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

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 000628

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

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

LABOR PASS ILAB

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: ELAB KWMN PHUM PREL PREF TH

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

 

REF: BANGKOK 306

 

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

earned international plaudits for its responsiveness to

western tourists and Thais affected by the tsunami. Roughly

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

and hotels in three devastated provinces, remain marginalized

in official assistance efforts, however. Many survivors

appear to have returned to Burma or moved to other provinces

in search of employment. Significant numbers stayed, and are

camping in rubber plantations and forests, with little or no

assistance. Jobless, subject to arrest and deportation, this

population is at risk for trafficking. RTG estimates of

migrant deaths suggest about 250 – 350 perished in the three

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

alone. Language barriers, and distrust of RTG officials,

means few of the Burmese dead will be identified. End

Summary.

 

 

¶2. What Happened to the Burmese Migrants?

————————————-

 

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

Phang Nga and Krabi provinces, the three areas most affected

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

believe another 20 – 30 percent of resident migrants are

illegally present, suggesting a total population well over

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

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

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

commercial fishing, construction and hotel staff. NGOs and

Royal Thai government (RTG) agencies reported many of those

employed in affected economic sectors, in shock and without

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

Vision, assisting destitute migrants return to Burma via a

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

registered workers returned voluntarily through the facility

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

Kawthoung (Burma) without assistance. Others appear to have

fled to rubber plantations and wooded areas inland in Phang

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

Burmese, formerly resident in a Phang Nga fishing village

devastated by the disaster, are now sheltering in a forested

area nearby. About 320 Burmese families, including pregnant

women and children, reportedly fled to the hills above the

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

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

plastic sheeting for shelter. Similar reports of migrants

living in difficult conditions have been received from Krabi

province. Although no estimates are available, a large

proportion of migrants are believed to have moved to other

inland provinces to look for new employment – a move that

legally has to be reported to the RTG Ministry of Labor

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

MOL permission to move, however.

 

¶3. The Thai Government Responds

—————————-

 

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

the MOL and Ministry of Social Development and Human Security

(MSDHS), the two main government agencies providing services

to tsunami survivors, to encourage increased outreach efforts

to affected Burmese migrants. MOL Deputy Permanent Secretary

Thapabutr Jamasevi asserted that registered foreign workers

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

job placement, severance pay and other benefits under the

Labor Protection Act. Similarly, MSDHS Permanent Secretary

Wallop Phloytabthim claimed that migrants received “identical

treatment” with Thais. However, Wallop acknowledged that

few Burmese migrants had approached local MSDHS officials for

assistance, speculating that they were “afraid” to request

shelter in an internally displaced person camp established by

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

approximately 4,000 Thais.) MOL assistance is similarly

limited to date: an official report dated 18 January claimed

medical treatment at area hospitals was provided for 500

registered workers. Otherwise, services have been confined

to the voluntary repatriation of registered workers to Burma,

processing the relatively few requests to change to employers

in other provinces, and providing USD 125 for “body

preparation” services for four deceased migrants.

 

¶4. Widely Differing Estimates of Migrant Deaths

———————————————

 

(U) Several Thai NGOs that work with Burmese migrants

completed preliminary surveys of tsunami affected areas the

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

Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association estimated 2,500 migrants

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

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

registered. The NGOs developed the estimate by interviewing

villagers to determine how many fishing boats were lost; each

vessel was then assumed to contain thirty Burmese fishermen.

(Many boats had just returned from night fishing when the

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

Other NGO reports offer limited snapshots of casualties: 200

migrant construction/hotel workers dead at Patong beach,

Phuket; 270 fishermen perished in Baan Nam Khem fishing

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

nearby fishing village. Official RTG estimates are much

lower. Based on surveys of employers retaining registered

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

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

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

to have returned informally to Burma.

 

¶5. IOM: Government Assistance Sub-Par

———————————-

 

(SBU) An initial assessment by the International

Organization for Migration (IOM) notes that RTG services to

migrants fall far short of those provided to Thai nationals

and western tourists in tsunami – affected areas. The January

10 report criticizes MOL efforts for focusing on registered

migrants, ignoring the thousands who are unregistered. For

those unregistered, quick deportations are the norm, which

IOM characterized as a “politically convenient” way to deal

with the alleged looting of damaged properties by Burmese.

(The RTG immigration chief publicly accused the Burmese

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

Isolated cases of looting, in reality mostly perpetrated by

Thais, were quickly blamed on migrants and the charge was

widely believed.) Public health services are poor: by

January 11, only 29 registered migrants had received

treatment in Phanga Nga provincial hospital, which has seen

over 620 tsunami patients since December 26. An attempt by

NGO health workers to assess migrant health needs at one

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

villagers imprisoned three Burmese staff of World Vision, and

beat one Thai. (The villagers mistakenly believed the health

team intended to repatriate the migrants, for whom fishing

boat owners had paid registration fees.) Health and

sanitation outreach to the large numbers living in forests

and rubber plantations, and to those workers not registered,

is currently limited or non-existent.

 

¶6. Comments.

——–

 

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

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

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

provinces and occupations most likely to have been affected

are simply unaccounted for. Many likely moved quietly to

other provinces in search for new employment, beyond the gaze

of RTG officials and the handful of interested NGOs. Others

may have returned to Burma at the many informal crossings

along the porous border. A true accounting of the Burmese

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

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

immediately following the tsunami, Laboff did not encounter

any Burmese searching for relatives among the hundreds of

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

Phang Nga province, nor were there Burmese language notices

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

hasty cremation of dozens of Asian remains was observed at a

Buddhist temple. Workers said that most remains had not been

claimed by a group of Thai villagers waiting nearby, offering

that “they are probably just Burmese.” Concerned NGOs

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

Thai officialdom, accounts for the reluctance of migrants to

identify compatriots who perished in the tsunami.

 

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

on the living, particularly Burmese women and children who

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

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

employed in tsunami-devastated economic sectors in the three

most affected provinces, and many of these have certainly

lost employers, putting them in danger.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

August 26, 2011 at 4:32 am

10BANGKOK45 SCENESETTER FOR ASSISTANT SECRETARY SHAPIRO

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

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

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RUEKJCS/SECDEF 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

09BANGKOK2962 THAILAND: AMBASSADOR AND FM KASIT DISCUSS U.S. ASIA DIPLOMACY, CAMBODIA, THAKSIN

leave a comment »

“235806″,”11/20/2009 10:28″,”09BANGKOK2962″,

 

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STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR BADER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/19/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: AMBASSADOR AND FM KASIT DISCUSS U.S.

ASIA DIPLOMACY, CAMBODIA, THAKSIN

 

BANGKOK 00002962 001.2 OF 003

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary: Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya called

Ambassador to the Foreign Ministry on short notice late

November 19, primarily to discuss Cambodia and Thaksin.

Kasit began the meeting expressing \”profound thanks\” for the

President and Secretary\’s effective re-engagement in Asia

this year. Kasit blamed the ongoing diplomatic spat between

Thailand and Cambodia as the by-product of former PM Thaksin

Shinawatra\’s desire to bring down the RTG at any cost. Kasit

described Indonesian efforts to act as a broker for

Thai-Cambodian messages; he appealed to the U.S. to \”put a

few words\” in with Hun Sen about disengaging from Thaksin\’s

machinations against a fellow ASEAN neighbor. Ambassador

suggested that Thailand should seek to take the high road

going forward, finding ways it could publicly cooperate with

Cambodia, easing tensions. As the meeting broke up, FM Kasit

mentioned the Lao Hmong issue, underscoring the Thai

commitment to working closely with Laos while being mindful

of the concerns of the international community.

 

2. (C) Comment: In a session that had the air of musing out

loud, Kasit was not as focused in this meeting, in terms of

agenda and message, as he usually is, a sign perhaps that

Thai officials are unsure of next steps in the Thai-Cambodia

dynamic and what Thaksin\’s next steps may be, with the next

red rally anticipated to be larger and longer than any since

the April red riots. We will follow-up with ideas on

health-related and other humanitarian projects that have a

U.S. component that might serve as vehicles for useful

cross-border humanitarian gestures. End Summary.

 

\”Profound thanks\” for U.S. return to Asia

—————————————–

 

3. (C) Clearly buoyed by APEC and ASEAN-related discussions

in Singapore, FM Kasit began the early evening meeting with

Ambassador and PolCouns by expressing \”profound thanks\” for

the reinvigorated U.S. engagement in Asia in 2009,

culminating with President Obama\’s recent Asia swing but

including Secretary Clinton\’s two prior trips to Asia. This

reaffirmation of U.S. interest in Asia by both physical

presence of the President and Secretary, and substantive

dialogue and proposed cooperation, such as the Lower Mekong

Initiative launched by the Secretary in Phuket at the July

ASEAN Regional Forum, was critically important, Kasit

stressed.

 

4. (C) FM Kasit referenced useful \”chit chat\” on the margins

of APEC between Thai PM Abhisit and the President, as well as

with Secretary Clinton prior to the President\’s arrival. PM

Abhisit and the Royal Thai Government (RTG) were deeply

appreciative of the President\’s interest in what was going on

domestically in Thailand, and especially of the health of His

Majesty King Bhumibol, Kasit added.

 

Thaksin\’s challenge to the \”very fabric\” of Thai society

——————————————— ———–

 

5. (C) Switching to the domestic political situation, Kasit

asserted that the current RTG was committed to promoting the

further democratization of Thai society and ensuring that

authorities played by the rule of law. The coalition

government looked to stay in office long enough to show

results from their education reform and infrastructure

development policies. National reconciliation, regardless of

political color, was essential if the country were to move

forward. However, Kasit felt compelled to clarify the

situation vis-a-vis Thaksin, due to suggestions from

(unspecified) American quarters. It is too late to expect

the RTG to negotiate a deal with Thaksin, he stated. Two

factors, the two year sentence for abuse of

office/corruption, and his instigation of violence in April

aiming to topple the RTG, made negotiations or \”out of court\”

settlements impossible.

 

6. (C) Ambassador asked Kasit why Thaksin had taken two

controversial steps in recent weeks that seemingly undercut

his position in Thailand–the Cambodia trip and the Times

 

BANGKOK 00002962 002.2 OF 003

 

Online interview touching on the monarchy. Thaksin had

knowingly gone down a path over the past five-six years,

rejecting any possibility of compromise, that had led him and

the country to the current situation, Kasit stated.

 

7. (C) For his part, Thaksin continued to pursue

extra-constitutional methods to force a change in government,

and his \”rhetorical mud-slinging\” on the issue of the

monarchy, claimed Kasit. In so doing, Thaksin was trying to

undermine the very fabric of Thai society, and the stability

of the country, with violence the only way to achieve his

objectives. Kasit warned this process, if it spun out of

control, had the potential to affect U.S.-Thai relations as

well. Ambassador underscored the Embassy\’s consistent

message to red-shirt leaders of the United Front of Democracy

Against Dictatorship (UDD), Puea Thai politicians, and others

associated with Thaksin that they should not employ violence

in pursuit of their political aims. Kasit responded that all

Thais should work out of a common believe in the democratic

system, but that Thaksin was working to undermine the fabric

of Thailand\’s democratic regime.

 

International voices to Hun Sen (on the Thaksin issue)

——————————————— ———

 

8. (C) FM Kasit said Thailand would \”highly appreciate\” the

U.S. sharing \”a few words\” with Cambodian leader Hun Sen \”to

help him come to his senses\” regarding his support of

Thaksin, in light of what the red-shirts \”intend to do next

week\” (note: a reference to the red-shirt announcement of a

rally starting November 28 that they vow will continue until

it topples the RTG. End note). Hun Sen was supporting a

force publicly intent on destabilizing Thailand; Thailand

would appreciate messages to Hun Sen to disassociate with

Thaksin. Apart from the Thaksin factor, the rest of the

Thai-Cambodia relationship could be quickly put back on an

even keel, Kasit opined, adding that the Thai continued to

talk to Hun Sen\’s West Point-educated son, \”whom we find

sensible, though we do not know what he says to his father.\”

 

9. (C) Kasit described one international mediating effort

ongoing; on the margins of the Singapore APEC/ASEAN meetings,

Indonesian President SBY had invited PM Abhisit/FM Kasit to

meet him and Indonesian FM Marie, and subsequently met Hun

Sen, to hear both countries\’ views on how the diplomatic spat

had evolved. SBY had delegated FM Marie to serve as an

interlocutor to pass messages between the Thai and

Cambodians. According to Kasit, the Thai message via the

Indonesians to Hun Sen had been simple: disassociate with

Thaksin, and help the relationship revert to where it was

prior to October 23, when Hun Sen arrived in Thailand for the

ASEAN Summit and publicly insulted the Thai judicial and

political processes in unacceptable terms.

 

10. (C) Hun Sen\’s further comments in media interviews

alleging that the Democrat Party was orchestrating

anti-Cambodia press coverage and PAD activities was off-base,

Kasit asserted; the Thai had repeatedly explained to Hun Sen

that Thailand was an open society with a free media, and that

the yellow-shirts spent more time attacking the Democrat-led

coalition than they did focsed on Cambodia/Hun Sen.

 

11. (C) When asked about Thai assessments of Hun Sen\’s

motivation in making such public common cause with Thaksin,

Kasit replied that Hun Sen appeared frustrated that he was

not able to realize short-term financial gain from an

expected package deal with Thaksin and allies over territory

around Preah Vihear to be turned into a \”Disney-like\”

entertainment complex, as well as the joint off-shore

development area. Out of frustration, Hun Sen appeared to

have bet on pressuring the current Thai government to fall,

banking on Thaksin-backed forces to win the next election,

amend the Constitution, pardon Thaksin, implement one-party

rule, and deliver him payback in return.

 

Next Steps in Thai-Cambodia relations

————————————-

 

12. (C) Kasit painted a bleak picture of the immediate next

 

BANGKOK 00002962 003.2 OF 003

 

developments in the Thai-Cambodia spat. Hun Sen would run a

\”kangaroo court\” on the arrested Thai national, and he had

effectively nationalized the Thai company with a 33 year

concession to run the Air Traffic Control service by ejecting

the Thai management. Kasit suggested Hun Sen\’s motives were

to undermine Thai public support of the RTG\’s position by

playing the personal tragedy and business dispute cards.

Already the owner of the air traffic control concession was

begging the RTG to salvage his investment; meanwhile, the MFA

was paying out $20,000 in legal services for his arrested

employee, and paying to fly his mother to Cambodia to see him.

 

13. (C) Ambassador suggested Thailand should take the high

road going forward, given that Hun Sen had precipitated the

crisis by so publicly hosting Thaksin, by finding ways it

could publicly cooperate with Cambodia, both to ease tensions

and to underscore to international partners and friends its

positive approach to the situation. Kasit replied that he

had written to ASEAN Foreign Ministers and engaged them

personally. Indonesia and Malaysia were \”with us,\” Kasit

assessed, Singapore cautious. Vietnam would not allow

Thaksin to visit; even Brunei was \”okay.\” It came down to

just Cambodia and Hun Sen.

 

14. (C) Ambassador suggested other avenues of cooperation,

including promoting humanitarian assistance in areas such as

health cooperation in fighting malaria affecting the

Thai-Cambodia border area and distribution of H1N1 vaccines

via the WHO. Kasit replied positively, noting that Thailand

was continuing all humanitarian and development assistance

projects for Cambodia, that Thailand continued to buy tapioca

and corn from Cambodia contract farmers, and that border

commanders continued their regular lunches and discussion of

cooperative border efforts; anti-malarial efforts were

important in this regard. Thailand had no issue with the

Cambodian people, Kasit stressed; Thailand had attended the

recent Japan-Mekong Summit as a co-donor with Japan, not as

an aid recipient.

 

Lao Hmong

———

 

15. (C) As the meeting started to break up, Kasit asked if

there were new developments regarding the issue of the Lao

Hmong. Ambassador referenced the recent meeting between PRM

and the Thai Embassy in Washington. Nodding, Kasit replied

that he had read the embassy\’s report. Thailand continued to

talk to the Lao regarding repatriations, but at the same time

it was mindful of the international community\’s concerns and

interest in the issue, he concluded.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:28 am

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

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SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR BADER

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/07/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PREF, PHUM, BM, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: AMBASSADOR ENGAGES FM KASIT ON US-THAI

RELATIONS, DRPK, BURMA, CAMBODIA, LAO HMONG, VIKTOR BOUT

 

REF: BANGKOK 1842

 

BANGKOK 00001939 001.2 OF 004

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary: Ambassador engaged Thai FM Kasit Piromya

August 6 on U.S.-Thai relations, DRPK and the ARF Chair

Statement, Burma and Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK), Cambodian

border issues, the Lao Hmong, and Viktor Bout\’s extradition.

Ambassador and Kasit agreed on the need to elevate the nature

of the U.S.-Thai diplomatic-security dialogue to a more

strategic level. Ambassador stressed U.S. displeasure with

the July 23 ARF Chair language on North Korea; Kasit asserted

that ASEAN had intended to keep channels of dialogue to

Pyongyang open while emphasizing to the DPRK that following a

path of confrontation was futile. Kasit characterized

increasing ASEAN pressure on Burma and said that ASEAN could

not move forward absent fundamental change in Burma.

Recently concluded Thai-Cambodian meetings showed progress,

but Kasit said there would need to be a grand package of land

border and off-shore Joint Development Area (JDA) agreements

to overcome bilateral distrust and nationalists in both

countries. Ambassador thanked Kasit for recent increased

access to the Lao Hmong in Phetchabun and pushed for a rapid

change in the status of Hmong held in Nong Khai; Kasit

expressed hope there would be progress in the near future.

Ambassador reiterated U.S. interest in a successful

conclusion in the Viktor Bout extradition case, with a

decision due August 11. End Summary

 

Kasit: Thanks again for S engagement in Phuket

——————————————— –

2. (SBU) FM Kasit once again conveyed a \”profound\” thank you

for Secretary Clinton\’s presence at the ASEAN Regional Forum

(ARF) in Phuket July 22-23. Her participation engendered

good will, elevated the quality of the discussions, and

helped make ARF a success, he said.

 

3. (SBU) Kasit urged quick and substantive follow-up to the

Lower Mekong initiative, and asked for U.S. plans for next

steps, including on the Mississippi-Mekong partnership in

exploring riparian state responsibilities. For his part,

Kasit planned to meet soon with the ESCAP Executive Director,

the ADB, and the World Bank to take stock of possible

programming in the Lower Mekong region, with a focus on

technical cooperation and human resource development.

 

Bilateral Relations – Strategic Dialogue

—————————————-

4. (C) Ambassador and Kasit traded thoughts on implementing

the promise of an enhanced strategic dialogue discussed by

Kasit and the Secretary during Kasit\’s April visit to

Washington. Ambassador emphasized the need to switch from

the transactional approach of the past several years to a

more strategic partnership. Kasit agreed, reiterating his

views shared with the Secretary, Deputy Secretary Steinberg,

and S/P director Slaughter in April: Thailand for the past

eight-ten years has been reactive to piecemeal U.S. requests

(\”send troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, give us access to

Utapao\”), rather than being a partner in discussing policy

together. That was his goal, even if Thailand only rose to a

\”junior\” strategic partner.

 

5. (C) If the U.S. were to explain its overall approach to

the Asia-Pacific region for the future, Kasit continued,

Thailand\’s role as an ally in advancing a shared agenda of

promoting peace and stability in the region could flow

naturally. Cooperative efforts in disaster relief

management, upgrading civil-military capacity, peacekeeping

in a UN/regional context, and capacity-building in countries

like Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam, and eventually Burma, were all

prospective topics to be discussed in his view. Ambassador

added that the Thai position in ASEAN, the relationships with

China and India, and a socio-cultural component including

educational exchanges should also be part of the agenda; late

October/early November might be appropriate timing.

 

6. (SBU) Kasit mentioned that PM Abhisit planned to attend

the UN General Assembly in September. Abhisit would seek

business meetings in New York, and plan to engage Congress in

 

BANGKOK 00001939 002.2 OF 004

 

Washington, even if executive branch meetings proved too

difficult to arrange.

 

7. (C) Referencing his conversation with NSA GEN Jones in

April, Kasit passed a list of equipment the Thai military

hoped might be available via Excess Defense Articles (EDA) or

other military assistance mechanisms as the U.S. drew down in

Iraq. Most of the current Thai armored unit equipment was

30-40 years old, Kasit noted, making it difficult to stay

interoperable with the U.S. Ambassador agreed to pass the

equipment list via our Military Assistance Group but

suggested equipment requests would best be discussed in

context of Thailand\’s strategic needs as part of a broader,

deeper political-military strategic dialogue component.

Kasit acknowledged this point, and agreed with Ambassador on

the utility of closer collaboration between Foreign and

Defense officials in both countries as part of the strategic

dialogue. Kasit noted he met or spoke with Defense Minister

Prawit weekly.

 

ARF Statement\’s DPRK language

—————————–

8. (C) Kasit raised his July 31 telcon with Deputy Secretary

Steinberg on the ARF statement\’s language on North Korea. He

said China had pushed Thailand hard to give the DPRK room and

to avoid language that would cause the North Koreans to walk

away and possibly never come back to the ARF or the Six Party

process. The Thai and ASEAN also believed a quiet and soft

approach was the order of the day. Kasit had told the DPRK

head of Del in Phuket, Ambassador Pak Kun-gwang, that North

Korea could not continue on its current confrontational path;

firing rockets and testing nuclear weapons would get it

nowhere. The outside world was prepared to provide

assistance if it adopted a different approach; confrontation

was futile. Kasit felt that the North Korean delegation left

Phuket understanding their obligations, that the channel of

dialogue had remained open, with the expectation that the

North Koreans should return to the Six Party Talks.

 

9. (C) Kasit and the Chinese FM had a long discussion about

this issue in Phuket; China would be working hard behind the

scenes to bring the DPRK back to the Six Party table. Kasit

had thought about going to Pyongyang as ASEAN Chair to

facilitate progress; the Thais had been in a dialogue with

Pyongyang for 5-6 months, with Vice Ministers Panich having

traveled to Pyongyang to try to secure high level attendance

at the ARF, and Kasit raising it on the margins of the

mid-July Sharm-el-Sheik NAM meetings.

 

10. (C) Ambassador emphasized there remained significant

disagreement over the ARF statement, and Secretary Clinton

had asked that he convey her disappointment with the

language. The July 2- AMM communiqu language on the Korean

Peninsula was good, the July 23 ARF statement not so

(reftel). While we understood the Thai position that China

and Russia had come to the Thai claiming they did not want to

be associated with the language, the fact remained that there

had been agreement among representatives of the five

countries on the language. Furthermore, when the Secretary

and Kasit had met, Permsec Virasak had characterized the

state of play on DPRK language very differently, suggesting

the DPRK wanted a call on all parties to exercise restraint,

and that the DPRK was willing to engage in dialogue. The

final language was much different, was imbalanced, and

suggested an equivalence between the two positions – near

consensus of ARF vs. DPRK propaganda, which was substantively

wrong, and procedurally had been handled poorly. Ambassador

urged that the RTG consult more closely with the U.S. on this

issue in the future.

 

11. (C) Kasit acknowledged that the Thai were fully aware of

the possible consequences of the statement as issued, but he

reiterated his view of the importance of keeping open the

channel. By accommodating them \”a bit\” on language, it kept

the DPRK in play, with no other direction to turn but to

re-engage in talks. \”This is a process,\” and ASEAN felt it

had a role to help push the parties in the right direction.

Russia and China now had to deliver on their end of the

bargain. Kasit expressed hope the release of the two U.S.

 

BANGKOK 00001939 003.2 OF 004

 

journalists on former President Clinton\’s visit to Pyongyang

would provide positive momentum to substantive negotiations

as well.

 

Burma and impact on ASEAN

————————-

12. (C) Kasit reconfirmed that PM Abhisit\’s visit to Burma

had been postponed to avoid potentially coinciding with the

expected verdict in Aung San Suu Kyi\’s (ASSK) trial. Kasit

predicted that the Burmese would sentence ASSK to three

years, but \”whatever it is, it will be unacceptable.\” After

constant pushing in recent months at a series of ASEAN

meetings, most recently in Phuket, Kasit asserted the Burmese

knew well the damage they would do to themselves and to ASEAN

with a conviction. ASEAN countries are consistently harping

on the \”centrality of ASEAN\” in regional architecture but

ASEAN must earn its role, in Kasit\’s view. Without

fundamental change in Burma, ASEAN would have no credibility,

and would not be able to advance further as a community,

Kasit stated.

 

13. (C) Kasit said that he would travel to Indonesia and

Malaysia in the near future to consult about the way forward.

He predicted various ASEAN states would complain separately

in the aftermath of an ASSK conviction. Thailand would seek

to ally with \”old ASEAN\” members to push a more forceful

line. He and Singapore FM George Yeoh had repeatedly pushed

their Burmese FM counterpart to convey the views of ASEAN,

and the need for change, fully to Than Shwe. The recent

visit of Singapore Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong to Burma to

hammer home ASEAN concerns was also important; \”there needs

to be more of such regional pressure.\” For his part, Kasit

planned to suggest to the Burmese FM in their next discussion

that if the regime were to convict ASSK, they pardon her

immediately.

 

14. (C) The Burmese had asked Kasit to facilitate another

round of talks with the Karen, Kasit revealed. Kasit had not

yet set a place and date, but his message to Karen National

Union (KNU) leaders would be: go negotiate. The KNU had no

chance whatsoever at a military victory; their situation only

worsened with constant pressure by the Burmese Army and Karen

DKBA proxies. Kasit felt the KNU\’s best option was to

negotiate a deal, and then coordinate with the other cease

fire groups with similar interests. Kasit personally

believed Burma should be configured as a federation, not a

union. The military would of course \”cheat\” and dominate the

lower house of any parliament, but the states could have

representation in an Upper House, and a process of

self-cleansing of the system could begin.

 

15. (C) Ambassador thanked Kasit for the rapid Thai reaction

to the influx of new Karen refugees in June. Kasit said that

he had pushed the Burmese FM to create a safe area in Karen

state to which the new arrivals could return without

guaranteed harrassment from the Burmese army.

 

Cambodia – border negotiations and JDAs

—————————————

16. (C) Kasit characterized the August 4-5 meetings of the

Thai-Cambodian Joint Committee, and the visit of Cambodian

DPM and FM Hor Namhong, as successful. He asked Hor Namhong

to tell the Cambodian media that Cambodian-Thai relations

were actually much smoother that the press indicated. The

Thai were financing roughly 80 technical assistance and

development projets, drawing on soft loans and the resources

of the Ministry of Finance and several other ministries. Hor

Namhong suggested the Thai invite the Cambodian Minister of

Information for a visit, identifying him as a one of the key

officials stoking a more confrontational public line.

 

17. (C) While border issues were not directly discussed,

Kasit said that both sides are aware of the rough parameters

of what each side could accept, and not; there would need to

be give and take on disputed areas and jointly developing

areas (JDAs) off-shore in the Gulf. The promise of peace and

mutually economic gain should eventually win the day, in

Kasit\’s view. In the meantime, fixing the location of

boundary stone 73 (note: near the coastline), and agreeing on

 

BANGKOK 00001939 004.2 OF 004

 

the watershed definition of six points near Preah Vihear,

would pose the chief challenges. Thai DPM Suthep and

Cambodia\’s Sok An had led the JDA discussions, coming close

to an agreement in principle, but the maritime deal would

need to be packaged together with a deal on the disputed land

areas near Preah Vihear. This would be necessary due to the

elements of distrust in the relationship, as well as

nationalists in both countries who would oppose any

compromise. Leaders in both countries would have to be

brave, and explain the pluses and minuses to a packaged deal.

 

18. (C) Kasit said that he had passed critical comments to

Total over the recent announcement of a provisional deal for

exploration rights in the disputed Gulf areas and would file

a note of protest to the Cambodians. In the end, any

unilateral concessions for exploration would not go forward,

and would be superceded by whatever JDA agreement emerged,

just as had happened in the late 1990s when Thailand and

Malaysia reached a similar JDA agreement.

 

Lao Hmong

———

19. (C) Ambassador thanked Kasit for PM Abhisit\’s assurances

to the Secretary that there would be no forced repatriation

of the Lao Hmong in Phetchabun. Referencing recent moves by

the Thai military to provide more access to the Phetchabun

camp and the first meaningful U.S. participation in

discussions about the Lao Hmong August 7, Ambassador also

pushed Kasit for a quick resolution of the 158 Hmong in the

Nong Khai detention center, perhaps allowing them to return

to relatives in Lopburi. Kasit said that he was trying to

bring the Ministry of Social Welfare into the picture to

improve the situation at Nong Khai. If the discussions at

Phetchaburi went well, he hoped there would be forward

progress. Kasit said he had underscored the need for humane,

humanitarian treatment of the Hmong to his military

counterparts.

 

Viktor Bout

———–

20. (C) Ambassador reiterated the Secretary\’s message to PM

Abhisit and FM Kasit on the importance we placed on a

successful conclusion to the Viktor Bout extradition case,

with the judge\’s decision expected August 11. The U.S.

continued to be concerned about ongoing Russian efforts to

influence the decision. Kasit said he understood and agreed.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:52 am

09BANGKOK345 THAILAND SCENESETTER FOR ADMIRAL KEATING

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SIPDIS

 

FOR ADM KEATING FROM AMB JOHN

 

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

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

SUBJECT: THAILAND SCENESETTER FOR ADMIRAL KEATING

 

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

 

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

Thailand. Your visit, particularly the planned meeting with

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva on February 17, will afford the

opportunity to highlight the importance of Thailand to our

regional security interests as new governments settle in in

both countries. Expected meetings with Minister of Defense

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

Forces General Songkitti Jaggabartra will allow you to

emphasize our support for important areas of our mil-mil

relationship, such as the Defense Reform Management Study

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

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

issues which may come up during your visit. Regards,

Ambassador Eric John.

 

NEW ADMINISTRATIONS IN BOTH COUNTRIES

————————————-

 

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

hearing an assessment of the new administration\’s Asia

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

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

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

relationship and that we do not anticipate significant

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

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

 

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

coalition government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva has

calmed the political situation for now, but the basic split

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

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

office, but his government faces significant policy

challenges and a tough economic situation. Political discord

could very well persist for years, through what promises to

be a messy transition after the eventual passing of revered

King Bhumibol.

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND – MORE SERIOUS INTENT

—————————————

 

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

been an emphasis on addressing the southern violence,

including significant civilian involvement and revived secret

discussions with representatives of southern insurgents

started by former PM Surayud. However, it remains unclear

how the civil-military dynamic will change. The Thai

military has tried to quell the ethnic Malay Muslim-led

insurgency in southern Thailand with increasingly effective

security sweeps, but occasional abuses by security forces

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

the local populace. The root causes of the insurgency —

government neglect and a lack of social justice, combined

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

been effectively addressed by any Thai government to this

point.

 

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

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

forward in offering assistance. We have responded by helping

the Thai military focus on improving the professional and

operational skills of the Royal Thai Armed Forces; helping

break down stovepipes between the Thai military, police

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

international human rights norms.

 

ROHINGYA/HMONG CONCERNS PERSIST

——————————-

 

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

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

strong criticism of Thailand. We continue to stress to our

contacts that Thailand should provide access for UNHCR to

 

BANGKOK 00000345 002 OF 003

 

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

not consistent with basic humanitarian principles.

 

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

military plays a prominent role in the management of the many

refugees that enter Thailand from neighboring countries. The

Thai government has so far failed set up a transparent

screening process for the thousands of Lao Hmong, some of

whom we believe may have a legitimate claim to refugee

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

underscore the importance of transparently handling these

Hmong cases.

 

BORDER TALKS CONTINUE WITH CAMBODIA

———————————–

 

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

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

to address the border dispute centered on overlapping claims

to territory adjacent to Preah Vihear temple. The JBC talks

stalled after the two sides failed to agree on an official

name for the temple and for a monitoring mechanism that would

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

pleased that atmosphere surrounding the issue has improved

dramatically since clashes between troops in 2008. You could

stress to the Thai interlocutors our hope that the dispute

can be resolved peacefully and bilaterally.

 

PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS – DARFUR

—————————–

 

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

been a close partner for us as the Thai government prepares

to deploy a battalion of peacekeeping troops to Darfur. The

RTARF has taken a measured approach during preparations, one

reflective of the significant challenges the Thai military

will face in Darfur, and the most likely timeframe for

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

willingness to assume this difficult mission and reiterate

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

the Thai battalion will be deployed as quickly as reasonably

possible.

 

DEFENSE REFORM

————–

 

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

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

which will help rationalize the Thai military\’s procurement

and other resource needs. Phase II of this process will

begin the first week of March following the ASEAN summit

scheduled for Thailand. You could take the opportunity

during your meetings with DefMin Prawit and GEN Songkitti to

reinforce our message that we desire to work closely with the

Thai to accelerate the DRMS process.

 

INTEROPERABILITY

—————-

 

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

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

billion of arms procurements currently in process. In recent

years, however, the Thai military has diversified

procurements. We continue to look at ways to improve

interoperability with the Thai military, one example of which

is our encouragement of the Thai Air Force to choose a

Mid-Life Update to F-16s.

 

THE INCREASING ROLE OF CHINA

—————————-

 

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

China while simultaneously emphasizing the vital role of the

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

in terms of weapons procurement and, more recently, joint

 

BANGKOK 00000345 003 OF 003

 

exercises. Your interaction with GEN Songkitti, in

particular, would be a prime opportunity to explore Thai

military thoughts on the future direction of engagement with

the PLA.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:20 am

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

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

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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

08BANGKOK3757 AMBASSADOR ENGAGES NEW THAI FM KASIT ON ASEAN, BURMA, CAMBODIA, BOUT, THE SOUTH, REFUGEES, IPR, AND CL

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“184976”,”12/29/2008 11:07″,”08BANGKOK3757″,

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NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/29/2018

TAGS: ETRD, PGOV, PHUM, PREF, PREL, PTER, TH

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR ENGAGES NEW THAI FM KASIT ON ASEAN,

BURMA, CAMBODIA, BOUT, THE SOUTH, REFUGEES, IPR, AND CL

 

REF: BANGKOK 03707

 

BANGKOK 00003757 001.2 OF 004

 

Classified By: DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION JAMES F. ENTWISTLE, REASONS 1.4

(b) and (d).

 

Summary and Comment:

———————

 

1. (C) Summary: On December 26, Ambassador, accompanied by

DCM and poloff, paid a courtesy call on newly appointed

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya. The Ambassador was the first

member of Thailand\’s diplomatic community to call on Kasit.

He congratulated Kasit on his appointment and took the

opportunity to highlight a range of political and economic

issues high on the U.S. policy agenda, including compulsory

licensing (CL) and intellectual property rights (IPR) issues,

Burma, refugees, southern Thailand, and Viktor Bout. While

reaffirming the importance the U.S. places on the bilateral

relationship with Thailand, the Ambassador emphasized the

need for continued forward movement on these issues. In

closing the discussion, the Ambassador told Kasit that,

although the U.S. supports free speech and peaceful

demonstrations in support of political change, the PAD,s

airport seizure had hurt Thailand\’s image. Kasit agreed.

 

2. (C) Summary continued: FM Kasit responded by saying that

he looked forward to a close and constructive relationship

with the U.S., and that he was committed to working to the

best of his ability to ensure the relationship remained

positive and strong. The new government hopes to hold the

ASEAN summit in Bangkok the third week of February. He said

clean governance and integrity were high on Prime Minister

Abhisit policy agenda. This included IPR enforcement and a

better dialogue on CL issues. He vowed Thailand\’s external

relationships would not be driven by \”vested\” interests,

including the interests of public companies like EGAT and PTT

in Burma. He said Thailand would work to constructively

engage Burma on the range of issues that affect Thai-Burma

relations, including the repatriation of refugees and cross

border issues. Kasit promised to study a non-paper on the

Viktor Bout case provided by the Ambassador.

 

3. (C) Comment: The session was a refreshing and positive

meeting with an interlocutor who appears competent and

clearly understands the issues affecting the U.S.-Thai

relationship. A former Ambassador in Washington (2004-05),

Kasit was forward leaning on all the issues we discussed and

reiterated several times his commitment to a positive and

constructive relationship with the U.S. While Kasit will

undoubtedly advocate Thailand\’s positions forcefully, his

professional focus and understanding of the complexities of

the U.S.-Thai relationship will make working with him and the

MFA on difficult issues easier. End comment.

 

Old partner in a new role

————————-

 

4. (SBU) In a meeting on December 26 with the Ambassador,

newly-appointed FM Kasit expressed enthusiasm about the new

U.S. administration and looked forward to working with the

incoming U.S. Secretary of State on a close and constructive

relationship. Noting that in the recent past, Thailand had

played a passive and reactive role in its relationship to the

U.S., just responding to U.S. requests, Kasit vowed Thailand

would now be more proactive in planning the direction of the

relationship.

 

ASEAN

—–

 

5. (SBU) Starting off with a discussion on the ASEAN summit,

Kasit told the Ambassador that the summit will likely take

place the third week of February, in Bangkok. Plans for the

summit would be finalized after the government delivered its

policy statement on December 29 or 30; the Cabinet would then

meet to approve the framework for the summit and send it to

parliament for approval on January 5 or 6. Kasit assured the

 

BANGKOK 00003757 002.2 OF 004

 

Ambassador that the RTG still planned for the U.S. Ambassador

for ASEAN Affairs, Scott Marciel, to attend as an observer.

Kasit said work on the Terms-of-Reference (TOR) for the

formation of the ASEAN human rights body was proceeding well;

he hoped a first draft would be ready by the beginning of the

summit. Kasit opined that the TOR and formation of the human

rights body would be an indication of the future direction of

ASEAN. He said it would show that ASEAN was working not just

for open markets, but for \”open societies\” as well.

 

CL, IPR, CSR, and Trade

———————–

 

6. (SBU) On economic issues, Kasit told the Ambassador that

he has been engaging the Ministry of Commerce (MoC) to

improve coordination on issues such as Compulsory Licensing

(CL); the MoC would take the lead on establishing an

interagency committee to tackle issues of intellectual

property right (IPR) protection enforcement. The Ambassador

emphasized to Kasit the importance the U.S placed on IPR and

CL and said the pharmaceutical industry had felt over the

last six months that the cards were stacked against it; the

Ministry of Health seemed to have taken advantage of

confusion within the government to add more CLs without going

through the proper process. The pharmaceutical industry

sought a better dialogue with the RTG.

 

7. (SBU) Kasit responded that he had just spoken to the

Ministry of Health on this issue. He said he believed there

would be another committee to address it, with PREMA

(Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturer Association)

represented on the committee. The Democrat-led government of

Prime Minister Abhisit was very serious about IPR issues,

Kasit maintained, and there would be a strong message in the

government\’s up-coming policy statement about governance and

corporate responsibility. He pointed out that Abhisit, in

his first cabinet meeting, had emphasized nine precepts to

guide his government. The second precept was specifically

about honesty and governance. He had recently chaired a

seminar at the National Counter Corruption Committee (NCCC)

on corporate social responsibility; the NCCC planned to work

with the private sector on this issue. He hoped that a

national policy on clean governance and corporate

responsibility would translate down to private sector

business practices by linking corporate social responsibility

to a government body.

 

8. (SBU) The Ambassador rounded out the discussion on

economic issues by commenting on beef imports and trade in

general. He thanked Kasit for his forward leaning comments

on CL and IPR but stressed that import regulations in the

beef industry needed to be liberalized and brought into line

with the rest of the region. He emphasized the need to

continue moving forward on trade issues; given the global

economic climate, trade issues would likely become more

difficult to resolve before they get easier, making forward

movement essential.

 

Burma and Refugees: A Clean Slate

———————————

 

9. (C) In response to the Ambassador\’s inquiry about the new

Thai government\’s Burma policy, Kasit said that PM Abhisit

had made it clear to the Cabinet that vested interests would

not drive Thailand\’s external relationships. Kasit said he

planned on talking to Burma on a whole range of issues, and

that the vested interests that drove Thailand\’s past

relationship with Burma (including the activities of

companies and state agencies such as EGAT (the Electricity

Generation Authority of Thailand) and PTT (the Petroleum

Authority of Thailand)) would no longer drive policy. With

such interests out of the way, the Thai and Burmese would

start on a clean policy slate and spend more time addressing

cross-border issues, such as trafficking in persons, drugs,

and smuggling. Kasit said the ASEAN charter would give them

the means to address these issues in a constructive manner.

 

10. (C) On refugee issues, Kasit thanked the U.S. for the

 

BANGKOK 00003757 003.2 OF 004

 

Burmese resettlement program, which last year took 14,000

Burmese to the U.S. He said he had recently traveled to Mae

Sot and found the physical conditions in the camps \”not

encouraging,\” and not healthy. He was particularly concerned

about infrastructure issues; there was a need for more

investment in education and vocational training for children,

so they would come out of the camps with some ability to do

something. He said he planned on reviewing the entire

refugee policy approach and would have internal discussions

with the National Security Council and Ministry of Interior

on better coordination with international NGOs.

 

11. (C) Kasit added, however, that there also needed to be a

discussion with the Burmese government on repatriation.

Since the resettlement program had created a \”pull\” factor,

Thailand must work with Burma and somehow eliminate the pull

factor. On the Lao Hmong, Kasit agreed with the Ambassador

that the issue of repatriating Hmong to Laos was extremely

complicated because of the deep social divisions between the

Hmong and the Lao government. Kasit said Abhisit planned to

go to Laos in January on his first foreign visit and hoped to

address this issue. Kasit nodded when the Ambassador said

the situation of the Hmong at the Nong Kai immigration

detention center, many of them children, needed to be

resolved as well.

 

Cambodia and resolving border disputes

————————————–

 

12. (SBU) Kasit said the issue of negotiating with Cambodia

over the border dispute near the Preah Vihear temple would be

resubmitted to the cabinet for discussion. Thailand needed

to respect the early 1960s World Court decision on the

temple. There remained, however, according to Kasit, five

other spots along the border that needed to be resolved

through negotiations with Cambodia. He reaffirmed plans to

retain Ambassador Vasin Tearavechyon as the Thai co-chair of

the Thai-Cambodia Joint Border Commission. He said that he

was encouraged that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen had been

the first foreign leader to congratulate PM Abhisit (by

letter).

 

Plans for Southern Thailand

—————————

 

13. (C) On possible new approaches to address the unrest in

southern Thailand, Kasit said that the forthcoming policy

statement would contain a section on a new draft law to

establish a coordinating agency, under Deputy Prime Minister

Suthep Thaugsuban, for the deep south. Kasit affirmed that

the Democrat-led government would attempt a comprehensive

plan for dealing with the insurgency that would extend beyond

security measures and focus heavily on addressing issues of

justice, economics, and culture. Foremost, he said, the

government must be sensitive to the needs of the local

people. He said that although there would be a push for

large-scale infrastructure projects, the government will

first take steps to ensure money that has been budgeted for

the south actually gets to the places where it is needed. An

additional 100 billion baht ($3 billion) would then be

allocated to deal with the situation. The money would be

used for, among other things, development of the halal food

industry and a project involving a land bridge to connect sea

ports on the Gulf of Siam to the Andaman Sea (as an

alternative to using the Strait of Malacca).

 

14. (C) According to Kasit, the government\’s approach to the

south would be marked by a willingness to talk. He said

cooperation with both Indonesia and Malaysia would be

welcome, and the RTG planned to follow-up on offers of

assistance from both these countries. He said they must also

take stock of what had happened to negotiations since Surayud

Chulanont was Prime Minister (through February 2007). There

were promises and commitments made; the new administration

needed to figure out what had happened to these commitments.

 

Bout

—-

 

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15. (SBU) The Ambassador highlighted to Kasit the importance

the USG places on the extradition proceedings of indicted

Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout, noting that the U.S.

remained patient, but looked forward to an eventual

extradition. Kasit responded by saying PM Abhisit was very

committed to the rule of law and integrity. He said the MFA

would closely monitor the proceedings (note: Bout\’s

extradition hearing went into recess December 23, scheduled

to resume on March 6, 2009, a year after he was initially

taken into Thai custody). The Ambassador gave Kasit a

non-paper on the status of the Bout case, which the Foreign

Minister promised to study.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 6:24 am