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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

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FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

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INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE

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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC 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 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

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

leave a comment »

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

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

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

06BANGKOK5836 THE MONARCHY\’S ROLE IN THAILAND\’S SEPTEMBER 19 COUP

with 2 comments

“79224”,”9/21/2006 11:40″,

 

“06BANGKOK5836″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

“CONFIDENTIAL”,”06BANGKOK5812″,”VZCZCXRO5747

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“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 005836

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/21/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, KDEM, MOPS, ASEC, TH

SUBJECT: THE MONARCHY\’S ROLE IN THAILAND\’S SEPTEMBER 19 COUP

 

REF: BANGKOK 5812 (WHO\’S IN CHARGE?)

 

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, reason 1.4 (d).

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) It remains unclear whether Thailand\’s King encouraged

or provided approval in advance for the September 19 coup

d\’etat by the Council for Democratic Reform Under the

Monarchy (CDRM). However, the CDRM is publicly linked to the

monarchy to a greater extent than previous coup plotters, and

the CDRM\’s September 19 royal audience sent a clear public

signal of Palace endorsement. Palace endorsement likely

contributed to public support for the coup, although polls by

two prominent institutions provide divergent accounts of the

coup\’s popularity. The ill health of the King might have

influenced the timing of the coup. End Summary.

 

ROYAL AUDIENCE KEY TO COUP SUCCESS, ACCEPTABILITY

——————————————— —-

 

2. (C) On the night of September 19, soon after the CDRM

seized control of the media, word spread that CDRM leaders

would have an audience with King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The

audience took place at Chittralada Villa from 12:19 a.m.

until 1:24 a.m. the same night, according to an Embassy

contact at the Palace. The willingness of the King to

receive the CDRM representatives so quickly sent a clear

public signal of royal endorsement of the coup. And by

including Supreme Commander Ruangroj, previously thought to

be firmly in Thaksin\’s camp, the audience displayed the

military\’s unity and loyalty to the King — to the point of

deflating Thaksin\’s hopes that he could prevail against the

rebellious soldiers (reftel).

 

3. (C) The CDRM\’s public claims that it acted to maintain

peace and order, and to protect the King against acts of lese

majeste, were not unexpected or atypical. The CDRM\’s

inclusion of reference to the monarchy in the coup-plotters\’

group name, however, appears unprecedented in Thai history.

(A literal translation of the Thai version is: \”Council for

Reforming Governance in the Democratic System having His

Majesty the King as Head of State.\”) Also unprecedented is

an alleged Royal Command, published online by the Prime

Minister\’s Office, in which the King \”appoints General Sonthi

as leader of the (CDRM), and demands… all government

officials follow the orders of General Sonthi.\” (Full text

of the alleged Royal Command provided septel.) Embassy

contacts at the Palace tell us they have not seen a copy of

the signed Royal Command, however.

 

4. (C) Given the widespread public understanding, especially

in Bangkok, that Thaksin was increasingly engaged in

confrontation with members of the Privy Council (if not with

the King himself), most Thais view the CDRM as acting on

behalf of the King\’s interests. Almost universal Thai

reverence for the King has likely contributed significantly

to popular acceptance of the coup.

 

5. (C) The King is in ill health and has not been seen in

public since his August 4 departure from a Bangkok hospital.

However, we hear that the CDRM has requested the release of

photographs and video footage of the royal audience with the

CDRM. Our contacts told us that the King\’s Secretary will

likely release the photographs, but is unlikely to release

the video footage. Release of images from the audience would

convey further signals of royal endorsement.

 

KING\’S HEALTH INFLUENCING COUP TIMING?

————————————–

 

6. (C) Given the King\’s ill health, we do not dismiss the

possibility that the coup\’s timing was determined in part not

only by Thaksin\’s travel abroad, but also by a desire by CDRM

figures to make their move while they could still obtain the

support of the King. (Not only does the King\’s imprimatur

carry much more weight than the Crown Prince\’s would, but a

coup mounted during any period of mourning would be seen as a

deep affront to Thai sensibilities, no matter how unpopular

the government. Similarly, whatever constitutional reform

efforts begin under the CDRM will likely be suspended for a

lengthy period in the event of the King\’s demise.)

 

COMMENT

——-

 

BANGKOK 00005836 002 OF 002

 

7. (C) The now-terminated 1997 Constitution provided no basis

for military intervention in politics. The monarchy appears

to be the sole institution capable of legitimizing the

September 19 coup in the eyes of the Thai people. By its

actions to date, the Palace seems to be playing that role.

The King\’s imprimatur — combined with widespread hatred of

Thaksin in elite circles — appears to have provided a

certain amount of breathing room for the CDRM.

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:54 am

06BANGKOK5706 WHAT IS THE “SUFFICIENCY ECONOMY”?

leave a comment »

“78540″,”9/15/2006 10:08″,”06BANGKOK5706″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“UNCLASSIFIED”,””,”Debra P Tous 02/16/2007 09:56:33 AM

From DB/Inbox: Search Results

 

Cable

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DEPT PASS TO USTR

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SENSITIVE/NOFORN/SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: ECON, ETRD, EINV, PGOV, SOCI, SENV, TH

SUBJECT: WHAT IS THE \”SUFFICIENCY ECONOMY\”?

 

1. (SBU) Summary: Much has been written about a \”Sufficiency

Economy\” this year due to the King\’s championing the idea in his

birthday speech last December and the perceived \”capitalist

excesses\” of the Thaksin administration. The Sufficiency Economy\’s

Buddhist-like principles, promoting hard work, moderation and

self-reliance, are considered by many as antidotes to crony

capitalism, corruption, consumerism and indebtedness. The general

idea is not recent. It was first floated by the King in 1974 to

justify royal development projects and was revived after the 1997

Asian financial crisis. Economists note that the principles have

been expressed in vague terms that limit their practicality, and

while RTG institutions pay lip service to them (as with any ideas

supported by the King), they have so far been applied only to

small-scale farming projects. End Summary.

 

2. (SBU) The term \”Sufficiency Economy\” has been a fixture of

newspapers, conferences and political debate through much of this

year, since the urging of King Bhumipol in his December 4, 2005

birthday address to consider self-sufficiency and moderation as

cures for the perceived excesses plaguing Thailand\’s economy. The

King\’s speech summarized the idea as follows: \”If one is moderate

in one\’s desires, one will have less craving. If one has less

craving, one will take less advantage of others. If all nations

hold this concept, without being extreme or insatiable in one\’s

desires, the world will be a happier place.\”

 

3. (SBU) The King has in fact been advocating \”Sufficiency Economy\”

ideas for over 30 years, initially borrowing from the \”Small is

Beautiful\” movement inspired by economist E.F. Schumacher. They

gained renewed prominence after the 1997 Asian financial crisis and

the realization that the speculative boom/bust of the mid-1990s

could have been avoided with curbs on excessive investment. Yet,

beyond exhortations to \”live within one\’s means\” and to \”act

prudently\”, no specific policy recommendations were made to rein in

the factors that led to the 1997 crisis. Likewise, guidance for

economic policy today is sorely lacking from pro-sufficiency

pronouncements, despite growing popular belief that cronyism,

corruption, consumerism, and household debt are on the rise in

contravention of sufficiency economy principles

 

Background

———-

 

4. (SBU) Some general observations about the Sufficiency Economy

\”model\”:

 

— It was first advocated by the King in 1974 to support royal

development study centers for farmers.

 

— It borrows from a chapter titled \”Buddhist Economics\” in E.M.

Schumacher\’s 1973 book \”Small is Beautiful\”, which the King

translated into Thai.

 

— Royal advisers insist it is not anti-trade, nor does it place

environmental considerations above the need for economic

development.

 

— Its tenets are vague and malleable (calling for prudence,

reasonableness, moral behavior, and resistance to excess) and

subject to interpretation.

 

— Viewed as the King\’s personal economic model, it benefits from

public reluctance to criticize anything associated with the revered

King.

 

— It has been seized by Thaksin\’s critics as an indictment of

economic growth fueled by consumption, over-investment and

indebtedness.

 

— A government advisory board includes its recommendations in

five-year plans that carry little weight in policy formulation.

 

— Practical programs inspired by it are limited to agriculture,

with royal research projects focused on sustainable development for

small-scale farmers.

 

5. (SBU) The Sufficiency Economy framework is not easily described

in traditional economic terms. The economist who inspired it,

Schumacher, said himself that economists suffered from \”metaphysical

blindness\” by measuring standards of living only by material wealth.

Schumacher\’s aim, in his words, was to \”obtain the maximum of

well-being with the minimum of consumption,\” with \”well being\”

defined in spiritual as well as material terms. This, he said,

dovetailed neatly with Buddhist or Gandhian principles, which he

observed while during his research in the early 1970\’s in Burma and

India. His \”Small is Beautiful\” ideas were particularly

well-received by environmentalists, inspiring the formation of

Greenpeace among other groups. (Western economists were not so

inspired, however, with one Oxford economist publishing a rebuttal

book titled \”Small is Stupid\”.) Thai observers have also noted

similarities with ideas put forth in 1972 by the King of Bhutan, who

called for the measurement of a GDH, Gross Domestic Happiness, to

replace the more materialistic GDP.

 

6. (SBU) Thailand\’s King, as his advisers have admitted in the past,

adapted Schumacher\’s thinking as a reasonable \”middle path\” of

development between the extremes of socialist autarky and laissez

faire capitalism. The aim, his advisers said, was to eschew the

pursuit of fast economic growth in favor of balanced growth,

self-sufficiency, and immunity from shocks in the domestic or

international economy. Development, in the King\’s view, should

proceed in stages, with farmers first providing basic sustenance for

their families and their communities before seeking greater income

through long distance trade. (An example of a non-sufficient farmer

might be one who converted his entire production to a single export

crop, borrowed on credit to invest in the technology to produce that

crop, only to find himself in debt and unable to feed his family in

the event of a market collapse.)

 

7. (SBU) The King\’s advisers sought to put his agricultural ideas

into practice by creating a series of rural Royal Development Study

Centers from 1979 to 1983. Their aim was to \”improve the living

standards of farmers by means of land development, water resource

development, forest rehabilitation and application of plant and

animal production techniques.\” The centers were to demonstrate the

King\’s 1992 \”New Theory of Agriculture\”, which, among other things,

directed small farmers (those with less than 2.4 hectares of land)

to devote 30 percent of their land to water storage, 30 percent to

rice cultivation, 30 percent to multiple other crops, and 10 percent

to a residence and farm buildings.

 

Easier Said Than Done?

———————-

 

8. (SBU) Although couched in terminology that makes it difficult to

criticize (as one economist said, \”Who can oppose a model that

promotes \’reasonableness\’, \’good behavior\’, \’and \’protection from

shocks\’?\”) schisms have arisen where activists interpret

\”Sufficiency Economy\” to oppose policies or projects supported by

the King. NGO activists, for example, incurred the King\’s anger in

the 1980s and 1990s when they cited the model\’s environmental

language in opposing the construction of large-scale reservoir dams.

The King, who has long advocated dam construction as a necessary

water management tool, sharply criticized those groups, explaining

that limited deforestation was in some cases necessary to provide

consistent energy and water sources for farmers.

 

9. (SBU) Likewise, anti-trade activists have used Sufficiency

Economy language to oppose trade expansion, arguing that trade

exposed farmers to market risks that threatened their ability to be

self-reliant. Members of the King\’s Privy Council, however, explain

that the model is not anti-trade or anti-globalization, but seeks to

accommodate global trends through \”reasonable trade\” to generate

farmer income and promote the rational allocation of resources.

 

Thaksin\’s \”Dual Track\” Vs. \”Sufficiency Economy\”

——————————————— —

 

10. (SBU) The King and his advisers have maintained their customary

restraint from directly attacking specific policies of the ruling

political party. Yet their public pronouncements are carefully

studied for nuance. The King\’s renewed emphasis on the Sufficiency

Economy in his recent public statements are interpreted by many as

an oblique criticism of Thaksin\’s economic priorities. Thaksin\’s

critics have increasingly cited \”Thaksinomics\”, with its emphasis on

GDP growth fueled by exports, domestic consumption and

infrastructure investment, as antithetical to the \”moderation is

good\” ethos of the Sufficiency Economy.

 

11. (SBU) Thaksin\’s has described his economic policies as having a

\”Dual Track approach\”:

 

— 1) Promote domestic demand by emphasizing grassroots and

small-to-medium size enterprise development.

 

— 2) Improve international competitiveness and linkages, including

the negotiation of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs).

 

12. (SBU) A member of the National Economic and Social Advisory

Council (NESAC) told us that the first track of Thaksin\’s approach

diverges from Sufficiency Economy principles by \”fostering

consumerism and encouraging easy credit for farmers, which have led

to high rates of indebtedness among rural households.\” \”As for

the second track,\” he said, \”your FTA has gone nowhere since

Thaksin\’s political troubles began.\” He added that the national

organ charged with implementing Sufficiency Economy principles in

economic planning, the National Economic and Social Development

Board (NESDB), \”has an advisory capacity only and no authority to

implement change.\”

 

13. (SBU) Similarly, Kosit Panpiempras, executive chairman of

Bangkok Bank and former head of the NESDB, has publicly criticized

the Dual Track approach for promoting an \”unsustainable level of

domestic consumption\” that can only diminish in the face of rising

household debt and inflation. Easy credit for farmers, he said, was

being used to purchase cellphones, refrigerators and TV sets rather

than farming equipment

 

14. (SBU) The NESAC economist cautioned, however, that Thaksin\’s was

not the only administration at fault. \”There is no political party

that stands out as promoting \’sufficiency economy\’ ideas.\”

\”Everyone pays lip service to it,\” he said, \”but their plans offer

vague language and no practical proposals.\” \”In any case,\” he

added, \”crony capitalism and corruption have been around forever –

the only difference being who\’s in power and who benefits from the

excesses.\”

 

15. (SBU) COMMENT: Pretty much every political party has included

fealty to \”sufficiency economy principles\” as part of their platform

in the run-up to election scheduled for later this year. The

question we have asked ourselves is whether there is any intention

by any serious political group of actually implementing sufficiency

economy elements. The answer seems to be \”no\” because 1) no one

really has a clue what such elements would look like for anyone but

a small-scale farmer and 2) politicians realize that sufficiency may

sound good, but in practice people are going to want to continue

consuming beyond the level of mere sufficiency. No one here (at

least overtly) has noted the irony of adherence to the \”sufficiency

principle\” with the reality of Thailand\’s status as one of the most

export-dependent economies on earth.

 

Arvizu

Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:46 am

06BANGKOK5565 THAKSIN LOYALIST SEES LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

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“77853”,”9/11/2006 9:32″,”06BANGKOK5565″,

 

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/11/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PHUM, MOPS, ASEC, TH

SUBJECT: THAKSIN LOYALIST SEES LIGHT AT THE END OF THE

TUNNEL

 

Classified By: DCM Alex Arvizu, reason: 1.4 (d).

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Former House of Representatives Speaker Bhokin

Bhalakula claimed the upcoming legislative election would

reaffirm majority support for Thai Rak Thai (TRT), although

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra likely would not seek to

remain as Prime Minister. In a September 8 lunch with the

Ambassador, Bhokin — a Deputy Leader of TRT rumored as a

potential successor to Thaksin — claimed the King also

wanted elections as soon as possible and would refrain from

undemocratic political intervention. Upcoming elections

would further deflate the challenge from Thaksin\’s opponents,

and an upcoming reshuffle of top military, police, and civil

service positions would ensure the complete loyalty to the

administration of state bureaucracies and the security

forces. End Summary.

 

OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ELECTIONS

————————–

 

2. (C) In a September 8 lunch at the Ambassador\’s residence,

former House of Representatives Speaker Bhokin Bhalakula

expressed optimism about upcoming legislative elections. The

northern and northeastern regions of Thailand — which

together accounted for a majority of the constituency-based

seats in the House — remained solidly pro-TRT, he asserted.

Reviewing the background behind TRT\’s populist policies,

Bhokin noted TRT would continue the programs that had

generated enthusiasm among the lower and middle class; future

government grants under the small, medium, and large-scale

(SML) village fund program would increase by at least 50

percent. Other political parties could not compete with

TRT\’s proven approach of delivering benefits. Rival Democrat

Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was too young to challenge TRT

effectively; Abhisit knew only how to criticize, and he did

so in a long-winded manner that most Thai found unappealing,

according to Bhokin.

 

THE KING\’S POSITION

——————-

 

3. (C) Bhokin said the King wanted elections as soon as

possible, highlighting that the King had quickly signed the

Royal Decree (issued on September 6) calling for an

extraordinary session of the Senate (September 8-10) to

select Election Commission members. Prior to receiving the

decree for approval, Bhokin related, the King had signaled

his eagerness by asking unspecified persons about the

decree\’s disposition. The King respected democracy and

viewed elections as a source of legitimacy; he would continue

to refuse to take drastic steps affecting political

processes. However, the King did not want to speak out

publicly on this matter, according to Bhokin, because his

words often created controversy as various sides offered

rival interpretations.

 

SONDHI WENT TOO FAR, PEOPLE ARE WEARY

————————————-

 

4. (C) Thaksin was a victim of his own success, Bhokin

lamented. Democrat Party leaders had come to realize that it

would take at least 15 years before they could hope to regain

power through elections. Meanwhile, the armed forces had

become split, partly because soldiers benefiting from illegal

activities, such as the drug trade, had suffered under TRT\’s

policies. And academics found their status diminished under

Thaksin, as TRT had sufficient human resources that the party

did not need to rely on ivory tower experts. It became easy

for those upset with Thaksin to generate negative publicity,

as they could easily pay off journalists to write negative

stories.

 

5. (C) Media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul proved able to unite

disgruntled members of the elite. Bhokin noted Sondhi had

successfully installed various associates in key government

positions, but his influence began to wane; the final blow

pushing Sondhi into opposition was the dismissal of crony

Viroj Nualkhair from his position as CEO of state-owned Krung

Thai Bank. However, although Sondhi benefited from the

support of royalist oligarchs, he had gone too far in

projecting himself as a representative of the King\’s

interests. The public did not appreciate Sondhi\’s approach,

and it led to diminished participation in the rallies of

 

BANGKOK 00005565 002 OF 002

 

Sondhi\’s People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). In a recent

survey (NFI), 60 percent of respondents blamed the PAD for

the current turmoil, Bhokin claimed, and he predicted further

tapering off of PAD support after the upcoming election\’s

reaffirmation of TRT\’s majority support.

 

RESHUFFLE

———

 

6. (C) Bhokin predicted an upcoming reshuffle of top

military, police, and civil service positions would ensure

that government and security forces officials would \”totally

obey\” the administration. Comparing the government to a

ship, Bhokin said there currently were some holes in the

hull, but after the election, it would be smooth sailing.

The King would endorse the reshuffle plan as received from

the government, Bhokin said, noting parenthetically that, if

the King did not, \”the whole country will blow up.\”

 

THAKSIN TO STEP DOWN

——————–

 

7. (C) The Ambassador asked whether Thaksin might try to

return as Prime Minister after the next election. Bhokin

believed Thaksin had already made a decision not to do so,

irrespective of the election results. Citing Thaksin\’s early

April audience with the King, Bhokin said Thaksin would

likely opt not to be Prime Minister, in order to lessen the

degree of tension in the country. Bhokin observed that

Thaksin nevertheless wanted to remain TRT Party Leader,

claiming Thaksin was motivated not by a desire to protect

himself and his assets, but rather by patriotism and his

longstanding interest in politics.

 

MORE ON PALACE INFLUENCE

————————

 

8. (C) When the Ambassador asked about the wisdom of

Thaksin\’s decision to dissolve the parliament in February,

Bhokin replied that Thaksin had received advice to do so from

Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda as well as

then-Cabinet Secretary Borwornsak Uwanno. Bhokin then

confided that Thaksin had discussed the matter directly with

the King; when Thaksin had presented various alternatives to

resolve growing political tension, the King had said it would

be better to dissolve the parliament.

 

9. (C) The Ambassador also asked about the June resignations

of Borwornsak and then-Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu

Krea-ngam. Bhokin claimed that the two came under pressure

from an individual named Meechai, who was close to Prem and

presumably reflected Palace views. (We presume the reference

was to law professor Meechai Ruchupan, a former cabinet

minister in Prem\’s administration.)

 

COMMENT

——-

 

10. (C) Bhokin made a persuasive but hardly unbiased case

that TRT has reason for optimism as elections approach. His

claim that Thaksin is inclined not to remain as Prime

Minister tracks with a relatively common perception among the

political class, although we noted Bhokin stopped short of

offering categorical assurance on this point. We believe

Thaksin has not yet made a firm decision on this matter.

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:43 am