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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

10BANGKOK226 SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF ADMIRAL WILLARD

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“245714”,”1/27/2010 10:07″,”10BANGKOK226″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO9110

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #0226/01 0271007

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 271007Z JAN 10

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9719

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING IMMEDIATE 7934

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA IMMEDIATE 0359

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL IMMEDIATE 6142

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE 2286

RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON IMMEDIATE 0280

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RHMFISS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 BANGKOK 000226

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/27/2020

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

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF ADMIRAL WILLARD

 

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

 

1. (C) Admiral Willard, Embassy Bangkok welcomes you to

Thailand. Despite ongoing domestic political challenges,

Thailand\’s adherence to democratic values should not go

unrecognized. That a full range of actors in the Thai

political scene can openly and vigorously debate policies and

the state of democracy is indeed evidence that Thailand is a

positive role model for other nations in the region. In

addition, Thailand, while chairing ASEAN last year, was a

leading proponent of democracy and human rights within ASEAN.

As such, now is a prime opportunity to demonstrate clearly

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

partnership. Your visit will provide such an opportunity as

it will signal 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. In just the last three months alone, 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, 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) Thai interlocutors will likely be interested in

pursuing discussions on strategic views of regional security

challenges, and how the U.S.-Thai alliance can be focused to

assist as Thailand prepare for threats. The Thai will also

look to discuss areas of cooperation, such as bilateral

exercises and training, whereby we can assist the Thai

military modernize. The Thai 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, 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.

This year promises to be contentious as well, with Thaksin

and the red shirts having vowed to redouble their efforts to

topple the government. All sides hopefully learned a

valuable lesson against the use of violence, however, by

seeing their support plummet when such tactics were used.

 

4. (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.

 

5. (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

 

BANGKOK 00000226 002 OF 005

 

work through its current difficulties and emerge as a more

participatory democracy.

 

RECEDING MONARCHY

—————–

 

6. (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 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

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.

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND – SEPARATIST INSURGENCY

—————————————–

 

7. (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 the late

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

threat to be the flow of illegal narcotics from neighboring

Burma.

 

8. (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.

 

ENDURING BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

——————————-

 

9. (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.

 

10. (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

 

BANGKOK 00000226 003 OF 005

 

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.

 

11. (SBU) Beyond traditional military activities, our

bilateral military relationship provides benefits in other

important areas. One example it 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

——————————————–

 

12 (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.

 

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

program, 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 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. Cope Tiger, a leading air

exercise with the Thailand and Singapore, and CARAT, a

bilateral naval event, are key mechanisms for engagement of

the 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

——————————————

 

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

UN peacekeeping missions and was an early contributing nation

to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, Thai

generals very effectively led UN forces in East Timor, 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. Using various funding

sources, we are working to support the request and to

increase overall Thai peacekeeping capabilities, both as a

contributing nation and as a trainer of neighboring nations.

 

BORDER CONFLICT WITH CAMBODIA

—————————–

 

15. (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. Furthermore, there have been at least

five reports of Thai rangers firing upon illegal Cambodian

loggers in Thai territory in recent months. Cambodian Prime

Hun Sen\’s November 2009 decision to appoint Thaksin as an

economic advisor further stoked cross-border tensions.

 

BANGKOK 00000226 004 OF 005

 

16. (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

————————

 

17. (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. We underscore to the RTG our disappointment with the

deportation decision and our continuing concern over access

to the Hmong now that they have been returned to Laos. The

Thai have asked privately about possible Congressional

repercussions due to the deportation.

 

THE INCREASING ROLE OF CHINA

—————————-

 

18. (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.

 

19. (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.

 

20. (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.

 

21. (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

 

BANGKOK 00000226 005 OF 005

 

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 Army Commander General Anupong

Paojinda, through multiple hosted-visits to China.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:39 am

10BANGKOK45 SCENESETTER FOR ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHAPIRO

leave a comment »

“242728”,”1/7/2010 10:42″,”10BANGKOK45″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”10BANGKOK3116″,”VZCZCXRO2954

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #0045/01 0071042

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O 071042Z JAN 10

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9499

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RHMFISS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 000045

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/07/2020

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

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHAPIRO

 

REF: BANGKOK 3116

 

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

 

1. (C) Assistant Secretary Shapiro, Embassy Bangkok welcomes

you to Thailand. Despite ongoing domestic discord and

current inward focus, Thailand\’s strategic importance to the

U.S. cannot be overstated. Your visit provides an

opportunity to signal 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. In just the last three months alone, 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, two examples which serve to

illustrate the depth and breadth of a relationship. In late

December, the Thai Cabinet approved a supplemental budget to

facilitate the delayed peacekeeping deployment to Darfur.

 

2. (C) As your visit will take place in the run up to the

expected U.S.-Thai Strategic Dialogue, Thai interlocutors

will likely be interested in pursuing discussions on

strategic views of regional security challenges and how the

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

prepare for threats. The Thai will look to discuss U.S.

assistance through bilateral exercises and training, and

helping the Thai military modernize either by means of

procuring U.S. defense articles or via the hoped for receipt

of 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. In addition, with the Royal Thai Armed Forces

Headquarters (RTARF) preparing for a difficult deployment to

UNAMID in Darfur, the Thai military will look to explore ways

whereby the U.S. can assist.

 

POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT

———————

 

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

Thailand. Court decisions forced two Prime Ministers from

office, 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, shutting 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.

2010 promises to be contentious as well, with Thaksin and the

red shirts having vowed to redouble their efforts to topple

the government.

 

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

eloquent 44-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 is another matter, and Abhisit has disappointed us

recently on the repatriation of the Lao Hmong and his

handling of several foreign investment-related issues.

Despite recent 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 the

red-shirts.

 

5. (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 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

 

BANGKOK 00000045 002 OF 004

 

difficulties and emerge as a more participatory democracy.

 

RECEDING MONARCHY

—————–

 

6. (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 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. 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 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.

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND – SEPARATIST INSURGENCY

—————————————–

 

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

southern Thailand has claimed an estimated 3,500 lives since

2004. The 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 which give security forces expanded power to

search and detain people. The Thai military is now deeply

involved in counter-insurgency efforts; in the late

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

threat to be the flow of illegal narcotics from neighboring

Burma.

 

8. (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. 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.

 

ENDURING BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

——————————-

 

9. (C) Despite the political divide, Thailand\’s 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. Thailand remains crucial to U.S. interests in the

Asia-Pacific region and beyond. 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.

 

10. (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

 

BANGKOK 00000045 003 OF 004

 

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.

 

11. (SBU) Beyond traditional military activities, our

bilateral military relationship provides benefits in other

important areas. One example it 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

——————————————–

 

12 (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.

 

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

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

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. Cope

Tiger, a leading air exercise with the Thailand and

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

mechanisms for engagement of the Thai navy and air force.

The Thai military continues to highlight to us the

significance of these events for training and for

relationship building.

 

PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS AND DARFUR DEPLOYMENT

——————————————

 

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

UN peacekeeping missions and was an early contributing nation

to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, Thai

generals very effectively led UN forces in East Timor, 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 (Ref A). During your visit,

the Thai will be very interested in discussing ways ahead on

the deployment. 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.

 

BORDER CONFLICT WITH CAMBODIA

—————————–

 

15. (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 three 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.

 

16. (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

 

BANGKOK 00000045 004 OF 004

 

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.

 

REFUGEE CONCERNS

—————-

 

17. (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. We underscore to the RTG our disappointment with the

deportation decision and our continuing concern over access

to the Hmong now that they have been returned to Laos. The

Thai have asked us privately about possible repercussions due

to the deportation.

 

THE INCREASING ROLE OF CHINA

—————————-

 

18. (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.

 

19. (C) The Chinese 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.

 

20. (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 will be held at the platoon

or company level; it is unclear how many Navy personnel may

participate.

 

21. (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 and Army Commander General Anupong

Paojinda, through multiple hosted-visits to China.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:35 am

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

leave a comment »

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

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

“VZCZCXRO8200

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #3006/01 3290946

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 250946Z NOV 09

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RHMFISS/HQ PACAF HICKAM AFB HI IMMEDIATE

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE

RHMFISS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9102

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

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RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE”,

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

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

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

leave a comment »

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

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

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #2712/01 2950942

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 220942Z OCT 09

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

RHMFISS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8709

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

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

 

SIPDIS

 

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

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

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF THAI CHIEF OF DEFENSE

GENERAL SONGKITTI

 

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

(b) and (d).

 

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

Chief of Defense Forces General Songkitti Jaggabartra to the

PACOM-sponsored Chiefs of Defense conference and to

Washington to meet with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

Admiral Mullen affords a chance to affirm support for our

important mil-mil relationship and initiatives such as Cobra

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

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

 

ENDURING BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

——————————-

 

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

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

Thai Movement\” that covertly conducted special operations

against the Japanese forces occupying Thailand and drew

closer during the Korean War era when Thailand provided

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

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

Vietnam War and, more recently, Thailand sent contingents to

Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

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

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

treaty allies in Asia and straddling a major force projection

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

in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. Underpinning our

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

relationship, which is based on over fifty years of close

cooperation. The relationship has advanced USG interests

while developing Thai military, intelligence, and law

enforcement capabilities.

 

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

be understated. Our military engagement affords us unique

training venues in Asia, training exercises that are nearly

impossible to match elsewhere, a willing participant in

international peacekeeping operations, essential access to

facilities amid vital sea and air lanes that support

contingency and humanitarian missions, and a partner that is

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

POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT

———————

 

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

coalition government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva

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

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

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

Dictatorship (UDD) has continued protests against the

government with a royal pardon for their champion, former

Prime Minster Thaksin Shinawatra, among the objectives.

 

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

remains. The traditional royalist elite, urban middle class,

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

and the political allies of ex-Prime Minister Thaksin

Shinawatra, currently a fugitive abroad, along with largely

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

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

claims to be, and both movements reflect concerns stemming

from perceptions of a lack of social and economic justice in

Thailand. New elections would not likely calm political

tensions, and political discord could very well persist for

years. We continue to stress to Thai interlocutors the need

for all parties to avoid violence and respect democratic

norms within the framework of the constitution and rule of

law.

 

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

political climate and tough economic circumstances. Abhisit

generally has progressive instincts and says the right things

about basic freedoms, social inequities, policy towards

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

by a grinding ethno-nationalist Muslim-Malay separatist

insurgency. Whether Abhisit can deliver change is another

matter. He is beset with a fractious coalition, with

partners more interested in self-enrichment than good

governance.

 

IMPORTANT MILITARY ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM

————————————-

 

BANGKOK 00002712 002 OF 004

 

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

use Utapao Naval Air Station as the hub for our regional

assistance program was key to making the 2004 tsunami and the

2008 Cyclone Nargis relief operations a success. While those

high-profile relief operations highlighted publicly the value

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

military flights. A prime example was the critical support

Utapao provided during OEF by providing an air bridge in

support of refueling missions en route to Afghanistan.

Approximately 1,000 flights transit Utapao every year in

support of critical U.S. military operations both regionally

and to strategic areas of the world. Thailand also provides

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

primarily at Laem Chabang and Sattahip, over sixty times per

year for exercises and visits.

 

COBRA GOLD AND THE MILITARY EXERCISE PROGRAM

——————————————–

 

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

infrastructure and large areas to conduct unrestricted

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

exercises unique in Asia. Thai leaders are far more willing

to host multinational exercises than are other countries in

Asia. Unlike Japan, which only hosts annual bilateral

exercises due to legal prohibitions over collective security,

or the Philippines, where planning for multinational

exercises has been difficult, or Australia, which refuses to

multilateralize Tandem Thrust, the Thai government encourages

multinational exercises as a way to show regional leadership.

This has allowed us to use exercises in Thailand to further

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

military role in Asia and engaging the Indonesian and

Singaporean militaries.

 

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

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

for 28 years has served to strengthen our relations with

Thailand, highlight our commitment to Southeast Asia, and

provide exceptional training opportunities for our troops.

The event has evolved over the years and now facilitates

important objectives such as promoting a greater role in the

Asian Pacific region for Japan, Singapore, and South Korea

and re-establishing a partner role with Indonesia. Cobra

Gold is key to building partner nation capacity in

humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, especially at a

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

also been able to incorporate into Cobra Gold a robust Global

Peacekeeping Operations Initiative (GPOI) event with the

active participation of Indonesia and Singapore.

 

BORDER CONFLICT WITH CAMBODIA

—————————–

 

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

volatile, primarily due to a border dispute centered on 4.6

square kilometers of overlapping territorial claims adjacent

to the 11th century Hindu Preah Vihear temple. Minor

skirmishes have erupted three times since mid-2008, leading

to the deaths of seven soldiers.

 

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

agreements of 1904-8 and a 1962 International Court of

Justice ruling that granted Cambodia the temple but left the

rest of disputed land unresolved. Tensions spiked in 2008

when the Thai government in power at that time supported

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

temple as a world heritage site, only to subsequently face

opposition in parliament and an adverse court ruling.

 

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

political schism in Bangkok may make tough decisions more

difficult for the Thai government. We urge both sides to

resolve their differences peacefully through bilateral

negotiations, border demarcation, and a reduction of troops

deployed along the border. Talks under the auspices of the

Foreign Ministry-led Joint Border Commission (JBC) are

attempting to address the conflict through negotiations, but

thorny internal politics and historical rancor between

Thailand and Cambodia make progress difficult.

 

PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS

——————–

 

BANGKOK 00002712 003 OF 004

 

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

UN peacekeeping missions and was an early contributing nation

to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, Thai

generals very effectively led UN forces in East Timor, where

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

general served as the principal deputy of the Aceh Monitoring

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

and the military to seek a more prominent role in

international stabilization and peacekeeping missions. For

instance, Thailand is currently preparing for a deployment of

a battalion of troops for a difficult UNAMID mission in

Darfur. With deployment currently scheduled for early 2010,

we have continued to underscore to the leadership of the Thai

military that we stand ready to assist again where possible.

 

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

peacekeeping capabilities, both as a contributing nation and

as a trainer of neighboring nations. Using GPOI funding,

necessary upgrades and modernization work to a peacekeeping

training facility at Pranburi will be completed in FY10.

Thailand will provide instructors and maintain the facility,

which will be used for Thai peacekeepers for deployments

abroad and for peacekeeping training events with regional

partners. Thailand is also working to become a center for

training peacekeeping troops from around the region.

 

ONGOING REFUGEE CONCERNS

————————

 

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

military plays a prominent role in the management of the many

refugees that enter Thailand from neighboring countries. The

Thai government has so far failed to set up a transparent

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

we believe have a legitimate claim to refugee status — who

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

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

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

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

opportunity to underscore to the military the importance of

transparently handling these refugee cases.

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND

—————–

 

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

Anupong Paochinda as Army Commander, has taken a more

assertive role in trying to quell the ethnic Malay Muslim-led

insurgency in southern Thailand, a region that has witnessed

episodic violence since its incorporation into Thailand in

1902. Regional violence has claimed more than 3,500 lives

since January 2004, when the latest round of violence began

to escalate. The root causes of the conflict are political

and reflect larger issues of justice, decentralized

democracy, and identity in Thai society. More specifically,

however, Malay Muslims feel that they are second-class

citizens in Thailand.

 

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

resolve the conflict, but has focused solely on the difficult

security situation. General Anupong has made clear his

feeling that political leaders need to take charge of efforts

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

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

the efforts of civilian agencies have lagged, focusing on

economic development projects – which most analysts agree

will have little impact on the violence. While the Abhisit

government appears to want to adopt an integrated government

approach to solving the insurgency with budgetary and policy

decisions possibly transferred to the Office of the Prime

Minister, it remains unclear how the civil-military dynamic

will change.

 

19. (C) Southern separatists direct their anger at the

government in Bangkok, not at the United States. Since a

U.S. presence or perception of U.S. involvement in the South

could redirect that anger towards us and link it to the

international jihadist movement — a link that is currently

absent — we ensure that any offers of assistance or training

pass the \”location and label\” test. Put simply, we keep U.S.

military personnel away from the far South and we make sure

that we do not label any assistance or training as directly

linked to the southern situation. Likewise, we work to avoid

feeding rampant, outlandish speculation that we are somehow

fomenting the violence in the South in order to justify

 

BANGKOK 00002712 004 OF 004

 

building permanent bases — a very sensitive issue in

Thailand. We do not want to jeopardize our access to key

military facilities in Thailand like Utapao Naval Air Station.

 

20. (C) The Embassy maintains a three-pronged focus to

improve our military cooperation in order to address the

violence in the South:

1) Using our exercise and training program to improve the

professional and operational skills of the Royal Thai Armed

Forces, especially the Thai Army;

2) Helping the Thai break down stovepipes between the Thai

military, police forces, and civilian agencies;

3) Doing everything we can to ensure the Thai respect

international human rights norms as they counter the violence.

 

INTEROPERABILITY

—————-

 

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

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

billion of arms procurements currently in process. We

continue to look at ways to improve interoperability with the

Thai military, but must take into account the presence of

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

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

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

at more closely for procurement.

 

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

program is finishing its second phase in Thailand. Former

RTARF Supreme Commander General Boonsrang Niumpradit was a

key proponent of defense reform and meetings with General

Songkitti will provide an excellent opportunity to underscore

our desire to work closely with the Thai military leadership

as they work to learn from the DRMS process.

 

THE INCREASING ROLE OF CHINA

—————————-

 

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

with China while simultaneously emphasizing the vital role of

the U.S. in the region. While Thai military links with the

United States are deeper and far more apparent than Sino-Thai

links, China\’s growing influence in Thailand and Southeast

Asia is evident in business, popular culture, the media, and

the military.

 

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

strong effort to court the Thai military. The Thai military

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

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

and China has worked with Thailand to improve air defense

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

and 2008, Thai and Chinese Special Forces conducted joint

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

recent years, as has the number of bilateral military VIP

visits. A yet to be finalized bilateral Marine Corps

exercise between China and Thailand near the eastern seaboard

port of Sattahip next year highlights the continuing push by

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

military.

 

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

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

have been making a major push to upgrade all aspects of

relations, including mil-mil with its ASEAN neighbors.

Thailand is not interested in making a choice between the

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

as automatically threatening to our interests here), but we

will need to work harder to maintain the preferred status we

have long enjoyed.

GRIFFITHS

Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:07 am

09BANGKOK1720 SCENESETTER FOR GENERAL CASEY’S MEETING WITH THAI ARMY COMMANDER GENERAL ANUPONG

leave a comment »

“216975”,”7/16/2009 23:43″,”09BANGKOK1720″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO9603

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #1720/01 1972343

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 162343Z JUL 09

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEADWD/HQDA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7564

RHMFISS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE”,

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05

BANGKOK 001720

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY FOR GENERAL CASEY

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/16/2019

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

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR GENERAL CASEY\’S MEETING WITH THAI

ARMY COMMANDER GENERAL ANUPONG

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary. General Casey, your meeting with Thai Army

Commander General Anupong will afford the opportunity to

highlight the importance of Thailand to our regional security

interests and emphasize our support for important areas of

our mil-mil relationship. Our military relationship provides

distinctive force projection opportunities from vital sea and

air lanes, the opportunity to conduct training exercises that

are nearly impossible to match elsewhere in Asia, and a

willing participant in international peacekeeping operations.

As Army Commander, General Anupong is among the most

influential figures in Thailand, and he was an invaluable

steadying factor during political turmoil over the past year.

Anupong firmly resisted calls from a wide range of actors

for military intervention and has insisted both publicly and

privately that Thailand\’s political troubles can only be

worked out through the democratic process. End Summary.

 

ENDURING BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

——————————-

 

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

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

Thai Movement\” that covertly conducted special operations

against the Japanese forces occupying Thailand and drew

closer during the Korean War era when Thailand provided

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

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

Vietnam War and, more recently, Thailand sent contingents to

Afghanistan and Iraq.

 

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

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

treaty allies in Asia and straddling a major force projection

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

in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. Underpinning our

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

relationship, which is based on over fifty years of close

cooperation. The relationship has advanced USG interests

while developing Thai military, intelligence, and law

enforcement capabilities.

 

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

be understated. Our military engagement affords us unique

training venues in Asia training, 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.

 

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

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

Anupong Paochinda wields more power than does the Chief of

Defense Forces General Songkitti Jaggabartra and is currently

among the most influential figures Thailand. Anupong was an

invaluable steadying factor during political turmoil over the

past year. Anupong firmly resisted calls from a wide range

of actors for military intervention, and has insisted both

publicly and privately that Thailand\’s political troubles can

only be worked out through the democratic process. Anupong

reportedly is close to the Thai Royal Family and has

well-established support among the Army ranks. He has

shifted the RTA\’s focus away from politics, as it was under

the previous RTA Commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin, to

the South, where he visits once a week.

 

POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT

———————

 

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

coalition government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva has

calmed for now the political situation. Street protests by

People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) appear to be finished

and while demonstrations by the now anti-government United

Front of Democracy for Dictatorship (UDD) turned violent in

April, the political situation now appears calmer. Prime

Minister Abhisit is off to a reasonably good start in his

first months in office, but his government faces significant

political challenges and a tough economic situation.

 

BANGKOK 00001720 002 OF 005

 

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

remains. The traditional royalist elite, urban middle class,

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

and the political allies of ex-Prime Minister Thaksin

Shinawatra, currently a fugitive abroad, along with largely

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

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

claims to be, and both movements reflect concerns stemming

from perceptions of a lack of social and economic justice in

Thailand. New elections would not appear to be a viable

solution to political divide, and political discord could

very well persist for years. We continue to stress to Thai

interlocutors the need for all parties to avoid violence and

respect democratic norms within the framework of the

constitution and rule of law.

 

IMPORTANT MILITARY ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM

————————————-

 

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

use Utapao Naval Air Station as the hub for our regional

assistance program was key to making the 2004 tsunami and the

2008 Cyclone Nargis relief operations a success. While those

high-profile relief operations highlighted publicly the value

of access to Utapao, the air base 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 300 flights have transited Utapao this 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 forty times per

year for exercises and visits.

 

COBRA GOLD AND THE MILITARY EXERCISE PROGRAM

——————————————–

 

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

infrastructure and large areas to conduct unrestricted

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

exercises unique in Asia. Thai leaders are far more willing

to host multinational exercises than are other countries in

Asia. Unlike Japan, which only hosts annual bilateral

exercises due to legal prohibitions over collective security,

or the Philippines, where planning for multinational

exercises has been difficult, or Australia, which refuses to

multilateralize Tandem Thrust, the Thai government encourages

multinational exercises as a way to show regional leadership.

This has allowed us to use exercises in Thailand to further

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

military role in Asia and engaging the Indonesian and

Singaporean militaries.

 

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

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

for 28 years has served to strengthen our relations with

Thailand, highlight our commitment to Southeast Asia, and

provide exceptional training opportunities for our troops.

The event has evolved over the years and now facilitates

important objectives such as promoting a greater role in the

Asian Pacific region for Japan and Singapore and

re-establishing a partner role with Indonesia. Cobra Gold is

key to building partner nation capacity in humanitarian

assistance and disaster relief, especially at a time when

U.S. forces face other global commitments. We have also been

able to incorporate into Cobra Gold a robust Global

Peacekeeping Operations Initiative (GPOI) event with active

participation of Indonesia and Singapore.

 

BORDER CONFLICT WITH CAMBODIA

—————————–

 

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

volatile, primarily due to a border dispute centered on 4.6

square kilometers of overlapping territorial claims adjacent

to the 11th century Hindu Preah Vihear temple. Minor

skirmishes have erupted three times in the past year, leading

to the deaths of seven soldiers.

 

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

 

BANGKOK 00001720 003 OF 005

 

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

mid-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.

 

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

political conflict in Bangkok may make tough decisions more

difficult for the Thai government. We urge both sides to

resolve their differences peacefully through bilateral

negotiations, border demarcation, and a reduction of troops

deployed along the border.

 

PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS

——————–

 

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

UN peacekeeping missions and was an early contributing nation

to operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. In addition, Thai

generals very effectively led UN forces in East Timor, 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. We have continued to underscore to the leadership of

the Thai military that we stand ready to assist the Thai

where possible.

 

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

peacekeeping capabilities, both as a contributing nation and

as a trainer of neighboring nations. Using GPOI funding,

necessary upgrades and modernization work to a peacekeeping

training facility at Pranburi will be completed in FY10.

Thailand will provide instructors and maintain the facility,

which will be used for Thai peacekeepers for deployments

abroad and for peacekeeping training events with regional

partners. Thailand is also working to become a center for

training peacekeeping troops from around the region.

 

CONTINUED REFUGEE CONCERNS

————————–

 

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

military plays a prominent role in the management of the many

refugees that enter Thailand from neighboring countries. The

Thai government has so far failed to set up a transparent

screening process for the thousands of Lao Hmong, many of

whom we believe have a legitimate claim to refugee status,

who seek resettlement in the U.S. Some are former fighters

(or their descendants) allied with the U.S. against the

communist Pathet Lao during the IndoChina War. We want to

take every opportunity to underscore to the military the

importance of transparently handling these refugee cases.

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND

—————–

 

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

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

trying to quell the ethnic Malay Muslim-led insurgency in

southern Thailand, a region that has witnessed episodic

violence since its incorporation into Thailand in 1902.

Regional violence has claimed more than 3,500 lives since

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

causes of the conflict are political and reflect larger

issues of justice, decentralized democracy, and identity in

Thai society. More specifically, however, Malay Muslims feel

that they are second-class citizens in Thailand.

 

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

resolve the conflict, but has focused solely on the difficult

security situation. General Anupong has made clear his

feeling that political leaders need to take charge of efforts

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

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

effort of civilian agencies have lagged, focusing on economic

development projects – which most analysts agree will have

 

BANGKOK 00001720 004 OF 005

 

little impact on the violence. While the Abhisit government

appears to want to adopt an integrated government approach to

solving the insurgency with budgetary and policy decisions

possibly transferred to the Office of the Prime Minister, it

remains unclear how the civil-military dynamic will change.

 

19. (C) Southern separatists direct their anger at the

government in Bangkok, not at the United States. Since a

U.S. presence or perception of U.S. involvement in the South

could redirect that anger towards us and link it to the

international jihadist movement — a link that is currently

absent — we ensure that any offers of assistance or training

pass the \”location and label\” test. Put simply, we keep U.S.

military personnel away from the far South and we make sure

that we do not label any assistance or training as directly

linked to the southern situation. Likewise, we work to avoid

feeding rampant, outlandish speculation that we are somehow

fomenting the violence in the South in order to justify

building permanent bases — a very sensitive issue in

Thailand. We do not want to jeopardize our access to key

military facilities in Thailand like Utapao Naval Air Station.

 

20. (C) The Embassy maintains a three-pronged focus to

improve our military cooperation in order to address the

violence in the South:

1) Using our exercise and training program to improve the

professional and operational skills of the Royal Thai Armed

Forces, especially the Thai Army;

2) Helping the Thai break down stovepipes between the Thai

military, police forces, and civilian agencies;

3) Doing everything we can to ensure the Thai respect

international human rights norms as they counter the violence.

 

INTEROPERABILITY

—————-

 

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

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

billion of arms procurements currently in process. We

continue to look at ways to improve interoperability with the

Thai military, but must take into account the presence of

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

imposed by the coup in 2006, other countries such as China,

Israel, Sweden, and South Africa were looked at more closely

for procurement. As of late the RTA has embarked on an

equipment mondernization program. The most recent near-term

procurement opportunity with the Army is the expected

purchase of three UH-60L helicopters, which would bring their

fleet to ten, with the possibility of an additional six

being purchased in the next two to four years. Procurement

of UH-60Ls are seen as a workhorse replacement for the

current fleet of Vietnam-era UH1H helicopters that are

nearing the end of their lifecycle.

 

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

program is in its second phase in Thailand. There has been

excellent acceptance at the Royal Thai Armed Forces

Headquarters, and more moderate support from the Ministry of

Defense, the Army, Air Force, and Navy. (Note: The Army has

the largest service component budget funded at a 2:1:1 ratio

respectively. End note.) The DRMS program has powerful

resource management and budget modeling tools which can help

the RTA better manage limited resources, although some

resistance can be expected as the Army stands to lose the

most from the additional transparency provided by the

program.

 

23. (SBU) The Royal Thai Army Directorate of Operations has

expressed strong interest in building a non-commissioned

officer development program (NCODP). JUSMAG is supporting

this program and has incorporated NCODP tasks into all JCET

and COIN SMEE engagement venues. We are working with USARPAC

to send two Thai officers to evaluate the Philippine NCODP

and will program future year IMET funding for future years to

further this initiative.

 

THE INCREASING ROLE OF CHINA

—————————-

 

24. (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

 

BANGKOK 00001720 005 OF 005

 

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.

 

25. (C) The Chinese through hosting visits have made a strong

effort to court the Thai military, particularly General

Anupong. 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.

 

26. (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 21, 2011 at 5:44 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

09BANGKOK263 SCENESETTER FOR SENIOR MILITARY VISITORS TO THAILAND DURING COBRA GOLD

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“189850”,”2/2/2009 8:00″,”09BANGKOK263″,

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BANGKOK 000263

 

SIPDIS

 

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

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

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR SENIOR MILITARY VISITORS TO

THAILAND DURING COBRA GOLD

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary. Coming visits by component commanders, and

other senior leaders of various U.S. military commands will

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

commitment to working with a democratically elected Thai

government, to promoting a continued strong bilateral

relationship, and to affirming 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. End Summary.

 

ENDURING BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

——————————-

 

2. (SBU) The Thai public closely watched our recent

Presidential election, and the results received much scrutiny

regarding the potential impact on U.S.-Thai relations. Thai

government officials have expressed strong interest in

hearing assessments of the transition to a new administration

and U.S. policy towards Southeast Asia. We have stressed to

the Thai we do not anticipate significant changes in our

bilateral relationship due to the history and strength of our

alliance and the nature of long-standing U.S.-Thai security,

economic, and cultural bonds. However, the changing

generations in both Thailand and the U.S. require both sides

work hard to maintain the vibrancy in the relationship.

 

THAI POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT – YELLOW AND RED

——————————————-

 

3. (C) The December dissolution of the People\’s Power Party

(PPP), which led to the fall of the government of former PM

Somchai and installation of the Democrat-led coalition

government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva, has appeared

to quiet, at least temporarily, the political situation.

Gone are the street protests by the anti-government People\’s

Alliance for Democracy (PAD) which shut down Bangkok\’s

airports for a week and occupied the formal seat of

government for over three months. But the basic deep split

in society and the body politic remains, with the traditional

royalist elite, urban middle class, Bangkok, and the south on

one side (\”yellow\” in shorthand) and the political allies of

ex-PM Thaksin, currently a fugitive abroad, along with

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

on the other.

 

4. (C) Prime Minister Abhisit is off to a reasonably good

start in his first month in office, but his government faces

significant policy challenges given the current economic

situation in Thailand and globally. Abhisit and the

Democrats also have to contend with former Prime Minister

Thaksin Shinawatra\’s continued attempts to influence the

political environment from abroad and to recover assets of

his that were seized by the government. Moreover,

demonstrations by United Front of Democracy for Dictatorship

\”redshirts\” loyal to the former PM will test the new

government.

 

5. (C) Calling for new elections would not appear to be a

viable solution to political divide, and political turmoil

could very well persist for years. The steadiest figure on

the political stage over the past months has been Army

Commander Anupong Paochinda, who steadfastly rejected

pressure from both sides for the army to intervene in the

political stalemate, either to conduct a coup d\’etat or to

clear the streets of protesters. We continue to stress to

Thai interlocutors the negative ramifications of a coup and

the need for all parties to avoid violence and respect

democratic norms within the framework of the constitution and

rule of law.

 

6. (C) King Bhumibol turned 81 on December 5. Many had

anticipated his commentary for his annual address to the

nation on the eve of his birthday; his address was canceled,

 

BANGKOK 00000263 002 OF 005

 

however, after he fell ill with bronchitis. (Note: The King

was hospitalized for a period of weeks in late 2007 for

appeared to be a minor stroke. End note.) The Palace has

since announced the King\’s recovery; as of late, he has been

shown on television more frequently in meetings with both

foreigners and Thais. The King\’s passing, whenever that may

be, will shock Thailand. Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is the

King\’s designated heir. However, the current King\’s enormous

personal prestige, the lack of a precedent for royal

succession during the modern era (King Bhumibol has been on

the throne since 1946), and changing sentiment about the

proper role of the institution in the 21st century suggest

that the transition will be difficult.

 

THAI ECONOMY STRUGGLES TO OVERCOME CHALLENGES

———————————————

 

7. (SBU) Over the past few years, Thailand\’s economy has been

growing at a moderate pace, though the long-running political

uncertainty has stifled domestic investment, hamstrung

government stimulus programs, and kept Thailand from keeping

up with other ASEAN nations. The worldwide economic slowdown

of recent months has hit Thailand particularly hard as

exports, the one bright spot in GDP growth, have fallen,

causing growth forecasts for 2009 to be ratcheted down from

4% to less than 2%. This dreary scenario was made much worse

by the November airport closures, which devastated Thailand\’s

large tourism and convention industries just at the beginning

of the high season.

 

8. (SBU) Historically, Thailand\’s economy has hummed along

unaffected by frequent political squabbling, but the recent

willingness of political actors to take actions that clearly

damage the economy and the nation\’s international image is

changing that tenet. Thailand\’s largest foreign investors,

Japanese in particular, have expressed dismay at the new turn

in events. The full effect of the airport closures has not

yet shown up in the data, but FDI (especially from the U.S.)

was already trending down for 2008. The new government is

well aware of these challenges, has made an extraordinary

effort to put together an economically reasonable and

politically savvy economic stimulus package, and is reaching

out to the foreign business community to re-built Thailand\’s

image as a good place to do business.

 

IMPORTANT MILITARY ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM, ACCESS

———————————————

 

9. (SBU) The long-standing U.S.-Thai military partnership

provides the U.S. with unique benefits. These include

distinctive force projection options, the possibility to

conduct training exercises that are nearly impossible to

match elsewhere in Asia, the opportunity to advance U.S.

strategic goals, access to military leaders in a nation that

is trying to strengthen democratic institutions, a willing

participant in international peacekeeping operations, and a

partner in medical research which has produced widely-used

vaccines.

 

10. (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 successful. While

those high-profile relief operations highlighted publicly the

value of access to Utapao, the air base is used regularly for

flights in support of critical U.S. military operations 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 forty times per year for

exercises and visits.

 

COBRA GOLD AND THE MILITARY EXERCISE PROGRAM

——————————————–

 

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

 

BANGKOK 00000263 003 OF 005

 

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.

 

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

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

for 28 years has served to strengthen our relations with

Thailand, highlight our commitment to Southeast Asia, and

provide exceptional training opportunities for our troops.

The event has evolved over the years and now facilitates

important objectives such as promoting a greater role in the

Asian Pacific region for Japan and Singapore and

re-establishing a partner role with Indonesia. Cobra Gold is

key to building partner nation capacity in humanitarian

assistance and disaster relief, especially at a time when

U.S. forces face other global commitments. We have also been

able to incorporate into Cobra Gold a robust Global

Peacekeeping Operations Initiative (GPOI) event with active

participation of Indonesia and Singapore. Our other primary

exercises with the Thai military are CARAT and COPE TIGER.

 

DEFENSE REFORM

————–

 

13. (C) We have been working closely with the Royal Thai

Armed Forces Headquarters (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. We use every appropriate opportunity to

emphasize our desire to work closely with the Thai military

leadership to accelerate DRMS process. Phase II of this

process will begin the first week of March following the

ASEAN summit scheduled for Thailand.

 

PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS

——————–

 

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

peacekeeping missions, best known for leading forces in the

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

partner for us as the Thai government continues preparations

to deploy a battalion of peacekeeping troops to Darfur as

UNAMID. With deployment currently scheduled for mid-2009, we

have continued to underscore to the leadership of the Thai

military that we stand ready to assist the Thai again where

possible.

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND: SECURITY AND JUSTICE

—————————————

 

15. (C) The Thai military, since General Anupong became Army

Commander, has taken a more assertive role in trying to quell

the ethnic Malay Muslim ethno-nationalist insurgency in

southern Thailand, a region that has witnessed episodic

violence since its incorporation into Siam/Thailand in 1902.

Regional violence has claimed more than 3000 lives since

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

causes of the insurgency — government neglect, human rights

abuses, and a lack of social justice, combined with a desire

for some form of self-determination, have not been addressed

by any Thai government to this point.

 

16. (C) While the Thai military has so far focused mostly on

trying to resolve the difficult security situation in the

 

BANGKOK 00000263 004 OF 005

 

South, with increased tactical success in security sweeps,

occasional abuses by security forces have added to the sense

of grievance and lack of justice by the local populace.

Efforts by civilian government ministries to solve the root

causes of injustice and the feeling of disenfranchisement by

the Thai-Malay majority in the three southern provinces have

so far lagged. While the Abhisit government appears set to

adopt an integrated government approach to solving the

insurgency with budgetary and policy decision making

responsibility possibly transferred to the Office of the

Prime Minister, it remains unclear how the civil-military

dynamic will change.

 

17. (C) The RTG has made clear its hesitancy in accepting any

direct USG role in the South. 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.

 

BORDER CONFLICT WITH CAMBODIA

—————————–

 

18. (C) Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya\’s January 26

visit to Phnom Penh produced encouraging statements by all

sides regarding the border dispute that is centered on

overlapping claims to territory adjacent to Preah Vihear

temple. The next round of talks under the auspices of the

Foreign Ministry-led Joint Border Commission (JBC) are

scheduled for February 2, and the two nations\’ defense

ministers are scheduled to meet February 6 to discuss the

redeployment of soldiers stationed at the temple. Despite

continued talks between Thailand and Cambodia, we are not

optimistic for quick resolution to the dispute. Difficult

issues lay at the heart of the matter, and political conflict

in Bangkok may make tough decisions more difficult for the

Thai government. We continue to stress to the Thai

interlocutors that the dispute should be resolved peacefully

and bilaterally.

 

REFUGEE/MIGRANT CONCERNS: LAO HMONG AND ROHINGYA

——————————————— —

 

19. (C) Thailand has hosted millions of refugees since the

IndoChina wars and currently has more than 150,000 refugees

from Burma in camps along the Thai-Burma border. The RTARF

has the lead on resolving the difficult problem of the

thousands of Hmong from Laos who arrived in 2006-2007 seeking

resettlement in the U.S.; many of them likely would not

qualify for refugee status and will be returned to Laos.

However, the Thai government has so far failed to set up a

transparent screening process for the Hmong currently in a

camp in Petchaboon province; we believe that a portion of the

group may have a legitimate claim to refugee status and could

face harsh treatment by the Lao government if returned. Some

are former fighters (or their descendants) allied with the

U.S. against the communist Pathet Lao during the IndoChina

wars. We want to take every opportunity to underscore to the

RTARF the importance of transparently handling the Lao Hmong

cases.

 

20. (C) Media reports in recent weeks over Thai actions

regarding Rohingya \”boat people\” have resulted in strong

criticism of the RTG and its policy toward groups that

attempt to enter Thailand, primarily from Burma. Rohingya

typically cross from Burma\’s Northern Rakhine state into

Bangladesh to board vessels bound for Malaysia. This year

many have instead found their way to the Ranong area in

Thailand, the Andaman Islands of India, and Aceh Province,

Indonesia. According to various reports, several hundred

 

BANGKOK 00000263 005 OF 005

 

Rohingya went missing from at least one vessel encountered by

the Indian coast guard off Port Blair in the Andaman Islands

in early January. Survivors have alleged being towed out to

sea and being abandoned by Thai military or marine police

vessels.

 

21. (C) A recent visit to the Ranong area by Embassy RefCoord

suggests to us that two loosely defined groupings of unpaid

civilian defense volunteers drawn from fishing villages were

involved in the alleged mistreatment of the Rohingya, but

that they received general policy direction and some

financial support from the Thai Army-led local Internal

Security Operations Center. It remains unclear what boats

may have been involved in towing the Rohingya back out to

sea. We continue to stress to our contacts in the Thai

government that Thailand should provide access for UNHCR to

Rohingya boat people who reach Thai shores, and that

push-outs to sea are not consistent with basic humanitarian

principles.

 

THE INCREASING ROLE OF CHINA

—————————-

 

22. (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. 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 disclosed marine

corps exercise between China and Thailand near the eastern

seaboard port of Sattahip in the April-May timeframe

highlights the continuing push by China to expand their

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

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 6:32 am

06BANGKOK5705 EYE ON AMERICA? – CHINESE MEDIA IN THAILAND

leave a comment »

“78533”,”9/15/2006 9:50″,”06BANGKOK5705″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”SECRET”,”06BANGKOK5705″,

“VZCZCXRO4169

RR RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHGH RUEHHM RUEHNH RUEHVC

DE RUEHBK #5705/01 2580950

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R 150950Z SEP 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1669

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 2443

RULSDMK/NSA US WASHDC

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RUEHIN/AIT TAIPEI 8707

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC”,

“S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 005705

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/14/2016

TAGS: OPRC, PREL, PGOV, CH, TH, ASEAN

SUBJECT: EYE ON AMERICA? – CHINESE MEDIA IN THAILAND

 

BANGKOK 00005705 001.2 OF 003

 

Classified By: Political Counselor Susan M. Sutton,

Reasons 1.4 (B) (D)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY. Representing television, radio and print

media, six Mainland Chinese press outlets are present in

Thailand. Each organization\’s mandate varies, but all have

small staffs and budgets. Most reporters do not speak Thai

and English appears to be their working language. While the

Guangming Daily prefers to report on Thai cultural and

special interest pieces, the Xinhua News Agency is attempting

to secure a foothold in providing hard news in Thailand

through its multimedia database. CCTV (China Central

Television) covers only official Chinese visits and \”sudden

developments\” in the region. Several of the newspapers have

inserts in local Thai newspapers while the CCTV provides

video feeds to a Thai news channel. These media outlets are

also keenly focused on strategic US engagements with ASEAN

and the SEA region. End summary.

 

THE PLAYERS

———–

 

2. (SBU) There are six Mainland Chinese media outlets in

Thailand — Xinhua News Agency, China News Agency (Zhongxin

She), People\’s Daily News Agency, Guangming Daily Media

Group, China Central Television (CCTV), and China Radio

International (CRI). Of these, Xinhua News have been in

Thailand the longest, established here in 1975. While larger

operations such as Xinhua News have country bureaus in every

ASEAN-member country except Laos, Bangkok is the regional hub

for smaller, one-person operations such as Guangming Daily.

(Note: For comparison — AP, AFP, Reuters and Kyoto all have

large regional offices in Bangkok. CNN, BBC, Star, NHK and

Australian Broadcasting Corporation have television

facilities. End note.)

 

3. (C) Chinese staff all positions in these outlets, sent

from their headquarters in Beijing. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX,

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX for XXXXXXXXXXX told Poloff that

there is no Thai staff in his office because \”there is no

budget.\” XXXXX reporter, XXXXXXX explained that the

Chinese media have adopted the \”one-man reporter/cameraman\”

concept for its overseas operations to save cost. XXXXXX

reporter, XXXXXX, said that he was sent overseas because

he could \”film, interview and produce segments on his own.\”

 

4. (C) While a few of the reporters speak Thai, most of the

journalists use English as their working language. As a Thai

speaker, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

explained that \”the number of Thai speakers in China are so

few that you can count them with your fingers\” because most

universities do not offer Thai language courses.

 

THE GAME

——–

 

NUMBERS VARY

 

5. (C) Mandates for the media outlets vary vastly, as do

their monthly output quotas. While small operations like the

Guangming Daily are asked to produce five monthly articles,

Xinhua sources claim that their office produces upwards of

300 news items a month. XXXX of XXXX explained that, unlike

XXXXX, XXXX international department is still relatively

young. XXXX two-men office in Thailand is asked only to

travel with Chinese delegations during official visits and to

cover \”sudden developments\” in the region such as natural

disasters. The number of news pieces produced thus varies

from month-to-month.

 

TOPICS VARY

 

6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX Xinhua currently has more than

100 branch offices in over ninety countries with a mandate to

report on news-worthy items across the spectrum. (Note: For

comparison — Reuters has 196 bureaus in 130 countries and AP

has 240 bureaus in 130 countries. End note.) Interestingly,

a frustrated XXXXXXXXXXXX told Poloff that because

newspapers such as Guangming, Xinhua and People\’s Daily are

state-owned (under the Chinese Propaganda Department), they

are asked to \”refrain from writing political and economic

pieces,\” since it may be \”misconstrued as official PRC views\”

on the subject. Instead, XXXXX’s editor asks him to produce

stories on Thai culture and \”feel-good\” special interest

pieces, which, he commented, are hard to find.

 

BANGKOK 00005705 002.2 OF 003

 

COMMENT

 

7. (C) XXXXXXX’s claim that his office reports on all aspects

of news – politics included – in Thailand starkly contrasts

with XXXX’s assertions. XXXXXXXXXXX number of

over 300 news items a month reported also appears exaggerated

given the bureau\’s three-person operation. One possible

explanation may be that the office includes individual

photographs and short items as new stories to bolster their

numbers for their bosses in Beijing. End comment.

 

MULTI-MEDIA: WAVE OF THE FUTURE

——————————-

 

8. (C) Despite the large number of required news items, the

XXXXXXX at Xinhua seemed more interested in selling the

Xinhua Multimedia Database (http://info.xinhua.org/eng) to

the Thai public (Comment: and to Poloff) than to talk about

their reporting responsibilities. XXXXXX proudly informed

Poloff that his database now boasts \”over a hundred household

subscribers.\” Yet with the goal of catching up to major wire

services such as the Associated Press (AP) or Reuters, XXXXX

admitted that \”there is still a long way to go.\”

 

OTHER COLLABORATIONS

——————–

 

9. (C) Xinhua has been relatively successful in promoting

its multimedia outlet in Thailand. Not only do the six local

Thai-Chinese newspapers (including the Taiwanese-owned

Universal Daily News) all take feeds from Xinhua, XXXXX

claimed that it also powers most of the cell phone

news-update engines in Thailand. (Note: Xinhua\’s Database

also takes feeds from AP and Reuters. End note.)

Separately, several local newspapers carry weekly inserts

from People\’s Daily and China Daily.

 

10. (C) XXXXXXX told Poloff that Channel 9 in Thailand

(Note: State-owned, nightly news broadcast viewership around

2 million. End note.) is also working with a branch company

of CCTV to work on collaborative \”special focus\” programming.

Their last special was on the Thai King\’s Jubilee

Celebrations. In addition, XXXXXX mentioned that there have

been plans to create a Chinese-Thai Channel in the works

since last year between CCTV and a local Thai channel,

although he did not elaborate on the details. XXXX explained

that the Thai want to collaborate with CCTV because \”they

want CCTV\’s satellite access both to the world and within the

PRC.\” \”Imagine the increase in viewership,\” XXXX added.

 

EYES ON AMERICA

—————

 

11. (S/NF) Other than reporting on Thai news and

establishing a \”soft-power\” presence in Thailand, the Chinese

media here are also keenly interested in US involvement with

the ASEAN countries. XXXXXXXXX asked Poloff not

to mention their meeting to other Chinese nationals before

leaning over and bluntly informing Poloff that,

strategically, China\’s presence in Thailand is to \”keep a

close eye on the US.\” XXXX asserted that China has been

concerned with the US \”change of attitude toward ASEAN,\”

including the recent signing of the ASEAN-US Enhanced

Partnership agreement. XXXX stated that China believes this is

a strategic move to \”counterbalance the PRC\” in the region.

 

12. (S/NF) XXX suggested that China has \”double insurance\”

for maintaining influence in Thailand — China\’s increasing

involvement in the Thai economy and the large number of

ethnic Chinese-Thai who hold wealth and political power in

the country — and therefore is not overly concerned with

losing influence in Thailand. In fact, XXX added that Chinese

strategic policies \”tend to be passive elsewhere unless it

concerns America, Taiwan, or the oil-producing countries.\”

XXXXX also suggested that India is becoming a new concern for

China for various reasons including recent Indian offers to

help safeguard the Malacca Strait.

 

13. (S/NF) COMMENT: XXX’s assertions, though extreme at face

value, appear to be in line with post\’s own observations of

both Chinese diplomats and members of the PRC media in

Thailand. Although engaging and forthcoming, Chinese

 

BANGKOK 00005705 003.2 OF 003

 

diplomats are rarely interested in the minutiae of Thai

politics and are much more interested in US involvement with

ASEAN, in particular the ASEAN-US Enhanced Partnership and

the ASEAN-US Dialogue that took place earlier in May. The

Chinese media\’s curiosity is even more obvious. PRC

reporters swarm to US military functions — such as the

opening ceremonies of the Cobra Gold exercise or ship visits

like the recent port call of the USS Abraham Lincoln. For

example, six reporters from Xinhua showed up for the opening

of the Cobra Gold exercise last year despite Xinhua only

having three reporters on staff in Bangkok. While these

reporters were not \”misbehaving\” in any way, their attention

seemed to be more focused on taking photographs of the

machinery and headshots of US officers present than with

filing any news stories. End comment.

ARVIZU

 

Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:45 am

Posted in China, Secret

06BANGKOK5148 SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF THE USS KITTY HAWK

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

 

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

PP RUEHWEB

 

DE RUEHBK #5148/01 2350544

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 230544Z AUG 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RHOVZFF/USS KITTY HAWK PRIORITY

INFO RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1109

RHHMBRA/COMPACFLT PEARL HARBOR HI

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RHOQZFF/CTF 70

RUAYAAM/COMCARAIRWING FIVE

RHOQADE/COMDESRON FIFTEEN

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

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

USS KITTY HAWK FOR RDML MCCLAIN

 

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

TAGS: OVIP, MARR, PREL, PGOV, TH

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR THE VISIT OF THE USS KITTY HAWK

 

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

 

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

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

a terrific opportunity to demonstrate America\’s commitment to

regional security and meshes with a series of initiatives the

United States has with Thailand. Thailand affords the United

States a unique platform in Asia. Congress recently approved

our implementing an ambitious program in Thailand, Indonesia

and Sri Lanka designed to improve our ability to monitor ship

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

intercept suspect vessels. Our largest exercise, Cobra Gold,

is America\’s only annual joint/combined multilateral training

exercise in the Asia Pacific Region and now includes the

active participation of Japan, Singapore and Indonesia.

Thailand participates in the annual CARAT exercise and is an

ally in the War on Terror. Thai troops deployed to

Afghanistan and Iraq and we are working closely with the Thai

to make them better able to address separatist elements in

the Muslim majority South. We are also working with U.S.

Embassies in the region to better address counter terrorism

throughout SE Asia. Our IMET program is a major success —

senior leaders in all the services are graduates. We are

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

Sonthi Boonyaratglin, participate in the DV fly out. General

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

countering the insurgency in Southern Thailand. END SUMMARY.

 

THE BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

 

2. (C) Bilateral relations with Thailand are very good. The

goodwill generated by America\’s quick and massive response to

the December 26 2004 tsunami was palpable. Thailand is a

Treaty Ally and has been firmly supportive of the

International War on Terror and has participated in Operation

Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

American businesses have over $20 billion in direct

investment in Thailand. The United States is Thailand\’s

largest export market and its second-largest foreign

investor.

 

3. (C) Nonetheless, there are points of friction. Human

rights remains a key concern. On October 25, 2004, poorly

trained Thai military and civilian security forces forced

nearly 1,300 Thai Muslim protesters into trucks to be

transported to a military base nearly three hours away. 78

protesters died en route. Our protests over Thai Police

involvement in approximately 1,300 extrajudicial killings

during the 2003 Thai \”war on drugs,\” rankles the Thai

Government. Likewise, Thailand\’s policy of \”constructive

engagement\” with the military junta in Burma and provision of

economic assistance to Rangoon is a source of continuing

frustration for us. The Thai government supports democracy

in Burma but maintains, not altogether convincingly, that

engagement with the SPDC is the only realistic approach it

has to make progress on the major cross-border flows of

refugees, illegal economic migrants, and methamphetamines it

faces from Burma.

 

THE OVERALL SECURITY RELATIONSHIP

 

4. (C) The U.S.-Thai security relationship is based on over

50 years of close cooperation. Thai soldiers, sailors and

airmen participated in the Korean and Vietnamese Conflicts

and Thai peacekeepers served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Thailand is the fourth largest participant in the U.S.

International Military Education and Training (IMET) program.

Thailand\’s willingness to allow the United States to use

Utapao Naval Air Station as the hub for our regional tsunami

assistance program was key to making Operation Unified

Assistance a success. In fact, PACOM recently designated

Utapao as the most important Cooperative Security Location

(CSL) in the Asia Pacific Region. While we avoid using the

term \”CSL\” with the Thai due to their sensitivities about

bases, Utapao remains vital to our interests in the region.

In your meetings with Thai officials, you will want to note

the overall strength of the relationship — highlighting our

history and underscoring the importance of our tsunami

cooperation, exercise program, increased tempo of USN ship

visits (most recently, the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike

Group), and cooperation in the War on Terrorism.

 

THE POLITICAL SITUATION

 

5. (SBU) In 2001, telecommunications multimillionaire Thaksin

(Prime Minister TOCK-SIN) Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai

(TRT) party won a decisive victory on a populist platform of

economic growth and development. Thaksin was reelected in

February 2005, winning 377 out of 500 seats in the

Parliament. Following allegations of corruption of the Prime

Minister, peaceful anti-government demonstrations grew as

thousands marched in the streets of Bangkok to demand

Thaksin\’s resignation. Thaksin dissolved the Parliament in

February 2006 and declared snap elections in April. The

opposition boycotted the April elections, leading to a

political stalemate. Following Royal intervention, the

judiciary annulled the April election and new elections are

expected to take place in October or shortly thereafter.

Protesters have not returned to the streets and the Thai

military has not intervened. Notably, Army CINC General

Sonthi has been praised for his professional and apolitical

handling of the military throughout the impasse. The

government remains in caretaker status.

 

COUNTERTERRORISM AND SOUTHERN THAILAND

 

6. (C) Southern Thailand, in particular the southernmost

Muslim majority provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat,

has experienced episodic violence since it was incorporated

into the Siamese Kingdom in 1902. However, since January

2004, we have witnessed a dramatic increase in the level of

violence. Press reports indicate that over 1,000 persons

have been killed either by militants or by security forces

during this period. Local Muslim separatist militants have

attacked symbols of Thai and Buddhist authority, civilians,

and local citizens suspected of collaborating with the

Government. There continue to be daily incidents of

violence. In March 2005, Thaksin appointed a National

Reconciliation Commission (NRC) headed by highly respected

former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun to look for

alternative solutions to the long-running insurgency. The

NRC published its recommendations in June and these are being

broadly debated.

 

7. (C) Southern separatists direct their anger at the

government in Bangkok, not at the United States. Since a

U.S. presence or perception of U.S. involvement in the South

could redirect that anger towards us and link it to the

international jihadist movement — a link that is currently

absent — we ensure that any offers of assistance or training

pass the \”location and label\” test. Put simply, we keep U.S.

military personnel away from the far South and we make sure

that we do not label any assistance or training as directly

linked to the southern situation. Likewise, we work to avoid

feeding rampant, outlandish speculation that we are somehow

fomenting the violence in the South in order to justify

building permanent bases — a very sensitive issue in

Thailand. We do not want to jeopardize our access to key

military facilities in Thailand like Utapao Naval Air

Station.

 

REGIONAL MARITIME SECURITY

 

8. (C) A key U.S. objective in the region is to improve

Maritime Security. We are working closely with PACOM to

encourage Thailand and others to support the Regional

Maritime Security Initiative (RMSI). Working with PACOM,

PACFLT and Washington, we recently won approval to implement

an ambitious project aimed at promoting domain awareness in

the Andaman Sea. This project is a layered approach to

assist the Thai military secure territorial waters while also

providing coverage of the northern shipping lanes feeding

into the Strait of Malacca. It will combine a High Frequency

Radar capable of reaching Sumatra, with a constellation of

overlapping x-band radars to provide radar coverage of the

waters off the west coast of Thailand. The initiative would

also improve the Royal Thai Navy\’s interdiction capabilities

and has the potential to be linked to other facilities in the

region. We are working closely with U.S. Embassies in Sri

Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to create a

regional network aimed at improving maritime security

throughout the region.

 

MILITARY COOPERATION

 

9. (C) Perhaps due to their lack of a colonial heritage, Thai

leaders are far more willing to host multilateral exercises

than are others countries in Asia. Unlike Japan, which only

hosts annual bilateral exercises due to legal prohibitions

over collective security, or Australia, which avoids

multilateral exercises so as not to \”dumb down\” its own

training opportunities, the Royal Thai Government supports

multilateral exercises as a way to show regional leadership.

So long as our concepts are properly sold to Thai military

and political leaders, we should be able to continue to

modify exercises to meet our regional security objectives —

including an ability to establish a near-continuous presence

in the region.

 

10. (C) We conduct a wide range of major exercises and

training programs with Thailand each year, including Cobra

Gold. Cobra Gold 2006 included almost 7,000 U.S. troops

working together with Thai counterparts in field training

exercises ranging from Military Operations in Urban Terrain

and Air Assault Operations to Naval Special Forces protecting

offshore natural gas platforms. The Command Post Exercise

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

and Indonesian forces and focused on peace keeping

operations. Cobra Gold in the coming years will be a

centerpiece of our Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI),

designed to train 15,000 regional peacekeepers by 2010. As

mentioned, Utapao, the Thai Navy Air Base used as the primary

staging area for U.S. disaster relief efforts in the region

following the December 2004 tsunami, has long been a critical

support hub for U.S. aircraft transiting the region. Over 420

DOD aircraft use it each year. Our largest air exercise,

Cope Tiger, involves Thailand, the United States and

Singapore. USN aircraft from the USS Abraham Lincoln

participated in Cope Tiger in 2005 while the Lincoln was

stationed off of Aceh during Operation Unified Assistance.

We have also been working closely with PACFLT to give our

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

coming years.

 

THE ROLE OF CHINA AND INDIA IN THE REGION

 

11. (C) Southeast Asia continues to feel the rising influence

of China and India. While emphasizing the vital role of the

U.S. in the region — and Thailand\’s desire to intensify U.S.

engagement — Thai leaders also focus on developing stronger

relations with the two regional powers. Bangkok views both

countries as sources of unlimited consumer demand and hope to

conclude Free Trade Agreements with both nations. It

surprises many visitors from Washington to learn that the

Thai military has a number of Chinese weapons systems in its

arsenal. While Thai military links with the United States

are deeper and far more apparent than Sino-Thai links,

China\’s growing influence in Thailand and Southeast Asia is

evident in business, the arts, the media and the military.

The PLA Navy has close links with the RTN and recently

conducted a major ship visit to Phuket. After jointly holding

a limited naval exercise in the Andaman Sea last fall,

Thailand and China are exploring conducting joint SAR

exercises. The RTN has acquired several ships from China over

the past decade. China is refurbishing tanks and air defense

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

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

in recent years as has the number of bilateral military VIP

visits.

 

THAI MILITARY STRUCTURE

 

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

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

Thai Army Commander, GEN Sonthi, traditionally wields more

real power than the Supreme Commander. Thailand\’s armed

forces, which had a history of interfering in the country\’s

politics, have not done so since 1992 and appear to be

reconciled to constitutional roles of defense and security.

Their exposure to U.S. civil-military values through their

extensive participation in IMET training deserves some credit

for this transformation of their attitude towards democracy.

 

13. (C) While the RTA has a long history working with the

U.S. Army, recently we have also been working with MARFORPAC

and III MEF to improve links between the U.S Marine Corps and

the RTA. In many ways, our Marines are perfect ideal

partners for the RTA, and field exercises in Thailand afford

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

Asia. We hosted the USS Essex Amphibious Assault Ship during

Cobra Gold this year and are looking for other training

opportunities in the coming months.

THE NAVAL RELATIONSHIP

 

14. (C) While our overall relationship with the Thai military

is good, our links with the Royal Thai Navy (RTN) are not as

strong as those with the Royal Thai Army or Air Force. The

RTN is smaller than the other services and tends to be less

willing to be open with U.S. counterparts. This has not been

the case historically, and we are working to reverse the

trend through potential projects like the Andaman Sea

Maritime Security Initiative and the increased tempo of USN

ship visits to Thailand. The April 19-24 visit of the USS

Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group was well received by the

RTN, received front page and prime time media coverage, and

was a successful opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of

the U.S.-Thai security relationship.

 

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

with Thailand, JUSMAGTHAI has worked closely with RTN Special

Warfare units to increase their capacity. USN SEALS have

helped to provide their Thai counterparts with some

impressive capabilities. For instance, Thai SEALS regularly

conduct exercises aimed at protecting oil and gas platforms

in the Gulf of Thailand. This NSW relationship was

graphically demonstrated during the tsunami response when USN

and RTN SEALS rapidly deployed to Phuket to assist in the

recovery efforts. The Prime Minister was photographed in a

recovery boat manned by the SEALS. Despite their improved

professionalism, the Thai SEALS are not well-supported by

senior RTN officials.

 

RANGE TIME DURING CARRIER VISITS

 

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

establish an SOP with the Thai to enable our carrier air

wings to conduct training in Thailand. We appreciate the

collegial attitude evidenced by officers from the USS Kitty

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

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

would be useful to express our sincerity in developing a

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

visits to Thailand even more successful.

 

WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR VISIT

 

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

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

reception aboard the USS Kitty Hawk a success.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:25 am