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06BANGKOK2826 SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF EAP A/S HILL

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“63638”,”5/11/2006 9:45″,”06BANGKOK2826″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO0942

PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

DE RUEHBK #2826/01 1310945

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 110945Z MAY 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8557

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

RUEKJCS/JCS WASHDC

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI”,

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 002826

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR A/S CHRIS HILL

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/10/2016

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

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF EAP A/S HILL

 

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

 

1. (C) INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY.

 

Chris, we\’re looking forward to your upcoming visit to

participate in the ASEAN-U.S. Dialogue. I am also planning

to host a dinner in your honor with former Prime Minister

Anand Panyarachun. Anand is thoughtful and I think you\’ll

enjoy hearing his views on southern Thailand, the ongoing

political situation, and regional issues. We\’re also

arranging for you to meet with MFA Permanent Secretary Krit

Garnjana-Goonchorn immediately after you arrive from

Singapore and are working with the U.S.-ASEAN Business

Council on a breakfast meeting. You may wish to thank Krit

for the RTG\’s help in facilitating the movement of the six

North Koreans to the U.S. There\’s a decent chance the Thai

will help again in the future, so long as their involvement

is kept out of the press. In addition to hearing your views

about regional economic issues, the USABC will want to hear

about prospects for FTA talks resuming after a new government

is in place. The political situation here remains fluid —

any specifics we provide in this cable could very well be

overcome by events by the time you are here. Nonetheless,

demonstrations have stopped for now and we have moved out of

crisis mode. We are working closely with Washington agencies

and PACOM on a series of initiatives designed to improve our

ability to promote counter-terrorism cooperation and regional

maritime security. Thai policy towards Burma remains a

friction point, although the Thai are coming around to the

view that ASEAN\’s \”constructive engagement\” policy is not

working. The problem is what to do next. It\’s unrealistic

to expect much progress as long as the government is in

caretaker status. END SUMMARY.

 

THE POLITICAL SITUATION

 

2. (C) The Thai political system continues to work through

its biggest domestic political crisis since 1992. We can

expect relative calm to prevail through the end of June as

the Thai turn their attention to the 60th anniversary of the

King\’s ascension to the throne. Once the pageantry is over,

however, the uncertainty begins. One encouraging sign: the

three main opposition parties give early indication they will

contest the next round of parliamentary elections. With

that, much speculation now is turning to Thaksin\’s plans.

Though he vowed on April 4 not to return as Prime Minister in

the next Parliament, his supporters say the subsequent

annulment of the April 2 polls has changed the situation.

They reason that Thaksin is now freed from his earlier pledge

not to run and that there is no reason why he could not head

the government if TRT wins a majority. The prospect of

Thaksin\’s return risks reigniting street protests and

attendant uncertainty.

 

THE SITUATION IN THE SOUTH

 

3. (C) Although the domestic political crisis has dominated

the news headlines (both national and international) in

recent months, the violence in the South has continued

unabated. It remains the RTG\’s most pressing security issue

and a potential threat to our interests. Approximately 1,200

persons have been killed either by militants or by security

forces since January 2004 when the decades-old insurgency

flared up again. There is no current evidence of direct

transnational terrorist involvement in the South, but we know

some linkages with suspected regional terrorists (JI) exist.

Southern separatists direct their anger at the government in

Bangkok, not at the U.S., and continue to define their

struggle mainly along ethnic rather than religious lines.

However, rumors that the U.S. is somehow fomenting the

violence as part of our war on terror continue to be widely

believed in the South. To avoid feeding these rumors, we

meticulously avoid military training exercises and the like

in the South, and do not label our security assistance as

related to the conflict.

 

4. (C) The RTG response to violence in the far South remains

undercut by poor security force capabilities, rampant

stove-piping, and the lack of an effective

prosecutorial-police partnership. In the last two years we

have shifted a significant portion of our wide ranging

training and assistance programs to help improve Thailand\’s

capabilities. We have determined that our excellent

military-to-military assistance program is generally on the

right track. The Thai police, however, remain the weak link

in the southern security apparatus. We have proposed to

Washington a bold, new inter-agency plan to refocus our

assistance, combat Thai shortcomings, and help the government

 

BANGKOK 00002826 002 OF 004

 

reverse some of its losses in the South. The key elements of

this plan are:

 

–Setting up a central, single coordinator at the Embassy to

ensure that our wide range of law enforcement training

fosters institutional change in the Thai security forces and

improves their capabilities in the South. We are in

discussion with DOJ about establishing an ICITAP presence in

Bangkok to meet this need.

 

–Identifying an appropriately experienced individual to

foster a true police-prosecutor partnership, particularly in

the South, that leads to arrests and convictions. We aim to

adjust the work requirements of our current DOJ Resident

Legal Advisor to reflect this new priority.

 

–Setting up new comprehensive training that provides Thai

security officials in the South with both basic and advanced

investigative and counterterrorism skills, while encouraging

them to work with their counterparts in other agencies.

 

MILITARY COOPERATION

 

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

50 years of close cooperation. 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 and was only possible because of decades of combined

experience. PACOM recently named Utapao as the most

important Cooperative Security Location (CSL) we have in all

of the Asia-Pacific region — it remains vital to our efforts

to supply operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

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

Maritime Security. As part of Section 1206 of the National

Defense Authorization Act of 2006, 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 to 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 in the vicinity of

Phuket capable of reaching Sumatra — 200 miles away — with

a constellation of overlapping x-band radars to provide radar

coverage of the waters off the west coast of Thailand. The

USD 20 million initiative would also improve the Royal Thai

Navy\’s interdiction capabilities. If we can create similar

arrays in neighboring countries, this system could be part of

a regional network — perhaps providing a clear view of all

ocean traffic in SE Asia.

 

7. (C) While you are here, our largest annual exercise, Cobra

Gold, will be underway. 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. 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),

which is designed to train 15,000 regional peacekeepers by

2010.

 

THE ROLE OF CHINA

 

8. (C) 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

China. Bangkok views both India and China as sources of

unlimited consumer demand and hope to conclude FTAs with both

nations. China\’s growing influence in Thailand is evident in

 

BANGKOK 00002826 003 OF 004

 

business, the arts, the media and the military. Chinese TV

— in Mandarin and English — is widely available. Every

visit by a senior American official is countered by multiple

visits by Chinese. The Thai military has a growing number of

Chinese weapons systems in its arsenal. The PLA Navy has

close links with the RTN and recently conducted a major ship

visit to Phuket. The Chinese Ambassador here speaks good

Thai and previously served as their DG for East Asian

Affairs. Their Defense Attach is sophisticated, experienced

and polished.

 

GENERAL ECONOMIC PICTURE

 

9. (SBU) U.S.-Thai economic relations remain strong, with

the U.S. being the largest market for Thai goods. U.S.

direct investment in Thailand is second only to Japan\’s. The

Thai economy has largely recovered from the 1997 economic

crisis, although growth rates remain at levels much lower

than the economy\’s pre-1997 performance. Buoyed mostly by

exports, GDP looks set to grow at around 4-4.5 percent this

year. Major economic challenges include adapting to the

onslaught of China; infrastructure development; and

addressing persistent widespread poverty in the countryside.

The bilateral FTA is in limbo due to the current political

crisis. The FTA had encountered growing opposition within

Thailand before the onset of the current crisis, and its

unpopularity will hinder any future Thai government efforts

to re-start talks. Given hesitancy in Thailand and a short

time frame in the U.S. before Trade Promotion Authority

expires, Thai officials have hinted at negotiating a less

ambitious trade deal that would address immediate problems

such as possible changes in U.S. GSP policy, and trade

diversion caused by Thailand\’s other FTAs.

 

HUMAN RIGHTS IN THAILAND

 

10. (C) Thailand lost in its bid to gain a seat in the new

UN Human Rights Council despite receiving 120 votes and U.S.

support. G/TIP has decided against placing Thailand on the

Tier 2 Watch List this year. The decision is largely due to

significant progress from the RTG to return seven TIP victims

from Malaysia. The seven are hill tribe members and are not

technically considered Thai citizens by the RTG. They have

been in Malaysian immigration detention for over a year after

being rescued from a brothel. One bright spot in the ongoing

political drama is in the area of press freedom. The print

media has been particularly bold in its criticism of the

government, and even the government controlled broadcast

media has taken tentative steps away from self-censorship.

 

REFUGEES

 

11. (C) The RTG gave excellent cooperation on the six North

Korean refugees. This was a positive in the bilateral

relationship. At this point, we do not have a good sense of

how many other North Koreans will ask for U.S. resettlement.

The RTG position remains that they will work with us on a

discreet, case-by-case basis. On Burmese refugee

resettlement, the material support waiver recently signed by

Secretary Rice will allow us to proceed with DHS interviews

 

SIPDIS

for some Karen refugees. We expect a DHS team to arrive and

begin interviews in early June. Persons who provided support

to the Karen National Union (KNU) can now be approved for

U.S. resettlement if otherwise qualified. The material

support waiver does not cover former combatants and Karen

National Union members. These two groups will remain

ineligible. The net result will likely be an approval

percentage well below what we had initially hoped for. This

will be a disappointing result for us, the RTG, and the

refugees.

 

BURMA

 

12. (C) Like several other ASEAN countries, Thailand is

coming to grips with the fact that the policy of constructive

engagement with the regime in Burma is not working. The

dilemma is what to do next. The caretaker status of the

current government means that no new Burma policy directions

can be expected until the domestic political turmoil is

resolved. We are concerned by Thai plans to collaborate with

Burma on the construction of several hydro-electric dams

along the Salween river in Burma. The construction of these

dams will likely result in increased forced labor and bring

new waves of population displacement. The dams promise to

bring a new source of energy to Thailand, but many of the

displaced persons will undoubtedly add to the population

already in camps along the border. The \”reorganization\” of

population around the new capital and a recent military

 

BANGKOK 00002826 004 OF 004

 

offensive in Karen State are other sources of renewed

population displacement. Thai officials have downplayed

reports of a major Burmese army offensive in the border

provinces, but note that close to 2,000 new refugees have

arrived in one camp and are awaiting in-processing.

 

WE WELCOME YOUR VISIT

 

13. (U) I\’m looking forward to catching up and to hosting

you for dinner.

 

Skip

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:14 am

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