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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

08BANGKOK2940 ENGAGING NEW THAI FM SOMPONG AT UNGA: THE CURRENT U.S. AGENDA WITH THAILAND

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“171603”,”9/26/2008 9:46″,”08BANGKOK2940″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”SECRET”,

“08BANGKOK2854|08BANGKOK2882″,”VZCZCXRO2249

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SIPDIS

 

DOJ FOR OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/26/2018

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PREF, PHUM, KDEM, KJUS, ETRD, UNGA, TH

SUBJECT: ENGAGING NEW THAI FM SOMPONG AT UNGA: THE CURRENT

U.S. AGENDA WITH THAILAND

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 2882 (AMBASSADOR MEETS PM)

B. BANGKOK 2854 (THAI-CAMBODIAN DISPUTE)

 

BANGKOK 00002940 001.2 OF 003

 

Classified By: DCM James F. Entwistle, reason: 1.4 (b, d)

 

SUMMARY

——-

1. (C) Newly-inaugurated Deputy Prime Minister Sompong

Amornwiwat, who serves concurrently as Foreign Minister, will

make a short visit to UNGA/New York, arriving late September

27 with meetings on September 29-30. Post recommends an

appropriate USG high-level interlocutor meet with Sompong in

New York, given the wide range of important matters on our

agenda with Thailand, and in recognition of 175 years of

US-Siamese/Thai relations, our oldest formal relationship in

Asia. Issues which could be raised with Sompong include: the

extradition of Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout; the

deployment of Thai troops to Darfur; pressing Thailand to

support reform in Burma; protection of Lao Hmong in Thailand

who seek refugee status; calming Thai-Cambodian tensions;

Thailand\’s chairmanship of ASEAN; support for Thai democracy;

and the southern separatist insurgency. We recommend U/S

Burns or A/S Hill meet with DPM/FM Sompong; Attorney General

Mukasey may wish to call Sompong on the Bout case, since the

two talked during Mukasey\’s June 10-11 visit to Bangkok, when

Sompong was Justice Minister. End Summary.

 

BOUT EXTRADITION

—————-

2. (S) The Ambassador stressed to new PM Somchai September 22

that one of our top bilateral priorities is the extradition

of Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, in Thai custody since

March. In his August visit to Bangkok, President Bush raised

this matter with then-PM Samak. Attorney General Mukasey

discussed the Bout case with then-FM Noppadol and officials

from the Office of the Attorney General in June. We are

concerned by a Thai court\’s recent denial of our request for

the extradition of Jamshid Ghassemi, an Iranian who conspired

to illegally obtain controlled technology from the United

States (ref A). We have noted our respect for Thai judicial

processes but believe firmly that Thailand should extradite

Bout, a notorious arms trafficker who had targeted Americans

and supported terrorists, once the judicial review concludes.

 

DARFUR DEPLOYMENT

—————–

3. (SBU) After the Thai pledged a battalion peacekeepers for

UNAMID in October 2007, the RTG has been waiting for Sudanese

government approval for Thai troops to deploy to Darfur. We

understand that Sudanese government recently told the UN that

Thai troops could deploy after Egyptian and Ethiopian

infantry battalions deploy to Darfur. Both the MFA and the

Peacekeeping Operations Center at the Royal Thai Armed Forces

Headquarters confirmed to us that they are planning to

fulfill the pledge to UNAMID. With the long interim since

the pledge was approved by the Cabinet, however, the RTG will

need to allocate a budget for the deployment, and the Thai

military will need to re-train troops. The latest estimate

from the Thai military is that they would not be ready to

deploy before February. (Note: Septel will provide further

detail on this issue.) We have urged the RTG to begin

preparations as soon as possible so that Thai troops are

ready when authorization has been provided by Sudan and the

UNDPKO.

 

BURMA

—–

4. (C) When the People\’s Power Party (PPP)-led governing

coalition first formed an administration in February 2008,

then-FM Noppadol advocated \”neighborly engagement\” with

Burma, with which Thailand shares a long porous border,

provides refuge for hundreds of thousands of displaced

 

BANGKOK 00002940 002.2 OF 003

 

persons and employment for up to 2 million other Burmese, and

on which Thailand depends for a significant portion of its

energy needs. Thailand currently appears unwilling to press

the Burmese junta to carry out reforms, although in extreme

circumstances (such as the repression of the Saffron Uprising

last year) the Thais have been willing to criticize egregious

acts of the GOB. Thailand also helpfully pressed the GOB to

allow international aid for areas hit hard by Cyclone Nargis

and served as a platform for U.S. and UN aid deliveries into

Burma.

 

5. (C) The Thais are understandably concerned about the

negative impact on the Thai jewelry industry of the JADE

(Junta\’s Anti-Democratic Efforts) Act. Our hope is that

Thailand will do more to join the effort to pressure the

junta for change, and not simply see the Act as an unfair

trade matter to be taken to the WTO. We should encourage

Sompong to work with us towards a democratic transition in

Burma, while understanding their challenges in managing a

complex neighborly relationship and concerns about JADE Act

implementation.

 

LAO-HMONG

———

6. (SBU) Thailand has a long history of providing sanctuary

to people from neighboring states who are fleeing

persecution. In recent months, however, we have been

concerned by the RTG\’s return to Laos of 1400 Lao Hmong

awaiting screening for claims of refugee status. The RTG

claimed these individuals returned voluntarily, and that the

vast majority of the Hmong do not meet international criteria

as refugees, but the procedures the RTG used did not meet

UNHCR standards for voluntary movements. There was no

independent third party monitor to ensure that returnees sign

affidavits of voluntariness and had an opportunity to change

their minds. A closed government screening process to

identify those who might face persecution has been similarly

opaque. While thanking the Thais for their traditional

hospitality to neighboring populations, we have stressed the

need for transparency and proper third-party monitoring in

any return of Lao Hmong, as well as in the vetting process

undertaken without UNHCR involvement.

 

TENSION WITH CAMBODIA

———————

7. (SBU) In July and August, Thai-Cambodian tension rose

substantially after the inscription of the Preah Vihear

temple on UNESCO\’s World Heritage list. The International

Court of Justice ruled in 1962 that the temple is situated in

Cambodia, a decision Thailand respects, but the two countries

dispute control of the surrounding territory, and the Thais

felt that the inscription provided recognition of Cambodian

claim to the area. With opposition forces in Thailand

seeking to put pressure on the RTG, and with elections

approaching in Cambodia, the issue became highly politicized

in both countries, and both governments built up their

military presence in the border area. Bilateral talks and

the passage of time helped reduce the tension, and both sides

drew down their forces at Preah Vihear, but focus has now

shifted to two other temples elsewhere along the border: Ta

Kwai and Ta Muen (see ref B). We have continually reminded

the RTG that we urge a bilateral diplomatic resolution to

this ongoing dispute.

 

THAI CHAIRMANSHIP OF ASEAN

————————–

8. (SBU) Thailand assumed the chairmanship of the Association

of Southeast Asian Nations in July. If the ASEAN Charter is

ratified by all members and comes into force, Thailand will

hold the chairmanship until the end of 2009. During this

transition period for ASEAN, Thailand can play a more

critical than usual in leading on key regional issues, such

as the Southeast Asian policy toward reform in Burma,

 

BANGKOK 00002940 003.2 OF 003

 

establishing an ASEAN human rights body, and empowering civil

society throughout ASEAN, not just in its leading

democracies. Thailand\’s domestic political turmoil has

limited its ability to launch its term as ASEAN Chair with

vigorous leadership, but we have nevertheless frequently

voiced our support for Thailand\’s chairmanship.

 

THAI DEMOCRACY – A SOCIETY DIVIDED

———————————-

9. (SBU) The current coalition has been challenged by a group

of ardent protesters, the People\’s Alliance for Democracy

(PAD), which originally formed in 2006 to push for the ouster

of then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. (Thaksin is

currently in the U.K., having chosen to flee abroad rather

than to face court proceedings relating to alleged abuse of

power.) The PAD resumed its protests over the Samak

government in May in the wake of the Preah Vihear

controversy. PAD protesters stormed Government House, the

formal seat of government, August 26, and have been ensconced

there ever since, despite Samak stepping down September 9

after a conflict-of-interest court decision. The RTG has

been reluctant to use force to evict the protesters, fearing

a violent clash, which could prompt calls for military

intervention in politics. Despite widespread Thai

appreciation for democracy, there is also significant

sentiment favoring the use of undemocratic means to block

Thaksin and his allies from power or restructure the nature

of Thai elected government. We have consistently called for

the standoff between the RTG and PAD to be resolved

peacefully, within the framework of the constitution and the

rule of law, and, when appropriate, reminded interlocutors

that we would strongly oppose any military intervention in

politics.

 

THE SOUTHERN INSURGENCY

———————–

10. (C) An ethno-nationalist separatist insurgency by Malay

Muslims in Thailand\’s far south remains perhaps the country\’s

primary security challenge. Since January 2004, over 3000

people have been killed in the conflict; the violence is

having a growing influence on the local economy as tourism,

cross border trade, and investment have declined. The RTG

maintains the situation in southern Thailand is a purely

domestic issue and is wary of any outside involvement,

particularly from the U.S. Although there have been

inquiries from disparate RTG entities regarding assistance

and training specifically for the south, these appear to not

have been coordinated at the national level. The RTG has

been somewhat successful in managing the violence in the

southern provinces through more professional actions by

security forces, but we have no indication the RTG is ready

to address the core social justice issues or to offer

concessions necessary to end the insurgency. We remain

concerned about continuing allegations of human rights

abuses. Our message has been one of willingness to help when

asked, but understanding of Thai concerns about outside

involvement.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 5:57 am

06BANGKOK5705 EYE ON AMERICA? – CHINESE MEDIA IN THAILAND

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

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

“VZCZCXRO4169

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DE RUEHBK #5705/01 2580950

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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

06BANGKOK3202 THAILAND IN 2006 – POLITICS AND THE SOUTH

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“65550”,”5/26/2006 6:54″,

 

“06BANGKOK3202″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

“SECRET”,

“06BANGKOK2338|06BANGKOK2621|06BANGKOK2988|06BANGKOK2990

|06BANGKOK2991|06BANGKOK3147

|06BANGKOK3179|06BANGKOK3180|06BANGKOK3192|06BANGKOK3196”,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 003202

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR D, P, EAP, EAP/MTS

PACOM FOR FPS (HUSO)

NSC FOR MORROW

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/26/2016

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PHUM, PTER, TH, Thai Political Updates, Southern Thailand

SUBJECT: THAILAND IN 2006 – POLITICS AND THE SOUTH

 

REF: A. A) BANGKOK 003180 DAS ERIC JOHN MEETS THAKSIN\’S

ORACLE

B. B) BANGKOK 003147 THAKSIN BACK AT HIS DESK

C. C) BANGKOK 002991 MANICHAEAN STRUGGLE FOR THE

SOUL OF THAILAND

D. D) BANGKOK 002990 THAKSIN SEES SELF AS

THAILAND\’S AUNG SAN SUU KYY

E. E) BANGKOK 002988 PRIVY COUNCILOR ON THAI

POLITICAL SITUATION

F. F) BANGKOK 003196 SOUTHERN VIOLENCE: THE POLICE

SEARCH FOR SYNCHRONICITY

G. G) BANGKOK 003192 SOUTHERN VIOLENCE: MAY 17-18

VISIT TO FAR SOUTH

H. H) BANGKOK 003179 SOUTHERN VIOLENCE: SENIOR THAI

OFFICIALS BRIEF DAS JOHN

I. I) BANGKOK 002338 THE WAY AHEAD IN SOUTHERN

THAILAND

J. J) BANGKOK 002621 THE ANDAMAN SEA MARITIME

INITIATIVE

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR RALPH L. BOYCE. REASONS 1.4 (B,D)

 

1. (C) Summary: Political uncertainty will be the theme the

rest of this year in Thailand as Thaksin and his political

opponents gird for renewed conflict. US-Thai FTA

negotiations can be expected to languish during this period.

If the political instability becomes protracted a decline in

foreign and domestic investment, already evident, could

worsen. Violence continues on a virtual daily basis in the

deep south. We have evinced interest from Thai leaders for

increased U.S. training focused on southern security forces

with the proviso that this would not be held in the south or

couched publicly as related to the region. End summary.

 

2. (C) Thailand will spend the balance of 2006 in a state of

political uncertainty. As noted in Embassy reporting, the

Thai political crisis has grown increasingly complicated, as

multiple lawsuits work their way through the three high

courts, charged by the King with finding a solution to the

\”mess\” created by the \”undemocratic\” April 2 parliamentary

elections. Over the next five or so weeks, the surface

situation will likely remain calm as the country celebrates

the 60th anniversary of the King\’s ascension to the throne.

Currently, Thaksin presides over the Council of Ministers,

the lower house elections are scheduled for mid-October –

with the three main opposition parties participating this

time – and the courts are deliberating.

 

WHAT LIES BENEATH?

——————

 

3. (C) Under the surface of this temporary calm, the

opposing forces are marshaling to renew the political

struggle. The cycle of anti-Thaksin protests will ratchet up

following the end of celebrations in June. A vital arena is

in the courts as the justices decide dozens of lawsuits

against Thaksin and lesser numbers against his opponents such

as the People\’s Alliance for Democracy\’s (PAD) and Sondhi

Limthongkul. Another critical point will be the intentions

of Mr. Thaksin himself. Despite criticism from his enemies,

Thaksin returned from his \”leave\” from office on May 23 to

reassume his full responsibilities as caretaker Prime

Minister until formation of a new government after October\’s

elections. His timing was canny in light of PAD\’s self

imposed break from demonstrations in the lead-up to the

King\’s anniversary celebrations.

 

OPPONENTS QUIET FOR NOW

———————–

 

4. (C) After the celebrations end, however, PAD and the rest

of the \”street\” opposition, will be ready, in the wake of

Thaksin\’s return to work, to begin baying anew for his

political blood. If Thaksin has been diminished by the

crisis of events over the past several months, however, there

has not yet been a commensurate rise in the stance of his

formal opposition. So far, Democrat Party Leader Abhisit

Vejajjiva has been relatively quiet and there have been

expressions of disappointment in his lackluster performance,

despite the current situation being the DP\’s greatest

political opportunity since Thaksin\’s election in 2001.

 

WHEELS OF JUSTICE GRINDING QUIETLY

———————————-

 

5. (C) One investigation, based on a petition by DP

Secretary-General Suthep Thaugsuban, holds the potential to

 

SIPDIS

change the entire complexion of the current crisis. An

Election Committee (EC) subcommittee is investigating

Suthep\’s claims that TRT officers bankrolled a number of

small parties to run against TRT in April\’s election. (The

inclusion of these minor opponents allowed TRT candidates, in

the wake of the opposition boycott, to avoid having to pick

up the required 20 percent of the vote in unopposed

contests.) Though there has been no official announcement,

rumors are rife that some TRT officers are already implicated

by the subcommittee. If the EC and ultimately the

Constitutional Court finds them guilty, the TRT would be

liable for dissolution. If this occurs, there could be a

swift return to a political arena with a dozen political

parties contending for office.

 

6. (C) Other observers view the political upheavals of the

past few months as blowback from the conservative \”old

order,\” symbolized by the monarchy, against Thaksin\’s brave

new world of consumer-driven growth, rapid social change and

globalization. Critics see Thaksin as brash, corrupt and

contemptuous of traditional Thai culture and social

structure. In the eyes of Thaksin\’s detractors, a balance

has returned to the political stage and Thaksin and his

confederates have had their wings clipped. The new

parliament is slated to deliberate Constitutional reforms

that will theoretically improve the present version by

shutting off the abilities of future governments to suborn

the independent watchdog bodies and stifle dissent.

 

WHAT IS THE EFFECT?

——————-

 

7. (C) Supporters of the events of the past four months say

that Thai democracy has \”matured\” and point to the peaceful

nature of the uprising against Thaksin, the professional

response of the police, the non-involvement of the military

and the actions of the courts. Other observers, however,

warn that the resort to street pressure by Thaksin\’s

opponents and the subsequent reliance on palace intervention

to untangle the constitutional Gordian knot created by the

April election impasse sets a dangerous precedent. As we

noted in earlier reporting, future politicians may find it

more difficult to operate as a result of the current

upheaval. But amidst the elation of Thaksin\’s enemies, the

swerve off the path of clearly defined political process into

murky legal waters has many Thais feeling unsettled.

 

THE FTA AND THE ECONOMY

———————–

 

8. (C) For US interests, the most immediate and visible

casualty of the current political instability is the

suspension of FTA negotiations. The last negotiating round

was held in January, and talks probably will remain on hold

at least through the end of the year. The FTA\’s prospects

for 2007 are iffy: a newly elected, fully empowered Thai

government may deem the whole FTA project too controversial

and divisive, and may shy away from further pursuit of a

comprehensive trade deal with the US. Thai politicians have

told us that at least over the short-to-mid term future, Thai

candidates will shy away from FTA-related issues. As a

counteroffer, Thailand may propose a narrower trade deal that

focuses on market access.

 

9. (C) Political instability, if it becomes protracted,

could have a serious impact on Thailand\’s economy. Both

domestic and foreign investment already is drying up, and

this will worsen if the current lack of effective leadership

persists.

 

THE SITUATION IN THE SOUTH

————————–

 

9. (C) Although the domestic political crisis has dominated

the news headlines (both national and international) in

recent months, violence continues apace in the far South,

with attacks occurring on a daily basis across the provinces

of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat. These attacks include the

recent bombing attack on soldiers in Pattani that killed 3

and the hostage taking/beating of two government teachers in

Narathiwat. However, recent statistics show that since

December 2005 the total number of attacks has declined when

compared with the prior two year period. It remains the

RTG\’s most pressing security issue and a potential threat to

our interests. Approximately 1,200 persons have been killed

either by militants or by security forces since January 2004

when the decades-old insurgency flared up again.

 

10. (C) There is no current evidence of direct transnational

terrorist involvement in the South, but we know some linkages

with suspected regional terrorists (JI) exist. Southern

separatists direct their anger at the government in Bangkok,

not at the U.S., and continue to define their struggle mainly

along ethnic rather than religious lines. However, rumors

that the U.S. is somehow fomenting the violence as part of

our war on terror continue to be widely believed in the

South. To avoid feeding these rumors, we meticulously avoid

military training exercises and the like in the South, and do

not label our security assistance as related to the conflict.

 

11. (C) The National Reconciliation Commission — working to

address root causes of the southern unrest — is expected to

release its final report during the first week of June. NRC

Chairman Anand Panyarachun asked EAP Assistant Secretary Hill

that the U.S. issue a statement in support of the NRC\’s

report after it is released.

 

12. (S) The Thai government has entered into secret

negotiations with Thai separatist leaders. It is unlikely

that the talks — scheduled to take place in June in Geneva

— will impact the violence, as the separatist leadership has

questionable control over the disparate militant cells that

are operating in the far South.

 

13. (C) The RTG response to violence in the far South remains

undercut by poor security force capabilities, rampant

stove-piping, and the lack of an effective prosecutor-police

partnership. In the last two years we have shifted a

significant portion of our wide ranging training and

assistance programs to help improve Thailand\’s capabilities.

We have determined that our excellent military-to-military

assistance program is generally on the right track. The Thai

police, however, remain the weak link in the southern

security apparatus (ref F). We have proposed to Washington a

bold, new interagency plan to refocus our assistance, combat

Thai shortcomings, and help the government reverse some of

its losses in the South.

 

THE WAY AHEAD IN SOUTHERN THAILAND

———————————-

 

14. (C) Ref I outlines our plan for refocusing our efforts

to improve Thai capabilities in the troubled South. In

subsequent weeks, we have worked within the interagency to

streamline these proposals and identify funding (see DOS

strategy paper for details). We have discussed the basics of

these proposals with Thai officials–at both senior and

working levels. In separate meetings with visiting EAP DAS

Eric John and the Ambassador (ref H), both Deputy Prime

Minister Chidchai Vansatidya and NSC SecGen Winai

Pattiyakul–the RTG\’s \’point men\’ on the South–expressed

support for increased USG training focused on southern

security forces, but cautioned that any such training cannot

be held in or publicly connected to the South. We also have

brought together our subject experts at the International Law

Enforcement Academy in Bangkok and senior police officials

from the South to discuss specific training needs and

opportunities.

 

THE ANDAMAN SEA MARITIME INITIATIVE

———————————–

 

15. (C) Ref J describes our 20 million dollar proposal —

part of Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization

Act — to assist the Thai by setting up a radar array on the

Western coast of Thailand that could cover the entire Western

seaboard of Thailand down to the northern entrance of the

Strait of Malacca. The proposal also includes patrol boats

and enhanced air-borne radar for patrol aircraft. The Thai

radar array could be linked with radar systems in neighboring

countries. Our initiative supports Regional Maritime

Security, the Proliferation Security Initiative and overall

counter-terrorism goals. In recent days, we have received

assurances from DOD and PM that our proposal will be funded.

The concept is endorsed by PACOM, DSCA, JCS, OSD as well as

the Thai Supreme Command and Navy. We are working with

Washington to declassify the proposal once funding is assured.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:23 am

Posted in Secret, South Thailand

08BANGKOK1612 HOW HOT IS IT, ANYWAY?

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“155433”,”5/24/2008 11:37″,”08BANGKOK1612″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

“SECRET”,”06BANGKOK2991|06BANGKOK3916|06BANGKOK5929|08BANGKOK1293|

08BANGKOK1567″,”VZCZCXRO2738

OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

DE RUEHBK #1612/01 1451137

ZNY SSSSS ZZH

O 241137Z MAY 08

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3162

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC”,”S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 001612

SIPDIS

NSC FOR PHU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/22/2018

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PREL, KDEM, TH

SUBJECT: HOW HOT IS IT, ANYWAY?

REF: A. BANGKOK 1567 (POLITICAL TENSIONS)

B. BANGKOK 1293 (LESSONS LEARNED)

C. 06 BANGKOK 5929 (THAILAND: DIVIDED)

D. 06 BANGKOK 3916 (WHAT\’S THAKSIN UP TO?)

E. 06 BANGKOK 2991 (STRUGGLE FOR THE SOUL OF

THAILAND)

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

1. (S) SUMMARY: The current state of political deadlock is

similar in many ways to the protracted statemate of 2006. Of

greatest concern are the repeated references in the media and

by contacts of a serious threat to the monarchy. This fear

is based on the increase in criticisms of the monarchal

institution in the media, internet and even from within the

current government. All sides of the political conflict are

trying to exploit the monarchy for their own ends, with the

military issuing warnings that they should stop. On a deeper

level, there is concern that some politicians, including

Thaksin, would try to abolish the monarchy if they could,

especially if they held power when the aged King finally

dies.

2. (C) There has also been a sharp increase in discussion of

the prospects of violent clashes between the contending

political camps. The announcement that the former

anti-Thaksin coalition will hold a demonstration on Sunday,

and that the pro-Thaksin side is preparing for

counter-demonstrations, has fueled anxieties and speculation

that the military might again intervene if the political

conflict turned violent. The press has identified the First

Army commander and a well-known Palace insider as two key

figures in the conspiracy; the intense scrutiny of these two

resulting from this media speculation, however, would seem to

make it harder for them to carry out such a plot, even in

Thailand. There is also speculation that the government

itself could be feeding coup rumors in order to justify a

pre-emptive move by its own supporters within the military.

Informed and reasonable interlocutors are extremely

discouraged, and warn of an impeding conflict more serious

than in 2006. It should be possible to resolve these

conflicts through peaceful and rational means, but few

politicians appear to be interested in trying. Unless this

changes, we can expect the political turbulence to continue

for the foreseeable future. END SUMMARY

3. (C) Thai politics have been in a state of tension for a

long time, leaving nerves frayed and anxieties high. The

extraordinary events of the past two years have made the Thai

public expect the worst. Despite the transition to an

elected government with a comfortable parliamentary majority,

politically-aware Thais seem to have little confidence that

there will be a stable political environment over the next

year. It seems that every politician\’s speech, academic

conference and editorial features dark prognostications about

imminent political clashes. While the public is concerned

about the economy, especially rising fuel and food prices,

the sources of deepest anxiety and fear are not practical

issues, but perceived threats to the country\’s unity and the

monarchy. These same fears dominated the political conflict

in 2006. The September coup was supposed to resolve those

issues: its failure to do so has left Thailand pretty much

back where it started in 2006. Then, a seemingly-intractable

political stalemate led to the military coup that was

accepted by many as the only way to break the deadlock and

move forward. Now the same kind of statemate seems to be

looming, and it is not clear that the Thai have yet figured

out a better way to resolve it this time (ref B).

THREATS TO THE MONARCHY

———————–

4. (C) The most dangerous element in the current conflict is

the repeated claim that the monarchy faces a serious threat.

These claims are based on several developments. One is the

proliferation of anti-monarchy statements appearing on the

internet, both on anti-royalist websites and on more

mainstream ones. Senior military officials recently warned

the government to do more to shut down or block such

websites. The recent case of a young activist who refused to

stand up to show respect when the royal anthem was being

played in a movie theater has sparked a wave of violent

emotion – both for and against — including threats against

the young man\’s safety (septel). The case of Minister in the

Prime Minister\’s Office Jakrapob (septel) has caused special

concern. Jakrapob\’s repeated public attacks on the

\”patronage system\” and \”feudalism,\” as well as on the King\’s

BANGKOK 00001612 002 OF 004

advisor, Privy Council President Prem, do not seem (to us, at

least) to violate the letter of the lese majeste law.

However, \”everybody knows\” that Jakrapob is opposed to the

monarchy, and his careful avoidance of direct, open criticism

of the King has not helped him to avoid lese majeste charges

and the suspicion that he would like to make Thailand a

republic.

5. (S) Although the King is genuinely beloved and respected,

he and the institution of the monarchy have been subject to

criticism regularly over the years. Even academics from

\”good\” families and universities have gotten into trouble for

their \”leftist,\” anti-royal views. Yet, there is a feeling

that the situation is different, and more serious, this time.

In the first place, the internet and other independent media

make the spread of such views so easy. The discussion of the

King\’s role in Thai politics has left the classroom and

academic journal, and is accessible to anyone. This is

dangerous both because it facilitates the gathering of

support for these views, and it mobilizes opponents who are

outraged to read such scandalous reports. Second, the King

himself is old, frail and ill, and the monarchal institution

is weakening with him. The love for the Thai king is very

personal — fostered by a concerted effort by the Palace for

sixty years — and does not extend, at all, to his son and

presumed heir. Whoever controls political power when the

King dies could be in a very strong position to sway the

destiny of the country – to preserve the monarchy or to turn

Thailand into a republic. For the military and the

royalists, it is a cause of deep concern to have known

anti-monarchists like Jakrapob in important government

positions. Threats to the monarchy tend to provoke an

irrational overreaction from the military.

THAKSIN REDUX

————-

6. (C) Which brings us back to former Prime Minister Thaksin.

He has been keeping what, for him, is a reasonably low

profile. However, his involvement in the ongoing political

struggle is no secret, and his alleged attempts to set

himself up as the King\’s rival are not forgotten. During the

recent vote on the new House Speaker (ref A), Thaksin showed

that he is still directly involved in politics by personally

calling MPs to rally support for a candidate who is the

father of one of his most loyal henchmen. His role in

choosing the current ministers is also clear. Despite

Thaksin\’s repeated claims that he was done with elected

office, other stories circulating cause many to doubt his

claim. As one example, a retired advisor to the Ministry of

Finance – a \”Bangkok elite\” — told us a story recently:

Thaksin was trying to persuade a local lawyer to charge

Thaksin less for his legal services. Thaksin reportedly told

the lawyer to accept a lower fee now, but promised that when

Thaksin returned to power he could give the lawyer a good

government position as a reward. Stories like this cannot be

verified, but they are easily repeated and widely believed.

The current plan to amend the 2007 Constitution, led by the

pro-Thaksin People\’s Power Party, is particularly seen as

part of the larger strategy to pave the way for Thaksin\’s

return (ref A).

BLOOD IN THE STREETS

——————–

7. (C) Another dangerous theme reprised from 2006 is the

visceral fear of violent confrontation between the two

political camps. This prospect evokes for many Thai the

traumatic events of 1992, which resulted in dozens, if not

hundreds, of deaths when the security forces shot protesters.

Just like in 2006, there are repeated warnings in the media

that there will be bloodshed when the rival political forces

finally clash openly (ref C). In 2006, the coupmakers tried

to justify the coup in part by saying that they had acted to

prevent imminent violence, an excuse that was met with

skepticism from many quarters. Respected military analyst

Dr. Panitan Wattanyagorn told the press earlier this month

that this time the military will wait \”until there is a

bloodbath. …I have heard some senior generals say: \”This

time we should let them clash for a while and allow bloodshed

to happen. Then we will come out.\”

8. (C) This particular fear has been fanned this week by the

announcement that the anti-Thaksin People\’s Alliance for

Democracy (PAD) will hold a large rally this Sunday against

BANGKOK 00001612 003 OF 004

the planned constitutional amendments. A human rights NGO

source told us that a pro-Thaksin group will hold their own

event on Saturday, to test and see how big a crowd they can

turn out in preparation for confronting the PAD – maybe this

weekend, maybe another time. Interactions between the PAD

and pro-Thaksin demonstrators have already been more heated

than during the remarkably orderly protests of 2006, with the

two sides throwing projectiles at each other during a March

rally. Even if the leadership on both sides tries to exercise

restraint, large crowds will be hard to control, perhaps

harder than in 2006; the mood is just uglier now than it was

then.

WHO COULD POSSIBLY BE DUMB ENOUGH TO TRY THIS?

——————————————— –

9. (C) Press speculation has already identified some likely

culprits in a coup scenario. First Army commander Prayut

Chan-ocha is regularly named as the soldier most likely to

putsch the government. This is probably in part just because

the First Army has the resources in or close to the capital

that would be needed to pull the coup off. Prayut supported

the 2006 coup, and he, like Army Commander and former

coupmaker Anupong, is formerly of the Queen\’s Guard and

believed to be close to the Queen. (Prayut is close to the

Anupong as well, but virtually all sources, public and

private, believe that Anupong is trying to keep the military

out of politics, at least for now.)

10. (C) Speculation also links Palace insider Piya Malakul to

the coup plot (ref D). Piya appears to be quite close to the

Queen, and was a very vehement opponent of Thaksin, although

one who remains somewhat behind the scenes. Piya\’s

involvement in the September 06 coup is not clear. In July

2006, however, Piya told us that the military might intervene

if the political confrontation at that time was not otherwise

revolved. (Comment: In our limited experience with him, Piya

appears to be a very odd character who could well be screwy

enough to be drawn into a misadventure of this kind. End

comment.)

WHO COUPS?

———-

11. (C) Even in Thailand, it seems like a bad idea to have

your coup plotting regularly discussed in the daily papers.

The prevalence of public commentary, and the resulting close

scrutiny of the First Army, would seem to have a deterrent

effect on successful coupmaking. Like in 2006, however,

there is also some speculation that the government itself

might be looking for an excuse to use military forces loyal

to its side to stifle opposition and safeguard its position.

In such a case, the constant drumbeat of coup warnings could

ultimately benefit the current government, perhaps giving a

justification for a military intervention (declaration of a

state of emergency or martial law, for example) in support of

the government. If the process of amending the constitution

is yet further tangled up and bogged down (ref A), some kind

of \”auto-coup\” might be one of the few ways to put a stake

through the heart of the 2007 Constitution, allowing the

government to return to the 1997 charter, or something like

it. In this scenario, the persistent reports of threats

against the monarchy could be used by the government as a

further excuse to justify a state of emergency. (Note: In

1976, a bloody assault on a university by right-wing

paramilitaries was provoked in part by false reports that the

students had hanged the Crown Prince in effigy. This kind of

manipulation of alleged threats to the monarchy is not new

here. Neither is the \”auto-coup\” – a tactic that was employed

in 1971 in response to a somewhat similar time of political

deadlock and tensions. End note.)

COMMENT – NO EXIT, AGAIN

————————-

12. (C) This is a society in desperate need of reconciliation

and a political leadership willing to put the people\’s

interests first. Both these commodities are in short supply.

Politicians on all sides continue to play politics with the

monarchy, engaging in dangerous and destabilizing

brinksmanship. Smart, moderate contacts are inclined to a

striking pessimism, casting the current crisis as even more

serious than 2006. One told us that the 2006 coup was just a

preliminary round and the coming clash will be a \”once in 50

years event.\” In Dr. Panitan\’s interview (para 7), he warned

BANGKOK 00001612 004 OF 004

that, \”If there is a military coup again, there will be a

more serious crisis. This time, things are far more serious

than last time.\”

13. (C) We will continue to warn senior contacts of the

disastrous effect another coup or military intervention would

have, but these decisions will probably not, in the end, be

driven by rational calculations. Personal ambitions –

particularly the interests of senior military officers and

politicians contending for the top jobs — will play a role.

But the political dynamic is driven more by a deep-seated

fear that, depending on how this conflict plays out, it could

change the very nature of Thailand. Unless the country\’s

leadership finds a way to achieve some kind of political

truce, at least, we can expect the current turbulence to

persist for the foreseeable future.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 29, 2011 at 6:36 am

10BANGKOK287 KING BHUMIBOL RESUMES A MORE VISIBLE ROLE – IN HIS HOSPITAL RECEPTION ROOM

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SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR WALTON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/02/2030

 

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KDEM, PINR, TH

 

SUBJECT: THAILAND: KING BHUMIBOL RESUMES A MORE VISIBLE

 

ROLE – IN HIS HOSPITAL RECEPTION ROOM

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 165 (RESHUFFLE UNFOLDS ACCORDING TO PLAN)

 

B. 09 BANGKOK 3025 (KING,S FRAIL HEALTH)

 

C. 09 BANGKOK 2488 (KING,S HOSPITALIZATION)

 

BANGKOK 00000287 001.2 OF 002

 

Classified By: DCM James F. Entwistle, reasons 1.4 (b, d)

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

 

——————-

 

1. (C) King Bhumibol Adulyadej has actively presided over

 

three separate swearing-in ceremonies at Siriraj Hospital

 

since mid-January, dispensing philosophic advice to ministers

 

and judges in public and the Prime Minister in private. In

 

addition to swearing-in the five new cabinet members on

 

January 18 (REF A), King Bhumibol also administered the oath

 

of office to two separate groups of judges on January 25 and

 

February 1, delivering extemporaneous remarks — which were

 

later broadcast on TV — both times. On the latter two

 

occasions, he spoke at relative length (10 minutes), evenly,

 

and in the typically Delphic and inscrutable style for which

 

he has long been renowned. In the January 18 private session

 

with PM Abhisit, the King purportedly discussed his concerns

 

about application of lese majeste and directed Abhisit to

 

implement changes after a careful review of current

 

procedures. Despite these clear indications that the King is

 

resuming a more active life in recent weeks, he remains

 

hospitalized at Siriraj Hospital, where he has stayed since

 

last September.

 

2. (S) Comment: The status of his ongoing physical recovery

 

aside, the recent audiences are promising signs of King

 

Bhumibol having re-engaged mentally after whispers that he

 

was suffering from depression in addition to physical

 

ailments like Parkinson\’s and pneumonia. His ability to

 

deliver off the cuff comments to new ministers and judges

 

were in marked contrast to more pained delivery of written

 

remarks at his December 5 birthday audience and for New

 

Year\’s. The lese majeste discussion with Abhisit in

 

particular seems to indicate that Bhumibol is aware of the

 

wider debate about the role of the monarchy, present and

 

future, in Thailand. The real question at this stage

 

remains: why does he continue to be hospitalized? The stated

 

rationale — to build up his physical strength and endurance

 

– could be accomplished in a palace, either in Bangkok or

 

his preferred seaside residence in Hua Hin. Some will

 

suspect other motives, but what those might be remain

 

unclear. End Summary and Comment.

 

SWEARING IN THE NEW MINISTERS…

 

——————————–

 

3. (SBU) The five new members of PM Abhisit\’s cabinet

 

traveled to Siriraj hospital on January 18 for a swearing-in

 

ceremony with the King (REF A). Following the official

 

swearing-in, King Bhumibol addressed the group, hewing in

 

large measure to an overall theme of honesty. He asked the

 

group to keep national interests at heart while they

 

performed their duties, underscoring the importance of

 

honesty and integrity at every step of the way. The King

 

emphasized that as public figures, the ministers\’ actions

 

would be scrutinized and held up as a model for appropriate

 

behavior. In closing, the King noted that if the ministers

 

carried out their duties in line with public expectations,

 

they would help bring peace and progress to Thailand.

 

…WHISPERS FOR ABHISIT…

 

————————–

 

4. (S) After the Ministerial swearing in concluded, the King

 

asked Abhisit to stay behind for an hour long one-on-one

 

discussion; the focus was application of lese majeste

 

provisions, according to a trusted, long-time Embassy contact

 

who heard it from the person Abhisit subsequently briefed on

 

his session with the King, Justice Ministry PermSec

 

BANGKOK 00000287 002.2 OF 002

 

Kittipong. Kittipong serves as the Chair of a Committee

 

Abhisit established in November 2009 to review the

 

implementation of lese majeste provisions. According to

 

Kittipong, King Bhumibol told Abhisit he needed to review,

 

with an eye towards reforming, the judicial procedures

 

associated with lese majeste implementation. Such a review

 

needed to proceed carefully, Bhumibol supposedly told

 

Abhisit, but he was aware any changes would primarily affect

 

one person – himself. The King also reportedly reminded

 

Abhisit that as King he had the ability to pardon anyone

 

convicted on lese majeste grounds.

 

5. (S) Note: King Bhumibol is on the public record, in his

 

2005 annual Birthday address, as stating clearly that he was

 

not above criticism and in fact welcomed it. His comments

 

then and now are a likely indication that he understands that

 

lese majeste as currently implemented serves to weaken, not

 

protect, the institution of monarchy. Bhumibol does have a

 

track record of pardoning those convicted of lese majeste,

 

though there are two prominent recent convictions of Thais

 

for which pardon appeals have not been forwarded to the King.

 

Both cases are mentioned in the 2008 and 2009 Human Rights

 

Reports.

 

…SERMONS FOR THE JUDGES

 

————————-

 

6. (C) A week later, King Bhumibol presided over a January 25

 

swearing-in ceremony for newly appointed Supreme Court

 

Administrative judges. Speaking for ten minutes in a voice

 

that was even, though little more than a whisper likely due

 

to the effects of Parkinson\’s, Bhumibol exhorted the judges

 

to abide by professional standards based on Buddhist tenets,

 

a theme that allowed him to deploy the standard talking

 

points he has made in such settings for years. He urged the

 

judges to carry out their duties with fairness, impartiality,

 

a sense of justice according to Buddhist norms on

 

righteousness, and with an emphasis on maintaining

 

neutrality.

 

7. (SBU) On February 1 the King met with another group of

 

Supreme Court judges, and again drew on familiar themes in

 

unscripted remarks. Bhumibol urged the judges to ensure

 

justice and righteousness, to fully honor the dignity of the

 

court, and to serve as the guarantor of the nation\’s peace,

 

prosperity, and order. He noted at one point that: \”Even

 

bandits hope for justice.\” He closed by congratulating them

 

on the opportunity to have a deep and lasting impact on other

 

people\’s lives.

 

8. (S) The King\’s messages to both sets of judges would have

 

sounded familiar to anyone who has heard the King speak in

 

the past: grounded in Buddhist tenets, delphic in nature, but

 

potentially applicable to the current Thai scene in a number

 

of ways – in other words, how Bhumibol has addressed his

 

ministers, judges, and citizens for decades. That fact

 

alone, given the recent extended hospitalization and concerns

 

that the end of reign was approaching more rapidly, made both

 

events highly significant. Whether any deeper meaning could

 

or should be read into exhortations to judges to do their

 

duty, weeks before a scheduled February 26 landmark court

 

decision on fugitive former PM Thaksin\’s frozen assets, will

 

remain open to question, and speculation.

 

JOHN

 

 

 

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:15 pm

09BANGKOK325 LESE MAJESTE ARRESTS AND ACTIONS AGAINST WEB CONTENTON THE RISE, BUT RISK BACKLASH

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“190767”,”2/6/2009 10:19″,”09BANGKOK325″,

 

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NOFORN

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STATE FOR EAP, DRL, IO; NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/05/2019

TAGS: PHUM, PGOV, KPAO, KJUS, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: LESE MAJESTE ARRESTS AND ACTIONS AGAINST

WEB CONTENT ON THE RISE, BUT RISK BACKLASH

 

REF: A. 08 BANGKOK 00140 (THAI COURT)

B. 08 BANGKOK 003398 (UPDATE)

C. 08 BANGKOK 3350 (UPTICK IN ANGER)

 

BANGKOK 00000325 001.2 OF 004

 

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

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) Legal action in the courts and against websites on

grounds of lese majeste, or offense to the monarchy, have

seemingly increased under the new Democrat-led coalition

government, with both the Justice Minister and the

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister

having stated publicly that combating lese majeste violations

is their top priority. Those recently charged, arrested, or

convicted include Marxist Professor Giles Ungpakorn, website

commentator Suwicha Thakor, and \”redshirt\” supporter Bunyuen

Prasoetying. For its part, the ICT Ministry has flagged over

10,000 URLs that contained content deemed offensive to the

monarchy, with 2,000 such URLs already blocked. The

Bangkok-based distributor of The Economist halted

distribution of an issue for the third time in two months due

to an article which touched on the alleged role of the

monarchy in politics.

 

2. (C) Comment: While the political crisis that gripped

Thailand the second half of 2008 has disappeared from the

streets for now, the deep gulf in Thai society and the body

politic remains, and the eventual fate of the monarchy is one

of the key cleavage lines. The struggle by many parties for

position and advantage in shaping public perceptions in

anticipation of the passing of the revered King, a potential

messy succession involving the far less respected Crown

Prince, and the almost certain redefinition of the role of

the institution of monarchy continues unabated.

 

3. (C) Comment, continued: Many of the Democrat Party leaders

who have moved into top government positions are

cosmopolitan, well-educated people who nevertheless appear to

be facilitating growing efforts to clamp down on forms of

speech critical of the monarchy. Whether that is primarily

out of personal conviction or political advantage, or both,

remains unclear. Thailand has a reasonably strong and active

civil society, however, that promotes changing societal

attitudes towards traditional institutions and behavioral

norms; this issue will not be easily swept under the carpet.

Broad-brushed efforts against all unflattering mention of the

institution, King, Queen, and Crown Prince through crude

application of the blunt instrument of lese majeste laws,

without distinction between those who actually intend ill

towards the monarchy and those expressing opinions which

otherwise would not find an audience, may end up undermining

the institution the law is meant to protect — an unintended

consequence akin to the People\’s Alliance for Democracy\’s

(PAD) extreme actions in 2008 and the Queen\’s ill-advised

patronage of the October 13 funeral of a PAD demonstrator.

End Summary and Comment.

 

LESE MAJESTE: A MATTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY?

——————————————–

 

4. (SBU) Justice Minister Pirapan stated to the press

January 14 that protecting the monarchy was his top priority.

He referred to the monarchy as \”the pillar of national

security,\” and explained that \”freedom of speech might have

to be compromised for the sake of national security.\”

Pirapan called on January 24 for the MFA to instruct

Thailand\’s diplomatic missions abroad to launch public

relations campaigns about lese majeste laws and the legal

repercussions for insults to the monarchy, according to the

media. In similar fashion, ICT Minister Ranongrak

Suwanchawee has said publicly that blocking websites with

 

BANGKOK 00000325 002.2 OF 004

 

content offensive to the monarchy is her top priority.

Ministry sweeps of the Internet had flagged over 10,000 URLs

that contained content offensive to the monarchy, and 2,000

such URLs had already been blocked.

 

5. (C) The Senate established the \”Special Senate Committee

to Follow-up on Enforcement of the Lese Majeste Law\” January

23 in a 90-17 vote. The committee, proposed by Senator

Khamnoon Sitthisamarn and headed by national police chief

Patcharawat Wongsuwan, is intended to ensure the enforcement

of laws and articles relating to the protection of the

monarchy, in a move that some human rights activists termed

as \”McCarthy-like.\” The committee appears to have already

established a Thai-language website, http://www.protecttheking.net,

which provides an online form for people to report lese

majeste.

 

6. (C) For its part, the Army maintains a special unit tasked

with tracking and identify lese majeste offenses through

24-hour sweeps of websites, according to a leading NGO

activist with close ties to security forces (see Ref C for an

earlier description of such a military effort). The Army

unit works closely with the Department of Special

Investigations (DSI), had superior surveillance technology

than the ICT Ministry, aimed to focus on \”high-profile\”

offenders with the highest audience reach, and was known to

visit them at their homes, according to the expert.

 

COMMENTS, PHOTO POSTED TO INTERNET LAND BLOGGER IN JAIL

——————————————— ———-

 

7. (S/NF) Department of Special Investigation (DSI) police

arrested oil rig engineer Suwicha Thakhor on January 14 after

seizing his computer equipment. Media reports alleged that

Suwicha\’s employer fired him following the arrest, and he

remained in prison without bail after police deemed him to be

at risk for repeating his online remarks. An NGO expert

familiar with the case told us on January 30 that Suwicha had

posted something \”really bad\” about the Crown Prince and had

included pornographic photos of the Crown Prince\’s consort,

Princess Srirasmi. (Note: two sets of nude photographs of

Srirasmi, believed to have been taken at the Crown Prince\’s

direction before being leaked, started circulating in

Thailand in 2007. Similar photos of the Crown Prince\’s latest

mistress have recently started circulating on the internet,

according to several contacts who claim to have seen them.)

 

8. (S/NF) Suwicha, similar to activists Bunyuen Prasoetying

(below) and Daranee Charnchansinlapakun (ref B), was denied

bail, denied immediate access to a lawyer, and confessed

before having such access, according to the NGO expert.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX told him that police had extracted a

confession from Suwicha after they threatened to bring the

Crown Prince to the jail for a face-to-face meeting.

 

9. (SBU) Widespread online and print media coverage of

Suwicha\’s arrest prompted Justice Minister Pirapan

Salirathavibhaga to request on January 15 that all lese

majeste-related arrests not be disclosed. Pirapan reportedly

instructed DSI to help stem media coverage of any radio

station closures, website censorship, or arrests related to

lese majeste.

 

MARXIST ACADEMIC CHARGED

————————

 

10. (C) Special Branch Police (SBP) charged Chulalongkorn

political science professor and self-proclaimed Marxist Giles

\”Ji\” Ungpakorn with lese majeste on January 20 based on

several paragraphs in his 2007 book \”Coup for the Rich,\”

publication of which Ungpakorn claims police attempted to

block through intervention with Chulalongkorn University.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX SBP had warned him that a quote

 

BANGKOK 00000325 003.2 OF 004

 

from Paul Handley\’s banned book \”The King Never Smiles\” was

problematic. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX cited the

Handley\’s text to refute it as hearsay, but it is well known

that restating material deemed to violate lese majeste is

treated as an offense in its own right. Giles XXXXXX has

traditionally attacked all elements of the traditional Thai

elite, including all political forces without distinction,

XXXXXXXXXX despite earlier pressure from Special Branch,

formal charges did not surface until the inauguration of a

Democrat-led government.

 

11. (C) XXXXXXX blamed the looming prospect of succession

within the monarchy for the surge in lese majeste cases,

believing that the authorities sought to stifle dissent that

might undermine support for the monarchy, even as quiet

public concern grew over the Crown Prince\’s possible

accession to the throne. XXXXX characterized lese majeste

charges as a fear tactic that left individuals with long-term

cases to manage and caused hardship for family members. XXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXe was willing to fight an open political

campaign against the criminalization of lese majeste and had

planned a world-wide public relations blitz. (note: U.S. and

UK professors have circulated a petition among academics

world-wide in support of Ungpakorn and started a website

intending to raise awareness of his and other cases. A human

rights expert told us February 4 that Giles\’ famous

surname–his father was one of the revered 20th giants of

Thai civil society–and connections made him ultimately

untouchable, in contrast to less influential and more

vulnerable critics such as Suwicha).

 

UNDER THE RADAR, UDD SUPPORTER SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS

——————————————— ——–

 

12. (C) United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD)

supporter Bunyuen Prasoetying was sentenced to six years\’

imprisonment on November 6, after having been held without

bail since August 15, for remarks made at a pro-Thaksin rally

earlier in 2008. However, media reports of the sentencing

did not surface until January 7, when online news media site

Prachatai.com reported the story. To our knowledge, no

Thai-language printed news source reported on the conviction;

online blogs and other websites provide links to the

Prachatai.com report.

 

\”THE ECONOMIST\” THAI DISTRIBUTOR SELF-CENSORS

———————————————

 

13. (C) XXXXXXXX the Thai distributor of The Economist,

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX had chosen not to distribute a third

issue in the last two months (December 6, January 24, and

January 31) due to sensitive content related to the role of

monarchy in politics. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

that Asia Books had to comply with Thai laws and thus had

withdrawn the controversial material. XXXXXX confirmed to us

that no political or law enforcement pressure influenced Asia

Book\’s decisions in this matter (note: the December 6

edition, with the King on the cover, aggressively questioned

the role of the monarchy; the January 24 edition republished

the passage which had led to the conviction of Australian

author Nicolaides (ref A); and the January 31 edition

referred to the Queen\’s intervention in politics).

 

THAI NETIZENS: REALITY DEFEATS PM\’S GOOD INTENTIONS

——————————————— ——

 

14. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX told us on January 23 XXXXXX

had initially felt optimistic about the new Democrat

Party-led government following a XXXXXXXX meeting with

Prime Minister Abhisit. She described Abhisit as \”diplomatic

and open,\” stating that he had \”no intention to amend\” the

Computer Crime Act. Abhisit reinforced this message at his

 

BANGKOK 00000325 004.2 OF 004

 

mid-January appearance at the Foreign Correspondent\’s Club

(FCCT), when he asserted the draft bill, promoted by the

Justice Minister with the support of other Democrat Party MPs

and intended to significantly strengthen lese majeste

provisions, was not his priority. Her organization intended

to find a \”non-confrontational\” way to address growing

concerns about civil liberties online, perhaps via a working

group of ministries and civil society groups. The charges

against Ungpakorn, the sentencing of Nicolaides, and the

arrest of Suwicha had tempered the initial optimism, XXXXX

added.

 

FRIENDLY FOREIGNERS FLAG CONCERNS TO PALACE INSIDERS

——————————————— ——-

 

15. (C) Several private Americans with long-term experience

in Thailand and good connections with palace insiders weighed

in \”as friends\” February 3-5 out of concern that the

increased application of lese majeste, without distinction

between those who mean ill towards the monarchy and those who

otherwise would be ignored, ran the risk of undermining the

very institution the law seeks to protect, and which they

feel has served Thailand well through the decades. The

reception to the message was mixed. Privy Councilors Prem

Tinsulanonda, Surayud Chulanont, and Siddhi Savetsila thanked

one U.S. businessman for the \”very good advice; we\’ll take it

seriously.\” The reaction from the Crown Property Bureau to a

similar approach by a second businessman was completely

negative; the self-described friend of the monarchy remarked

afterwords: \”these people live in an alternate reality.\”

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Lesse Majesty, Secret