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06BANGKOK1176 SENATOR FEINGOLD’S MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER THAKSIN

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“54417″,”2/27/2006 9:34″,”06BANGKOK1176″,

 

“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 03 BANGKOK 001176

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, EAP/MLS, H

PACOM FOR FPA (HUSO)

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/19/2015

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, TH, BURMA, Hmong, Refugee, Southern Thailand, HUMAN RIGHTS, China, POL/MIL, US-Thai FTA

SUBJECT: SENATOR FEINGOLD\’S MEETING WITH PRIME MINISTER

THAKSIN

 

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

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: On February 20, Senator Russell Feingold

(D-WI) accompanied by Ambassador Boyce called on Prime

Minister Thaksin. Thaksin said the relationship with the

U.S., as exemplified by our close cooperation following the

December 2004 tsunami, was excellent. The discussion focused

on violence in southern Thailand; the disappearance of human

rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphajit and other human rights

concerns; F-16s, Hmong refugees from Laos; and Thaksin\’s

domestic political challenges. Senator Feingold expressed

serious concern over the situation in Burma. END SUMMARY

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND – THAKSIN PLAYS COP

————————————-

 

2. (C) During a February 20 meeting with Prime Minister

Thaksin at Government House, Senator Feingold expressed

concern over the ongoing violence affecting far southern

Thailand and asked for the Prime Minister\’s assessment of the

situation as well as his plans to work with the National

Reconciliation Commission (NRC). Thaksin emphasized that

there was no evidence of intentional terrorist involvement in

the South and that Malay separatism was a primary factor

behind the violence. There was a committed group of armed

militants who used separatist propaganda about the unique

history of the region to manipulate youths to fight for an

independent homeland.

 

3. (C) Thaksin claimed the government and the NRC were now

\”heading in the same direction,\” after the NRC\’s initial

failure to understand the complexity of the situation. The

NRC believed the violence was rooted in the deep feeling of

\”injustice\” felt by southern Muslims who felt that they had

been mistreated historically by the Thai state. Both he and

the NRC understood that they needed to address the concerns

of ethnic Malay Thais. \”We need to look into their hearts.\”

 

4. (C) When asked about reports of heavy-handed tactics in

the South, Thaksin defended Thai security practices. He

described the Krue Se incident of April 2004 as an instance

of security forces being involved in \”hot pursuit\” of

militants. The Tak Bai incident of October 2005 was the

result of a lack of proper military transportation. The

deaths at Tak Bai resulted from suffocation, and not from the

actions of security forces. He blamed the militants for

deliberately manipulating the Tak Bai incident in order to

provoke a dramatic confrontation with security forces.

 

5. (SBU) Thaksin said economic underdevelopment was a

factor in the violence because of resentment among ethnic

Malays of the better economic conditions on the Malaysian

side of the border. The Islamic education system contributed

to the poor economic conditions in the region because Islamic

schools did not equip their graduates with job skills.

 

6. (C) Thaksin boasted several times that he had personally

interrogated some of the captured militants. Most had been

manipulated by separatist ideas or paid to commit violence.

There was absolutely no evidence of connections between the

captured militants and JI or Al-Qaeda. Thaksin claimed that

under questioning the captured militants readily confessed

their involvement in the insurgency and that harsh

interrogation techniques were not required to obtain

information from them.

 

SOMCHAI – \”A HEART ATTACK DURING QUESTIONING\”

———————————————

 

7. (C) Senator Feingold asked about the investigation into

the disappearance of human rights lawyer Somchai Neelaphajit.

Thaksin said the inquiry into the disappearance would finish

in mid-March and that additional arrest warrants of police

officers would be issued by the Department of Special

Investigation (DSI). The findings so far implicated some

mid-level police officers in the disappearance. The police

allegedly brought Somchai to the Criminal Suppression

Division for questioning. While under interrogation Somchai

had a heart attack and died. After the heart attack police

panicked and took Somchai\’s remains outside of Bangkok where

the body was incinerated. The police did not know Somchai

had a heart condition. Thaksin claimed that Somchai had not

been interrogated harshly, however, the police were unaware

he had a heart condition and Somchai was without his heart

medication. Thaksin emphasized that these actions were from

\”working level officers.\”

 

EJK

 

8. (C) Senator Feingold asked for an explanation of reports

that Thai security forces had been involved in other

extra-judicial killings, especially during the 2003 \”war on

drugs.\” Thaksin denied these reports, saying that Thai

forces respected the rule of law. The number of killings

during the \”war on drugs\” had been exaggerated and most

involved drug kingpins \”cutting-off\” underlings in order to

silence them. Thaksin complained that media reports,

especially the Thai English language press, were unfairly

critical and unreliable. \”The papers are readable, but not

quotable.\”

 

BURMA AND ASSK

————–

 

9. (C) Senator Feingold asked about current Thai policies

towards Burma and strongly urged additional Thai efforts to

press for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK). Thaksin

said that ASEAN leaders had used tough language with the

Burmese during the December 2005 ASEAN summit, a first for

ASEAN. He complained that the Burmese had failed to tell

even ASEAN members about their plans to move their capital.

Thaksin offered Bangkok as a possible venue for the Burmese

regime to engage with the international community. Senator

Feingold emphasized the importance of Thai engagement with

the Burmese to secure the release of ASSK. Thaksin said the

SPDC would not hold ASSK \”forever\” but would wait until after

the national reconciliation process was finished. After

being pressed, Thaksin he said he would try to talk to Than

Shwe personally about ASSK.

 

HMONG REFUGEES

————–

 

10. (C) Senator Feingold thanked the Prime Minister for

Thailand\’s cooperation on Hmong refugees, especially the

recent case involving 27 Hmong children. Thaksin said that

the Lao were difficult to work with and acted defensively.

The case of the 27 children was a good example of this. He

complained that illegal immigration from Laos was an ongoing

problem for Thailand.

 

REGIONAL SECURITY, CHINA

————————

 

11. (C) Thaksin said that Thailand was concerned about

piracy in the Strait of Malacca and would support collective

security efforts, although it remained primarily an issue for

the littoral states. He noted that pirates from Aceh were of

particular concern. Regarding China, Thaksin said bilateral

relations were very close, particularly under his

administration.

 

FTA

 

12. (SBU) Thaksin said he wanted a \”fair\” FTA with the

U.S., suggesting it would require sacrifices from both sides

in order to enjoy the overall benefits an FTA would bring.

He quipped, \”you Americans like won-ton soup, but you don\’t

like one-ton pickups.\” The negotiations with the U.S. are

very complicated, especially the areas regarding

pharmaceuticals and financial services. The Bank of Thailand

was particularly worried about some of the FTA\’s financial

services provisions.

 

F-16s

—–

 

13. (SBU) Senator Feingold made a strong push for the Thais

to purchase/upgrade U.S. F-16s rather than Swedish or Russian

aircraft. Thaksin said he had asked the Royal Thai Air Force

(RTAF) Commander Chalit for a final recommendation, which he

expected within a week. Thailand was seriously looking at

Russian planes was because the Russians were offering a

barter deal and because the sale would open up new markets to

Thai agricultural exports. Thaksin said there were two

components to the aircraft deal — mid-life upgrades for

existing F-16s and procurement of some new aircraft to

replace the RTAF\’s aging F-5s. The RTAF would purchase

mid-life upgrades for a number of F-16s, but Thailand would

not buy new U.S. aircraft unless a better deal was offered.

Thaksin believed the purchase of Russian aircraft should not

affect cooperation with the U.S. Ambassador Boyce reminded

Thaksin that a purchase of Russian aircraft could in fact

affect technology transfers and raise questions over

interoperability with U.S. forces. Thaksin said access to

technology was very important for Thailand and urged the U.S.

to offer better terms.

 

PERCEPTIONS OF THE U.S.

———————-

 

14. (SBU) Thaksin highlighted the overall positive image of

the U.S. in Thailand, noting that many Thais — including

both he and the Foreign Minister — were the products of the

U.S. educational system. Most Thais did not have strong

opinions about the U.S. war on terror; however, there was a

general negative feeling about the U.S. invasion of Iraq,

especially among Thai Muslims.

 

POLITICAL CHALLENGES IN THAILAND

——————————–

 

15. (SBU) Senator Feingold asked the Prime Minister about

recent challenges from opposition figures to his government.

Thaksin downplayed opposition efforts to oust him, calling

recent protests \”part of the normal democratic process.\”

Thai political elites got bored quickly because of the

history of short lived governments in the past. His rural

base remained strong, and even in Bangkok he still enjoyed

more support than the opposition. An extraordinary session

of parliament would be convened on March 6, followed by a

debate from March 8-10, in order to refute opposition charges.

 

16. (U) Senator Feingold\’s office cleared this message.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:09 am

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