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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
04RANGOON1225
2004-09-16 10:58:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Rangoon
Cable title:  

THE BURMESE REGIME'S "SELECTIVE ENGAGEMENT" WITH

Tags:   PREL  PGOV  PINR  MARR  BM  TH 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 RANGOON 001225 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/BCLTV; INR/B; PACOM FOR FPA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/14/2014
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR MARR BM TH
SUBJECT: THE BURMESE REGIME'S "SELECTIVE ENGAGEMENT" WITH
THAILAND

REF: A. BANGKOK 6164


B. RANGOON 512 AND PREVIOUS

Classified By: COM Carmen Martinez for Reasons 1.4 (b,d)



1. (C) Summary: A recent exchange of top military visits
between Burma and Thailand indicates improving relations
between the SPDC and the Royal Thai Armed Forces and is a
sign that many wounds have healed since the two armies
squared off during a series of deadly border skirmishes in
mid-2002. However, SPDC Chairman Senior General Than Shwe
has apparently failed to respond to multiple requests from
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin to meet in Rangoon, a likely
indication that the regime's new found comfort zone with the
Thai does not extend from the uniforms to the suits. End
Summary.



2. (U) On the heels of Burmese Joint Chief of Staff General
Thura Shwe Mann's August 24-26 visit to Bangkok (reftel),
Thailand's top military brass made recent, successive visits
to Rangoon to meet with senior SPDC officials. From August
31 to September 1 Royal Thai Army Commander in Chief General
Chaisit Shinawatra made a two-day visit to Rangoon. Just
over a week later, September 10-11, Supreme Commander General
Somdhat Attanand made an almost identical high-profile visit.
Gen Chaisit will replace Gen Somdhat as Supreme Commander on
October 1.



3. (C) Each Thai general had substantive meetings with the
SPDC's top two leaders, Senior General Than Shwe and Vice
Senior General Maung Aye. According to Thai Embassy
political counselor Kallayana Vipattipumiprates, who attended
all of the meetings, General Chaisit gave Than Shwe
assurances that his forces would not allow insurgents to use
Thai territory as a base "to disrupt" neighboring countries
and that he was confident his successor, deputy CINC General
Pravit Kongsuwan, would adhere to the same policy. Although
the two generals did not discuss ongoing talks between the
SPDC and the Karen National Union (KNU), Than Shwe expressed
an appreciation for the role Thai forces had played in
"controlling" the border environment, observing that a more
secure border would lead to mutually beneficial development.



4. (C) According to Kallayana, General Chaisit's meeting with
Maung Aye revealed interesting commentary from the Burmese
Army chief. Maung Aye said that "it is time we opened our
hearts to those who seek a peaceful and democratic" Burma and
he expressed the SPDC's desire to complete the regime's road
map as soon as possible. It had not been easy negotiating
with the ethnic cease-fire groups, he said, but the GOB had
achieved progress, including with the KNU. Maung Aye
repeated the word "democracy" several times, said Kallayana,
but qualified his remarks by adding that Burma "seeks a
version of democracy that is acceptable to the (Burmese)
people and to the international community," a process that
"might take longer than expected and therefore we are not
certain about a timeline for the road map."



5. (C) The SPDC accorded the same red-carpet treatment to
General Somdhat Attanand's follow-on visit, including
meetings with top SPDC authorities, an official dinner for
the "Thai goodwill delegation," and full coverage by
state-run media. SPDC Chairman Than Shwe, according to the
Thai political counselor, told Somdhat he wanted to continue
"close relations" between the Burmese and Thai militaries and
hoped there would be no disruption after the Supreme
Commander retires in October. At the official dinner on
September 10, host Vice Senior General Maung Aye joked to his
guests about his own retirement, saying he was "an old man,"
and identified JCS Shwe Mann, Secretary 1 Lt Gen Soe Win, and
Secretary 2 Lt Gen Thein Sein as "my replacements."

SIPDIS



6. (C) The Thai Minister of Defense is also expected to make
a visit to Rangoon in the coming months. However, the SPDC
has failed to respond to several requests by Prime Minister
Thaksin to meet with Senior General Than Shwe. The PM has
made at least two official requests and the Burmese have to
date ignored the issue. According to Kallayana, the PM is
keen to advance a plan involving Thai support for the
development of Dawei, a southern Burmese port city near the
Thai border, and other bilateral issues. The RTG, he said,
views PM Khin Nyunt as "hamstrung" by the less flexible Than
Shwe and consequently Thaksin wants to "go to the top" and
deal directly with the SPDC Chairman.



7. (C) Comment: The SPDC generals take great delight in
hosting visitors such as the Thai military leadership: the
discussions focus on mutual border issues; their guests are
polite and avoid raising sensitive political issues; and in
the process the Burmese relish a perceived boost in their
legitimacy. However, the SPDC's apparent dismissal of PM
Thaksin's quiet entreaties is puzzling, particularly given
Thaksin's willingness to create a "soft" international venue
(the "Bangkok Process") for the Burmese regime to pitch their
road map. The Thai political counselor says the RTG is
surprised by the snub and he opines that Than Shwe is keen to
avoid Thaksin because the SPDC suspects ("with good reason")
that the Thai will raise the continued detention of Aung San
Suu Kyi and other "unpleasant" political issues. End Comment.



8. (U) This message has been coordinated with Embassy Bangkok.
Martinez