thaicables – It's Your Right to know the Truth!

09BANGKOK2712 SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF THAI CHIEF OF DEFENSE GENERAL SONGKITTI

leave a comment »

“230797”,”10/22/2009 9:42″,”09BANGKOK2712″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO6862

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #2712/01 2950942

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 220942Z OCT 09

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

RHMFISS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8709

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 002712

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/21/2019

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

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF THAI CHIEF OF DEFENSE

GENERAL SONGKITTI

 

Classified By: Charge d\’ Affaires a.i. Robert D. Griffiths, Reasons 1.4

(b) and (d).

 

1. (C) Summary. The visit of Royal Thai Armed Forces (RTARF)

Chief of Defense Forces General Songkitti Jaggabartra to the

PACOM-sponsored Chiefs of Defense conference and to

Washington to meet with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Admiral Mullen affords a chance to affirm support for our

important mil-mil relationship and initiatives such as Cobra

Gold, the Defense Reform Management Study (DRMS), and

Thailand\’s deployment of peacekeepers to Darfur. END SUMMARY.

 

ENDURING BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

——————————-

 

2. (C) Our military relationship began during World War II

when the U.S. trained hundreds of Thais as part of the \”Free

Thai Movement\” that covertly conducted special operations

against the Japanese forces occupying Thailand and drew

closer during the Korean War era when Thailand provided

troops for the UN effort. Thai soldiers, sailors, and airmen

also fought side-by-side with U.S. counterparts in the

Vietnam War and, more recently, Thailand sent contingents to

Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

3. (C) The relationship has evolved into a partnership that

provides the U.S. with unique benefits. As one of five U.S.

treaty allies in Asia and straddling a major force projection

air/sea corridor, Thailand remains crucial to U.S. interests

in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. Underpinning our

strong bilateral relations is the U.S.-Thai security

relationship, which is based on over fifty years of close

cooperation. The relationship has advanced USG interests

while developing Thai military, intelligence, and law

enforcement capabilities.

 

4. (C) Thailand\’s strategic importance to the U.S. should not

be understated. Our military engagement affords us unique

training venues in Asia, training exercises that are nearly

impossible to match elsewhere, a willing participant in

international peacekeeping operations, essential access to

facilities amid vital sea and air lanes that support

contingency and humanitarian missions, and a partner that is

a key South East Asian nation, and current chair of ASEAN.

POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT

———————

 

5. (C) The December 2008 installation of the Democrat-led

coalition government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva

calmed the Thai political environment as the \”yellow-shirt\”

People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) halted street protests.

That said, the \”red-shirt\” United Front of Democracy against

Dictatorship (UDD) has continued protests against the

government with a royal pardon for their champion, former

Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra, among the objectives.

 

6. (C) The basic split in Thai society and the body politic

remains. The traditional royalist elite, urban middle class,

Bangkok, and the south on one side (\”yellow\” in shorthand)

and the political allies of ex-Prime Minister Thaksin

Shinawatra, currently a fugitive abroad, along with largely

rural supporters in the North and Northeast (\”red\”) on the

other. Neither side of this split is as democratic as it

claims to be, and both movements reflect concerns stemming

from perceptions of a lack of social and economic justice in

Thailand. New elections would not likely calm political

tensions, and political discord could very well persist for

years. We continue to stress to Thai interlocutors the need

for all parties to avoid violence and respect democratic

norms within the framework of the constitution and rule of

law.

 

7. (C) Prime Minister Abhisit has had to navigate a difficult

political climate and tough economic circumstances. Abhisit

generally has progressive instincts and says the right things

about basic freedoms, social inequities, policy towards

Burma, and how to address the troubled deep south, afflicted

by a grinding ethno-nationalist Muslim-Malay separatist

insurgency. Whether Abhisit can deliver change is another

matter. He is beset with a fractious coalition, with

partners more interested in self-enrichment than good

governance.

 

IMPORTANT MILITARY ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM

————————————-

 

BANGKOK 00002712 002 OF 004

 

8. (C) Thailand\’s willingness to allow the United States to

use Utapao Naval Air Station as the hub for our regional

assistance program was key to making the 2004 tsunami and the

2008 Cyclone Nargis relief operations a success. While those

high-profile relief operations highlighted publicly the value

of access to Utapao, the air base has been a mainstay for our

military flights. A prime example was the critical support

Utapao provided during OEF by providing an air bridge in

support of refueling missions en route to Afghanistan.

Approximately 1,000 flights transit Utapao every year in

support of critical U.S. military operations both regionally

and to strategic areas of the world. Thailand also provides

valued port access with U.S. naval vessels making calls,

primarily at Laem Chabang and Sattahip, over sixty times per

year for exercises and visits.

 

COBRA GOLD AND THE MILITARY EXERCISE PROGRAM

——————————————–

 

9. (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. Thai leaders are far more willing

to host multinational exercises than are other countries in

Asia. Unlike Japan, which only hosts annual bilateral

exercises due to legal prohibitions over collective security,

or the Philippines, where planning for multinational

exercises has been difficult, or Australia, which refuses to

multilateralize Tandem Thrust, the Thai government encourages

multinational exercises as a way to show regional leadership.

This has allowed us to use exercises in Thailand to further

key U.S. objectives, such as supporting Japan\’s growing

military role in Asia and engaging the Indonesian and

Singaporean militaries.

 

10. (C) Cobra Gold, the capstone event of our exercise

program, is PACOM\’s largest annual multi-lateral exercise and

for 28 years has served to strengthen our relations with

Thailand, highlight our commitment to Southeast Asia, and

provide exceptional training opportunities for our troops.

The event has evolved over the years and now facilitates

important objectives such as promoting a greater role in the

Asian Pacific region for Japan, Singapore, and South Korea

and re-establishing a partner role with Indonesia. Cobra

Gold is key to building partner nation capacity in

humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, especially at a

time when U.S. forces face other global commitments. We have

also been able to incorporate into Cobra Gold a robust Global

Peacekeeping Operations Initiative (GPOI) event with the

active participation of Indonesia and Singapore.

 

BORDER CONFLICT WITH CAMBODIA

—————————–

 

11. (C) Bilateral relations with Cambodia continue to be

volatile, primarily due to a border dispute centered on 4.6

square kilometers of overlapping territorial claims adjacent

to the 11th century Hindu Preah Vihear temple. Minor

skirmishes have erupted three times since mid-2008, leading

to the deaths of seven soldiers.

 

12. (C) The roots of the dispute lie in the Siam-France

agreements of 1904-8 and a 1962 International Court of

Justice ruling that granted Cambodia the temple but left the

rest of disputed land unresolved. Tensions spiked in 2008

when the Thai government in power at that time supported

Cambodia\’s application to UNESCO for a joint listing of the

temple as a world heritage site, only to subsequently face

opposition in parliament and an adverse court ruling.

 

13. (C) Difficult issues lay at the heart of the matter and

political schism in Bangkok may make tough decisions more

difficult for the Thai government. We urge both sides to

resolve their differences peacefully through bilateral

negotiations, border demarcation, and a reduction of troops

deployed along the border. Talks under the auspices of the

Foreign Ministry-led Joint Border Commission (JBC) are

attempting to address the conflict through negotiations, but

thorny internal politics and historical rancor between

Thailand and Cambodia make progress difficult.

 

PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS

——————–

 

BANGKOK 00002712 003 OF 004

 

14. (C) Thailand has historically been a strong supporter of

UN peacekeeping missions and was an early contributing nation

to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, Thai

generals very effectively led UN forces in East Timor, where

Thailand contributed 1,500 troops, and in Aceh, where a Thai

general served as the principal deputy of the Aceh Monitoring

Mission. Thailand\’s success in peacekeeping has led the RTG

and the military to seek a more prominent role in

international stabilization and peacekeeping missions. For

instance, Thailand is currently preparing for a deployment of

a battalion of troops for a difficult UNAMID mission in

Darfur. With deployment currently scheduled for early 2010,

we have continued to underscore to the leadership of the Thai

military that we stand ready to assist again where possible.

 

15. (C) We are working with the military to increase its

peacekeeping capabilities, both as a contributing nation and

as a trainer of neighboring nations. Using GPOI funding,

necessary upgrades and modernization work to a peacekeeping

training facility at Pranburi will be completed in FY10.

Thailand will provide instructors and maintain the facility,

which will be used for Thai peacekeepers for deployments

abroad and for peacekeeping training events with regional

partners. Thailand is also working to become a center for

training peacekeeping troops from around the region.

 

ONGOING REFUGEE CONCERNS

————————

 

16. (C) Due to inherent institutional capabilities, the Thai

military plays a prominent role in the management of the many

refugees that enter Thailand from neighboring countries. The

Thai government has so far failed to set up a transparent

screening process for about 4,000 Lao Hmong — some of whom

we believe have a legitimate claim to refugee status — who

seek resettlement in the U.S. Detained in an RTARF-run camp

for over two years, some are former fighters (or their

descendants) allied with the U.S. against the communist

Pathet Lao during the IndoChina War. We want to take every

opportunity to underscore to the military the importance of

transparently handling these refugee cases.

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND

—————–

 

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

Anupong Paochinda 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 more than 3,500 lives

since January 2004, when the latest round of violence began

to escalate. The root causes of the conflict are political

and reflect larger issues of justice, decentralized

democracy, and identity in Thai society. More specifically,

however, Malay Muslims feel that they are second-class

citizens in Thailand.

 

18. (C) The Thai military currently has the lead in trying to

resolve the conflict, but has focused solely on the difficult

security situation. General Anupong has made clear his

feeling that political leaders need to take charge of efforts

to solve the root causes of the insurgency. There is little

political will in Bangkok to take on this issue, however, and

the efforts of civilian agencies have lagged, focusing on

economic development projects – which most analysts agree

will have little impact on the violence. While the Abhisit

government appears to want to adopt an integrated government

approach to solving the insurgency with budgetary and policy

decisions possibly transferred to the Office of the Prime

Minister, it remains unclear how the civil-military dynamic

will change.

 

19. (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

 

BANGKOK 00002712 004 OF 004

 

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 Station.

 

20. (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.

 

INTEROPERABILITY

—————-

 

21. (SBU) The U.S. remains the country of first choice for

arms procurement by the military, and has more than $2

billion of arms procurements currently in process. We

continue to look at ways to improve interoperability with the

Thai military, but must take into account the presence of

other regional and global players. Following U.S. sanctions

imposed as a consequence of the coup in 2006, other countries

such as China, Israel, Sweden, and South Africa were looked

at more closely for procurement.

 

22. (SBU) The Defense Resource Management Study (DRMS)

program is finishing its second phase in Thailand. Former

RTARF Supreme Commander General Boonsrang Niumpradit was a

key proponent of defense reform and meetings with General

Songkitti will provide an excellent opportunity to underscore

our desire to work closely with the Thai military leadership

as they work to learn from the DRMS process.

 

THE INCREASING ROLE OF CHINA

—————————-

 

23. (C) Thai leaders continue to develop closer relations

with China while simultaneously emphasizing the vital role of

the U.S. in the region. 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, popular culture, the media, and

the military.

 

24. (C) The Chinese, through hosting visits, have made a

strong effort to court the Thai military. The Thai military

has a range of Chinese weapons systems in its arsenal; the

PLA Navy is interested in closer links with the Thai navy,

and China has worked with Thailand to improve air defense

equipment provided to Thailand in the late 1980\’s. In 2007

and 2008, Thai and Chinese Special Forces conducted joint

exercises, and other mil-to-mil exchanges have expanded in

recent years, as has the number of bilateral military VIP

visits. A yet to be finalized bilateral Marine Corps

exercise between China and Thailand near the eastern seaboard

port of Sattahip next year highlights the continuing push by

China to expand its mil-to-mil relations with Thailand\’s

military.

 

25. (C) As the shape of Southeast Asia, Asia writ large, and

the world has changed, so have Thai attitudes. The Chinese

have been making a major push to upgrade all aspects of

relations, including mil-mil with its ASEAN neighbors.

Thailand is not interested in making a choice between the

U.S. and China (nor do we see closer Chinese-Thai relations

as automatically threatening to our interests here), but we

will need to work harder to maintain the preferred status we

have long enjoyed.

GRIFFITHS

Advertisements

Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:07 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: