said, noting that

Hun Sun would benefit from being seen in a good light as a

negotiator with the Burmese junta, if progress were made.

 

5. (C) On March 3, Caucus members met with Thai Foreign

Minister Surakiart. XXXXXXXXXXX advisor to Senator

Kraisak, described the 90-minute meeting as \”very open\”.

Participants included Thai MFA Permanent Secretary Krit (whom

Surakiart recently designated as his lead official for

exchanges with Burma), and representatives from ASEAN Affairs

and the International Organizations Departments. Surakiart

suggested to the group that they submit formal

recommendations to the ASEAN foreign ministers \”retreat\” that

will take place in Cebu, the Philippines next month.

Surakiart encouraged the Caucus to visit the regime in

Rangoon, but indicated that he thought a visit by Thai MPs

might be too sensitive at this time. XXXXXXXXX revealed that

Senator Kraisak and Datuk met privately with the FM after the

formal meeting with the larger Caucus group. XXXXXXXXX

XXXXXX, Burma desk officer at MFA, was present at the

larger meeting. When contacted by poloff afterwards, he

described the exchanges as \”constructive and

non-confrontational.\” He reported that the MPs had presented

their case for a more active role of ASEAN member countries

in pressing for the release of ASSK, for a more open and

participatory National Convention, and for review of the

qualifications of Burma for the ASEAN chairmanship.

According to XXXXXXX, FM Surakiart argued that it is

important not to give deadlines to the Burmese regime, as

this might prove counterproductive. Surakiart also said that

the ASEAN governments and the Caucus should agree on a

\”division of labor\”, with the Caucus doing the public work of

pressuring the regime and the RTG and others working behind

the scenes with the SPDC.

 

6. (C) Comment. The RTG is usually very sensitive about

press conferences at which foreign critics blast a

neighboring country, especially Burma, which it is trying to

cultivate. Perhaps in this case the relatively high

political stature of the visiting Caucus members kept the RTG

from interfering and opened the door at MFA for a meeting

with FM Surakiart. Clearly Surakiart and the Caucus were not

really in agreement, but the Thai MFA may see value in

facilitating the Caucus\’ public pressure on the SPDC (as

outlined by Surakiart). MFA may regard this as a means of

strengthening the Thai image of openness with the SPDC and

thus further its own search for new interlocutors in Rangoon

to replace ousted PM Khin Nyunt, who had been a key Thai

contact. End Comment.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 6, 2011 at 7:43 am

Posted in Burma, Confidential

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