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06BANGKOK2484 SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF THE VICE CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS, ADM GIAMBASTIANI

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“62144”,”4/28/2006 8:07″,”06BANGKOK2484″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

280807Z Apr 06

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 07 BANGKOK 002484

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

JCS FOR THE VICE CHAIRMAN, ADM GIAMBASTIANI

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/27/2016

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

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF THE VICE CHAIRMAN OF

THE JOINT CHIEFS, ADM GIAMBASTIANI

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary. Admiral Giambastiani, your trip to Bangkok

will take place as Thailand recovers from its most serious

political upheaval in over a decade. We are asking all U.S.

visitors meeting with Thai officials to encourage continued

respect for the democratic process. Your visit is also a

superb opportunity to review key security programs with

Senior Thai Military officials. Thailand affords the United

States a unique platform in Asia. Our largest exercise,

Cobra Gold, will be underway during your visit. Cobra Gold

is America\’s only annual joint/combined multilateral training

exercise in the Asia Pacific Region and now includes the

active participation of Japan, Singapore and Indonesia.

Thailand is an ally in the War on Terror. Thai troops

deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq and we are working closely

with the Thai to make them better able to address separatist

elements in the Muslim majority South. We are also working

with U.S. Embassies in the region to better address counter

terrorism throughout SE Asia. Our IMET program is a major

success — senior leaders in all the services are graduates.

In fact, your host, Royal Thai Supreme Command Chief of Staff

GEN Lertrat Ratanavanich, was an honors graduate from the

U.S. Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth.

You met GEN Lertrat in mid-March. 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 2004 tsunami was 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.

 

3. (C) Nonetheless, there are points of friction. Human

rights remains 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. Our protests over Thai Police

involvement in approximately 1,300 extrajudicial killings

during the 2003 Thai \”war on drugs,\” rankles the Thai

Government. Likewise, 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.

 

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 fact, PACOM recently designated

Utapao 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.

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 (most recently, the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike

Group), and cooperation in the War on Terrorism.

 

THE POLITICAL SITUATION

 

5. (SBU) The Thai political system is presently working

through its biggest crisis since 1992. After tens of

thousands of Thais participated in peaceful rallies

protesting government corruption and PM Thaksin Shinawatra\’s

(Prime Minister TOCK-SIN) recent tax-free sale of Shin Corp

to Singapore. Thaksin dissolved parliament and called snap

elections. The opposition boycotted the poll, and called on

the voters to abstain. Many small parties, dredged up by the

government to run \”opposition\” candidates were disqualified

for fraud and though Thaksin\’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) political

party won a majority of votes nationwide on April 2, the

massive number of protest abstentions tainted his \”victory.\”

Thaksin subsequently announced that he was relinquishing his

duties as Prime Minister to his senior Deputy Prime Minister

and has left for a vacation abroad.

 

6. (C) Thaksin intends to formally step down as Prime

Minister following the convening of this Parliament. On

April 25, however, the King made public statements highly

critical of undemocratic aspects of the elections, and

instructed the relevant judicial bodies to propose a solution

to the impasse caused by the boycott of opposition parties

and the large number of abstentions. The courts\’

recommendations are expected soon, and could include

annulling the vote and scheduling new elections later this

year. Despite being out of the PM\’s office, most observers

expect that Thaksin will still be the \”puppetmaster\”

directing his party from the background. The situation

remains fluid.

 

COUNTERTERRORISM AND SOUTHERN THAILAND

 

7. (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.

 

8. (C) Southern separatists direct their anger at the

government in Bangkok, not at the United States. Since a

U.S. presence or perception of U.S. involvement in the South

could redirect that anger towards us and link it to

the international jihadist movement — a link that is

currently absent — we ensure that any offers of assistance

or training pass the \”location and label\” test. Put simply,

we keep U.S. military personnel away from the far

South and we make sure that we do not label any assistance or

training as directly linked to the southern

situation. Likewise, we work to avoid feeding rampant,

outlandish speculation that we are somehow fomenting the

violence in the South in order to justify building permanent

bases — a very sensitive issue in Thailand. We do not want

to jeopardize our access to key military facilities in

Thailand like Utapao Naval Air Station.

 

9. (C) Working closely with Washington, the Embassy has a

three-pronged focus to improve our military cooperation in

order to address the violence in the South:

 

–1) Using our exercise and training program to improve the

professional and operational skills of the Royal Thai Armed

Forces, especially the Thai Army;

–2) Help the Thai break down stovepipes between the Thai

military, police forces, and civilian agencies;

–3) Do everything we can to ensure the Thai respect

international human rights norms as they counter the violence.

 

Key military programs assisting the Thai include:

 

–JCETs programs focused on enhancing general CT

capabilities, counter-insurgency operations, civil affairs

and psychological operations, and information warfare. Since

FY04 over 2500 Thai soldiers from 50 different units have

been trained in counter-insurgency by U.S. Special Forces.

 

–Building a National Training Facility (NTF). We have

worked with the Thai for over a year to develop an NTF that

can serve as a world-class training facility. Such a site

could not only help hone CT skills and provide human rights

training, but be a key tool to improve peace keeping skills

for soldiers in the region under the Global Peace Operations

Initiative (GPOI). We have been cobbling funds together to

make the NTF a center of excellence and could use more.

 

–PSYOPS. We presently support a U.S. Military Information

Support Team (MIST) unit from Ft. Bragg attached to

JUSMAGTHAI. This team will likely be augmented by an

experienced Civil Affairs planner within the next month who

will assist with campaign planning and product support to

counter ideological support to terrorism.

 

At the same time, we are working with Thai and U.S. law

enforcement agencies to improve the professionalization of

various Thai police entitites.

 

REGIONAL MARITIME SECURITY

 

10. (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). We recently proposed to

the Royal Thai Supreme Command and the Royal Thai Navy the

Andaman Sea Maritime Security Initiative. This project is a

layered approached to assist the Thai military secure

territorial waters while also providing coverage of the

northern shipping lanes feeding into the Strait of Malacca.

It would combine a High Frequency Radar capable of reaching

Sumatra, with a constellation of overlapping x-band radars to

provide radar coverage of the waters off the west coast of

Thailand. The initiative would also improve the Royal Thai

Navy\’s interdiction capabilities and has the potential to be

linked to other facilities in the region.

 

PROLIFERATION SECURITY INITIATIVE

 

11. (C) Despite our efforts since 2003, the RTG has not yet

formally endorsed the PSI Statement of Principles. Prime

Minister Thaksin has told senior USG officials that another

\”Muslim\” ASEAN nation (read Malaysia or Indonesia) should

endorse PSI first or concurrently with Thailand, so as to

avoid the appearance that Thailand is getting too far in

front of its neighbors and because of concern over how

endorsement might be perceived vis-a-vis the situation in the

South. It might be useful to remind your Thai interlocutors

that PSI is among the President\’s top non-proliferation

priorities. In June, Poland will host the first Senior Level

Political Meeting of the PSI, inviting all nations that have

endorsed the PSI interdiction Principles. More than 70

countries have indicated their support for the PSI.

 

MILITARY COOPERATION

 

12. (C) Perhaps due to their lack of a colonial heritage,

Thai leaders are far more willing to host multilateral

exercises than are others countries in Asia. Unlike Japan,

which only hosts annual bilateral exercises due to legal

prohibitions over collective security, or Australia, which

avoids multilateral exercises so as not to \”dumb down\” its

own training opportunities, the Royal Thai Government

supports multilateral exercises as a way to show regional

leadership. So long as our concepts are properly sold to Thai

military and political leaders, we should be able to continue

to modify exercises to meet our regional security objectives

— including an ability to establish a near-continuous

presence in the region.

 

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

training programs with Thailand each year, including Cobra

Gold. Cobra Gold 2006 will include almost 7,000 U.S. troops

working together with Thai counterparts in field training

exercises ranging from Military Operations in Urban Terrain

and Air Assault Operations to Naval Special Forces protecting

offshore natural gas platforms. The Command Post Exercise at

Cobra Gold will include participation by U.S., Thai,

Japanese, Singaporean and Indonesian forces and will focus on

peace keeping operations. Cobra Gold in the coming years

will be a centerpiece of our Global Peace Operations

Initiative (GPOI), designed to train 15,000 regional

peacekeepers by 2010. As mentioned, Utapao, the Thai Navy

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

relief efforts in the region following the December 2004

tsunami, has long been a critical support hub for U.S.

 

SIPDIS

aircraft transiting the region. Over 420 DOD aircraft use it

each year. Our largest air exercise, Cope Tiger, involves

Thailand, the United States and Singapore. We have also been

working closely with PACFLT to give our major naval exercise,

CARAT, a more regional flavor in the coming years.

 

THE ROLE OF CHINA AND INDIA IN THE REGION

 

14. (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. Bangkok views both

countries as sources of unlimited consumer demand and hope to

conclude Free Trade Agreements with both nations. 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. The PLA

Navy has close links with the RTN and recently conducted a

major ship visit to Phuket. After jointly holding a limited

naval exercise in the Andaman Sea last fall, Thailand and

China are exploring conducting joint SAR exercises. The RTN

has acquired several ships from China over the past decade.

China is refurbishing tanks and air defense equipment

provided to Thailand in the late 1980\’s. Thailand is also

trying to negotiate a barter deal trading Chinese armored

vehicles for Thai fruit. Mil-to-mil exchanges between China

and Thailand have expanded in recent years as has the number

of bilateral military VIP visits.

THAI MILITARY STRUCTURE

 

15. (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. Thailand\’s armed forces, which had a

history of interfering in the country\’s politics, have not

done so since 1992 and appear to be fully reconciled to

constitutional roles of defense and security. Their exposure

to U.S. civil-military values through their extensive

participation in IMET training deserves some credit for this

transformation of their attitude towards democracy.

 

THE ROLE OF THE ARMY

 

16. (C) The Royal Thai Army (RTA) is a legacy force faced

with serious modernization issues. Although 30 years have

passed, the RTA is still primarily designed to defeat the

large conventional threat that Vietnam represented in the

mid-1980\’s. On paper, the RTA would seem to possess the

capability to defeat a large conventional attack — it seems

to possess an impressive number of main battle tanks, TOW

missiles, and helicopters. Digging deeper, however, one

quickly discovers real equipment problems. 80 of Thailand\’s

100 M60A3 main battle tanks are inoperable, TOW missiles are

past their useful life expectancy and, at any given time,

only 30 of the RTA\’s 96 UH-1 helicopters are operational.

 

17. (C) Much of this decline in effectiveness is due to the

budget constraints that were imposed from 1997-2001 after the

Asian Financial Crisis. Since that time, budgets have

increased slightly, but not to pre-1997 levels. Accordingly,

the RTA must selectively choose how to modernize. Serious

corruption in the procurement process is still widespread —

and acknowledged by many Thai officers. Consequently, the RTA

relies on JUSMAGTHAI and the Foreign Military Sales (FMS)

system for many of their high-profile procurement programs.

 

18. (C) The RTA\’s transformation vision, unpublished and

informal as it is, is to become lighter and more mobile with

upgraded C4I systems that will make it more agile

operationally. On the C4I front, much work remains. The RTA

HQ and subordinate commands use commercial dial-up Internet

services and email accounts, if they use email at all.

However, they do have VTC capability and use it frequently.

 

19. (C) The RTG\’s CT effort in the South has been plagued by

Thaksin repeatedly changing his policies and lead agencies.

Shortly after taking power, Thaksin decided to dissolve the

joint civilian-police-military Task Force which since the

1980s had successfully contained the separatist-related

violence. The loss of that coordinating body increased the

natural propensity of the Thai bureaucracy to stovepipe

information and not cooperate operationally. The problems

caused by this lack of coordination have been compounded by

the constant shifting of both the civilian and military

leadership responsible for the South. In addition, Thaksin

has often set unrealistic deadlines for his deputies to

\”solve\” the southern problem and has been inconsistent in his

policy statements, creating a situation where the operational

leadership has a weak mandate and lack of strategic focus.

Now, he finally appears settled on Army CINC GEN Sonthi

Boonyaratklin (who is a Muslim with a Special Forces

Background) as his chief military representative. Sonthi

recently assured the Ambassador that the Army was rebuilding

its intelligence and political network in the South, which is

a good sign. Nonetheless, there is little guarantee that the

Government won\’t switch course again in response to an actual

or perceived setback.

 

20. (C) While the RTA has a long history working with the

U.S. Army, recently we have also been working with MARFORPAC

and III MEF to improve links between the U.S Marine Corps and

the RTA. In many ways, our Marines are perfect training

partners for the RTA and field exercises in Thailand afford

our Marines many opportunities they don\’t have elsewhere in

Asia. We will host the USS Essex Amphibious Assault Ship

during Cobra Gold and are looking for other training

opportunities in the coming months.

 

THE NAVAL RELATIONSHIP

 

21. (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 are working to reverse the

trend through potential projects like the Andaman Sea

Maritime Security Initiative. We\’ve also been working with

PACFLT and Seventh Fleet to increase the tempo of U.S. Navy

ship visits. The April 19-24 visit of the USS Abraham

Lincoln Carrier Strike Group was well received by the RTN,

received front page and prime time media coverage, and was a

successful opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of the

U.S.-Thai security relationship. Recently, the Chinese have

improved their ties to the RTN as evidenced by the ship visit

to Phuket mentioned above, 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.

 

22. (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.

 

THE AIR FORCE RELATIONSHIP

 

23. (C) Our premier air force exercise with Thailand is Cope

Tiger. Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) officials have disagreed

with our suggestions to combine Cope Tiger with Cobra Gold —

and in fact have told us that they will not agree to move

Cope Tiger and will plan to hold the exercise bilaterally

with Singapore, or even invite a third country, if we insist

on moving it. We are working closely with PACAF, MARFORPAC

and PACFLT to develop a way to support the exercise.

 

24. (C) Although Utapao is an RTN facility, PACAF has been

designated PACOM\’s executive agent in assessing what upgrades

are needed there. Thai officers and U.S. officials in

country agree that Utapao needs some safety enhancements in

order to continue to be safe for us to use. In September, a

PACAF assessment team visited Utapao to determine what

systems need enhancement or upgrading, the Thai eagerly await

the results of the PACAF assessment.

 

25. (C) Last year, Thailand announced its plans to replace

aging F-5s in the RTAF fleet. Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary

Rice and the President all urged Thailand to either use its

defense budget to perform mid-life upgrades (MLU) on its

existing F-16s or to buy F-16 Block 52s. A vast majority of

senior RTAF officers favor the F-16 over SU-30. However,

Russian officials and Israeli contractors have reportedly

offered inducements to senior RTAF officers to buy Russian

and PM Thaksin has reportedly promised President Putin that

he would look favorably on Sukhoi\’s bid. We are urging the

Thai to proceed with the MLU purchase but not to procure any

Russian planes for interoperability reasons, the impact such

a move could have on technology releases in the future, and

the effect such a procurement might have on Thailand\’s

ability to eventually purchase the Joint Strike Fighter. It

would be helpful for you to reinforce these points.

 

WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR VISIT

 

26. (U) We are grateful that you have agreed to come to

Thailand and look forward to making your visit a success.

 

ARVIZU

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:02 am

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