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06BANGKOK1236 SCENESETTER FOR VISIT OF PACFLT COMMANDER ADM ROUGHEAD

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“54751”,”3/1/2006 10:25″,”06BANGKOK1236″,

 

“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 001236

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

PACFLEET FOR ADM ROUGHEAD

PACOM FOR FPA HUSO

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/01/2016

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

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR VISIT OF PACFLT COMMANDER ADM

ROUGHEAD

 

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

 

1. (C) Gary, your trip to Bangkok will take place as Prime

Minister Thaksin faces his most serious political crisis

since taking office. Speculation about the future of his

government will likely arise during all of your meetings. We

are asking all U.S. visitors meeting with Thai officials to

urge respect for the democratic process and to stress the

importance of showing restraint and using peaceful methods.

Your visit remains a terrific opportunity to improve our

links with the Royal Thai Navy. Jonathan Greenert is here

now and the Thai are excited about the possibility of more

USN ship visits, possibly to include the USS Abraham Lincoln

Battle Group in April. Our military-to-military relationship

is strong. Nonetheless, our relationship with the Royal Thai

Navy could be improved. We hope during your stay that you

will be able to promote several issues such as our desire for

better cooperation with Thailand in maritime security as well

as flag key benefits of U.S.-Thai cooperation such as the

growing professionalism within Thai Naval Special Forces.

 

THE POLITICAL SITUATION

 

2. (C) In 2001, PM Thaksin Shinawatra became the first

democratically elected civilian Prime Minister to win an

outright majority in the Thai Parliament. He has dominated

the political scene in ways never seen before. He has used

Constitutional changes implemented in 1997 to take control of

most of the major government institutions — including ones

initially designed to be independent. Until recently,

despite an authoritarian streak, he has deftly mixed populist

measures such as virtually free health care with a

pro-business economic policy in a fashion that allowed his

Thai Rak Thai (Thais loving Thais) political party to run the

country. In February 2005, Thai Rak Thai won 375 of the 500

seats in Parliament. 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 and considers himself a friend of the President.

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.

 

3. (C) The Thai political system is presently working

through its biggest crisis since 1992. Tens of thousands

have participated in peaceful rallies protesting government

corruption and Thaksin\’s recent tax-free sale of Shin Corp to

Singapore. In an effort to work his way out of the current

predicament, Thaksin dissolved parliament and called snap

elections nominally set for April 2. The opposition has

announced it will boycott the elections, a move that could

force an impasse taking Thai politics into uncharted

Constitutional territory. At this point, we believe there is

a reasonably good chance that the Thai will work through this

problem peacefully, and in a way that will generally be

considered legitimate here. Most of our contacts express

confidence that troops will remain in the barracks.

Nonetheless, given the Thai military\’s history of involvement

in politics, we are monitoring the situation closely. We are

urging the police and military to use restraint against

peaceful demonstrators and not to intervene illegally in the

situation. We wish to avoid being seen as taking sides.

 

THE OVERALL SECURITY RELATIONSHIP

 

4. (C) The U.S.-Thai security relationship is based on over

50 years of close cooperation. Thai soldiers, sailors and

airmen participated in the Korean and Vietnamese Conflicts

and Thai peacekeepers served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Thailand is the fourth largest participant in the U.S.

International Military Education and Training (IMET) program.

Thailand\’s willingness to allow the United States to use

Utapao Naval Air Station as the hub for our regional tsunami

assistance program was key to making Operation Unified

Assistance a success. In your meetings with Thai officials,

you will want to note the overall strength of the

relationship — highlighting our history and underscoring the

importance of our tsunami cooperation, exercise program,

increased tempo of USN ship visits, and cooperation in the

War on Terrorism.

 

THE NAVAL RELATIONSHIP

 

5. (C) While our overall relationship with the Thai military

is good, our links with the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) are not as

strong as those with the Royal Thai Army or Air Force. The

RTN is smaller than the other services and tends to be less

willing to be open with U.S. counterparts. This has not been

the case historically, and we need to work to reverse the

trend. Recently, the Chinese have improved their ties to the

RTN as evidenced by the first PLA Navy ship visit to Phuket,

a joint SAR exercise in the Andaman Sea, and sales to

Thailand of Chinese equipment. Likewise, the RTN has been

developing a closer relationship with the Indian Navy and has

conducted some exercises with the Indians.

 

6. (C) In addition to supporting our annual Cooperation

Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) exercise with Thailand,

JUSMAGTHAI has worked closely with RTN Special Warfare units

to increase their capacity. USN SEALS have helped to provide

their Thai counterparts with some impressive capabilities.

For instance, Thai SEALS regularly conduct exercises aimed at

protecting oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Thailand.

This NSW relationship was graphically demonstrated during the

tsunami response when USN and RTN SEALS rapidly deployed to

 

SIPDIS

Phuket to assist in the recovery efforts. The Prime Minister

was photographed in a recovery boat manned by the SEALS.

Despite their improved professionalism, the Thai SEALS are

not well-supported by senior RTN officials. In your meetings

with your counterparts, you may wish to discuss the

importance of the SEALS and make mention of their

capabilities.

 

REGIONAL MARITIME SECURITY

 

7. (C) A key U.S. objective in the region is to improve

Maritime Security. We are working closely with PACOM to

encourage Thailand and others to support the Regional

Maritime Security Initiative (RMSI). In November, during the

U.S.-Thailand Strategic Dialogue, LTG Kemarat Kanchanawat,

the Royal Thai Supreme Command (RTSC) Joint Operations

Director, discussed a \”Combined Maritime Patrol\” architecture

for the Strait of Malacca that would involve Indonesia,

Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. In a January 24 meeting

with the Ambassador, RTN CINC ADM Satirapan Keyanon indicated

that the RTN was leery of this Combined Maritime Patrol

architecture, suggesting that Kemarat was trying to commit

the RTN budget to the proposal without proper authority.

During your meetings with RTN officers, you may wish to probe

for a clearer understanding of how the Thai Navy views its

responsibilities to safeguard waters in the region. On a

related topic, RTN officials are skeptical of the Malaysian

sponsored \”Eyes in the Sky\” program. Thailand does not plan

to actively participate for at least a year due to not having

enough aircraft to sustain long-term patrolling.

 

UTAPAO UPGRADES

 

8. (C) Utapao NAS has been designated by PACOM as the most

important Cooperative Security Location (CSL) in the Asia

Pacific Region. While we avoid using the term \”CSL\” with the

Thai due to their sensitivities about bases, Utapao remains

vital to our interests in the region. Thai and U.S. officials

in-country concur that Utapao is due for significant safety

upgrades in order to continue to meet our needs. Although

Utapao is a RTN facility, PACAF is the executive agent

exploring whether the United States can assist in providing

safety upgrades there. Thai military officials still await

the results of a PACAF assessment of Utapao which took place

in September. Royal Thai Navy officials recently indicated

to the Ambassador that they seek radar upgrades at Utapao in

addition to fire safety and other improvements.

 

THE ROLE OF CHINA AND INDIA IN THE REGION

 

9. (C) Southeast Asia continues to feel the rising influence

of China and India. While emphasizing the vital role of the

U.S. in the region — and Thailand\’s desire to intensify U.S.

engagement — Thai leaders also focus on developing stronger

relations with the two regional powers. The Thai view both

countries as sources of unlimited consumer demand and hope to

conclude Free Trade Agreements with both nations. Given your

close interest in those countries, it would be worthwhile for

you to exchange views on the future roles of India and China.

 

COUNTERTERRORISM AND SOUTHERN THAILAND

 

10. (C) Until recently, Prime Minister Thaksin\’s biggest

domestic challenge was 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, since January 2004, we have witnessed a

dramatic increase in the level of violence. Press reports

indicate that over 1,000 persons have been killed either by

militants or by security forces during this period. Local

Muslim separatist militants have attacked symbols of Thai and

Buddhist authority, civilians, and local citizens suspected

of collaborating with the Government. There continue to be

daily incidents of violence. In March 2005, Thaksin

appointed a National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) headed

by highly respected former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun

to look for alternative solutions to the long-running

insurgency. The NRC is expected to present its findings

sometime this month.

 

11. (C) The RTN does not play a role in addressing the

situation in the South. Nonetheless, Thai officials may ask

you for U.S. equipment and technology such as UAVs. We

suggest you be non-commital. There are widely circulated

rumors among ethnic Malay Muslims that the U.S. has fomented

the violence in the South in order to justify a U.S. security

presence there. This has made the RTG very sensitive about

any visible U.S. assistance aimed at the South. You should

be aware of these concerns when discussing offers of possible

U.S. assistance.

 

HARRIERS

 

12. (C) The RTN, like the other services, does not have a

long-range vision of what Thailand\’s maritime security needs

are, what threats Thailand might need to counter, or what

equipment it should procure. As a result, its inventory

includes a wide variety of equipment of questionable utility.

One example is its VSTOL Carrier, the Chakri Naruebet.

Thailand procured the carrier from Spain and, at the same

time, bought eight used AV-8 Harriers. These aircraft are no

longer airworthy. For several years, we have been urging the

Thai to use their carrier as a helicopter platform. A number

of RTN officers agree and have supported more training for

helo ops from the Chakri Naruebet. However, another faction

within the RTN continues to ask us for more Harriers. If you

are asked for AV-8\’s, you may wish to underscore that we have

no surplus Harriers due to their use elsewhere and urge the

Thai to continue to develop their carrier as a helicopter

platform.

 

NAVAL HAWK (MH-60S) HELICOPTER

 

13. (C) The RTN has expressed an interest in increasing the

size of its helicopter force. One option is to purchase four

of the new Sikorsky MH-60S Naval Hawk. With its design

emphasis on multi-mission capabilities, most particularly

logistics, SAR and light attack, coupled with the fact that

it is marinized for shipboard operations, make this aircraft

ideal for the roles and missions of the RTN. Although the

RTN wants the MH-60S, it has been experiencing sticker shock

and has had difficulty getting the funding required through

the budgetary process. You may wish to ask your

interlocutors whether the RTN is willing to push for the

funding required to purchase four aircraft as planned.

 

WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR VISIT

 

14. (U) Have a safe trip. I look forward to catching up and

giving you an update on the political situation.

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:18 am

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