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“75823”,”8/23/2006 5:44″,”06BANGKOK5148″,


“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXYZ0001



DE RUEHBK #5148/01 2350544


P 230544Z AUG 06










“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L BANGKOK 005148








E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/21/2016




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


1. (C) Summary. Admiral McClain and the men and women of the

USS Kitty Hawk Carrier Strike Group, your trip to Bangkok is

a terrific opportunity to demonstrate America\’s commitment to

regional security and meshes with a series of initiatives the

United States has with Thailand. Thailand affords the United

States a unique platform in Asia. Congress recently approved

our implementing an ambitious program in Thailand, Indonesia

and Sri Lanka designed to improve our ability to monitor ship

traffic on the Andaman Sea and in the Strait of Malacca to

intercept suspect vessels. Our largest exercise, 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 participates in the annual CARAT exercise and 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. We are

working towards having the CINC of the Royal Thai Army, GEN

Sonthi Boonyaratglin, participate in the DV fly out. General

Sonthi (SAWN-TEA) is the Thai military\’s point man on

countering the insurgency in Southern Thailand. END SUMMARY.




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



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.




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.




5. (SBU) In 2001, telecommunications multimillionaire Thaksin

(Prime Minister TOCK-SIN) 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. Following allegations of corruption of the Prime

Minister, peaceful anti-government demonstrations grew as

thousands marched in the streets of Bangkok to demand

Thaksin\’s resignation. Thaksin dissolved the Parliament in

February 2006 and declared snap elections in April. 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 or shortly thereafter.

Protesters have not returned to the streets and the Thai

military has not intervened. Notably, Army CINC General

Sonthi has been praised for his professional and apolitical

handling of the military throughout the impasse. The

government remains in caretaker status.




6. (C) 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 published its recommendations in June and these are being

broadly debated.


7. (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





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). Working with PACOM,

PACFLT and Washington, we recently won approval to implement

an ambitious project aimed at promoting domain awareness in

the Andaman Sea. This project is a layered approach to

assist the Thai military secure territorial waters while also

providing coverage of the northern shipping lanes feeding

into the Strait of Malacca. It will 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. We are working closely with U.S. Embassies in Sri

Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to create a

regional network aimed at improving maritime security

throughout the region.




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) We conduct a wide range of major exercises and

training programs with Thailand each year, including Cobra

Gold. Cobra Gold 2006 included 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

included participation by U.S., Thai, Japanese, Singaporean

and Indonesian forces and focused 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. 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. USN aircraft from the USS Abraham Lincoln

participated in Cope Tiger in 2005 while the Lincoln was

stationed off of Aceh during Operation Unified Assistance.

We have also been working closely with PACFLT to give our

major naval exercise, CARAT, a more regional flavor in the

coming years.




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. 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.

Mil-to-mil exchanges between China and Thailand have expanded

in recent years as has the number of bilateral military VIP





12. (C) The relative power and influence of the Royal Thai

Army (RTA) dwarfs the other services. As such, the Royal

Thai Army Commander, GEN Sonthi, 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

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.


13. (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 ideal

partners for the RTA, and field exercises in Thailand afford

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

Asia. We hosted the USS Essex Amphibious Assault Ship during

Cobra Gold this year and are looking for other training

opportunities in the coming months.



14. (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 and the increased tempo of USN

ship visits to Thailand. 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.


15. (C) In addition to supporting our annual 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 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.




16. (C) We want to work with Seventh Fleet and CTF-70 to

establish an SOP with the Thai to enable our carrier air

wings to conduct training in Thailand. We appreciate the

collegial attitude evidenced by officers from the USS Kitty

Hawk, CTF-70 and Seventh Fleet as we negotiated range time

for this visit. During your meetings with RTN officials, it

would be useful to express our sincerity in developing a

procedure we can use in the future that will make our carrier

visits to Thailand even more successful.




17. (U) We look forward to your visit to Thailand and look

forward to working with you to make the DV fly out and the

reception aboard the USS Kitty Hawk a success.



Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:25 am

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