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06BANGKOK1215 SENATOR FEINGOLD’S MEETING WITH FOREIGN MINISTER KANTATHI

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“54698”,”2/28/2006 23:43″,”06BANGKOK1215″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN”,””,

“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 001215

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, EAP/MLS, PRM, H

PACOM FOR FPA (HUSO)

 

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

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, TH, Southern Thailand, Refugee, Hmong, BURMA, LAOS, US-Thai FTA, ASEAN, China, Iran, IRAQ

SUBJECT: SENATOR FEINGOLD\’S MEETING WITH FOREIGN MINISTER

KANTATHI

 

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

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In a February 20 meeting with Senator

Russell Feingold (D-WI), Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi

Suphamongkhon discussed the ongoing violence in southern

Thailand; ASEAN; the U.S.-Thai FTA; China; and perceptions of

the U.S. Senator Feingold emphasized the strong nature of

the U.S.-Thai relationship and thanked the Thai government

for cooperation following the 2004 tsunami and for Thai

assistance in relocating Hmong refugees to the U.S. However,

he expressed concern over the case of 27 Hmong children and

Thailand\’s Burma policy. END SUMMARY

 

VISIT HIGHLIGHTS STRONG BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

——————————————— –

 

2. (SBU) On February 20, Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI)

and Ambassador Boyce called on Thai Foreign Minister Kantathi

Suphamongkhon. Senator Feingold praised the deep

relationship between the U.S. and Thailand, and thanked the

Foreign Minister for past Thai contributions to Afghanistan

and Iraq. He noted that the large ethnic Hmong population in

Wisconsin gave him a special connection to the region.

Kantathi agreed that joint Thai-U.S. assistance to the region

following the December 2004 tsunami demonstrated the

multi-dimensional nature of the U.S.-Thai relationship. That

relationship had been positively reaffirmed during Prime

Minister Thaksin\’s meeting with the President in September

2005.

 

SOUTHERN SITUATION REMAINS A DOMESTIC ISSUE

——————————————-

 

3. (SBU) Senator Feingold asked the Foreign Minister for his

assessment of the current situation in far southern Thailand.

Kantathi noted that five percent of the Thai population was

Muslim and — with the exception of the Muslims in the three

provinces along the Malaysian border — were well integrated

into Thai society. He repeatedly emphasized that the problem

in the South was a domestic issue and that there was no link

to international terrorists. While some of the violence was

being carried out by separatists insurgents, many attacks

were being carried out by narcotics traffickers or other

criminal gangs who were using the insurgency as cover.

 

4. (SBU) Kantathi said the RTG was trying to address the

violence by arresting and prosecuting identifiable insurgents

while simultaneously working to counter separatist

propaganda. He expressed concern that separatists were

cynically using religion to manipulate Muslim youth. To

counter this propaganda, the RTG was expanding programs that

emphasize moderate Islam and was focusing on educational

reforms that emphasize job skills. \”The goal is to make the

South a place where Buddhists and Muslims can live together

peacefully.\” Many ethnic Malays in the South \”feel more

Malaysian than Thai.\” Relations with Malaysia had been

strained due to the violence and the flight of 131 Thais to

Malaysian territory in 2005, but were improving. Thailand

was reaching out to Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as Middle

Eastern countries, to bring moderate voices of Islam to the

region. The recent visit of Jordan\’s King Abdullah was part

of that effort.

 

5. (SBU) Responding to the Senator\’s inquiries as to the

progress of the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC),

Kantathi said the government was working with the NRC, but

cautioned that they would \”wait to see if the commission\’s

goals matched up to the government\’s.\” The Senator expressed

concern over reports of extrajudicial killings. Kantathi

acknowledged that there had been instances where individual

local police and soldiers had used unnecessary violence —

citing the Krue Se Mosque incident of April 2004 as an

example. The government was working to rein in these rogue

elements while maintaining law and order in the region.

 

HMONG REFUGEES – CONCERN OVER 27 CHILDREN

—————————————–

 

6. (SBU) Senator Feingold thanked the RTG for previous

cooperation in the resettlement of Lao Hmong refugees from

Thailand to the U.S., but expressed concern over the 27 Hmong

children who had been separated from the families in Thailand

and returned to Laos. Kantathi said they were working

closely with Lao Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavat on

the issue of the 27 children. The Lao were very sensitive

about the issue and Somsavat was personally \”upset\” over the

U.S. handling of the children. Kantathi insisted that the

children would be brought back to Thailand as \”a temporary

measure.\” He was concerned that the children and other

resettlement efforts were acting as a \”pull-factor\” that was

encouraging illegal immigration into Thailand. Senator

Feingold and the Foreign Minister agreed that continued

cooperation and a common message from the RTG and USG were

important to resolve this issue.

 

BURMA – CONCERN OVER LACK OF PROGRESS

————————————-

 

7. (SBU) Senator Feingold expressed concern over the

situation in Burma — particularly the continued detention of

Aung San Suu Kyi — noting it was an issue that united the

U.S. Congress. Kantathi said that Prime Minister Thaksin and

other ASEAN leaders had been critical of the Burmese regime\’s

lack of progress during the recent ASEAN summit and had

agreed that a Malaysian delegation would go to Burma to check

on national reconciliation efforts. Originally the visit had

been scheduled for January, however, the Burmese had

postponed the visit. Kantathi assured the Senator that he

was working hard to communicate the dissatisfaction of the

international community to the Burmese regime and would

continue to use their \”open channel\” to the Burmese senior

leadership.

 

ASEAN – MOVING FORWARD

———————-

 

8. (SBU) Turning to ASEAN, Kantathi said the Enhanced

Partnership with the U.S. was at the forefront of Thai ASEAN

policy. Kantathi said the ASEAN Foreign Minister\’s meeting

with Secretary Rice in New York had been very productive.

ASEAN had committed itself to the creation of an ASEAN

Community by 2015, instead of 2020, and were proceeding with

ASEAN Free Trade zone.

 

FTA – NO MOVEMENT

—————–

 

9. (SBU) Senator Feingold cautioned Kantathi over the lack

of forward progress on the FTA, noting that many Members of

congress had reservations about free trade agreements (and

will have more difficulty supporting an FTA in an election

season). Kantathi agreed that both sides were interested in

a \”fair\” agreement.

 

CHINA – A COMPETITOR AND PARTNER

——————————–

 

10. (SBU) Kantathi described China as both a potential

competitor as well as a partner. The Thais believe that

China was taking a peaceful approach to the region and that

the Thai-China relationship was \”healthy.\” Thailand

understood that China would continue to grow more

economically powerful, but believed a resurgent China was not

a security threat.

 

PERCEPTION OF THE U.S. – IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN

———————————————

 

11. (SBU) Feingold asked Kantathi how the U.S. was

perceived in the region. Kantathi said that overall the U.S.

had a positive image in Thailand, however, the Thai people

had mixed feelings about U.S. involvement in Iraq and

Afghanistan. Some supported decisive U.S. action, while

others were concerned that the actions are helping Al-Qaeda

recruitment efforts. The RTG was particularly concerned over

the situation in Iraq. \”We don\’t see a light at the end of

the tunnel.\” The Thai government would continue to work with

the U.S., but a future deployment of Thai troops to the Iraq

or Afghanistan was out of the question due to sensitivities

over the situation in southern Thailand.

 

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

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:16 am

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