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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BANGKOK1036
2005-02-09 09:48:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bangkok
Cable title:  

THAILAND: AMBASSADOR CALLS ON DEFENSE MINISTER

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  TH  BURMA  IRAQ  POL  MIL 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001036 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, EAP/BCLTV, INR/B
PACOM FOR FPA (HUSO)
OSD FOR OSD/ISA (STERN AND POWERS)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2014
TAGS: PGOV PREL TH BURMA IRAQ POL MIL
SUBJECT: THAILAND: AMBASSADOR CALLS ON DEFENSE MINISTER
SUMPUN


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



1. (C) SUMMARY: During an introductory call on Defense
Minister Sumpun Boonyanun February 3, Ambassador discussed a
wide range of subjects and positively reaffirmed the overall
excellent relations between our two militaries. They
exchanged views on the tsunami relief effort and overall
U.S./Thai military cooperation; ongoing violence in southern
Thailand and regional terrorism; Burma; Iraq; and the sale of
U.S. F-16s to Thailand. END SUMMARY.

TSUNAMI RELIEF

SIPDIS



2. (C) On February 3, Ambassador made a formal introductory
call on Minister of Defense Sumpun Boonyanun. On the
regional impact of the tsunami, Sumpun expressed his, and
Thailand's gratitude for the immediate and significant U.S.
relief effort in Thailand. Sumpun noted that the MOD had
been in contact with the U.S. the day of the disaster, and
the U.S. had dispatched the first C-130 within 24 hours.
Ambassador agreed that the impressive display of our
militaries, and those of other countries, working together
showed the benefits of years of joint training and
operations. He thanked Sumpun for the use of the Utapao
Naval Air Base, noting it had saved lives throughout the
region. Sumpun noted that Admiral Thana, 3rd Naval Area
Commander, and General Boonsrang, Supreme Command Chief of
Staff had reported that the cooperation and coordination
between the Thai and U.S. military at Utapao and in the
Phuket area has been excellent.



3. (C) Ambassador asked Sumpun if Thailand planned to
dispatch additional aid or relief personal to Indonesia,
noting that images of Thai soldiers helping Muslims would pay
dividends with Thailand's Muslim neighbors, and with
Thailand's own Muslim population. Sumpun said they were
considering sending aid in addition to the one C-130 supply
relief mission they had dispatched earlier.

VIOLENCE IN THE SOUTH



4. (C) Ambassador asked Sumpun for his assessment of the
current situation in southern Thailand and the likely
prospects for the future. Sumpun said that it was important
to bear in mind the historical context of the violence;
noting that problems between ethnically Malay-Muslims and
Buddhist-Thais go back "hundreds of years." Sumpun noted
that there remained deep cultural divisions between the two
populations that needed to be addressed. He said that he
believed that education and job creation were keys to ending
the violence and the Muslim's alienation. Sumpun admitted
that security remained a problem in the south and that the
RTG had not found an effective formula for dealing with the
common "hit and run" style attacks used by the militants.
Sumpun also admitted that the RTG had experienced some

difficulty identifying the perpetrators, but claimed that
there were no more than 3,000 committed militants behind the
violence.



5. (C) Ambassador asked Sumpun about newspaper reports that
a new infantry division was being created for the south.
Sumpun said Prime Minister Thaksin had asked the Cabinet to
approve creation of the 15th Infantry Division. He said that
the division would not have a combat role, but would work on
engineering, medical, and civil affairs projects. Sumpun
confirmed that the division would report directly to Royal
Thai Army headquarters.

INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM



6. (C) The Minister indicated that the specter of
international terrorism remained a concern for the Thai
government. Sumpun said that the RTG was well aware that the
long-term goal of Jemaah Islamiah (JI) was the inclusion of
southern Thailand into a regional Islamic state. While they
are taking JI seriously, and remained vigilant, the RTG has
not found direct evidence of its presence in southern
Thailand. Sumpun said the RTG remained concerned that other
transitional terror groups would try to "take advantage" of
the situation in the south.

BURMA



7. (C) Ambassador asked Sumpun about the situation in
Burma, particularly the swirling rumors of ongoing leadership
struggles. Sumpun demurred, repeatedly saying that "there
are a lot of unknowns" regarding the regime. He noted that
Supreme Commander Chaisit had spent two days in Burma in
January, and had met with all members of the junta's
leadership. However, Sumpun cautioned that he didn't trust
these "outward expressions from the Burmese," and again
reiterated that the country remains a mystery, even to the
Thais.

IRAQ



8. (C) Ambassador raised the subject of Iraq, and prospects
for another Thai deployment. Ambassador acknowledged the
sensitivity of the issue given the current situation in the
south, and also the sensitivity of Thailand's Muslim
neighbor. Sumpun indicated that some form of deployment
remained under consideration, but the timing and scope had
not been determined. He studiously avoided further
elaboration. Sumpun did inquire about additional training
opportunities through International Military Education and
Training (IMET) program.

F-16s



9. (C) Ambassador made a strong, direct pitch for a
positive decision on the purchase of U.S. F-16s as Thailand
retires its aging fleet of F-5 fighters. While acknowledging
the advantages for inter-operability and the positive RTAF
experience with the F-16, as well as Thailand's long-term
goal of buying into the Joint Strike Fighter program, Sumpun
remained non-committal. He indicated that he understood the
obvious drawbacks of both the Swedish Gripen and the Russian
SU-30, but said that the RTG was still involved in serious
discussions with the Russians over trading chicken for the
SU-30, as offsets remained a primary consideration for the
deal.
BOYCE