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05BANGKOK2749 SCENESETTER FOR VISIT OF PACOM CDR ADM FALLON

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“31271”,”4/22/2005 2:34″,”05BANGKOK2749″,

 

“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 05 BANGKOK 002749

 

SIPDIS

 

PACOM FOR ADM FALLON, FPA HUSO

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV

OSD/ISA FOR POWERS AND STERN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 18APRIL2015

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MARR, MASS, TH, Scenesetter

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR VISIT OF PACOM CDR ADM FALLON

 

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

 

SUMMARY

 

1. (C) Admiral Fallon, your visit to Bangkok to meet with

Thai leaders and Chiang Mai to open this year\’s Cobra Gold

exercise will allow you an opportunity to push forward a

number of key U.S. foreign policy objectives. We have

requested meetings for you with Prime Minister Thaksin

Shinawatra (Prime Minister TOCK-SIN), Foreign Minister

Kantathi Suphamongkhon (Minister KAN-THA-TEE), Defense

Minister Gen. Thamarak Isarangura Na Ayutthaya (Minister

TA-MA-ROCK), Royal Thai Supreme Commander Gen. Chaisit

Shinawatra (General CHAI-SIT) and the Secretary General of

the National Security Council General Winai Phattiyakhul

(General WEE-NAI). In these meetings, you can point to the

critical U.S. military role in providing assistance to

Thailand and the other tsunami-hit nations in the region as

evidence that the United States remains engaged in Southeast

Asia and is committed to our treaty obligations here. Since

Cobra Gold this year will focus on lessons learned from our

recent experience mitigating the impact of the tsunami, it

will be appropriate for you to drive home a key lesson

learned: the quick ramping up of our regional hub at Utapao

Royal Thai Navy Air Base and our military\’s ability to

interact rapidly with Thai counterparts is a direct result of

decades of joint combined exercises, training and cooperation

between Thailand and the United States. The largest domestic

challenge facing the Royal Thai Government remains unrest in

the predominantly Muslim provinces of southernmost Thailand.

While emphasizing the U.S. assessment that the violence there

remains in internal matter for the Thais to resolve, you can

quietly underscore our willingness to help by improving the

human rights training of Thai soldiers rotating into the

south and offering other assistance to Thai troops.

 

2. (C) CJCS Myers recently sent General Chaisit a letter

urging Thailand to send officers to the OIF Multinational

Headquarters. It would be helpful for you to ask your

interlocutors how Thailand intends to answer General Myers\’

request and to ask whether Thailand intends to commit another

deployment of troops to the Iraq region. Our bilateral

mil-mil dialogue with Thailand, Thai-Tac, should be enhanced.

Your visit can drive home points made by the PACOM J-5

recently by asking Thai military leaders to revitalize

Thai-Tac and make it more strategically focused on key issues

such as Regional Maritime Security, the growing role of China

and India in the region, defense modernization and other

issues. For the first time since the Asian financial crisis

of 1997, Thailand is considering a big-ticket military

hardware purchase. In the coming months, Thailand will

likely announce its intention to select from 18 Saab Gripens,

SU-30\’s or F-16\’s to replace aging F-5s in its fighter

aircraft inventory. It would be extremely helpful to

Lockheed Martin\’s bid for the fighter contract if you were to

note the clear advantage F-16 has over the competition from

an interoperability standpoint and mention our desire that

F-16 receives a fair assessment from the Thai Air Force. End

Summary

 

THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

 

3. (C) Bilateral relations with Thailand are very good.

The goodwill generated by America\’s quick and massive

response to the December 26 tsunami is palpable. Thailand is

a Treaty Ally and has been firmly supportive of the

International War on Terror and has participated in Operation

Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

American businesses have over $20 billion in direct

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

largest export market and its second-largest foreign

investor.

 

4. (C) Nonetheless, there are several points of friction.

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

poorly trained Thai military and civilian security forces

forced nearly 1,300 Thai Muslim protesters into trucks to be

transported to a military base nearly three hours away. 78

protesters died en route. The State Department\’s annual

human rights report (HRR), which in 2004 voiced concern over

the lack of accountability for approximately 1,300

extrajudicial killings in the initial 2003 phase of a Thai

\”war on drugs\” promoted by the Prime Minister, rankles the

Thai Government.

 

5. (C) Thailand\’s policy of \”constructive engagement\” with

the military junta in Burma and provision of economic

assistance to Rangoon is a source of continuing frustration

for us. The Thai government supports democracy in Burma but

maintains, not altogether convincingly, that engagement with

the SPDC is the only realistic approach it has to make

progress on the major cross-border flows of refugees, illegal

economic migrants, and methamphetamines it faces from Burma.

 

6. (C) It surprises many visitors from Washington to learn

that the Thai military has a number of Chinese weapons

systems in its arsenal. While Thai military links with the

United States are deeper and far more apparent than Sino-Thai

links, China\’s growing influence in Thailand and Southeast

Asia is evident in business, the arts, the media and the

military.

 

PM THAKSIN

 

7. (SBU) 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 and controls 377

of the 500 seats in Parliament. Thaksin won reelection in a

landslide victory on February 6th. Thaksin comes from a

prosperous Sino-Thai family in Thailand\’s second largest

city, Chiang Mai, 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 telecom company, making

himself a multi-billionaire (in US dollars).

 

8. (C) Thaksin considers himself a personal friend of the

President, drawing on their common Texas connections. He

characterizes himself as a \”CEO Prime Minister\” and likes to

be known for being decisive. He is also impulsive. His

critics accuse him of authoritarian tendencies, of staffing

the major institutions of the country with his family members

or classmates, and of reinforcing the business interests of

family and political allies through government policies. Of

note, Chaisit Shinawatra, the Royal Thai Supreme Commander,

is Thaksin\’s cousin; Chaisit was previously leapfrogged by

the Prime Minister into the Army Commander position.

 

MILITARY COOPERATION

 

9. (C) We conduct a wide range of major exercises and

training programs with Thailand each year, including Cobra

Gold, the annual exercise which in 2004 involved

approximately 13,500 U.S. service members and 6,000 Thais.

Cobra Gold 2005 will be smaller than last year, primarily due

to U.S. commitments elsewhere and the large number of U.S.

forces sent to the region for tsunami relief. Utapao, the

Thai Navy Air Base used as the primary staging area for U.S.

disaster relief efforts in the region, has long been a

critical support hub for U.S. aircraft transiting the region.

Over 420 DoD aircraft use it each year. From January 25

until February 4, we conducted our largest air exercise with

the Thai, Cope Tiger. This year, F-18\’s from the USS Abraham

Lincoln participated. Our largest naval exercise is the

Combined Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) series which

will take place again in June. Recently, a number of senior

U.S. military officials have visited Thailand — then-Deputy

Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz visited in January, Seventh

 

SIPDIS

Fleet Commander VADM Greenert came in February and March,

SOCPAC Commander BG Fridovich was in Thailand April 17-20,

13th AF Maj.Gen. Rice came to Bangkok April 20-22, and

JIATF-West Commander Admiral Rear Admiral Kelly visited April

20-24. USARPAC CG, LTG Brown, plans to visit the week after

your trip to Thailand.

 

A NOTE ON THAI MILITARY STRUCTURE

 

10. (C) The relative power and influence of the Royal Thai

Army (RTA) dwarfs the other services. As such, the Royal

Thai Army Commander traditionally wields more real power than

the Supreme Commander. General Chaisit was the head of the

RTA until the military reshuffle last October. His

\”promotion\” to head Supreme Command is viewed by many as the

result of Thaksin\’s displeasure with Chaisit\’s inability to

quickly control the unrest in the southern part of the

country. In October, Thaksin named Deputy Supreme Commander

Sirichai Thanyasiri (General SUR-A-CHAI) to take over

strategic planning for the south. Thailand\’s armed forces,

which had a history of interfering in the country\’s politics,

have not emerged from the barracks since 1992 and appear to

be fully reconciled to constitutional roles of defense and

security. Their exposure to US civil-military values through

their extensive participation in IMET training deserves some

credit for this transformation of their attitude towards

democracy.

 

THE TSUNAMI AFTERMATH AND COBRA GOLD

 

11. (U) The massive rescue and recovery operation

undertaken by the U.S. military as a result of the December

26 tsunami was historic. Mercifully, U.S. casualties were

much lighter (about two dozen confirmed or presumed dead)

than those suffered by other countries. Thousands of Thai,

Europeans and other Asians were killed in the Phuket area —

a haven for vacationers during the holiday season. Total

fatalities will likely never be known; the official number is

about 5,400 but Thai officials privately say they expect the

final death toll to top 8,000. One of the most devastated

areas in Thailand was the Phang Nga Naval Base. Phang Nga

represents the only strategic naval facility on Thailand\’s

Andaman Sea west coast. Pier facilities, the water treatment

plant, barracks and communications capabilities were badly

damaged by the tsunami.

 

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

military, had an immediate impact on affected areas in

Thailand. III MEF Commander, Lt. Gen. Robert Blackman, was

the commanding general of Combined Support Force 536 (CSF

536), which was based out of Utapao. CSF 536 worked closely

with the Embassy and JUSMAGTHAI 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. In addition to permitting

our use of Utapao, the Royal Thai Government integrated Thai

officers into the CSF staff where needed. During the height

of operations, over 1800 USG personnel operated out of

Utapao. We distributed over 660,000 pounds of supplies within

Thailand including medicine, food, dry ice and body bags.

USAF C-130s made regular delivery runs from Utapao and

Bangkok to affected areas for time sensitive supplies while

bulk shipments tended to go overland. USN P-3s 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 CDC, 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. From the

beginning of the disaster, the Defense Attache Office painted

the intel picture for commanders, forces, planners, and

national decision makers. Embassy Bangkok provided 24-hour

American Citizens Services for weeks after the crisis to

assist Americans, claim Amcit remains and coordinate USG

relief efforts.

 

13. (C) CSF 536\’s concept of operations set up Utapao as

the hub for U.S. relief efforts bound for Sri Lanka, and

Indonesia in addition to Thailand. In each of those

countries, Combined Support Groups (CSG) were established 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

reconstruction efforts in Thailand are being managed by the

Embassy, JUSMAGTHAI, and USAID. 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. At least

one COMREL project conducted as part of Cobra Gold 05 will

take place in the tsunami-devastated region.

 

14. (C) Cobra Gold 2005 will consist of a one week disaster

relief seminar for military, government civilians and NGOs,

aimed at capturing some lessons learned from the tsunami

mitigation effort followed by a one-week staff exercise in

Chiang Mai focused on a disaster relief scenario. In your

discussions with Thai officials, it will be appropriate for

you to underscore the fact that our successes in mitigating

the damage caused by the tsunami were due in no small part to

the decades of military cooperation between our two

countries, cooperation that is perhaps best symbolized by the

annual Cobra Gold exercise. By focusing Cobra Gold 05 on

disaster relief, we hope to capture the lessons learned by

U.S., Thai, Japanese and Singaporean units who participated

in Operation Unified Assistance and improve our ability to

respond to future disasters.

VIOLENCE IN THE SOUTH

15. (C) Besides dealing with the tsunami aftermath, Prime

Minister Thaksin\’s biggest domestic challenge is the

unsettled security situation in the far southern part of the

country. Southern Thailand, in particular the southernmost

Muslim majority provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat,

has experienced episodic violence since it was incorporated

into the Siamese Kingdom in 1902. However, 2004 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 isolated

shootings of local officials, although increasingly

sophisticated bombing attacks have become more common. While

there is no credible evidence of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) or

al-Qaeda direction of the violence, there is concern that

they might attempt to exploit the local violence for their

own purposes.

 

16. (C) Thaksin has recently acknowledged that the problem

in Thailand\’s south is not simply the work of criminal gangs

as he once declared, and is an issue that potentially reaches

beyond Thailand\’s borders. Last December, Thaksin claimed

publicly during a radio address that Thai militants are

training in Malaysia and that Indonesian extremists are

instigating some of the violence. This rather clumsy public

assertion offended the two fellow ASEAN governments. Thaksin

is not likely to ask for direct U.S. assistance as the RTG

maintains — as do we — that the southern situation is

primarily a domestic issue. Until recently, this violence

was directed primarily at RTG institutions with no evidence

of attacks directed towards foreign interests. On April 3,

however, simultaneous bombs exploded outside a French-owned

Carrefour supermarket in Songkla\’s Hat Yai City and at the

Hat Yai airport, killing two persons. Thai officials may

ask you for U.S. equipment and technology such as UAVs to

support efforts to monitor militant movements in the south.

We recommend you be receptive but noncommittal, and suggest

that technical experts follow up. You may also wish to point

to our plans to improve human rights training for Thai

soldiers and officers who will rotate to the south. We are

working with U.S. experts to develop a multi-faceted training

program to educate enlisted soldiers, mid-level officers and

senior Thai leadership. It would be prudent to keep in mind

that Thaksin — and most Thais — are sensitive about any

perception that the U.S. wants to establish a security

presence in the south. Outrageous but widely circulated

rumors that the U.S. has fomented violence in the South also

need to be considered when discussing offers of possible U.S.

assistance. In your meetings, you may wish to:

 

–Seek your interlocutor\’s assessment of the situation in the

south and to ask what the Thai strategy is to bring the

situation under control;

–Point out our desire that any Thai security response be

conducted while respecting international human rights norms

and explain the negative consequences associated with

incidents like Tak Bai.

 

THAILAND AND IRAQ

 

17. (C) Thailand dispatched two deployments to Iraq as part

of OIF. 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 on September 20, 2004. While participation in OIF has

not caused the domestic furor in Thailand that it has in

other countries, Thaksin\’s critics have used Thailand\’s

deployments to Iraq against him. Several RTG officials have

told us that Thailand\’s deployments have been used by

militants to stir up dissent in the Muslim south. Recently,

CJCS General Myers sent a letter to General Chaisit asking

Thailand to consider sending staff officers to man the OIF

Multinational Headquarters. It would be appropriate for you

to ask your interlocutors how they intend to answer General

Myers\’ request. Similarly, during your meetings with senior

Thai officials, you may wish to:

 

–Express appreciation for Thailand\’s previous deployments to

Afghanistan and Iraq;

–Explain that the Administration hopes Thailand will

consider a follow-on deployment in support of OIF;

–Assure RTG leaders that U.S. military experts will help

them shape the deployment.

STRATEGIC TALKS

18. (C) PACOM J-5 led our delegation during the week of

October 18 in our annual mil-mil strategic talks with

Thailand, Thai-Tac. It became clear over the course of those

talks that they could be improved by focusing less on arcane

details or minor disagreements between staff officers and

more on strategic issues. Both sides agreed that Thai-Tac

2005, scheduled to be held in Honolulu this fall, should

focus more on strategic issues –leaving tactical issues for

staff officers to resolve. During you conversations at Royal

Thai Supreme Command, you may wish to:

 

–Express our hopes that Thai-Tac in the future focuses on

key strategic issues such as RMSI, the rise of China and

India, force modernization and other issues.

 

INTEL COOPERATION

 

19. (C) Your J2 valiantly tried to implement an

Intelligence Modernization Program with the Royal Thai Armed

Forces during the past year. However, the Thai military

intelligence community stiff-armed the offer, primarily on

the questionable grounds that the individual services do not

want or need to be part of the joint approach offered by

USPACOM. This helps illustrate a problem the Thai military

— and the Thai Government — has in dealing with the

southern insurgency, i.e., excessive stovepiping of

information and insufficient sharing within the Armed Forces

or with other agencies. While our bilateral intel

relationship is good, it can be improved, especially at the

military-to-military level. In discussing intelligence

matters with your interlocutors, it may be useful to remember

that Defense Minister Thamarak has a strong intelligence

background. In your meetings with the Supreme Commander and

the Minister of Defense you may wish to:

 

–Underscore lessons the U.S. Government has learned about

intelligence cooperation and the necessity to link

intelligence together from the military services, Joint

Commands, and other Agencies;

–Offer for your J2 to re-engage with the Thai J2 and service

intelligence chiefs to raise the mil-mil intel relationship

to a more mature level.

 

F-16 SALE

 

20. (C) Thailand recently announced its plans to purchase

18 fighter aircraft to replace aging F-5s in the RTAF fleet.

Although the RTAF presently has 59 F-16s in its inventory,

press reports indicate that the RTG is leaning towards

purchasing Saab Gripens or SU-30s because of a belief (which

we have worked to overcome) that Saab or Sukhoi can offer a

better business deal to Thailand. Recently, Lockheed Martin

executives have made it clear to Thai decision makers that

their company will put together a countertrade package equal

to up to 100 percent of the purchase price of any aircraft.

This promise has allowed RTAF officers — who generally

support the F-16 Block 52 in the competition — to start

putting together a package outlining options for the purchase

for the RTAF commander\’s approval. While rumors are rife

that some senior Thai Air Force officers may be receiving

compensation from one of the other two competitors to support

their bids, the Embassy believes that pressure from senior

U.S. officials like yourself can improve Lockheed Martin\’s

prospects. It is our belief that a transparent competition

that takes into consideration capability of the aircraft,

interoperability with U.S. forces and cost would result in

F-16 winning the contract. It would be extremely helpful in

this effort if you would:

 

–Point out the interoperability advantages F-16 has over

SU-30 or Gripen and how it is the best choice to defend

Thailand.

 

IN CLOSING

 

21. (SBU) Thank you for seeing me in Honolulu.

Congratulations again on assuming your new command, and I

look forward to welcoming you to Thailand.

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 7, 2011 at 5:16 am

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