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09BANGKOK1939 AMBASSADOR ENGAGES FM KASIT ON US-THAI RELATIONS, DRPK, BURMA, CAMBODIA, LAO HMONG, VIKTOR BOUT

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“219861”,”8/7/2009 9:18″,”09BANGKOK1939″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”09BANGKOK1842″,

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SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR BADER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/07/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PREF, PHUM, BM, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: AMBASSADOR ENGAGES FM KASIT ON US-THAI

RELATIONS, DRPK, BURMA, CAMBODIA, LAO HMONG, VIKTOR BOUT

 

REF: BANGKOK 1842

 

BANGKOK 00001939 001.2 OF 004

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary: Ambassador engaged Thai FM Kasit Piromya

August 6 on U.S.-Thai relations, DRPK and the ARF Chair

Statement, Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK), Cambodian

border issues, the Lao Hmong, and Viktor Bout\’s extradition.

Ambassador and Kasit agreed on the need to elevate the nature

of the U.S.-Thai diplomatic-security dialogue to a more

strategic level. Ambassador stressed U.S. displeasure with

the July 23 ARF Chair language on North Korea; Kasit asserted

that ASEAN had intended to keep channels of dialogue to

Pyongyang open while emphasizing to the DPRK that following a

path of confrontation was futile. Kasit characterized

increasing ASEAN pressure on Burma and said that ASEAN could

not move forward absent fundamental change in Burma.

Recently concluded Thai-Cambodian meetings showed progress,

but Kasit said there would need to be a grand package of land

border and off-shore Joint Development Area (JDA) agreements

to overcome bilateral distrust and nationalists in both

countries. Ambassador thanked Kasit for recent increased

access to the Lao Hmong in Phetchabun and pushed for a rapid

change in the status of Hmong held in Nong Khai; Kasit

expressed hope there would be progress in the near future.

Ambassador reiterated U.S. interest in a successful

conclusion in the Viktor Bout extradition case, with a

decision due August 11. End Summary

 

Kasit: Thanks again for S engagement in Phuket

——————————————— –

2. (SBU) FM Kasit once again conveyed a \”profound\” thank you

for Secretary Clinton\’s presence at the ASEAN Regional Forum

(ARF) in Phuket July 22-23. Her participation engendered

good will, elevated the quality of the discussions, and

helped make ARF a success, he said.

 

3. (SBU) Kasit urged quick and substantive follow-up to the

Lower Mekong initiative, and asked for U.S. plans for next

steps, including on the Mississippi-Mekong partnership in

exploring riparian state responsibilities. For his part,

Kasit planned to meet soon with the ESCAP Executive Director,

the ADB, and the World Bank to take stock of possible

programming in the Lower Mekong region, with a focus on

technical cooperation and human resource development.

 

Bilateral Relations – Strategic Dialogue

—————————————-

4. (C) Ambassador and Kasit traded thoughts on implementing

the promise of an enhanced strategic dialogue discussed by

Kasit and the Secretary during Kasit\’s April visit to

Washington. Ambassador emphasized the need to switch from

the transactional approach of the past several years to a

more strategic partnership. Kasit agreed, reiterating his

views shared with the Secretary, Deputy Secretary Steinberg,

and S/P director Slaughter in April: Thailand for the past

eight-ten years has been reactive to piecemeal U.S. requests

(\”send troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, give us access to

Utapao\”), rather than being a partner in discussing policy

together. That was his goal, even if Thailand only rose to a

\”junior\” strategic partner.

 

5. (C) If the U.S. were to explain its overall approach to

the Asia-Pacific region for the future, Kasit continued,

Thailand\’s role as an ally in advancing a shared agenda of

promoting peace and stability in the region could flow

naturally. Cooperative efforts in disaster relief

management, upgrading civil-military capacity, peacekeeping

in a UN/regional context, and capacity-building in countries

like Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam, and eventually Burma, were all

prospective topics to be discussed in his view. Ambassador

added that the Thai position in ASEAN, the relationships with

China and India, and a socio-cultural component including

educational exchanges should also be part of the agenda; late

October/early November might be appropriate timing.

 

6. (SBU) Kasit mentioned that PM Abhisit planned to attend

the UN General Assembly in September. Abhisit would seek

business meetings in New York, and plan to engage Congress in

 

BANGKOK 00001939 002.2 OF 004

 

Washington, even if executive branch meetings proved too

difficult to arrange.

 

7. (C) Referencing his conversation with NSA GEN Jones in

April, Kasit passed a list of equipment the Thai military

hoped might be available via Excess Defense Articles (EDA) or

other military assistance mechanisms as the U.S. drew down in

Iraq. Most of the current Thai armored unit equipment was

30-40 years old, Kasit noted, making it difficult to stay

interoperable with the U.S. Ambassador agreed to pass the

equipment list via our Military Assistance Group but

suggested equipment requests would best be discussed in

context of Thailand\’s strategic needs as part of a broader,

deeper political-military strategic dialogue component.

Kasit acknowledged this point, and agreed with Ambassador on

the utility of closer collaboration between Foreign and

Defense officials in both countries as part of the strategic

dialogue. Kasit noted he met or spoke with Defense Minister

Prawit weekly.

 

ARF Statement\’s DPRK language

—————————–

8. (C) Kasit raised his July 31 telcon with Deputy Secretary

Steinberg on the ARF statement\’s language on North Korea. He

said China had pushed Thailand hard to give the DPRK room and

to avoid language that would cause the North Koreans to walk

away and possibly never come back to the ARF or the Six Party

process. The Thai and ASEAN also believed a quiet and soft

approach was the order of the day. Kasit had told the DPRK

head of Del in Phuket, Ambassador Pak Kun-gwang, that North

Korea could not continue on its current confrontational path;

firing rockets and testing nuclear weapons would get it

nowhere. The outside world was prepared to provide

assistance if it adopted a different approach; confrontation

was futile. Kasit felt that the North Korean delegation left

Phuket understanding their obligations, that the channel of

dialogue had remained open, with the expectation that the

North Koreans should return to the Six Party Talks.

 

9. (C) Kasit and the Chinese FM had a long discussion about

this issue in Phuket; China would be working hard behind the

scenes to bring the DPRK back to the Six Party table. Kasit

had thought about going to Pyongyang as ASEAN Chair to

facilitate progress; the Thais had been in a dialogue with

Pyongyang for 5-6 months, with Vice Ministers Panich having

traveled to Pyongyang to try to secure high level attendance

at the ARF, and Kasit raising it on the margins of the

mid-July Sharm-el-Sheik NAM meetings.

 

10. (C) Ambassador emphasized there remained significant

disagreement over the ARF statement, and Secretary Clinton

had asked that he convey her disappointment with the

language. The July 2- AMM communiqu language on the Korean

Peninsula was good, the July 23 ARF statement not so

(reftel). While we understood the Thai position that China

and Russia had come to the Thai claiming they did not want to

be associated with the language, the fact remained that there

had been agreement among representatives of the five

countries on the language. Furthermore, when the Secretary

and Kasit had met, Permsec Virasak had characterized the

state of play on DPRK language very differently, suggesting

the DPRK wanted a call on all parties to exercise restraint,

and that the DPRK was willing to engage in dialogue. The

final language was much different, was imbalanced, and

suggested an equivalence between the two positions – near

consensus of ARF vs. DPRK propaganda, which was substantively

wrong, and procedurally had been handled poorly. Ambassador

urged that the RTG consult more closely with the U.S. on this

issue in the future.

 

11. (C) Kasit acknowledged that the Thai were fully aware of

the possible consequences of the statement as issued, but he

reiterated his view of the importance of keeping open the

channel. By accommodating them \”a bit\” on language, it kept

the DPRK in play, with no other direction to turn but to

re-engage in talks. \”This is a process,\” and ASEAN felt it

had a role to help push the parties in the right direction.

Russia and China now had to deliver on their end of the

bargain. Kasit expressed hope the release of the two U.S.

 

BANGKOK 00001939 003.2 OF 004

 

journalists on former President Clinton\’s visit to Pyongyang

would provide positive momentum to substantive negotiations

as well.

 

Burma and impact on ASEAN

————————-

12. (C) Kasit reconfirmed that PM Abhisit\’s visit to Burma

had been postponed to avoid potentially coinciding with the

expected verdict in Aung San Suu Kyi\’s (ASSK) trial. Kasit

predicted that the Burmese would sentence ASSK to three

years, but \”whatever it is, it will be unacceptable.\” After

constant pushing in recent months at a series of ASEAN

meetings, most recently in Phuket, Kasit asserted the Burmese

knew well the damage they would do to themselves and to ASEAN

with a conviction. ASEAN countries are consistently harping

on the \”centrality of ASEAN\” in regional architecture but

ASEAN must earn its role, in Kasit\’s view. Without

fundamental change in Burma, ASEAN would have no credibility,

and would not be able to advance further as a community,

Kasit stated.

 

13. (C) Kasit said that he would travel to Indonesia and

Malaysia in the near future to consult about the way forward.

He predicted various ASEAN states would complain separately

in the aftermath of an ASSK conviction. Thailand would seek

to ally with \”old ASEAN\” members to push a more forceful

line. He and Singapore FM George Yeoh had repeatedly pushed

their Burmese FM counterpart to convey the views of ASEAN,

and the need for change, fully to Than Shwe. The recent

visit of Singapore Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong to Burma to

hammer home ASEAN concerns was also important; \”there needs

to be more of such regional pressure.\” For his part, Kasit

planned to suggest to the Burmese FM in their next discussion

that if the regime were to convict ASSK, they pardon her

immediately.

 

14. (C) The Burmese had asked Kasit to facilitate another

round of talks with the Karen, Kasit revealed. Kasit had not

yet set a place and date, but his message to Karen National

Union (KNU) leaders would be: go negotiate. The KNU had no

chance whatsoever at a military victory; their situation only

worsened with constant pressure by the Burmese Army and Karen

DKBA proxies. Kasit felt the KNU\’s best option was to

negotiate a deal, and then coordinate with the other cease

fire groups with similar interests. Kasit personally

believed Burma should be configured as a federation, not a

union. The military would of course \”cheat\” and dominate the

lower house of any parliament, but the states could have

representation in an Upper House, and a process of

self-cleansing of the system could begin.

 

15. (C) Ambassador thanked Kasit for the rapid Thai reaction

to the influx of new Karen refugees in June. Kasit said that

he had pushed the Burmese FM to create a safe area in Karen

state to which the new arrivals could return without

guaranteed harrassment from the Burmese army.

 

Cambodia – border negotiations and JDAs

—————————————

16. (C) Kasit characterized the August 4-5 meetings of the

Thai-Cambodian Joint Committee, and the visit of Cambodian

DPM and FM Hor Namhong, as successful. He asked Hor Namhong

to tell the Cambodian media that Cambodian-Thai relations

were actually much smoother that the press indicated. The

Thai were financing roughly 80 technical assistance and

development projets, drawing on soft loans and the resources

of the Ministry of Finance and several other ministries. Hor

Namhong suggested the Thai invite the Cambodian Minister of

Information for a visit, identifying him as a one of the key

officials stoking a more confrontational public line.

 

17. (C) While border issues were not directly discussed,

Kasit said that both sides are aware of the rough parameters

of what each side could accept, and not; there would need to

be give and take on disputed areas and jointly developing

areas (JDAs) off-shore in the Gulf. The promise of peace and

mutually economic gain should eventually win the day, in

Kasit\’s view. In the meantime, fixing the location of

boundary stone 73 (note: near the coastline), and agreeing on

 

BANGKOK 00001939 004.2 OF 004

 

the watershed definition of six points near Preah Vihear,

would pose the chief challenges. Thai DPM Suthep and

Cambodia\’s Sok An had led the JDA discussions, coming close

to an agreement in principle, but the maritime deal would

need to be packaged together with a deal on the disputed land

areas near Preah Vihear. This would be necessary due to the

elements of distrust in the relationship, as well as

nationalists in both countries who would oppose any

compromise. Leaders in both countries would have to be

brave, and explain the pluses and minuses to a packaged deal.

 

18. (C) Kasit said that he had passed critical comments to

Total over the recent announcement of a provisional deal for

exploration rights in the disputed Gulf areas and would file

a note of protest to the Cambodians. In the end, any

unilateral concessions for exploration would not go forward,

and would be superceded by whatever JDA agreement emerged,

just as had happened in the late 1990s when Thailand and

Malaysia reached a similar JDA agreement.

 

Lao Hmong

———

19. (C) Ambassador thanked Kasit for PM Abhisit\’s assurances

to the Secretary that there would be no forced repatriation

of the Lao Hmong in Phetchabun. Referencing recent moves by

the Thai military to provide more access to the Phetchabun

camp and the first meaningful U.S. participation in

discussions about the Lao Hmong August 7, Ambassador also

pushed Kasit for a quick resolution of the 158 Hmong in the

Nong Khai detention center, perhaps allowing them to return

to relatives in Lopburi. Kasit said that he was trying to

bring the Ministry of Social Welfare into the picture to

improve the situation at Nong Khai. If the discussions at

Phetchaburi went well, he hoped there would be forward

progress. Kasit said he had underscored the need for humane,

humanitarian treatment of the Hmong to his military

counterparts.

 

Viktor Bout

———–

20. (C) Ambassador reiterated the Secretary\’s message to PM

Abhisit and FM Kasit on the importance we placed on a

successful conclusion to the Viktor Bout extradition case,

with the judge\’s decision expected August 11. The U.S.

continued to be concerned about ongoing Russian efforts to

influence the decision. Kasit said he understood and agreed.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:52 am

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