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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BANGKOK3930
2005-06-14 10:48:00
SECRET
Embassy Bangkok
Cable title:  

(C) THAILAND: ALLEGED USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS

Tags:   PINR  MOPS  PHUM  TH  BM  BURMA 
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						S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 003930 

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV, USPACOM FOR FPA HUSO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/13/2015
TAGS: PINR MOPS PHUM TH BM BURMA
SUBJECT: (C) THAILAND: ALLEGED USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS
ALONG THAI BORDER (C-AL5-00590)

REF: A) STATE 101852 B) RANGOON 714

Classified By: Classified by Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke, Reas
on: 1.4 (c) and (d)

S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 003930

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV, USPACOM FOR FPA HUSO

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/13/2015
TAGS: PINR MOPS PHUM TH BM BURMA
SUBJECT: (C) THAILAND: ALLEGED USE OF CHEMICAL WEAPONS
ALONG THAI BORDER (C-AL5-00590)

REF: A) STATE 101852 B) RANGOON 714

Classified By: Classified by Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke, Reas
on: 1.4 (c) and (d)


1. (S) Summary: The senior Thai Foreign Ministry (MFA)
official covering Burma told poloffs that the Royal Thai
Government (RTG) has no hard evidence confirming the reported
use of chemical weapons by the Burmese Army against ethnic
Karenni soldiers near the Thai border in February 2005.
These reports originated with representatives of NGOs in
Thailand and the international NGO Christian Solidarity
Worldwide (CSW) which described the claimed effects of
chemical weapons on Karenni soldiers. Subsequently, two
Burma Army defectors claimed that they saw chemical weapons
stocks and had witnessed the firing of chemical weapons
mortars by Burmese troops. The RTG says it has investigated
the chemical weapons use claims and found no solid evidence
substantiating the reports. Responses to specific questions
in Reftel can be found in keyed answers below. Embassy
Rangoon and Consulate General Chiang Mai have cleared on this
message. End Summary.


2. (S) Please find responses to questions in Reftel
Paragraph 4, section A, below.

1) On June 13, Minister Counselor Damrong Kraikruan,the MFA
Burma Desk Officer, told poloffs that the RTG took note of
allegations reported by CSW and "indirectly" contacted CSW
and others to investigate the claims. He said the RTG had
not found any credible evidence of chemical weapons use. He
stated that neither CSW nor the United Nations had contacted
the RTG about this issue, and indicated that the RTG is not
any longer actively investigating this issue.

2) Damrong stated that some Thai officials, whom he did not
name or identify by agency, had asked Burmese SPDC officials
about the reports. The Burmese, he said, denied any use of
chemical weapons.

3) Poloff spoke with Dr. Martin Panter of CSW, who stated
that he had learned about the alleged chemical weapons attack
from a well-known resident private Amcit in Thailand, David

Eubanks. Eubanks is the founder of an NGO, the Free Burma
Rangers (FBR), which clandestinely crosses the Thai-Burma
border with armed Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA)
escorts to provide humanitarian relief, mostly medical, to
displaced ethnic minority persons and others in Burma.
Panter stated that CSW had been documenting human rights
abuses in Karen, Karenni and Mon states for more than 15
years. CSW, he said, previously reported on suspected
chemical weapons use by the Burma Army but there was very
little international interest. Panter stated he has been
coming to the Thai Burma border area since 1987, first to
teach health and tropical medicine in refugee camp clinics
and later in some areas inside Burma. He has worked mostly
with the Karen, and began working with Karenni at their
invitation in 1992. He stated that CSW has an ongoing health
project in the large Mae La refugee camp outside of Mae Sot,
Thailand. He noted that in 1995 there was a report of
biological weapons use by the Burma Army's 7th Brigade of the
Burma Army, but CSW did not issue a public report at that
time due to lack of evidence.

4) Post is not aware of any official investigation by the
United Nations in Bangkok. Panter told Poloff that the UN
Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, Prof. Paulo
Pinheiro, had contacted CSW, but Panter did not know the
status of Pinheiro's inquiries.


3. (S) Poloff contacted David Eubanks, who recounted that
he had been deep inside nearby Karen State in early February
when a contact of his at the Karenni National Progressive
Party (KNPP) headquarters called him by satellite phone to
report that shells had landed at the base which emitted a
strange odor and smoke that caused burns and nausea to some
of the KNPP fighters. A few days later, Eubanks claimed he
had proceeded to the KNPP camp and accompanied 3 injured KNPP
fighters to a private Christian hospital in Chiang Mai, where
they were treated by an expatriate physician. Eubanks then
contacted Panter, who arrived in Chiang Mai from Australia,
where he resides, in early March. Panter claimed that he
used "Jane's Biochemical Weapons Guide," a matrix of
examination criteria used in determining the treatment of
those suspected of being exposed to chemical weapons attacks,
to perform individual evaluations, including a medical
history and physical examination. He stated that his
examinations indicated "a very high likelihood" of a chemical
attack. Panter returned to Thailand in mid-April when two
Burma Army soldiers defected to the Karenni. The two teenage
soldiers claimed that they had been required as new Burma
Army conscripts to haul mortar shells stored in boxes marked
with skull and crossbones. They claimed they had witnessed
the firing of these shells by troops wearing gas masks and
gloves.


4. (S) The following are responses to questions in Reftel
Paragraph 4, section B.

1) There is no evidence that the RTG is attempting to ignore
the reported use of chemical weapons in order to maintain
good relations with the SPDC. In fact, their willingness to
bring it up directly with the Burmese authorities indicates
how seriously they have taken this issue.

2) MFA official Damrong stated that if the allegations proved
to be true, it would have a "very serious" impact on
Thai-Burma relations.

3) Damrong said no samples of chemical weapons use (clothes,
shell casings, etc.) were received by the RTG. There is no
indication the RTG visited the site of the claimed use of
chemical weapons.

4) The RTG did not approach CSW directly, which was confirmed
by CSW. Damrong indicated that the RTG had "indirectly" made
inquiries, but did not provide details. (Comment: Damrong's
use of "indirectly" means that Thai intelligence assets were
involved. End Comment.)

5) According to David Eubanks of FBR, an unnamed expatriate
medical doctor, who has worked two years at a private
Christian hospital in Chiang Mai, treated three Karenni men
who were exposed to the claimed chemical agents. The doctor
determined that they were exposed to some chemical substance
but, since the doctor had no training in chemical weapons,
could not determine what it was. The three men were later
taken to a Thai hospital, where the Thai doctors refused to
treat them. FBR claims to have videotaped interviews with
the three Karenni men and still photo footage of their
wounds. Eubanks opined that it was tear gas or some other
chemical agent that caused their wounds. Eubanks claims that
the KNPP provided him with shell fragments and soil samples,
which he sent to a friend of his, a retired Thai Army
General. Eubanks said his former General friend has not
contacted him since he handed over the samples. He also
claimed that some journalists from the UK were given soil
samples, which reportedly tested negative for chemical agents
by a laboratory in the UK. Eubanks said he passed on the
information to CSW because FBR could not run the story
publicly out of fear of offending the Thai government.
BOYCE