thaicables – It's Your Right to know the Truth!

06BANGKOK2643 SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF PACOM ADM FALLON

leave a comment »

“62783”,”5/4/2006 10:01″,”06BANGKOK2643″,

 

“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 002643

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

PACOM FOR ADM FALLON AND FPA HUSO

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/03/2016

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

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF PACOM ADM FALLON

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary. Fox, I\’m looking forward to your visit and

hope to host you and Mary for lunch while you are here.

While things have settled down for the moment on the domestic

political front, a great deal of uncertainty remains over who

the next Prime Minister will be and the makeup of the new

Parliament. Nonetheless, we have a number of key initiatives

in the works that further our strategic interests in

Thailand. As you know, Cobra Gold will be underway when you

visit. We are pleased that the exercise this year includes

the active participation of Japan, Singapore and Indonesia.

We are working closely with your staff to make Cobra Gold a

signature event for the Global Peace Operations Initiative in

2007. Gary Roughead and Jonathan Greenert have briefed me on

the Navy\’s plans to become more active in our area — plans

that mesh well with our overall maritime security and counter

terrorism efforts. Related to this, we have put forward an

ambitious proposal to enhance maritime security in the

Andaman Sea/Strait of Malacca. Also of note, drawing on our

military programs, we are working with U.S. law enforcement

agencies to help the Thai better address separatists in the

Malay majority South. The Thai will appreciate any

information you can provide on our long-range military plans

for Thailand and the region. END SUMMARY.

 

THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

 

2. (C) Bilateral relations with Thailand remain very good.

Throughout the political crisis, we maintained close links

with the Government and with the opposition. Major points of

friction remain over human rights and Thailand\’s policy

towards Burma. Regularly in meetings with Thai military

officials we emphasize the importance of respecting

international human rights norms and not to resort to

extrajudicial killings during activities in the South.

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

 

3. (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. 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

 

4. (SBU) As we discussed recently, the Thai political

system is working through its biggest crisis since 1992.

After tens of thousands of Thais participated in peaceful

rallies protesting government corruption and PM Thaksin\’s

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, who

is currently caretaker Prime Minister, may not seek to head

the next government, although his plans are not clear.

5. (C) On April 25, 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

 

6. (C) Press reports indicate that over 1,000 persons have

been killed either by militants or by security forces since

January 2004. Local Muslim separatist militants have attacked

symbols of Thai and Buddhist authority, civilians, and local

citizens suspected of collaborating with the Government.

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.

 

7. (C) Working closely with Washington and PACOM, 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

 

8. (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.

 

MILITARY COOPERATION

 

9. (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.

 

10. (C) 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 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. 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

 

11. (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. 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

 

12. (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

 

13. (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 — however,

it is plagued by an almost universally low Operational

Readiness (OR) rate. This problem is a systemic weakness

based on insufficient sustainment of equipment as well as

budget shortages in place since the 1997 financial crisis.

This problem remains a key focus.

 

14. (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. The RTA relies on

JUSMAGTHAI and the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) system for

many of their high-profile procurement programs.

 

15. (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.

 

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

repeated changes of government 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

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.

Last year, Thaksin settled on Army CINC GEN Sonthi

Boonyaratklin (who is a Muslim with a Special Forces

Background) as his chief military representative. Sonthi

recently assured me 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.

 

17. (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

 

18. (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.

 

19. (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

 

20. (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.

 

21. (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.

 

22. (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

planes 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.

 

WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR VISIT

 

23. (U) I look forward to hosting you and Mary for lunch

when you come to Bangkok and to sharing views on how best to

promote our strategic interests in Thailand.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:08 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: