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05BANGKOK628 LOST IN THAILAND’S TSUNAMI: BURMESE MIGRANT WORKERS

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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 000628

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

DEPARTMENT FOR DRL/IL, G/TIP, PRM AND EAP

LABOR PASS ILAB

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: ELAB KWMN PHUM PREL PREF TH

SUBJECT: LOST IN THAILAND’S TSUNAMI: BURMESE MIGRANT WORKERS

 

REF: BANGKOK 306

 

¶1. (SBU) Summary. The Royal Thai government (RTG) has

earned international plaudits for its responsiveness to

western tourists and Thais affected by the tsunami. Roughly

30,000 Burmese migrants, employed in construction, fisheries,

and hotels in three devastated provinces, remain marginalized

in official assistance efforts, however. Many survivors

appear to have returned to Burma or moved to other provinces

in search of employment. Significant numbers stayed, and are

camping in rubber plantations and forests, with little or no

assistance. Jobless, subject to arrest and deportation, this

population is at risk for trafficking. RTG estimates of

migrant deaths suggest about 250 – 350 perished in the three

provinces. NGOs believe 2,500 died in a single district

alone. Language barriers, and distrust of RTG officials,

means few of the Burmese dead will be identified. End

Summary.

 

 

¶2. What Happened to the Burmese Migrants?

————————————-

 

(U) Over 62,700 Burmese migrants are registered in Phuket,

Phang Nga and Krabi provinces, the three areas most affected

by Thailand’s December 26 tsunami. (UN and NGO observers

believe another 20 – 30 percent of resident migrants are

illegally present, suggesting a total population well over

80,000.) Of this large group, 23,800 registered workers (and

another 7,000 or so illegal) were in high-risk economic

sectors that bore the brunt of the disaster’s impact:

commercial fishing, construction and hotel staff. NGOs and

Royal Thai government (RTG) agencies reported many of those

employed in affected economic sectors, in shock and without

employers, wished to return to Burma. The U.S. NGO World

Vision, assisting destitute migrants return to Burma via a

transit center in Ranong (Ref), reported that about 700

registered workers returned voluntarily through the facility

until it closed on January 16th. Another 800 returned to

Kawthoung (Burma) without assistance. Others appear to have

fled to rubber plantations and wooded areas inland in Phang

Nga and Krabi. A local NGO reported that 3,000 surviving

Burmese, formerly resident in a Phang Nga fishing village

devastated by the disaster, are now sheltering in a forested

area nearby. About 320 Burmese families, including pregnant

women and children, reportedly fled to the hills above the

resort area of Khao Lak. On January 22-23, a U.S. NGO

provided the group with food and baby formula, which is using

plastic sheeting for shelter. Similar reports of migrants

living in difficult conditions have been received from Krabi

province. Although no estimates are available, a large

proportion of migrants are believed to have moved to other

inland provinces to look for new employment – a move that

legally has to be reported to the RTG Ministry of Labor

(MOL). To date, only 450 registered workers have requested

MOL permission to move, however.

 

¶3. The Thai Government Responds

—————————-

 

(SBU) On January 10 – 11, Laboff met with senior officials in

the MOL and Ministry of Social Development and Human Security

(MSDHS), the two main government agencies providing services

to tsunami survivors, to encourage increased outreach efforts

to affected Burmese migrants. MOL Deputy Permanent Secretary

Thapabutr Jamasevi asserted that registered foreign workers

“have exactly the same rights” as Thai citizens in requesting

job placement, severance pay and other benefits under the

Labor Protection Act. Similarly, MSDHS Permanent Secretary

Wallop Phloytabthim claimed that migrants received “identical

treatment” with Thais. However, Wallop acknowledged that

few Burmese migrants had approached local MSDHS officials for

assistance, speculating that they were “afraid” to request

shelter in an internally displaced person camp established by

the RTG in Phang Nga province. (That camp now holds

approximately 4,000 Thais.) MOL assistance is similarly

limited to date: an official report dated 18 January claimed

medical treatment at area hospitals was provided for 500

registered workers. Otherwise, services have been confined

to the voluntary repatriation of registered workers to Burma,

processing the relatively few requests to change to employers

in other provinces, and providing USD 125 for “body

preparation” services for four deceased migrants.

 

¶4. Widely Differing Estimates of Migrant Deaths

———————————————

 

(U) Several Thai NGOs that work with Burmese migrants

completed preliminary surveys of tsunami affected areas the

week of January 10 – 17. The Migrant Assistance Project and

Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association estimated 2,500 migrants

died in the hardest hit area, Khao Lak District in Phang Nga

province, where there were 9,800 (mostly fishermen)

registered. The NGOs developed the estimate by interviewing

villagers to determine how many fishing boats were lost; each

vessel was then assumed to contain thirty Burmese fishermen.

(Many boats had just returned from night fishing when the

disaster struck, and were beached with crew asleep on board.)

Other NGO reports offer limited snapshots of casualties: 200

migrant construction/hotel workers dead at Patong beach,

Phuket; 270 fishermen perished in Baan Nam Khem fishing

village, Phanga Nga province; “hundreds” more at another

nearby fishing village. Official RTG estimates are much

lower. Based on surveys of employers retaining registered

workers, the MOL believes only 255 were killed by the tsunami

(all in Phang Nga province), with another 200 missing in

Phuket. Of the missing, some are believed by MOL officials

to have returned informally to Burma.

 

¶5. IOM: Government Assistance Sub-Par

———————————-

 

(SBU) An initial assessment by the International

Organization for Migration (IOM) notes that RTG services to

migrants fall far short of those provided to Thai nationals

and western tourists in tsunami – affected areas. The January

10 report criticizes MOL efforts for focusing on registered

migrants, ignoring the thousands who are unregistered. For

those unregistered, quick deportations are the norm, which

IOM characterized as a “politically convenient” way to deal

with the alleged looting of damaged properties by Burmese.

(The RTG immigration chief publicly accused the Burmese

workers as “preying” on local Thais in wake of the disaster.

Isolated cases of looting, in reality mostly perpetrated by

Thais, were quickly blamed on migrants and the charge was

widely believed.) Public health services are poor: by

January 11, only 29 registered migrants had received

treatment in Phanga Nga provincial hospital, which has seen

over 620 tsunami patients since December 26. An attempt by

NGO health workers to assess migrant health needs at one

fishing village was met by violence on January 12, when Thai

villagers imprisoned three Burmese staff of World Vision, and

beat one Thai. (The villagers mistakenly believed the health

team intended to repatriate the migrants, for whom fishing

boat owners had paid registration fees.) Health and

sanitation outreach to the large numbers living in forests

and rubber plantations, and to those workers not registered,

is currently limited or non-existent.

 

¶6. Comments.

——–

 

(U) Migrant workers are by nature a highly mobile and

somewhat hidden population. In the chaotic wake of Thailand’s

worst natural disaster, a large portion of the 30,000 in

provinces and occupations most likely to have been affected

are simply unaccounted for. Many likely moved quietly to

other provinces in search for new employment, beyond the gaze

of RTG officials and the handful of interested NGOs. Others

may have returned to Burma at the many informal crossings

along the porous border. A true accounting of the Burmese

killed by the tsunami will never be made. For those whose

bodies were found, few will be identified. In the six days

immediately following the tsunami, Laboff did not encounter

any Burmese searching for relatives among the hundreds of

bodies strewn about make-shift morgues in Khao Lak district,

Phang Nga province, nor were there Burmese language notices

on the many missing persons boards. On December 29, the

hasty cremation of dozens of Asian remains was observed at a

Buddhist temple. Workers said that most remains had not been

claimed by a group of Thai villagers waiting nearby, offering

that “they are probably just Burmese.” Concerned NGOs

believe that language barriers, and a well-ingrained fear of

Thai officialdom, accounts for the reluctance of migrants to

identify compatriots who perished in the tsunami.

 

¶7. (SBU) Post advocacy efforts in the weeks ahead will focus

on the living, particularly Burmese women and children who

might be at risk of trafficking in persons. About 10,200

registered (and an estimated 3,000 unregistered) women were

employed in tsunami-devastated economic sectors in the three

most affected provinces, and many of these have certainly

lost employers, putting them in danger.

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

August 26, 2011 at 4:32 am

10PHNOMPENH103 DAS MARCIEL REVIEWS U.S. POLICY WITH GOVERNMENT, OPPOSITION, CIVIL SOCIETY

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“248568”,”2/12/2010 10:19″,”10PHNOMPENH103″,

“Embassy Phnom Penh”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“09PHNOMPENH960|10PHNOMPENH89″,”VZCZCXRO2311

PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

DE RUEHPF #0103/01 0431019

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 121019Z FEB 10

FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1661

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 2605

RHHMUNA/USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY”,

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04

PHNOM PENH 000103

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/10/2020

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PBTS, MARR, TH, CB

SUBJECT: DAS MARCIEL REVIEWS U.S. POLICY WITH GOVERNMENT,

OPPOSITION, CIVIL SOCIETY

 

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 89 (ICC)

B. 09 PHNOM PENH 960 (UIGHURS)

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR CAROL A. RODLEY FOR REASONS 1.4 (B, D)

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. In a wide range of meetings with Cambodian

officials, opposition party members, NGOs and civil society,

Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs

Scot Marciel spotlighted stepped-up engagement by the United

States in Cambodia while highlighting specific issues such as

the Uighur deportation, bilateral debt, Preah Vihear, the

Anti-Corruption Law, and resolution of the Cambodian-Thai

border dispute. Both DPM Sok An and FM Hor Namhong renewed

the Cambodian commitment to settle the dispute with Thailand

peacefully. Sok An detailed Cambodian claims to the Preah

Vihear temple area, and Hor Namhong expressed appreciation

for increased U.S. participation in the region, including the

Lower Mekong Initiative. He also extended an invitation for

the Secretary to visit on the occasion of the 60th

anniversary of diplomatic relations in July. Economic

experts highlighted concerns about sustainable economic

growth and macroeconomic stability, particularly in light of

the expected closure of the IMF office in Cambodia this year.

Opposition parliamentarians were less downbeat about

identified deficiencies in Cambodia\’s tighter political

space, and more deliberate in identifying actions they could

take to improve the situation. In meetings with civil

society, the Uighurs, Sam Rainsy\’s conviction, and a proposed

NGO law figured prominently. DAS Marciel spoke on U.S.

foreign policy in the region to 400 university students, who,

in a spirited exchange, demonstrated that Cambodia\’s youth is

a vibrant reminder of the promise of Cambodia\’s future. END

SUMMARY.

 

Debt and Impact of Uighur Decision

———————————-

 

2. (C) Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

Hor Namhong reiterated his request to Secretary Clinton to

reschedule bilateral debt, suggesting now that 70% of the

debt be diverted to development assistance and that 30% would

be repaid. DAS Marciel outlined the legal obstacles to debt

forgiveness, and indicated that the process was complicated

further by Cambodia\’s recent decision to deport 20 Uighur

asylum seekers to China (Ref B). Stating that there was

great concern in the administration and Congress regarding

the decision, DAS Marciel maintained that the question of

debt relief for Cambodia had become much more difficult as a

result, since the deportation raised questions about how

Cambodia will handle future asylum seekers. Hor Namhong

responded by stating that \”many factors\” were considered

prior to returning the Uighurs, but in the end, it was

determined that they were \”not refugees because there is no

war in China.\” Additionally, he claimed that the Uighurs\’

passage from China to Cambodia was orchestrated by an

organization in the U.S. and that if they were allowed to

stay, more would follow, creating a situation that Cambodia

is not equipped to handle.

 

ASEAN and the UN

—————-

 

3. (SBU) Stating that the U.S. is committed to building a

strong relationship with ASEAN, DAS Marciel noted that a

Resident Representative of the U.S. Ambassador for ASEAN

Affairs recently arrived in Jakarta to establish a Permanent

Mission. Hor Namhong stated that ASEAN is pleased about the

United State\’s increased interest in the region and declared

that there are only two alternatives for the next ASEAN-U.S.

summit – Vietnam or the United States. Noting that Asia is

moving in the right direction with closer cooperation,

increased trade, and enhanced security, Hor Namhong expressed

frustration that initiatives such as Australia\’s Asia Pacific

Community (APC) result in duplication of existing frameworks

such as that of APEC, ARF, EAS, and ASEAN. Hor Namhong

stated that Cambodia is supportive of U.S. participation in

existing communities, such as EAS, but indicated the timing

of the APC is not right nor is its role in the region clear.

(NOTE: Hor Namhong\’s comments on the APC echo similar public

statements made by Prime Minister Hun Sen in January. END

NOTE.)

 

4. (SBU) Hor Namhong then appealed to the U.S. for support of

Cambodia\’s 2012 bid to become a non-permanent member of the

UN Security Council in 2013, which has ASEAN\’s support.

Given its history of UN involvement, Cambodia is well placed

to sit on the Council and share knowledge with other members,

he urged. DAS Marciel responded that Cambodia\’s experiences

 

PHNOM PENH 00000103 002 OF 004

 

would certainly bring an important perspective to UNSC

deliberations.

 

Burma Elections in May?

———————–

 

5. (C) Expressing his appreciation of the new U.S. policy on

Burma, Hor Namhong indicated that Burma is interested in

working with the United States. and would like to join the

Lower Mekong Initiative. He stated that the Burmese FM told

the Cambodian Ambassador recently that elections will be held

in May 2010, and that ten political parties, including Aung

San Suu Kyi\’s, would be allowed to participate.

Additionally, the Burmese government has requested that ASEAN

send election observers. According to Hor Namhong, during a

closed-door meeting at the ASEAN summit, member nations urged

Burmese officials to hold credible and democratic elections.

Agreeing that the election would indeed be an opportunity for

progress, DAS Marciel expressed concern that opposition

leaders are unable to campaign and much work is required

before a truly free and fair election can be held.

 

Thailand and Image

——————–

 

6. (C) Given the recent verbal exchanges between Prime

Minister Hun Sen and Thai Prime Minister Abhist Vejjajiva,

DAS Marciel expressed concern that in addition to raising

tensions in the region, such combative public comments are

hurting both countries\’ international images and could

negatively impact tourism and investment. Hor Namhong stated

that Cambodia is committed to normalizing relations with

Thailand, that the \”Thaksin issue\” should be set aside, and

focus should instead be on solving the border dispute. He

further stated that \”Cambodia cannot accept Thailand\’s claim

to Cambodian territory, and Thailand won\’t withdraw the

claim, so the only way to settle is through legal means.\”

(Note: In recent speeches, PM Hun Sen has indicated a desire

to take the issue to the ICJ and the UNSC. End Note.)

 

Improved Bilateral Relations

—————————–

 

7. (SBU) The FM expressed appreciation for improved

U.S.-Cambodian relations during the last few years. He

specifically thanked the U.S. for support in the areas of

health, education, demining, economic development, and local

administration reforms. Hor Namhong also discussed the work

of a joint commission which is planning events to commemorate

the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the U.S.

and Cambodia to include bilateral agreements, MOUs and

cultural programs. In that context, he extended an

invitation to Secretary of State Clinton to visit Cambodia in

July, when a series of bilateral agreements could be signed.

DAS Marciel credited the Cambodian government for increased

development of the country, thanked Cambodia for its support

in recent UNGA votes which were appreciated by the United

States, and congratulated the FM on his initiative to

position Cambodia as one of the first countries to associate

itself with the Copenhagen Accord.

 

Sok An: Up on Preah Vihear, Down on Thai \”Invasion\”

——————————————— ——

 

8. (SBU) Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Council

of Ministers Sok An highlighted recent successes with the

Khmer Rouge Tribunal (septel) and the extension of a Chevron

agreement to exploit oil and gas resources in the offshore

Block A in Cambodian territorial waters. On the

Cambodian-Vietnamese border demarcation process, Sok An noted

that it is possible the border line that is being drawn in

principle according to maps and agreed rules may cut through

the rice fields of both Cambodians and Vietnamese, who then

find themselves theoretically on the wrong side of the

border. \”We are seeking an appropriate solution,\” he stated.

Turning to the Thai border and drawing on a six-inch pile of

maps, documents, and brochures, Sok An gave a blow-by-blow

account of the inviolability of Cambodian claims to Preah

Vihear and the surrounding territory based on the 1962 ICJ

decision, the irreversibility of the 2008 UNESCO inscription

of Preah Vihear as a World Heritage Site, and the

indisputably uncooperative attitudes of the Thai by, among

other acts of arrogance and slights to Cambodia, invading

Cambodian sovereign territory on July 15, 2008.

 

9. (SBU) Sok An reviewed recent Cambodian achievements with

the Preah Vihear world heritage site development plan, noting

the construction of new access roads and an East-facing

 

PHNOM PENH 00000103 003 OF 004

 

staircase up the escarpment to the mountain temple. An

eco-village for 300 families who had been re-located was

already far along and a market at the foot of the temple

entrance re-designed. The RGC had already spent $99 million

in the area of Preah Vihear and around the border, he stated.

As an International Coordinating Committee (ICC) is formed

(Ref A), Cambodia is inviting the United States to join and

perhaps even co-chair the ICC, he said. When asked about the

UNESCO requirement that Thailand be invited to join the Preah

Vihear ICC, Sok An said that he was \”very reluctant\” to

include them. He noted first that this condition had been

imposed in early July, before the \”Thai invasion\” and,

secondly, the Thai behavior at a recent Angkor Wat ICC —

when a delegation packed with Thai MFA members did not want

to join in the technical preservation discussion but wanted

to raise political issues — had shown that the Thai could

not be trusted to make a positive contribution. DAS Marciel

said that the U.S. would look seriously at playing a role in

the Preah Vihear ICC, but urged the RGC to continue to work

together with Thailand to ease bilateral tensions.

 

Anti-Corruption Law

——————-

 

10. (SBU) DPM Sok An confirmed that the Council of Ministers

had recently transmitted to the National Assembly the draft

Anti-Corruption Law (ACL) for its consideration. Now that

the four basic laws related to civil and penal codes and

procedures were in place, and given an influx of a younger

cadre of judges capable of understanding these

inter-dependent laws, Sok An was confident that the

government was ready to work on an Anti-Corruption Law. He

said the RGC would build three pillars of support for a new

law: education, law enforcement, and mass support. The RGC

now realized the importance of mass support because, when a

case of corruption is brought against individuals, they \”do

everything to fight\” it, he said. He cited Hong Kong and

Singapore as the best models for Cambodia and noted that the

former RCAF headquarters compound would be transformed into

an Anti-Corruption Institute. Noting continued U.S. support

for an ACL, and remarking that any effort to tackle the

difficult issue of corruption must have the strong support of

the leadership, DAS Marciel noted the United States looked

forward to its passage.

 

Opposition Politics

——————-

 

11. (SBU) In a meeting with Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarians

Mu Sochua and Son Chhay and Human Rights Party MP Ou

Chanrith, DAS Marciel emphasized U.S. commitment to stepping

up its engagement with the Cambodian government to support

democracy, good governance, and the rule of law. While

initially predicting a dire future for democracy and a

diminished role for the opposition, the MPs still held out a

vision for their own role to reform institutions in Cambodia.

All three had clear proposals for future activities funded

by U.S. assistance: organize more voter forums at the local

level; assist with reform measures such as implementation of

an impending Anti-Corruption Law; support fair coverage of

the opposition in the mainstream media; and strengthen USG

support for \”alternative media\” such as RFA and VOA, which

give the opposition more balanced radio air time. Son Chhay

urged the USG to use its position of influence not just to

\”sweet talk\” the RGC but to advocate that it take more

seriously its human rights obligations. SRP Mu Sochua urged

the U.S. to review the \”quality of assistance\” in the

maternal health area so that aid dollars resulted in the

desired reduction of maternal mortality. (NOTE: At about 470

per 100,000 live births, Cambodia\’s maternal mortality rate

is among the highest in the region. END NOTE.) DAS Marciel

assured the opposition leaders that, in addition to paying

attention to issues they raised, the U.S. was concerned about

the political space in Cambodia and had bluntly raised those

concerns with the government.

 

The NGO Perspective

——————-

 

12. (SBU) Speculation about a proposed NGO Law dominated DAS

Marciel\’s discussion with civil society representatives about

the overall health of civil society in Cambodia. One

representative captured attention with his claim that \”there

is no civil society in Cambodia anymore,\” predicting that

Cambodia will soon become like Vietnam, where he believed the

government allowed NGOs to work on economic and development

issues, but prohibited advocacy. Most agreed that while

there are many NGOs providing services in Cambodia, the other

 

PHNOM PENH 00000103 004 OF 004

 

elements of civil society, particularly those that advocate

for government change — such as unions, journalists,

opposition parties, and advocacy organizations — are

operating in an increasingly challenging environment. They

voiced deep concern about a proposed NGO Law, and speculated

that the new law will require all NGOs currently operating in

Cambodia to re-register, presenting an opportunity for the

RGC to disapprove particular organizations it dislikes. The

independence and credibility of the judiciary also came under

attack when DAS Marciel raised the issue of Sam Rainsy\’s

conviction for incitement and property destruction.

Representatives criticized the government for using the

courts to settle its political scores, with once noting that

independent of the politics and legal questions involved, he

believed the court acted \”inappropriately\” in intervening in

the situation, and that courts \”should not be used as a tool

for silencing debate.\”

 

13. (SBU) Civil society representatives were also sharply

critical of the government\’s decision to deport 20 Uighurs in

December. Christophe Peschoux, the Representative of the UN

Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNOHCHR),

stated that mid-level officials in the RGC wanted to and were

prepared to adhere to Cambodia\’s commitments under the 1951

Refugee Convention, but were overruled by officials at the

highest level at the last minute. Peschoux noted that the

past system of refugee protection in Cambodia had been

effective, albeit with its \”ups and downs,\” but that the

Uighur deportation \”shattered\” this perception of efficacy

and credibility. He remarked that the Ministry of Interior

will have to take specific corrective actions in order to

regain the confidence of civil society. Other

representatives expressed disappointment in the role played

by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and agreed

that the presence and capability of UNHCR also needed review

and augmentation.

 

Cambodian Youth Inquisitive of U.S. Policy

——————————————

 

14. (SBU) DAS Marciel summarized U.S. foreign policy in the

ASEAN region and in Cambodia to a packed auditorium of 400

students at Pannasastra University. His remarks prompted a

slew of questions, with students curious to learn more about

the U.S. government\’s decision to enhance its engagement with

ASEAN and the U.S. role in addressing the challenges of

climate change. Several students sought DAS Marciel\’s candid

assessment of politics and democracy in Cambodia, revealing a

sophisticated understanding of the challenges to

strengthening democratic institutions in Cambodia and a

proactive style in addressing the issues of the day.

 

Economic Challenges Ahead

————————-

 

15. (SBU) Economic experts, including country directors from

the World Bank, IMF, and Asia Development Bank, explained

that Cambodia\’s narrowly-based economy contracted by

approximately 2 percent in 2009 as a result of the global

economic crisis, declining significantly from the remarkable

near 10 percent growth of the past decade. They described

Cambodia at a crossroads, with the path leading to

sustainable growth dependent on the leadership\’s ability to

make the right decisions on key policies affecting public

financial management and responsible use of its natural

resources. While acknowledging that investment in

infrastructure development and the agriculture sector is

necessary to diversify the economic base, they expressed

concern about the long-term cost of some development

assistance in these sectors. In particular, the IMF

representative stated that the terms of financing for the USD

1.3 billion in loans provided by China in 2008 and 2009,

primary for infrastructure development, are unclear, raising

significant concerns about Cambodia\’s debt sustainability.

The experts all agreed that the timing of the closure of the

IMF office in Cambodia (expected in April of this year) is

unfortunate, coinciding with significant macroeconomic

challenges facing the country, such as balance of payments

and sustainability of the debt, and urged the U.S. to

encourage the IMF to review its decision.

 

16. DAS Marciel did not have an opportunity to clear this

cable.

RODLEY

Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:47 am

10BANGKOK298 SCENESETTER FOR THE CSA-HOSTED VISIT OF THAI ARMY COMMANDER GENERAL ANUPONG

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“247126”,”2/4/2010 5:35″,”10BANGKOK298″,

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SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/04/2020

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

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE CSA-HOSTED VISIT OF THAI ARMY

COMMANDER GENERAL ANUPONG

 

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

 

1. (C) General Casey, the upcoming visit of Thai Army

Commander General Anupong Paojinda will be an important

occasion to demonstrate our appreciation for the U.S.-Thai

relationship. Despite ongoing domestic political challenges,

Thailand\’s adherence to democratic values should not go

unrecognized. General Anupong has been invaluable the past

two years as he has resisted pressures from all sides for

military intervention into politics; as a result, a full

range of actors on the Thai political scene are able to

openly and vigorously debate policies and the state of

democracy. This visit is a prime opportunity to demonstrate

clearly to our close ally that we intend to engage fully in

the partnership, at a time when many in Thailand question

U.S. commitment to the region in comparison to a sustained

Chinese charm offensive. As examples of benefits from the

relationship, the U.S.-Thai partnership has yielded a

promising new lead in the drive to develop an HIV vaccination

and the seizure of more than 35 tons of North Korean weapons

in just the last three months alone, two examples that serve

to illustrate the depth and breadth of a relationship.

Furthermore, the Thai Cabinet in December approved a

supplemental budget to facilitate a peacekeeping deployment

to Darfur.

 

2. (C) General Anupong is the preeminent military leader in

our steadfast ally and has been a strong advocate of not

staging a coup and permitting the democratic process to play

out, although with the Army ensuring security. Indeed, if

you look back at the political turbulence of the past two

years, he has been one of the more admirable figures in

Thailand, and this counterpart visit is one way to express

our appreciation for his actions. Anupong has had to make an

extraordinary series of tough decisions over the past

eighteen months, and his intellect and disposition have been

key ingredients that have enabled him to make the choice to

come down on the side of democracy, even as his troops wage a

counterinsurgency campaign in Thailand\’s troubled

southernmost provinces. We will also want to use this visit

to send a signal to the rest of the Royal Thai Army that the

United States values its relationship with the Thai military

and Thailand. Anupong will likely be interested in pursuing

discussions on regional security challenges, and how the

U.S.-Thai alliance can be focused to assist as Thailand

prepares for changing threats. Anupong will also look to

discuss areas of cooperation, such as bilateral exercises and

training, whereby we can assist the Thai military modernize.

Thai government officials and military leaders have also

expressed strong interest in receiving excess defense

articles by way of Thailand\’s status as a Major Non-NATO

Ally, as Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya raised in 2009 with

Secretary Clinton and other senior USG officials.

 

POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT

———————

 

3. (SBU) The past eighteen months were turbulent for

Thailand. Court decisions forced two Prime Ministers from

office in 2008, and twice the normal patterns of political

life took a back seat to disruptive protests in the streets.

The yellow-shirted People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD)

occupied Government House from August to December 2008 and

shut down Bangkok\’s airports for eight days, to protest

governments affiliated with ex-Prime Minister Thaksin

Shinawatra. The red-shirted United Front for Democracy

against Dictatorship (UDD), followers of Thaksin, disrupted a

regional Asian Summit and sparked riots in Bangkok in

mid-April 2009 after Thaksin, now a fugitive abroad in the

wake of an abuse of power conviction, called for a revolution

to bring him home.

 

4. (C) 2010 promises to be contentious as well, with Thaksin

and the red-shirts having vowed to redouble their efforts to

topple the government. In recent weeks, the red-shirts have

steadily increased a campaign to discredit and undermine the

government, with promises of a \”final battle\” in late

February that has many worried that violence could again

return to the streets of Bangkok. Among their activities has

 

BANGKOK 00000298 002 OF 005

 

been an operation to spread rumors of an impending coup, a

rumor for which we have seen no basis.

 

5. (C) Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva is a photogenic,

eloquent 45-year old Oxford graduate who 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.

Delivering results has proved more elusive, though the Thai

economy is growing again, driven by expanding exports.

 

6. (C) While both yellow and red try to lay exclusive claim

to the mantle of democracy, both have ulterior motives in

doing so. Both movements reflect deep social concerns

stemming from widespread perceptions of a lack of social and

economic justice, but both seek to triumph in competing for

traditional Thai hierarchical power relationships. New

elections would not appear to be a viable solution to

political divide, and political discord could 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, as well as our support for long-time friend Thailand to

work through its current difficulties and emerge as a more

participatory democracy.

 

RECEDING MONARCHY

—————–

 

7. (C) Underlying the political tension in Bangkok is the

future of the monarchy. On the throne for 62 years,

U.S.-born King Bhumibol is Thailand\’s most prestigious

figure, with influence far beyond his constitutional mandate.

Many actors, including in the military, are jockeying for

position to shape the expected transition period in Thailand

during royal succession after the eventual passing of the

King. Few observers believe that the deep political and

social divides can be bridged until after King Bhumibol

passes and Thailand\’s tectonic plates shift. Crown Prince

Vajiralongkorn neither commands the respect nor displays the

charisma of his beloved father, who has greatly expanded the

prestige and influence of the monarchy during his reign.

Nearly everyone expects the monarchy to shrink and change in

function after succession. How much will change is open to

question, with many institutions, figures, and political

forces positioning for influence, not only over redefining

the institution of monarchy but, equally fundamentally, what

it means to be Thai.

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND – SEPARATIST INSURGENCY

—————————————–

 

8. (C) An ethno-nationalist Malay Muslim insurgency in

southern Thailand has claimed an estimated 3,500 lives since

2004. Fundamental issues of justice and ethnic identity

drive the violence as many Malay Muslims feel that they are

second-class citizens in Thailand, and ending the insurgency

will require the government to deal with these issues on a

national level. The insurgents use IEDs, assassinations, and

beheadings to challenge the control of the Thai state in the

deep South; the government has responded through special

security laws that give security forces expanded power to

search and detain people. The Thai military is now deeply

involved in counter-insurgency efforts; in contrast, from the

late 1990s-2004, the military viewed the top national

security threat to be the flow of illegal narcotics from

neighboring Burma.

 

9. (C) The insurgents 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. This approach dovetails with the

 

BANGKOK 00000298 003 OF 005

 

Thai interest in keeping outside influences and actors away

from the internal conflict.

 

10. (C) General Anupong has dedicated more of his time to

overseeing RTA counter-insurgency efforts in South than past

Army Commanders, who often were more focused on politics in

Bangkok. Anupong makes almost weekly trips to the South, and

he and his senior staff have engaged the Embassy and USARPAC

in an effort to learn counter-insurgency and counter-IED best

practices.

 

ENDURING BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

——————————-

 

11. (C) Despite the political divide, Thailand\’s unparalleled

strategic importance to the U.S. should not be understated.

The U.S.-Thai military relationship, which began during World

War II when the U.S. trained Thais to covertly conduct

special operations against the Japanese forces occupying

Thailand has evolved into a partnership that provides the

U.S. with unique benefits. Our military engagement affords

us unique training venues, the opportunity to conduct

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 ASEAN nation in which we continue to

promote democratic ideals.

 

12. (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 is used regularly for

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.

 

13. (SBU) Beyond traditional military activities, our

bilateral military relationship provides benefits in other

important areas. One example is the Armed Forces Research

Institute of Medical Sciences\’ (AFRIMS) collaboration with

Thai counterparts on basic research and trial vaccines. The

sophistication of the Thai scientific and public health

community makes collaboration as useful to the USG as it is

to the Thais. A number of important breakthroughs, such as

in the prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission from mothers to

children, were developed here, and the first partially

successful phase III, double blind trial for a potential HIV

vaccine occurred in 2009; a second such trial run by CDC is

currently ongoing.

 

COBRA GOLD AND THE MILITARY EXERCISE PROGRAM

——————————————–

 

14. (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 and bilateral exercises than are other

countries in Asia. 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.

 

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

program and being held during the visit, is the largest

annual multi-lateral exercise in the Pacific region and for

29 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

 

BANGKOK 00000298 004 OF 005

 

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. As an

example of the tangible benefits of the exercise, USARPAC is

using this year\’s Cobra Gold to test a deployable command

post for crisis situations such as HA/DR incidents. Cope

Tiger, a leading air exercise with the Thailand and

Singapore, and CARAT, a bilateral naval event, are key

mechanisms for engagement of the Royal Thai Air Force and

Navy. The Thai military continues to highlight to us the

significance of these events for training and for

relationship building.

 

PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS AND DARFUR DEPLOYMENT

——————————————

 

16. (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, to

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

Thai general served as the principal deputy of the Aceh

Monitoring Mission. Thailand is preparing for deploying a

battalion of troops for a difficult UNAMID mission in Darfur

and has asked for USG assistance. State recently identified

$2.4 million to be used to support equipment needed by the

Thai for the deployment, and we have used various funding

sources to increase overall Thai peacekeeping capabilities,

both as a contributing nation and as a trainer of neighboring

nations.

 

BORDER CONFLICT WITH CAMBODIA

—————————–

 

17. (C) Bilateral relations with Cambodia remain 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 four times since mid-2008, leading to the deaths

of seven soldiers. Cambodian Prime Hun Sen\’s November 2009

decision to appoint Thaksin as an economic advisor further

stoked cross-border tensions. Furthermore, there have been

at least six reports of small-scale conflicts resulting from

cross-border illegal logging activities in recent months.

 

18. (C) The roots of the border 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 face

opposition in parliament and an adverse court ruling. Thorny

internal political considerations and historical rancor

between Thailand and Cambodia make progress difficult. We

urge both sides to resolve their differences peacefully

through bilateral negotiations, border demarcation, and a

reduction of troops deployed along the border.

 

ONGOING REFUGEE CONCERNS: HMONG AND BURMA

—————————————–

 

19. (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.

Thailand continues to host more than 140,000 Burmese and

facilitate resettlement of more than 14,000 refugees to the

U.S. annually, but the recent forced repatriation of two

groups of Lao Hmong in late December provoked international

outcry. The USG and Congress are also focused on 4,000

ethnic Karen in a Thai army-run camp along the Thai-Burma

border who came into Thailand last June fleeing an offensive

and who may be sent back in the near future. (Note: 140,000

Karen and Karenni have lived in RTG-sanctioned camps along

the border since 1990. End Note.) We underscore to the RTG

our disappointment with the Hmong deportation decision and

our continuing concern over access to the Hmong now that they

have been returned to Laos, as well as our concerns on the

Thai-Burma border.

 

BANGKOK 00000298 005 OF 005

 

THE INCREASING ROLE OF CHINA

—————————-

 

20. (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. 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 enjoyed. While Thai

military links with the United States are deeper and far more

apparent than Sino-Thai links, China\’s growing influence in

Thailand is readily evident.

 

21. (C) The Chinese have made a strong effort to court the

Thai. 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.

 

22. (C) During a visit to Thailand by Chinese Minister of

National Defense Liang Guanglie for the King\’s birthday

celebrations in early December 2009, the Thai and Chinese

militaries agreed to expand bilateral exercises to include

the two nations\’ navies, marines, and air forces. The

initial exercise will be conducted early this year, with the

PLA engaging Thai sailors and marines through an amphibious

landing event and a naval rescue and humanitarian relief

exercise. While some entities within the RTG resisted the

expanded engagement, reportedly the MFA and the Marine

Commandant, the Thai tell us that the Chinese pushed hard for

a rapid expansion of bilateral exercises. The Thai Marines

suggested to us that the exercise would be held at the

platoon or company level; it is unclear how many Navy

personnel may participate. While there are those in the Thai

military who have resisted expanding ties with the Chinese,

Foreign Minister Kasit during an early November meeting with

EAP Deputy Assistant Secretary Scot Marciel warned that

Thailand could not continue to say no, and that the U.S.

military needed to more seriously re-engage with their Thai

counterparts.

 

23. (C) The expansion of joint exercises follows China

providing Thailand with $49 million in military assistance

following the 2006 coup. Beyond exercises and assistance,

the number of exchanges by Thai and Chinese officers studying

at military institutes has increased significantly in recent

years, particularly since the coup. The PLA has also

actively courted Thai military leaders, including Defense

Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, Chief of Defense Forces General

Songkitti Jaggabatra, and General Anupong, through multiple

hosted-visits to China.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:41 am

09BANGKOK3006 SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF GENERAL NORTH AND BRIGADIER GENERAL CROWE

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“236618”,”11/25/2009 9:46″,”09BANGKOK3006″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

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INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE

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BANGKOK 003006

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/25/2019

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

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF GENERAL NORTH AND

BRIGADIER GENERAL CROWE

 

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission James F. Entwistle,

reasons 1.4

(b) and (d)

 

1. (C) General North and Brigadier General Crowe, Embassy

Bangkok welcomes your visit to Thailand during the

celebration of King Bhumibol Adulyadej\’s 82nd birthday. Your

visit signals the United States\’ appreciation for the

long-standing bilateral relationship, which has facilitated

shared benefits in the fields of security, law enforcement,

and intelligence efforts, as well as groundbreaking

health/research collaboration and long-standing refugee

support. Your visit affords the opportunity to affirm our

support for our important mil-mil relationship, after a

stretch of time in which it has appeared to many Thai that

the U.S. places decreasing importance on that relationship

and engaging top Thai military leaders, even as China\’s

romance effort expands.

 

POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT

———————

 

2. (C) After the December 2008 installation of the

Democrat-led coalition government of Prime Minister Abhisit

Vejajjiva, Thailand has experienced a period of relative

political stability. That said, Thailand remains deeply

divided, politically and socially, and struggles to break

free of an inward focus. The traditional elite, urban middle

class and the mid-south are on largely one side (Democrat in

parliament, \”yellow\” in the street) and the political allies

of fugitive former PM Thaksin, with largely rural supporters

in the North and Northeast on the other (opposition Puea Thai

in parliament, \”red\” in the street). Abhisit generally has

progressive instincts about basic freedoms, social

inequities, foreign policy, and how to address the troubled

deep South. The Prime Minister\’s approval ratings have

benefited, at least temporarily, from a problematic period

for Thaksin subsequent to his badly chosen comments to the

\”The Times\” of London on royal succession and an ill-advised

visit to Cambodia following his appointment as economic

advisor to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.

 

3. (C) Despite relatively higher approval ratings, Abhisit

remains beset by a fractious coalition, vigorous

parliamentary opposition in the form of a large block of

politicians under the Puea Thai Party banner, and street

protests from \”red-shirts.\” The most dramatic political

development of the past year was the mid-April United Front

of Democracy for Dictatorship (UDD), or \”reds\”, riots in

Bangkok and Pattaya, which led to the postponement of a

regional Asian Summit and burned busses in Bangkok. UDD have

been planning a return to the streets, possibly with a \”final

showdown\” rally that would begin November 28, but the rally

was called off November 25 out of respect for the King\’s

birthday celebrations. Thaksin himself has suggested to

supporters that he did not know how long he could \”ask the

red shirts to be tolerant.\”

 

4. (C) While both yellow and red try to lay exclusive claim

to the mantle of democracy, neither side of this split is as

democratic as it claims to be. Both movements reflect deep

social concerns stemming from widespread perceptions of a

lack of social and economic justice, but both seek to triumph

in competing for traditional Thai hierarchical power

relationships. New elections would not appear to be a viable

solution to the political divide, and political discord could

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, as well as our support for

long-time friend Thailand to work through its current

difficulties and emerge as a more participatory democracy.

 

RECEDING MONARCHY

——————-

5. (C) Underlying the political tension in Bangkok is the

future of the monarchy. On the throne for 62 years, the

U.S.-born King Bhumibol is Thailand\’s most prestigious

figure, with influence far beyond his constitutional mandate.

Many actors are jockeying for position to shape the expected

transition period Thailand during royal succession after the

eventual passing of the King, who is currently in poor health

and rarely seen in public anymore. Few observers believe

that the deep political and social divides can be bridged

until after King Bhumibol passes and Thailand\’s tectonic

 

BANGKOK 00003006 002 OF 004

 

plates shift. Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn neither commands

the respect nor displays the charisma of his beloved father,

who greatly expanded the prestige and influence of the

monarchy during his 62-year reign. Nearly everyone expects

the monarchy to shrink and change in function after

succession. How much will change is open to question, with

many institutions, figures, and political forces positioning

for influence, not only over redefining the institution of

monarchy but, equally fundamentally, what it means to be

Thai.

 

ENDURING BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

——————————-

 

6. (C) Despite the domestic political divide, 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 in Asia, 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 ASEAN

nation in which we continue to promote democratic ideals.

 

7. (C) The U.S.-Thai 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.

 

8. (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.

 

IMPORTANT MILITARY ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM

————————————-

 

9. (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 is used regularly for

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, Sattahip and Phuket, over sixty

times per year for exercises and visits.

 

COBRA GOLD AND THE MILITARY EXERCISE PROGRAM

——————————————–

 

10. (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.

 

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

 

BANGKOK 00003006 003 OF 004

 

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. Along

with Cobra Gold, Cope Tiger and CARAT are also key to our

engagement of the Thai military.

 

BORDER CONFLICT WITH CAMBODIA

—————————–

 

12. (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.

 

13. (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 when in

2008 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 face opposition in

parliament and an adverse court ruling.

 

14. (C) Thorny internal political considerations and

historical rancor between Thailand and Cambodia make progress

difficult; the countries withdrew their Ambassadors in the

wake of Thaksin\’s recent appointment as an economic adviser

to Cambodian leader Hun Sen. We urge both sides to resolve

their differences peacefully through bilateral negotiations,

border demarcation, and a reduction of troops deployed along

the border.

 

PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS

——————–

 

15. (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, to

which 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. Using GPOI funding, we are working with the military

to increase its peacekeeping capabilities, both as a

contributing nation and as a trainer of neighboring nations.

 

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 conducted a screening process in January 2008

for a large group of Lao Hmong in an army run camp,

reportedly to identify those who might have a legitimate fear

of return to Laos, but has not released the results or

informed the Hmong themselves. We believe some have a

legitimate claim to refugee status, and seek resettlement in

the U.S. and several other countries. 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 that the

any individuals found by the RTG to have protection concerns

should not be returned forcibly to Laos.

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND

—————–

 

17. (C) Linked to the political uncertainty in Bangkok is the

RTG\’s inability to resolve an ethno-nationalist Malay

Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand which has claimed an

estimated 3,500 lives since 2004. The fundamental issues of

 

BANGKOK 00003006 004 OF 004

 

justice and ethnic identity driving the violence are not

unique to southern Thailand. More specifically, many Malay

Muslims feel that they are second-class citizens in Thailand,

and ending the insurgency will require the government to deal

with these issues on a national level – which the on-going

political instability in Bangkok has, to this point,

prevented. In the mean time, the insurgents use IEDs,

assassinations, and beheadings to challenge the control of

the Thai state in the deep South. The government has

responded through special security laws which give security

forces expanded power to search and detain people.

 

18. (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 Station.

 

19. (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.

 

THE INCREASING ROLE OF CHINA

—————————-

 

20. (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, the arts, the media, and the

military.

 

21. (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 their

mil-to-mil relations with Thailand\’s military.

 

22. (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. 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 enjoyed.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:30 am

09PHNOMPENH811 EAP/MLS DEPUTY DIRECTOR PALMER SEES UP CLOSE CAMBODIA’S PROGRESS, CHALLENGES

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“232166”,”10/30/2009 5:59″,”09PHNOMPENH811″,

“Embassy Phnom Penh”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

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STATE FOR EAP/MLS, IO, DRL, S/WCI

USUN FOR M. SIMONOFF

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/29/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, KJUS, PHUM, EAID, CB

SUBJECT: EAP/MLS DEPUTY DIRECTOR PALMER SEES UP CLOSE

CAMBODIA\’S PROGRESS, CHALLENGES

 

REF: A. STATE 108210

B. PHNOM PENH 765

C. PHNOM PENH 746

D. PHNOM PENH 745

E. PHNOM PENH 652

F. PHNOM PENH 62

 

Classified By: DCM Theodore Allegra for reasons 1.4 (B,D)

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: EAP/MLS Deputy Director Matthew Palmer

visited Cambodia October 20-26 to take part in a Conference

on the Lower Mekong Initiative (septel), meet key

counterparts in the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC),

address human rights issues, visit bilateral assistance

program sites, and observe the Khmer Rouge Tribunal (KRT).

While progress was palpable at the KRT, with the first case

soon coming to a close, the complications to be faced in the

second case against four Khmer Rouge leaders were evident. A

visit to a resettlement site west of Phnom Penh showed some

progress being made to handle land issues. Human rights

leaders indicated that, while progress had been made in the

2008 national election, the restriction of political space

since that time remained a major issue. Cambodia\’s bilateral

border dispute with Thailand was painted by Senior Minister

Var Kim Hong as solvable under international law, but

Cambodia is waiting for Thai action in Thailand\’s parliament.

Palmer also briefed Ministry of Foreign Affairs Secretary of

State Ouch Borith on the latest plans for the Lower Mekong

Initiative and outlined the new U.S. approach towards Burma.

END SUMMARY.

 

Khmer Rouge Tribunal

——————–

 

2. (SBU) KRT Public Affairs Section chief Reach Sambath led

a brief tour of the KRT courtroom facilities, noting the

large auditorium had hosted more than 27,000 Cambodian

observers at the seven-month-long trial (Case 001) of S-21

torture center head Kaing Guek Eav (aka Duch) and that the

advanced audiovisual equipment allowed for live feeds,

including live telecasts of the trial by the popular CTN TV

network. In a subsequent joint briefing by the ECCC\’s

national director Tony Kranh and UN deputy Knut Rosandhaug,

Kranh remarked on the success of Case 001, which could make

the ECCC a model for hybrid tribunals undertaken with the UN

but hosted by the nation in which international crimes had

been committed. He underscored that such a \”mixed court\”

also posed challenges in meeting international standards as

well as in attracting needed financial support. Although the

KRT administration was comprised of one court with two

components, Kranh said that the UN and the Cambodian sides

had very good relations. The closing arguments in the Duch

case in mid-November were expected to be a big event in

Cambodia and would attract much international attention, he

concluded.

 

3. (SBU) Deputy Director Rosandhaug said the KRT faced the

prospect of massive enhancements to its pace and process in

2010 to meet the requirements of Case 002 against four Khmer

Rouge leaders — Nuon Chea, Khieu Samphan, Ieng Sary and Ieng

Thirith. He glossed over the budget for 2010-2011 (which

others have reported as approximately $64 million for the

international side and $19 million for the national side),

but noted positive developments in the appointment of Clint

Williamson as a Special Advisor to the UN Office of the Legal

Advisor (UN/OLA), who is expected to focus on the KRT. When

asked about implementing the mechanism to prevent corruption

(Ref B), Rosandhaug said that although some in the court did

not easily understand this ombudsman-type mechanism, its

start-up was underway. But more importantly, all of the

evidence suggested that corruption at the court had ceased

and was no longer a problem.

 

4. (SBU) Rosandhaug speculated on the timetable for the

conduct of the three cases before the court — Cases 001 and

002 against the five detained suspects, and Case 003 for a

sealed indictment against five additional unnamed suspects

who remain under investigation. Rosandhaug said that the

timetable and resulting budget were \”much more credible\” as

the result of budget planning by former Special Advisor to

UN/OLA David Tolbert. A rough sketch of that timeline

follows:

 

Case 001

Closing arguments Nov. 2009

 

PHNOM PENH 00000811 002.3 OF 004

 

Judges\’ Decision March 2010

Appeal conclusion End of 2010

 

Case 002

Co-investigation by judges ends End of 2009

Closing Order (CO) Sept. 2010

Appeals of CO Dec. 2010

Trial ends Mid- 2012

Judges\’ Decision Dec. 2012

Appeal conclusion End of 2013

 

Case 003

Co-investigation by judges ends July 2011

Closing Order Apr. 2012

Appeals of CO Aug. 2012

Trial ends Early 2014

Judges\’ Decision Mid- 2014

Appeal conclusion Mid- 2015

 

5. (SBU) Stating his belief that Cambodia did not intend to

violate international standards at the KRT, Rosandhaug

nonetheless cautioned that some in the RGC did not understand

the concept of separation of powers, such as between the

legislature and the judiciary. Although he gave no

indication of any interference to date, Rosandhaug appealed

for the United States to remain engaged in the ECCC as both a

donor and as a moral leader to communicate the international

community\’s expectations for credible justice. He also

praised the work of the Documentation Center of Cambodia

(DC-CAM) as \”invaluable\” to the ECCC\’s mission.

 

6. (SBU) ECCC acting international Co-Prosecutor William

Smith gave Palmer a brief assessment of judicial progress,

stating that the prosecutor may seek to begin courtroom

proceedings in Case 002 as early as November 2010. He gave

assurances that the KRT cases were \”tuned and narrow,\” and

wer not too broad or complicated. Thus, although he

acknowledged the potential for \”political\” interference, he

speculated that the cases could proceed well as a result.

The other \”real issues\” facing the court were the

three-languages requirement and the ages of the four main

accused in Case 002, he said. Smith, an Australian national,

made clear his view that the Pre-Trial Chamber must sit

full-time in order to accomplish its work in a timely fashion

to keep Case 002 moving. On cooperation with the Cambodian

co-prosecutor, he said that the two sides had agreed to

disagree on the Case 003 submissions (NOTE: the Cambodian

co-prosecutor was opposed and the Pre-Trial Chamber ruled in

favor of prosecuting. END NOTE), but that they had very, very

good cooperation on the work of their office.

 

The Long View on Human Rights

—————————–

 

7. (SBU) At a lunch hosted by the DCM, the four most

influential human rights leaders in Cambodia gave their views

on the current status of human rights in the country. Kek

Pung of activist group LICADHO gave the most emotional and

pessimistic assessment, noting the unsolved killing of

journalists over the years (the last in 2008), and claiming

that Koh Kong residents along a river that was being dredged

for sand (in violation of an order by Prime Minister Hun Sen)

had lost their livelihoods. All of the HR leaders agreed

that the political space in Cambodia was now narrower as a

result of a spate of defamation cases in 2009 (Ref D), and

expressed unspecified concerns for the new Penal Code\’s

potential effect on freedom of expression. They had

similarly non-specific anxiety about the potential for a

proposed draft \”NGO Law\” to curtail their organizations\’

activities. ADHOC Leader Thun Saray explained the pressure

put on ADHOC land issues advocate Pen Bonnar in Ratanakiri by

a local judge, and ADHOC\’s decision to remove their rights

advocate from that area. Ou Virak of the Cambodian Center

for Human Rights presented an overall positive view of

Cambodia\’s human rights development and noted that the

judge\’s numerous improprieties had come to the attention of

the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, which would likely

investigate the judge. (NOTE: We later confirmed that the

RGC was actively investigating the judge for corruption

related to Ratanakiri land cases. END NOTE.)

 

8. (SBU) Thun Saray observed that a free market economy could

not exist in the absence of a pluralistic democracy, and vice

versa. He and the other human rights leaders urged the U.S.

 

PHNOM PENH 00000811 003 OF 004

 

to press the RGC on this point, while helping to reaffirm the

dynamic and hopeful character of the Cambodian people.

Christophe Peschoux noted that the UN Office of the High

Commissioner for Human Rights was making progress in

Cambodia, especially with the Ministry of Interior on some

aspects of due process, but that many challenges to the rule

of law remained, including corruption. Although most agreed

that the national election in 2008 was the most peaceful and

best-regulated to date, reactions were mixed about the

actions of the elected parliament controlled by the CPP (with

90 of 123 seats) and with internal rules that allow for

little participation by the opposition other than 20 minutes

of debate time allotted to a \”group of 10.\” Issues regarding

land claims were considered a central problem by all four

human rights advocates.

 

9. (SBU) Palmer visited Damnak Trayoeung, a resettlement site

occupied by former residents of the Dey Krahorm community who

were forcibly evicted in January after a long-running land

dispute in central Phnom Penh (Ref F). The site, while

vastly improved since January with access to electricity,

water, and schools, nevertheless highlighted some of the

humanitarian issues related to evictions and resettlement in

Cambodia. Former Dey Krahorm land-owners had received brick

apartments in Damnak Trayoeung, but former renters, who under

Cambodian law were not eligible for compensation, continue to

live under tarps or other makeshift structures at the site

and rely on NGOs for basic humanitarian support. A renter

community representative told Palmer that the government

planned to move them again to neighboring Kandal Province.

 

Land Border Dispute Stuck in Thai Parliament

——————————————–

 

10. (SBU) At the RGC Council of Ministers, Var Kim Hong,

Senior Minister and Chairman of the RGC Border Committees

briefed Palmer on UNESCO\’s 2008 inscription of the Preah

Vihear Temple World Heritage Site and the subsequent dispute

with Thailand over 4.6 square kilometers adjacent to the

site. Var Kim Hong reasserted that Cambodia stood by the

judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 1962,

that a French-Siam survey in 1904-07 and the map it produced

(and used by the ICJ) were a sound basis for border

demarcation negotiations with Thailand, and that Cambodia was

ready to resolve the issue peacefully based on a 2000 MOU

with Thailand and related Terms of Reference. Var Kim Hong

praised the professionalism of his Thai counterpart on the

Joint Border Commission (JBC), but lamented that the JBC

could not meet because the Thai parliament had yet to approve

3 joint Cambodian-Thai communiqus already initialed in prior

meetings over the last 18 months. Var Kim Hong mentioned

that agreed border resolution mechanisms were poised to move

just as soon as the Thai parliament took a decision on the

joint communiqus. These mechanisms would include further

negotiations within the main JBC as well as the convening of

a joint legal committee and a joint border demarcation team

supplemented by joint de-mining activities in agreed areas

along the border areas. (NOTE: Tens of thousands of mines

were laid along the Thai-Cambodian border during Cambodia\’s

multiple conflicts during the period 1969 to 1998. It was

only in late 1998 when the Khmer Rouge finally laid down its

weapons that locations such as the Preah Vihear Temple

reverted to Cambodian government control, and many areas

immediately adjacent to the 805-kilometer border have not

been de-mined. END NOTE.) Var Kim Hong also remarked on the

need to implement a Cambodian-Thai agreement to re-deploy

troops now in the vicinity of the Preah Vihear temple.

 

Mekong River Initiative

———————–

 

11. (SBU) At the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Palmer October

22 briefed Secretary of State Ouch Borith on the Lower Mekong

Initiative (LMI), noting that the Deputy Chiefs of Mission

from the four Lower Mekong countries and senior USAID

personnel had met in Phnom Penh to discuss next steps. We

wanted to follow up the commitments from the Phuket

ministerial and set the stage for what we hoped would be a

similarly successful ministerial in Hanoi. The LMI had

strong support in Washington and from the Lower Mekong

countries themselves. We were interested in RGC ideas to

refine the initiative and further strengthen cooperation in

the areas agreed to in Phuket, including health, environment,

and education.

 

PHNOM PENH 00000811 004 OF 004

 

12. (SBU) Ouch Borith said that Foreign Minister Hor Namhong

had been highly receptive to the LMI and was eager to know

when an experts group could meet. For Cambodia, among the

most significant concerns were climate change and protecting

the environment of the Mekong River. The RGC looked forward

to more information on the LMI and intended to cooperate

fully in the effort, he concluded.

 

13. (SBU) Palmer raised Cambodia\’s recent spate of

defamation cases (Ref D) as a problem that affected USG

perceptions of Cambodia. Ouch Borith replied that he has had

frank discussions with the EU on the same subject, but noted

that Cambodia had been acting in accordance with an

UN-drafted law from the UNTAC era in order to defend the

credibility and honor of RGC leaders. Acknowledging that the

right balance had to be struck between defending honor and

allowing freedom of expression, Ouch Borith urged more

officials from the U.S. to visit Cambodia in order to see the

scope of freedom of expression that is evident throughout

Cambodian society.

 

Burma

—–

 

14. (C) Palmer then briefed Ouch Borith on the U.S. Burma

policy review and current plans for U.S. engagement with

Burmese officials (Ref A). Noting that sanctions had not

worked in Burma, Ouch Borith said that Cambodia welcomed the

new Burma policy. Referring to gas and oil pipelines the

Burmese junta was developing jointly with Thailand, Ouch

Borith said that business as usual continued with the Burmese

despite the sanctions. If the world pushes too hard with

sanctions, Burma will \”go to India and China,\” he cautioned.

When Senator Webb met with Prime Minster Hun Sen in August

(Ref E), the Prime Minister noted his support for the

democratization of Burma, his concern about Aung San Suu Kyi,

and his support for elections in 2010. In the meantime,

Cambodia would wait to see what happens with A/S Campbell\’s

visit to Burma in November. Ouch Borith took on board the

USG request that other ASEAN nations — including Cambodia —

underscore to the Burmese leadership they have a new opening

to improve their standing in the international community if

they moved forward now to address the world\’s concerns.

 

TIP Challenges

————–

 

15. (SBU) In meetings with anti-trafficking NGOs in Siem

Reap, Palmer heard of the many challenges facing Cambodia in

the fight against trafficking and child sex tourism. Rong

Ratana from Action Pour Les Enfants (APLE), noted he receives

good cooperation from the national police, which he believes

is committed to the issue, but that he faces obstacles with

the court, which is corrupt, focuses on hard evidence, and

often ignores victim testimony. Rong admitted that APLE

focuses on Western sex tourists because they are easier to

spot and often approach or groom the child directly. Asians

tend to be more careful and use middlemen to solicit

children. Although procuring prostitution is illegal,

middlemen such as tuk-tuk drivers or guest house operators

are typically not targeted or prosecuted by law enforcement

and the courts. Rong also noted the lack of capacity within

law enforcement and Cambodia as a whole in the area of

information technology as being a major obstacle to

successful forensic child pornography investigations.

 

16. (SBU) Sao Chhoeurth, National Coordinator for NGO AFESIP

which also provides victims assistance, affirmed that the

government is committed, but that it lacked capacity,

sufficient policies, and clear plans. Chhoeurth indicated

that the TIP Report is a \”powerful tool\” for promoting

change, and has prompted increased action and understanding

of the problem of human trafficking in Cambodia. According

to Chhoerth, noteworthy recent government advancements

include the creation of TIP working groups and increased

consultation with NGOs.

 

17. (SBU) EAP/MLS Deputy Director Matthew Palmer cleared

this cable.

RODLEY

 

Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:09 am

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

leave a comment »

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

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

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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

09BANGKOK345 THAILAND SCENESETTER FOR ADMIRAL KEATING

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“191213”,”2/10/2009 7:30″,”09BANGKOK345″,

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“S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 000345

 

SIPDIS

 

FOR ADM KEATING FROM AMB JOHN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/10/2019

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

SUBJECT: THAILAND SCENESETTER FOR ADMIRAL KEATING

 

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

 

1. (C) Admiral Keating: we look forward to welcoming you to

Thailand. Your visit, particularly the planned meeting with

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva on February 17, will afford the

opportunity to highlight the importance of Thailand to our

regional security interests as new governments settle in in

both countries. Expected meetings with Minister of Defense

General (Ret.) Prawit Wongsuwan and RTARF Chief of Defense

Forces General Songkitti Jaggabartra will allow you to

emphasize our support for important areas of our mil-mil

relationship, such as the Defense Reform Management Study

(DRMS), Cobra Gold, and Thailand\’s deployment of peacekeepers

to Darfur. What follows are brief thoughts on a number of

issues which may come up during your visit. Regards,

Ambassador Eric John.

 

NEW ADMINISTRATIONS IN BOTH COUNTRIES

————————————-

 

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

hearing an assessment of the new administration\’s Asia

policy; your visit will occur at the same time as Secretary

Clinton\’s inaugural visit to Asia. You can stress to the

Thai the lasting value we place on our long-time alliance

relationship and that we do not anticipate significant

changes in our partnership, due the nature of long-standing

U.S.-Thai security, economic, and cultural bonds.

 

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

coalition government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva has

calmed the political situation for now, but the basic split

in Thai society and the body politic remains. PM Abhisit is

off to a reasonably good start in his first six weeks in

office, but his government faces significant policy

challenges and a tough economic situation. Political discord

could very well persist for years, through what promises to

be a messy transition after the eventual passing of revered

King Bhumibol.

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND – MORE SERIOUS INTENT

—————————————

 

4. (S) The most significant policy shift under PM Abhisit has

been an emphasis on addressing the southern violence,

including significant civilian involvement and revived secret

discussions with representatives of southern insurgents

started by former PM Surayud. However, it remains unclear

how the civil-military dynamic will change. The Thai

military has tried to quell the ethnic Malay Muslim-led

insurgency in southern Thailand with increasingly effective

security sweeps, but occasional abuses by security forces

have added to the sense of grievance and lack of justice by

the local populace. The root causes of the insurgency —

government neglect and a lack of social justice, combined

with a desire for some form of self-determination, have not

been effectively addressed by any Thai government to this

point.

 

5. (C) The Thai remain sensitive to any perceived U.S.

involvement in the south, and we should not lean too far

forward in offering assistance. We have responded by helping

the Thai military focus on improving the professional and

operational skills of the Royal Thai Armed Forces; helping

break down stovepipes between the Thai military, police

forces, and civilian agencies; and by pressing for respect of

international human rights norms.

 

ROHINGYA/HMONG CONCERNS PERSIST

——————————-

 

6. (C) Of late Thai security force actions regarding Rohingya

\”boat people,\” including maritime pushbacks, have resulted in

strong criticism of Thailand. We continue to stress to our

contacts that Thailand should provide access for UNHCR to

 

BANGKOK 00000345 002 OF 003

 

Rohingya who reach Thai shores, and that push-outs to sea are

not consistent with basic humanitarian principles.

 

7. (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 set up a transparent

screening process for the thousands of Lao Hmong, some of

whom we believe may have a legitimate claim to refugee

status, who seek resettlement in the U.S. You should

underscore the importance of transparently handling these

Hmong cases.

 

BORDER TALKS CONTINUE WITH CAMBODIA

———————————–

 

8. (C) Thailand and Cambodia held Joint Border Commission

(JBC) and Defense Minister talks February 2-6 in an attempt

to address the border dispute centered on overlapping claims

to territory adjacent to Preah Vihear temple. The JBC talks

stalled after the two sides failed to agree on an official

name for the temple and for a monitoring mechanism that would

replace troops positioned at the temple. That said, we are

pleased that atmosphere surrounding the issue has improved

dramatically since clashes between troops in 2008. You could

stress to the Thai interlocutors our hope that the dispute

can be resolved peacefully and bilaterally.

 

PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS – DARFUR

—————————–

 

9. (C) The Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters (RTARF) has

been a close partner for us as the Thai government prepares

to deploy a battalion of peacekeeping troops to Darfur. The

RTARF has taken a measured approach during preparations, one

reflective of the significant challenges the Thai military

will face in Darfur, and the most likely timeframe for

deployment is mid-2009. You could thank the Thai for their

willingness to assume this difficult mission and reiterate

that we stand ready to assist where possible in the hope that

the Thai battalion will be deployed as quickly as reasonably

possible.

 

DEFENSE REFORM

————–

 

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

U.S.-funded Defense Resource Management System (DRMS) project

which will help rationalize the Thai military\’s procurement

and other resource needs. Phase II of this process will

begin the first week of March following the ASEAN summit

scheduled for Thailand. You could take the opportunity

during your meetings with DefMin Prawit and GEN Songkitti to

reinforce our message that we desire to work closely with the

Thai to accelerate the DRMS process.

 

INTEROPERABILITY

—————-

 

11. (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. In recent

years, however, the Thai military has diversified

procurements. We continue to look at ways to improve

interoperability with the Thai military, one example of which

is our encouragement of the Thai Air Force to choose a

Mid-Life Update to F-16s.

 

THE INCREASING ROLE OF CHINA

—————————-

 

12. (C) Thailand continues to develop closer relations with

China while simultaneously emphasizing the vital role of the

U.S. in the region. The military is part of this trend, both

in terms of weapons procurement and, more recently, joint

 

BANGKOK 00000345 003 OF 003

 

exercises. Your interaction with GEN Songkitti, in

particular, would be a prime opportunity to explore Thai

military thoughts on the future direction of engagement with

the PLA.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:20 am