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09BANGKOK345 THAILAND SCENESETTER FOR ADMIRAL KEATING

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

“Embassy Bangkok”,”SECRET”,””,”VZCZCXRO6977

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

 

SIPDIS

 

FOR ADM KEATING FROM AMB JOHN

 

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

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

SUBJECT: THAILAND SCENESETTER FOR ADMIRAL KEATING

 

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

 

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

Thailand. Your visit, particularly the planned meeting with

PM Abhisit Vejjajiva on February 17, will afford the

opportunity to highlight the importance of Thailand to our

regional security interests as new governments settle in in

both countries. Expected meetings with Minister of Defense

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

Forces General Songkitti Jaggabartra will allow you to

emphasize our support for important areas of our mil-mil

relationship, such as the Defense Reform Management Study

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

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

issues which may come up during your visit. Regards,

Ambassador Eric John.

 

NEW ADMINISTRATIONS IN BOTH COUNTRIES

————————————-

 

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

hearing an assessment of the new administration\’s Asia

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

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

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

relationship and that we do not anticipate significant

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

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

 

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

coalition government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva has

calmed the political situation for now, but the basic split

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

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

office, but his government faces significant policy

challenges and a tough economic situation. Political discord

could very well persist for years, through what promises to

be a messy transition after the eventual passing of revered

King Bhumibol.

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND – MORE SERIOUS INTENT

—————————————

 

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

been an emphasis on addressing the southern violence,

including significant civilian involvement and revived secret

discussions with representatives of southern insurgents

started by former PM Surayud. However, it remains unclear

how the civil-military dynamic will change. The Thai

military has tried to quell the ethnic Malay Muslim-led

insurgency in southern Thailand with increasingly effective

security sweeps, but occasional abuses by security forces

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

the local populace. The root causes of the insurgency –

government neglect and a lack of social justice, combined

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

been effectively addressed by any Thai government to this

point.

 

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

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

forward in offering assistance. We have responded by helping

the Thai military focus on improving the professional and

operational skills of the Royal Thai Armed Forces; helping

break down stovepipes between the Thai military, police

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

international human rights norms.

 

ROHINGYA/HMONG CONCERNS PERSIST

——————————-

 

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

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

strong criticism of Thailand. We continue to stress to our

contacts that Thailand should provide access for UNHCR to

 

BANGKOK 00000345 002 OF 003

 

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

not consistent with basic humanitarian principles.

 

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

military plays a prominent role in the management of the many

refugees that enter Thailand from neighboring countries. The

Thai government has so far failed set up a transparent

screening process for the thousands of Lao Hmong, some of

whom we believe may have a legitimate claim to refugee

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

underscore the importance of transparently handling these

Hmong cases.

 

BORDER TALKS CONTINUE WITH CAMBODIA

———————————–

 

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

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

to address the border dispute centered on overlapping claims

to territory adjacent to Preah Vihear temple. The JBC talks

stalled after the two sides failed to agree on an official

name for the temple and for a monitoring mechanism that would

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

pleased that atmosphere surrounding the issue has improved

dramatically since clashes between troops in 2008. You could

stress to the Thai interlocutors our hope that the dispute

can be resolved peacefully and bilaterally.

 

PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS – DARFUR

—————————–

 

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

been a close partner for us as the Thai government prepares

to deploy a battalion of peacekeeping troops to Darfur. The

RTARF has taken a measured approach during preparations, one

reflective of the significant challenges the Thai military

will face in Darfur, and the most likely timeframe for

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

willingness to assume this difficult mission and reiterate

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

the Thai battalion will be deployed as quickly as reasonably

possible.

 

DEFENSE REFORM

————–

 

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

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

which will help rationalize the Thai military\’s procurement

and other resource needs. Phase II of this process will

begin the first week of March following the ASEAN summit

scheduled for Thailand. You could take the opportunity

during your meetings with DefMin Prawit and GEN Songkitti to

reinforce our message that we desire to work closely with the

Thai to accelerate the DRMS process.

 

INTEROPERABILITY

—————-

 

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

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

billion of arms procurements currently in process. In recent

years, however, the Thai military has diversified

procurements. We continue to look at ways to improve

interoperability with the Thai military, one example of which

is our encouragement of the Thai Air Force to choose a

Mid-Life Update to F-16s.

 

THE INCREASING ROLE OF CHINA

—————————-

 

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

China while simultaneously emphasizing the vital role of the

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

in terms of weapons procurement and, more recently, joint

 

BANGKOK 00000345 003 OF 003

 

exercises. Your interaction with GEN Songkitti, in

particular, would be a prime opportunity to explore Thai

military thoughts on the future direction of engagement with

the PLA.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:20 am

09BANGKOK595 PROTECTING THE ROHINGYA BOAT PEOPLE

with one comment

“195865″,”3/9/2009 9:36″,”09BANGKOK595″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”09BANGKOK454|09STATE17836″,”VZCZCXRO3773

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SIPDIS

DEPT FOR PRM/ENA, EAP/MLS

GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/06/2109

TAGS: PREF, PHUM, TH, BM

SUBJECT: PROTECTING THE ROHINGYA BOAT PEOPLE

REF: A. STATE 017836

B. BANGKOK 0454

C. 0395

D. 0311

E. 0233

F. 165

G. 139

Classified By: Ambassador Eric G. John, for reasons: 1.4 (B) and (D)

1. (C) Summary and Recommendation: We have repeatedly

raised Ref A,s points with Thai officials from the PM down

to provincial security personnel, as well as with wider

public audiences. Such pressure reversed the temporary

maritime push-back policies in place in December and early

January. The Thai may resort to a &soft deportation8 of

the Rohingya which would not deliver them into the hands of

Burmese authorities. The best alternative to deportation

would be the establishment of a temporary holding facility in

Thailand for the Rohingya, to be used pending the results of

a coordinated regional approach including pressure on the

Burmese government to improve conditions in Northern Rakhine

State. If we press the RTG for this option rather than soft

deportation, however, we should be prepared

(along with other international donors) to provide financial

support for the desired holding facility. End Summary and

Recommendation.

2. (C) We have advocated for international standards of

protection for the Rohingya at many different levels in the

Royal Thai government (RTG), from Ambassador-level

presentations to the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, to

refugee coordinator discussions with the provincial military

and civil defense officials responsible for reacting to boat

arrivals. The objectives in Ref A were specific advocacy

points in these engagements.

3. (C) We have also raised U.S. policy concerns to wider

Thai audiences. EAP DAS Scot Marciel addressed the Rohingya

issue at a February 26 Bangkok university conference with

senior MFA officials in attendance, and discussed the

Rohingya with MFA PermSec Virasak during the ASEAN Summit on

February 28. Marciel underlined our opposition to the forced

return of Rohingya to Burma, and the need to address the root

causes of their flight from Burma. A constructive role by

ASEAN in pushing the Burmese government to improve conditions

in Northern Rakhine State was proposed. Ambassador John

similarly publicly voiced U.S. opposition to forced RTG

return of the Rohingya in an article published in the March

5th edition of The Irrawaddy, a regional publication

specializing in Burma-related issues. The policy statement

was subsequently reported by a Thai television news station.

In the article, Ambassador also supported efforts to address

the Rohingya in a regional context in the ASEAN and Bali

Process fora.

Thai policy at present

———————-

4. (C) Our efforts, combined with the international media

criticism, played a role in the RTG\’s abandonment of its

short-lived \”push-back\” policy towards arriving Rohingya

boats in December. The passengers aboard the only vessel to

arrive after our advocacy push have been treated humanely and

transferred to civilian custody. The 78 men and boys, who

received medical care, are still being held in the

Immigration Detention Center in Ranong. The RTG granted UNHCR

access to the group for initial interviews, which determined

that all were Rohingya who departed directly from Burma.

Permission for full refugee status determinations (RSD) has

not been granted by the RTG, which is concerned the move

(which promises possible third country resettlement) may

trigger additional dangerous voyages from Burma and

Bangladesh.

UNHCR view

———-

5. (C) UNHCR is not pressing for full RSD access to this

(and future) groups of

Rohingya, however. UNHCR Regional Representative Raymond Hall

told us privately they do not have the resources to conduct

individual RSD interviews for arriving boatloads of Rohingya:

each interview can take 2-3 hours with translation. Hall

believes that enough is known of the conditions of systemic

persecution in Burma\’s Northern Rakhine State (where UNHCR

has had a presence since the mid-1990\’s) to conclude that all

BANGKOK 00000595 002 OF 002

Rohingya departing from the area are \”persons of concern\” and

eligible for the protections extended vulnerable people. In

addition, Hall noted that formally awarding full refugee

status propels a requirement for one of the standard durable

solutions – voluntary return in safety to Burma, local

integration into Thailand, and third country resettlement -

all of which are unavailable at the moment.

Looking forward: what next

————————-

6. (C) We consider it unlikely the RTG will agree to allow

the most recent group of Rohingya to stay indefinitely. The

RTG may be considering a \”soft\” deportation of the 78

Rohingya boat people in immigration custody by land into

Burma. (In a soft deportation, used daily for returning

illegal Burmese migrants, people are brought to the Burmese

side of the border away from formal checkpoints, and simply

left, without a hand-over to Burmese authorities. The

deportees often return to Thailand within a day or two.) For

the Rohingya, this would likely result in an entry into the

Thailand-based alien smuggling syndicates that specialize in

moving them by land to Malaysia; there is reason to believe

such syndicates organized their initial boat trip from

Rakhine State.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 21, 2011 at 4:16 am

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