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05BANGKOK3436 THAILAND SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF SECRETARY OF DEFENSE RUMSFELD

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“33220”,”5/25/2005 8:24″,”05BANGKOK3436″,

“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 003436

 

SIPDIS

 

DOD FOR SECRETARY RUMSFELD

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, EAP/BCLTV

PACOM FOR FPA HUSO

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/19/2015

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

SUBJECT: THAILAND SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF SECRETARY OF

DEFENSE RUMSFELD

 

Classified By: Charge Alexander A. Arvizu. Reason 1.4 (a and d)

 

SUMMARY

 

1. (C) Mr. Secretary, all of us in Bangkok look forward to

your visit as an opportunity to advance a number of key U.S.

foreign policy objectives. We have just finished our annual

Cobra Gold exercise — the only multilateral training

exercise in the Asia-Pacific region. This year\’s exercise

underscored the fact that 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

during the recent tsunami crisis was a direct result of

decades of joint combined exercises, training and

cooperation. We have requested meetings for you with Prime

Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (Prime Minister TOCK-SIN) and

Defense Minister Gen. Thamarak Isarangura Na Ayutthaya

(Minister TA-MA-ROCK). In those 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. Prime

Minister Thaksin is a key ally in the Global War on Terror

and would welcome your views on this subject as well as

developments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Thaksin will likely

share his opinions on his largest domestic challenge —

unrest in the predominantly Muslim provinces of southernmost

Thailand. Three other key foreign policy objectives can be

advanced during your visit:

 

— Iraq. CJCS Myers recently sent the Thai CHOD a letter

asking Thailand to send officers to the OIF Multinational

Headquarters. We await a response to that request. We have

also urged Thailand to make another deployment in support of

OIF, but have not received an official indication whether a

deployment is in the offing.

 

— F-16 Purchase. The MOD has indicated it plans to procure

18 new fighter aircraft to replace its aging F-5\’s.

Competitors include the Saab Gripen, SU-30 and the F-16 Block

52. Both Saab and Sukhoi have a head start on Lockheed

Martin in the competition and rumors abound that back room

deals favoring Russian planes may be in the works. Thaksin

has suggested any deal must be financed through barter trade,

which Lockheed Martin is willing to do. We are pressing the

Thai to allow F-16 to compete fairly with the Russian and

Swedish planes. It would be extremely helpful to Lockheed

Martin\’s bid if you were to reinforce points made recently by

Secretary Rice, Deputy Secretary Zoellick and others.

 

SIPDIS

 

— PSI. The Thai Foreign Minister has suggested that his

Government is close to endorsing the Proliferation Security

Initiative Statement of Interdiction Principles (PSI-SOP).

Nonetheless, the bureaucratic clearance process on

endorsement is moving slowly. Encouraging Thaksin to endorse

the SOP prior to the July Operational Experts Group meeting

in Copenhagen might prod the Thai Government to action on

this priority non-proliferation issue. End Summary

 

THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

 

2. (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. 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.

 

3. (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 2003 during a \”war on drugs\”

promoted by the Prime Minister, rankles the Thai Government.

 

4. (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.

Recently PM Thaksin has voiced growing frustration with

Rangoon and his Ministers tell us that Thai policy may become

less favorable towards Burma.

 

5. (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. Recent visitors have found PM Thaksin to be an

engaging interlocutor when discussing China — he would

likely welcome a chance to discuss China\’s role in the

region.

 

PM THAKSIN

 

6. (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).

 

7. (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

 

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

training programs with Thailand each year, including Cobra

Gold, our only joint/combined/multilateral exercise in the

Asia Pacific Region. 2005 marked the 24th year we\’ve held

Cobra Gold. Over that time, the exercise has transformed

from a bilateral effort aimed at training to deter a

conventional attack from Vietnam, to a multilateral exercise

aimed at enhancing peacekeeping and other skills. Cobra Gold

2005 had a special focus on disaster relief and included

observers and participants from over 20 nations as well as

representatives from numerous international relief agencies

and civilian governmental organizations. For the past five

years, Singapore has been a participant in the staff exercise

portion of Cobra Gold. In 2005, Japan agreed to participate

in the STAFFEX for the first time and is prepared to send

participants to Cobra Gold 2006 — illustrating the special

role Cobra Gold plays in promoting multilateral engagement in

Asia.

 

9. (C) Utapao, the Thai Naval Air Base used as the primary

staging area for U.S. tsunami 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, which was

operating off of Aceh at the time, participated. Our largest

naval exercise is the Combined Afloat Readiness and Training

(CARAT) series which will take place again in June.

 

THE TSUNAMI AFTERMATH AND COBRA GOLD

 

10. (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.

 

11. (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 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.

 

VIOLENCE IN THE SOUTH

 

12. (C) 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

 

SIPDIS

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.

 

13. (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 that recent RTG policies towards the

South have failed to halt the violence. Thaksin recently

appointed a National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) headed

by highly respected former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun

to look for althernative solutions to the long-running

insurgency, and has indicated that he might replace martial

law with something less harsh. 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. Since then there have

been no other attacks on foreign-owned targets. 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 current efforts 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. 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 Thaksin\’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

consistent with international human rights norms.

 

THAILAND AND IRAQ

 

14. (C) Thailand has played an important role in supporting

the Global War on Terror. In addition to capturing terrorist

mastermind Hambali — the link between the Jemaah Islamiah

and al Qaeda — Thailand sent troops to both Afghanistan and

Iraq. 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 asking Thailand to consider

sending staff officers to man the OIF Multinational

Headquarters. Although in recent meetings with PACOM

Commander ADM Fallon and Deputy Secretary of State Zoellick

Thaksin had said that he would consider some \”humanitarian\”

presence in Iraq, at a private dinner on May 12 with the

Ambassador, Thaksin seemed extremely sensitive to the issue,

particularly the symbolism that a Thai presence in Iraq would

have among Muslims in southern Thailand. Thaksin stressed

that as an ally Thailand supported the U.S. on Iraq, but

asked us to be sensitive to his own efforts to manage the

situation in Thailand\’s south. During your meetings with

Thaksin and Thamarak, you may wish to:

 

— Express appreciation for Thailand\’s previous deployments

to Afghanistan and Iraq;

— Ask whether Thailand would agree to send staff officers

to man the OIF Multinational Headquarters;

— Probe for details about what type of Thai follow-on

deployment might be possible;

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

them shape the deployment.

 

F-16 SALE

 

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

18 fighter aircraft to replace aging F-5s in the Royal Thai

Air Force (RTAF) fleet. Although the RTAF presently has 59

F-16s in its inventory, 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. In his

meetings with ADM Fallon and Deputy Secretary Zoellick,

Thaksin indicated that a successful bid on the fighter

contract would have to include barter trade. Lockheed Martin

subsequently made clear that it was willing to offer the same

attractive barter deal that the Russians or Swedes offer.

Lockheed Martin met with Ministry of Commerce officials for

the first time to discuss barter trade on May 24 and plans to

follow up shortly with a meeting with the Commerce Minister

to assure him that Thailand is prepared to offer the same

sort of financing package as Saab or Sukhoi. RTAF officers

generally support the F-16 Block 52 in the competition

although rumors abound that the RTAF commander is leaning

heavily towards purchasing Russian planes. We have been

making a full court press on Thaksin asking him to ensure

that his Commerce and Defense Ministries give Lockheed

Martin\’s bid the same serious consideration they are giving

Saab and Sukhoi. This point has been made by Secretary Rice,

Deputy Secretary Zoellick and ADM Fallon. The Embassy

believes that pressure from senior U.S. officials like

yourself is essential for 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:

 

— Stress our desire for Lockheed Martin to compete in an

fair competition with the Swedes and Russians.

— Note Lockheed Martin\’s willingness to conduct barter

trade involving Thai agricultural products and other items.

— Point out the interoperability and technology transfer

advantages F-16 has over SU-30 or Gripen and how it is the

best choice to defend Thailand.

 

PROLIFERATION SECURITY INITIATIVE (PSI)

 

16 (C) After a year and a half of lobbying from the U.S.

and others, Thailand apparently has made the basic policy

decision to be more supportive of the Proliferation Security

Initiative (PSI) and is moving through the final steps

towards endorsement of the PSI Statement of Interdiction

Principles (SOP). However, despite recent assurances by both

the Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister that official

Thai endorsement of PSI awaits only final Cabinet approval,

the Royal Thai Government has failed to move forward with the

initiative. Prime Minister Thaksin\’s final scrutiny of the

decision will be key, and his endorsement cannot be taken for

granted given his mercurial decision making style. An action

driving event might be the upcoming PSI Operational Experts

Group (OEG) meeting in Copenhagen in July. If Thailand

endorses the SOP prior to that meeting, it will be allowed to

participate with other PSI endorsing countries. In your

meeting with PM Thaksin, you may wish to:

 

— Welcome the Thai Foreign Minister\’s recent suggestion to

Secretary Rice that Thailand will soon endorse the PSI SOP.

 

SIPDIS

— Note the importance of the upcoming OEG meeting in

Copenhagen in July and express our hope that Thailand

endorses the PSI principles prior to that meeting.

 

ARVIZU

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Written by thaicables

July 7, 2011 at 5:26 am

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