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06BANGKOK5058 SCENESETTER FOR THE AUGUST 26 – SEPTEMBER 2 VISIT OF ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAUERBREY

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“75314”,”8/18/2006 7:27″,”06BANGKOK5058″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

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SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

GENEVA FOR RMA

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/11/2016

TAGS: PREF, PREL, ASEC, OTRA, TH

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE AUGUST 26 – SEPTEMBER 2 VISIT

OF ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAUERBREY

 

REF: STATE 129885

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR RALPH BOYCE, REASON 1.4 (B,D)

 

1. (C) Ellen, we look forward to your visit to Thailand.

Bilateral relations with Thailand have been generally

excellent. Thailand is a security treaty ally and has been

firmly supportive of the Global War on Terror. American

businesses have over $20 billion in direct investment in

Thailand, and are the second largest investor after Japan.

Thailand and the U.S. have long enjoyed a close security

relationship, which is reflected in the fact that Thailand is

a Major Non-Nato Ally (MNNA) of the United States. We have

strong relations with Thai law enforcement officials and have

had great success in fighting narcotics trafficking. In

2004-5, thanks to years of working with the Thai military,

the United States was able to quickly deploy over one

thousand American soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen to

Utapao Naval Air Base in Thailand and set up a regional

tsunami relief operation.

 

SIPDIS

 

2. (C) We hope your visit to Thailand will contribute to

progress on the following objectives:

 

— Explain and win greater understanding from the Thai on

the material support issue and sketch out, as much as

possible, a timeline for moving U.S. resettlement processing

to other Burma border camps.

 

— Express support for and encourage greater movement by the

Thai on their new policies of improving conditions for

Burmese refugees, including screening of individual Burmese

asylum seekers, issuance of exit permits for U.S. family

reunification cases, camp refugee identity cards, and passes

that would allow refugees to find work outside the camps.

 

— Urge the Thai not to deport the Petchaboon Hmong and seek

an explanation of Thai plans to resolve this issue, including

a looming problem of inadequate food supplies.

 

— Press the Thai on allowing us to process pending North

Korean refugee cases and reassure them that we will do so

discreetly.

 

Political Situation

—————–

 

3. (SBU) In 2001, telecommunications multimillionaire Thaksin

Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party won a decisive

victory on a populist platform of economic growth and

development. Thaksin was reelected in February 2005, winning

377 out of 500 seats in the Parliament. Subsequent

allegations of corruption led to a move by the opposition to

demand a parliamentary no confidence vote. Rather than face

parliamentary debate, Thaksin dissolved the Parliament in

February 2006 and declared snap elections in April. Peaceful

anti-government demonstrations grew as thousands marched in

the streets of Bangkok to demand Thaksin\’s resignation. The

opposition boycotted the April elections, leading to a

political stalemate. Following Royal intervention, the

judiciary annulled the April election and new elections are

expected to take place in October. Protesters have not

returned to the streets and the Thai military has not

intervened. The government remains in caretaker status.

 

The South and Terrorism

————————-

 

4. (C) The most pressing security concern for the Thai

remains the unrest in Thailand\’s deep south provinces

bordering Malaysia. Violence continues to occur almost daily

with over one thousand persons reported killed over the past

two years either by militants or government actions. The

ongoing violence has historic roots going back a century and

is based on local grievances from poor treatment by the

government and a desire to separate the region from the Thai

state. There still is no direct evidence of operational

links between Thai separatists and outside terrorists. The

Thai government has not formulated an effective strategy

against the insurgents. Border security issues have strained

relations with neighboring Malaysia.

 

5. (C) The Thai government does not seek a U.S. presence in

the south and is sensitive to rumors of U.S. involvement in

the violence. Nonetheless, we have worked closely to find

areas where we can help. We have stepped up our human rights

training of Thai troops rotating into the south to improve

 

BANGKOK 00005058 002 OF 004

 

their ability to control crowds and conduct other operations

in a way that complies with international norms. We are also

working with the Thai to improve their intelligence sharing

and gathering capabilities.

 

Burma and Human Rights

————————-

 

6. (C) For most of the Thaksin administration, we have been

at odds over our respective approaches to Burma —

essentially agreeing to disagree. The Royal Thai Government

(RTG) under Thaksin has claimed that though it agrees the

regime must show progress in bringing about national

reconciliation, Bangkok must stay engaged with the ruling

junta in order to sustain a dialogue on issues that directly

affect Thailand, such as illegal immigration from Burma and

narcotics smuggling. Thailand has, however, appeared to go

well beyond this, being perceived by some as justifying some

of the regime\’s excesses. Lately, at our urging, the Thai

have begun to move closer to regional and international

opinion, by publicly criticizing Rangoon on its continued

detention of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and resistance

to genuine national reconciliation. Nonetheless, we were not

consulted prior to Thaksin\’s August 2 sudden and secretive

trip to Burma to meet with Than Shwe, during which he claims

he pressed for reform in Burma.

 

7. (C) We have also criticized the RTG for some of its human

rights practices. A bloody crackdown on alleged drug vendors

during a \”war on drugs campaign\” in 2003 and actions by

security forces in the south, have been publicly raised by

the United States in our annual human rights reports and in

public fora, as well as in our private conversations with

Thai officials.

 

Burma Refugee Resettlement and Material Support

——————————————— —

 

8. (C) The primary issue affecting the Embassy\’s refugee work

over the past year has been material support. It has

seriously complicated resettlement of Burmese camp refugees,

just as our program for this group was getting off the

ground. It has also created hard-to-explain anomalies in our

overall policy toward Burmese displaced persons. We have

defined the Karen National Union (KNU) and the Karen National

Liberation Army (KNLA) as terrorist groups for refugee

resettlement purposes at the same time that USAID is starting

a cross-border program that will involve small payments to

KNLA soldiers. We have refused refugee resettlment to former

KNLA combatants even though USG-funded programs provide food,

medical care, and housing supplies to such persons.

 

9. (C) The material support waiver for Karen in Tham Hin camp

produced a DHS resettlement approval rate of about 75

percent, higher than expected. At the same time, less that

one-half of the camp population applied for resettlement.

There seem to be a combination of reasons for this lack of

enthusiasm: confusion about material support and concern

that cases would be denied for material support reasons; a

hope of returning to Burma; and worry about being able to

start a new life in the United States. The upshot is that

only about 2,700 persons have been approved so far out of a

total camp population of about 9,000. This result is

disappointing to us, and while they have not said so,

certainly also to the Thai. We have some hope that ongoing

departures will kindle resettlement interest among those Tham

Hin refugees who have so far declined the resettlement

option. The first departures from the Tham Hin program

started on August 16.

 

10. (C) We agreed with the Thai over one year ago, before

material support, that Tham Hin would be a test case and that

we would consider resettlement processing in other camps

after joint evaluation of the Tham Hin program results. We

need RTG approval before we can move to other camps. It

would be very useful to use your visit to explain and win

greater understanding from the Thai on the material support

issue and sketch out, as much as possible, a timeline for

moving U.S. resettlement processing to other Burma border

camps.

 

RTG Policy Changes on Burmese Camp Refugees

——————————————–

 

11. (C) RTG policies on Burmese camp refugee have shifted

significantly and in a positive way over the past year. The

Thai seem to recognize now that there is little hope of the

 

BANGKOK 00005058 003 OF 004

 

refugees returning to Burma. They also seem to see that a

continuation of the current camp situation where refugees

have limited legal opportunities for higher education and

employment is not acceptable from a humanitarian perspective

nor sensible if the refugees remain in Thailand over the

long-term or resettle to other countries. As a result, the

Thai have given the green light to the NGO community and

donor countries to put forward proposals for income

generation and expanded education and vocational training for

Burma camp refugees. They have also begun programs, so far

limited, to teach Thai to camp refugees.

 

12. (C) The Thai have put in place, with UNHCR assistance,

screening panels for Burmese refugees called Provincial

Admissions Boards (PAB). The PABs have approved en masse

registration and formal entry into the camps of about 27,000

refugees who had been living in the camps and receiving

assistance but had never been officially admitted. The PABs

are now supposed to begin screening of individual Burmese

asylum-seekers who live outside the camps. Your visit

provides a good opportunity to push the Thai on PAB screening

of individual cases and issuance of exit permits for Visas 93

and P3 family reunification cases for Burmese refugees.

 

13. (C) While the shift in overall Thai policy is good,

implementation has been fitful, not always transparent, and

subject to the interpretation and initiative of local

officials. UNHCR has not, for example, been able to obtain

final Thai approval for Burma camp refugee identification

cards, which would be an important step forward on

protection. We and UNHCR need to keep encouraging the Thai

to move forward on the cards. We should ask about the

possibility of the Thai permitting camp passes that would

allow refugees to leave the camps individually to work in

local labor markets. We should also show support for the

Thai policy of permitting refugee income generation by

boosting PRM funding of American Refugee Committee (ARC) and

International Rescue Committee (IRC) programs in this area.

 

Petchaboon Hmong

—————-

 

14. (C) The Petchaboon Hmong situation is complex and we do

not see a near-term solution despite extensive discussions

with UNHCR and the RTG. There are approximately 6,000

persons at the Petchaboon site, which is essentially a

primitive encampment along two sides of a mountain road. MSF

provides medical care and sanitation and a U.S. faith-based

organization has been distributing rice. There is a concern

that serious food shortages could develop over time. The RTG

has recently sent soldiers to the site and they have

tightened access as part of an effort to discourage others

from going to Petchaboon. The Thai also say that they

reserve the right to deport the Petchaboon Hmong for illegal

entry, and this week they took 31 Hmong who had been detained

in a Petchaboon police station to the Lao border. While it

does not appear that these 31 persons were handed over to Lao

officials, we have received conflicting reports as to whether

they are now in Thailand or Laos.

 

15. (C) The origins and motives of the Petchaboon Hmong are

not completely clear. They can be divided into three groups.

The first are persons who had been living in Thailand for

many years and went to Petchaboon in the hope of getting into

any future Tham Krabok-like U.S. resettlement program. The

second, who may comprise the largest share of the population,

appear to have been well-settled in Laos and crossed over

into Thailand with a similar motive. Certain Hmong-Americans

organizations have stated falsely that the USG will open

another resettlement program at Petchaboon and have

encouraged members of these two groups to go there to be

first in line. The third are persons who fled Laos because

of political or religious persecution.

 

16. (C) We have stated that there will not be another Tham

Krabok program and that the Thai should refrain from

deporting the Hmong and permit UNHCR to interview those with

legitimate refugee claims. The RTG is worried about a pull

factor, which is a legitimate concern, and has denied, and

will likely continue to deny UNHCR access to the population.

While the Thai say they reserve the right to deport the Hmong

for illegal entry, as a practical matter this is difficult

because the Lao government refuses to take the Hmong back.

Even if UNHCR were to gain access and refer individual cases

to us, our ability to resettle the Hmong would be restricted

by material support. Of 46 Hmong refugees recently referred

 

BANGKOK 00005058 004 OF 004

 

to us by UNHCR, 33 are on material support hold. Other

countries have limited interest in resettling Hmong and the

Thai have ruled out formal local integration. While the

international community and the Thai seek a solution to this

impasse, we need to continue to urge the Thai not to deport

the Hmong. We also need to ensure that there is no problem

with malnutrition and food at the Petchaboon site.

 

North Korean Refugees

———————

 

17. (C) Fifteen North Koreans in Bangkok have indicated

interest in U.S. resettlement. After allowing us to resettle

the first group of six North Koreans in April, the RTG has

declined permission thus far for further North Korean refugee

case processing. The Thai are concerned about a pull factor

and the possible involvment of traffickers. While they

recognize the requirements of U.S. law, they note that U.S.

law is effectively encouraging North Koreans to break Thai

law by entering Thailand illegally. Three of the fifteen

North Koreans have been waiting for almost three months. We

should continue to press the Thai to allow us to process the

pending North Korean cases, and reassure them that we will do

so discreetly. It is probably unlikely at this point that

the Thai will agree to go beyond their current approach of

considering U.S. processing on a case-by-case basis.

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:22 am

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