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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BANGKOK1105
2005-02-11 08:06:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bangkok
Cable title:  

THAILAND: AMBASSADOR CALLS ON ROYAL THAI SUPREME

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  MARR  TH  POL  MIL  BURMA  PKO  IMET 
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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 001105 

SIPDIS

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

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/08/2015
TAGS: PGOV PREL MARR TH POL MIL BURMA PKO IMET
SUBJECT: THAILAND: AMBASSADOR CALLS ON ROYAL THAI SUPREME
COMMANDER CHAISIT

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

SUMMARY



1. (C) On February 8, the Ambassador met with Royal Thai
Armed Forces Supreme Commander General Chaisit Shinawatra to
discuss a variety of security issues. Chaisit was grateful
for U.S. assistance to help Thailand mitigate the impact of
the tsunami and correctly noted that our use of Utapao as a
regional hub was due to years of U.S.-Thai cooperation. He
explained that his Government hopes to use military to
military ties with Rangoon to improve Thai-Burmese relations
since it is especially difficult for Thai civilian leaders to
develop relationships with Burmese military counterparts.
Chaisit several times suggested that change in Burma will be
a slow, step by step, process. He was critical of some
aspects of the RTG's policies to curb unrest in the south.
For instance, he suggested that it would be wiser to place
Thai soldiers along the Thai-Malaysian border rather than
have them billeted in urban centers. General Chaisit was
convinced that foreign influences and lack of economic
opportunity combine to encourage Muslim youth in the south to
explore separatist causes. When the Ambassador asked about
the possibility of Thai troops returning to Iraq, Chaisit was
caught unaware that Thailand had recently agreed to dispatch
peacekeepers to Burundi, but his staff noted the importance
of working with UN forces. Chaisit's staff wanted increased
U.S. assistance to combat narcotics and to build a National
Training Facility to improve their unconventional warfare
tactics. When they asked us to increase our IMET funding,
the Ambassador noted that Thailand could increase its quota
of students by co-paying transportation and per diem costs.
End Summary.

TSUNAMI ASSISTANCE

SIPDIS



2. (C) Chaisit began the meeting by mentioning he had just
visited Utapao naval air station and had met with CSF-536
commander LtGen Blackman. He again expressed his
Government's gratitude for U.S. assistance after the December
26 tsunami. Noting the importance of using Utapao as a
regional relief hub, Chaisit said our bilateral cooperation
was only possible due to decades of working together.

COBRA GOLD



3. (C) Saying he was glad that Cobra Gold 2005 would still
take place, Chaisit explained the importance of U.S.-funded
Exercise Related Construction (ERC) projects. LTG Kemarat
Kanchanawat, Chaisit's J-3, said that ERC projects are
generally planned out five years in advance and that, even
though this year's Cobra Gold will take place in the northen
part of Thailand, Supreme Command supports doing some ERC
projects in the south to help mitigate the impact of the
tsunami.

SIPDIS

BURMA



4. (C) The Ambassador asked about Chaisit's recent visit to
Burma. Chaisit is convinced that the best way to reduce much
of the cross-border tension is to build up the legitimate
cross-border economic trade. He also cited the large number
of displaced persons without a national identity in Burma as
the cause of many border problems. Chaisit discussed the
difficulty his Government has working with Rangoon's SPDC
ruling junta, citing that each of the 17 members has his own
agenda and own power base. Due to the military structure of
Burma's government, he explained, the RTG's engagement
strategy with Burma is to use military to military links to
help the Thai Foreign Ministry effectively engage with
Burmese counterparts. Even then, Chaisit emphasized, it
remains difficult to understand with confidence who is best
to work with on any given problem. Chaisit also focused on
the difficulty of governing a country as diverse as Burma.
He seemed convinced that Burmese ethnic factionalism and the
lack of a common national identity make the SPDC's job even
more difficult. Although he believed that Aung San Suu Kyi
would eventually be released from captivity, Chaisit said
that the resolution of her case, as well as the pace of
reform generally in Burma, will be a slow, step by step
process.

SOUTHERN THAILAND



5. (C) Turning to the separatist problems in southern
Thailand, Chaisit again emphasized the need for economic
development and better education. He explained that the lack
of legitimate jobs in the region force many to work on the
gray or black market. He was suprisingly frank and critical
of two political decisions in the south. First, he said that
he strongly disagreed with the decision made three years ago
to remove Thai troops from the region. During that period
when troops were not present, he observed, separtists used
the opportunity to become stronger and to enhance links with
outside groups. Second, Chaisit was very critical of the
Royal Thai Army's decision to billet troops in urban areas.
While quick to point out that overall responsibilities for
tactics in the south belong to the Royal Thai Army, not
Supreme Command, General Chaisit told me that if the decision
were his, he would move all of his troops to the
Thai-Malaysian border, sealing that border, and only have
undercover operatives working in the cities. He confirmed
previous DAO reporting that a new Infantry Division, the
15th, would be set up to work in the south.



6. (C) Repeating a theme Thai leaders have mentioned
frequently lately, Chaisit seemed convinced that foreign
influence among Muslim youth in the south is growing. The
lack of educational opportunities coupled with high
unemployment make them ripe targets for recruitment by
separtist organizations, he noted. He mentioned how many
Muslim boys could not speak Thai effectively and were lured
to Pakistan and other countries to receive instruction at
Koranic schools.

ANOTHER PKO OPPORTUNITY



7. (C) The Ambassador noted the RTG's recent decision to
send peacekeepers to Burundi and asked whether we could
expect a return of Thai troops to Iraq. Chaisit was caught
unaware of the Burundi PKO mission, his staff was up to speed
and quickly mentioned the importance of coordinating such
work through the United Nations.


INCREASED U.S. ASSISTANCE



8. (C) As expected, Chaisit and his staff had a number of
suggestions for how the United States could improve our
military cooperation. General Kemarat noted the importance
of jointly developing a National Training Facility that could
help the Thai and U.S. improve capabilities in counter
narcotics, counter terrorism, and urban warfare. LTG
Chayasit Linthong, Supreme Command J2, said that he had read
recently that Secretary Rice had promised increased
assistance to U.S. allies in the War on Terror. If this is
true, J2 Chayasit said, Thailand would like to know whether
funds would be available for Thailand. Supreme Commander
Chaisit repeated earlier requests for U.S. assistance in
acquiring Cobra helicopters. He said these could be used in
conjunction with UAVs to strike at militants.

IMET



9. (C) The Ambassador used LTG Kemarat's request that we
augment our IMET assistance to Thailand to remind GEN Chaisit
that Thailand was currently America's fourth largest
recipient of IMET funds. The Ambassador suggested that
Thailand could increase the number of students training in
the U.S. if the RTG would begin copayments to cover
transportation and per diem costs, as they had prior to the
1997 economic crisis. Chaisit's staff countered by saying
their own training budget to support IMET was shrinking. The
Ambassador said he might raise this issue with Prime Minister
Thaksin, which the Thai side heartily endorsed.
BOYCE