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08BANGKOK3341 SCENESETTER FOR ADMIRAL KEATING’S MEETING WITH RTARF AT CHOD

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“177572”,”11/10/2008 9:51″,”08BANGKOK3341″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/10/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PTER, MARR, MOPS, PINS, PHUM, TH

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR ADMIRAL KEATING\’S MEETING WITH

RTARF AT CHOD

 

Classified By: Ambassador Eric G. John, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

 

1. (C) Summary. Admiral Keating, your brief meeting with

Royal Thai Armed Forces (RTARF) Chief of Joint Staff General

Ratchakrit Kanchanawat at the Chiefs of Defense conference

affords a chance to affirm the United States Government\’s

commitment to working with a democratically elected Thai

government, to underscore the importance we place on

Thailand\’s political crisis being solved through the

political process, and to highlight our support for important

areas of our mil-mil relationship such as the Defense Reform

Management System (DRMS), Cobra Gold, and Thailand\’s

deployment of peacekeepers to Darfur. END SUMMARY.

 

ENDURING BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

——————————-

 

2. (C) Thai officials have expressed strong interest in

hearing U.S. government officials\’ assessment of the upcoming

transition to a new U.S. new administration. We have

stressed to the Thai that while President-elect Obama will

have the opportunity to shape his own foreign policy, we do

not anticipate significant changes in our bilateral

relationship due to the history and strength of our alliance

and that the nature of U.S.-Thai security, economic, and

cultural bonds remain a strong foundation for the

relationship.

 

THAI POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT

————————–

 

3. (C) Immediate concerns of a coup in Thailand have faded as

the nation focuses on a sequence of major events. Over the

course of the next five weeks the Thai government will

conduct the funeral for the King\’s sister Princess Galyani,

celebrate the King\’s birthday in early December, and host the

ASEAN summit in mid-December. The Thai political scene,

however, remains deeply divided with the royalist elite and

urban middle class on one side and the allies of former Prime

Minister Thaksin and their upcountry rural supporters on the

other. While Army Commander Anupong Paochinda steadfastly

remains committed to keeping the army outside politics, there

are those on both sides of the political divide who appear

willing to engage in violence which could prove an

unpredictable trigger for

military intervention.

 

4. (C) The status quo does not appear to be sustainable. The

pro-Thaksin People\’s Power Party will likely be dissolved,

and the follow-on party would almost certainly command a

plurality or a majority if new elections were to be called.

Possible actions to try to strengthen the two sides positions

include forming a new administration, calling new elections,

or launching a coup. None of these actions, however, appear

likely to lead to resolution of the current divide. As such,

political turmoil could very well persist for years. You

should praise the Thai military leadership for keeping above

the political fray, and reiterate to Ratchakrit that a coup

would be seen very negatively internationally and not resolve

the underlying causes of the political turmoil. It is

important that all parties avoid violence, and respect

democratic processes and the rule of law.

 

COBRA GOLD AND THE MILITARY EXERCISE PROGRAM

——————————————–

 

5. (C) By means of access to good military base

infrastructure and large areas to conduct unrestricted

operations, Thailand gives the U.S. military a platform for

exercises unique in Asia. We are on track for a very

successful iteration of the major JCS-directed COBRA GOLD

exercise in February 2009. The exercise will continue to

advance our goal of promoting joint and combined military

operations in our Cobra Gold partners of Thailand, Indonesia,

Japan and Singapore.

 

BANGKOK 00003341 002 OF 003

 

BORDER TALKS BEGIN WITH CAMBODIA

——————————–

 

6. (C) We are encouraged that the Thai and Cambodian

governments this week began bilateral talks to try to resolve

the border dispute that is centered on overlapping claims to

territory adjacent to Preah Vihear temple. Talks under the

auspices of the Foreign Ministry-Joint Border Commission

(JBC) will attempt to address the conflict through

negotiations but we are not optimistic for quick resolution

to the dispute. Difficult issues lay at the heart of the

matter, and continued political conflict in Bangkok may make

tough decisions more difficult for the Thai government. We

continue to stress to the Thai that we hope that the dispute

can be resolved peacefully and bilaterally.

 

DEFENSE REFORM

————–

 

7. (C) We have been working closely with the RTARF on the

U.S.-funded DRMS project which will help rationalize the Thai

military\’s procurement and other resource needs. Former

RTARF Supreme Commander General Boonsrang Niumpradit was a

key proponent of defense reform, and your meeting with

General Ratchakrit will provide an excellent opportunity to

underscore our desire to work closely with the Thai military

leadership to accelerate the DRMS process.

 

PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS

——————–

 

8. (C) Thailand has been an active contributor in

peacekeeping missions, best known for leading forces in the

UNTAET mission in East Timor. The RTARF has been a close

partner for us as the Thai government continues preparations

to deploy a battalion of peacekeeping troops to Darfur as

UNAMID. With deployment currently scheduled for the May-June

2009 timeframe, we have continued to underscore to the

leadership of the Thai military that we stand ready to assist

the Thai again where possible.

 

ENCOURAGING SIGNS ON HMONG ISSUE

——————————–

 

9. (C) The RTARF has the lead on resolving the difficult

problem of the thousands of Hmong from Laos seeking

resettlement in the U.S. The Thai government has set up a

screening process for the Hmong currently in a camp in

Petchaboon province, and we believe that a portion of the

group may have a legitimate claim to refugee status and could

face harsh treatment by the Lao government if returned. We

have been encouraged as the RTARF has recently begun to share

valuable information with us. Nonetheless, we want to take

every opportunity to underscore to the RTARF the importance

of transparently handling these refugee cases.

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND

—————–

 

10. (C) The Thai military, since the installation of General

Anupong as Army Commander, has taken a more assertive role in

trying to quell the ethnic Malay Muslim-led insurgency in

southern Thailand, a region that has witnessed episodic

violence since its incorporation into Thailand in 1902.

Regional violence has claimed over 3000 lives since January

2004, when the violence began to escalate. The root causes

of the insurgency — government neglect, human rights abuses,

and a lack of social justice, combined with a desire for some

form of self-determination, have not been addressed by any

Thai government to this point. While the Thai military has

so far demonstrated the most focus on trying to resolve the

situation in the South, efforts on the part of other parts of

the government have so far lagged.

 

BANGKOK 00003341 003 OF 003

 

11. (C) The Embassy maintains 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) Helping the Thai break down stovepipes between the Thai

military, police forces, and civilian agencies;

3) Doing everything we can to ensure the Thai respect

international human rights norms as they counter the violence.

JOHN

 

Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 6:17 am

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