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2005-11-04 01:01:00
Embassy Bangkok
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 006909 



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: State 166554

1. Summary: In FY06, the Regional Environmental Office (REO)
based in Bangkok will continue its broad range of activities
in 25 countries in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. Three
priority topics, however, will likely dominate the attention
of this hub - avian influenza, efforts to combat illegal
wildlife trafficking, and engagement in ongoing negotiations
on the environmental chapter of U.S.-Thailand bilateral Free
Trade Agreement (FTA) and the bilateral Science and
Technology Agreement being negotiated separately but in
parallel with the FTA. Avian influenza, in particular, is a
major concern for this hub - if a human-to-human outbreak of
the disease occurs or if a third wave of animal-to-human
cases occurs in Southeast Asia, this hub, which works
closely on the issue with Bangkok-based personnel of the
U.S. Health and Human services/Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention (HHS/CDC), and with health personnel at the
regional USAID Mission (USAID/RDMA), will have the
opportunity to play a key coordinating role between agencies
at U.S. Missions in the region. In order to prevent avian
influenza from consuming all REO time and resources, REO is
discussing with the Embassy front office, the Economic
Section, and Human Resources Section the possibility of
assigning a Junior Officer to the REO as part of a Consular-
Economic Section rotational tour. Priorities, anticipated
activities, training, and percentage of time spent on each
activity are discussed in detail below. End Summary.



2. Avian influenza: REO has met with host government
counterparts in Vietnam, Cambodia, and the Philippines on
avian influenza, and coordinates closely with the Bangkok-
based HHS/CDC, USAID/RDMA health personnel, and U.S. Foreign
Agriculture Service on this issue. In October 2005, REO
served as the overall control office for Health and Human
Services Secretary Leavitt's visit to Thailand. REO also
drafted Embassy Bangkok's Avian Influenza Tripwires and
Response Plan. In addition, REO will continue and increase
its participation in avian influenza public speaking and
public outreach events (following on a presentation in
Manila and several speaking engagements in Bangkok in 2005).
Even if a human-to-human outbreak of the disease occur does
not occur, the REO will play a key coordinating role among
U.S. agencies and Missions in developing and implementing
prevention and outbreak containment plans in the region,
including activities to prevent and contain avian influenza
funded through the FY05 Tsunami Relief Act emergency
supplemental appropriation.

3. HIV/AIDS: REO will continue its close working
relationship with Bangkok-based HHS/CDC and U.S. Armed
Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS) in
their work on vaccine and treatment regimens. The hub will
also continue its efforts to allow for local production of
anti-retroviral medications through the Thailand Government
Pharmaceutical Office as part of President Bush's Emergency
Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The REO also coordinates USG
activities, including providing input to the Global Fund,
and the work of NGOs in the region, especially on cross-
border HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.

4. Other Infectious Diseases: The REO plans to increase
its involvement with HHS/CDC, AFRIMS, USAID/RDMA, bilateral
USAID Missions, and NGOs in combating infectious diseases
such as tuberculosis, malaria, dengue fever, and other
infectious diseases that, although do not capture public
attention like avian influenza or HIV/AIDS, are more
insidious in the region.



5. Combating Illegal Wildlife Trafficking: The REO
organized a regional workshop for ASEAN countries October 17-
21 in Thailand that produced a Memorandum of Understanding
to create a regional law enforcement network against illegal
wildlife trafficking. The MOU will be signed at a
ministerial-level meeting, also to be organized by the REO
in Thailand in December, just ahead of the ASEAN heads of
state summit, which will be held in Kuala Lumpur. The REO
will also work closely with the NGO WildAid and USAID/RDMA
in the implementation of a long-term program to follow up on
the creation of the wildlife law enforcement network. In
addition, the REO plans to work closely with constituent
governments to advocate increased penalties and higher
prosecutorial priority in bringing wildlife smugglers to
justice in the region's criminal court systems. REO also is
also maintaining an oversight role with the NGO TRAFFIC in
its ongoing program using USG funds to provide capacity
building to airport and airline officials in key cities in
Asia. Finally, the REO plans to increase it monitoring and
reporting of illegal wildlife trafficking in the region.

6. FTA Environmental Chapter: The hub will play an active
role, along with USTR and EPA counterparts, in developing an
environmental chapter in the bilateral FTA currently being
negotiated with Thailand. The goal is to negotiate an
environmental chapter that will bind both parties to a
commitment not to fail or effectively enforce their
environmental laws, through a sustained or recurring course
of action or inaction, in a manner affecting trade. In
addition, the negotiations will explore several avenues for
joint cooperative activities in environmental matters.

7. Illegal Logging: In tandem with efforts to combat
illegal wildlife trafficking, the REO will continue to
advance President Bush's initiative to address illegal
logging. In particular, the hub will work through the
International Tropical Timber Organization constituent
governments on efforts to better control the legal cutting
and export of ramin wood and other timber and non-timber
forest products as permitted under CITES. The hub will also
meet and work with constituent government agencies and NGOs,
in conjunction with bilateral USAID missions, to develop
better methods for protecting national forests, combat
corruption and promote good governance, and educate and
advocate for the rights of forest-dwelling indigenous
peoples to harvest forest products in a sustainable manner.

8. Integrated Water Management and Sanitation: The REO will
work closely with USAID/RDMA and its contractor in a large-
scale regional program to increase the accessibility to
clean drinking water and water for sanitation for Asia's
burgeoning urban population, especially Asia's poor urban
population, through a variety of means, including improved
management of water utility companies. The REO will also
work to improve shared water resources management activities
through coordination with USAID/RDMA and implementing
partners such as the Mekong River Commission (MRC). In
particular, the REO will maintain its own dialogue with the
MRC while exploring possible expanded collaboration between
the MRC and USAID's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance
(OFDA), and potential collaborative arrangements between the
MRC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

9. Integrated Coastal and Marine Management: The REO was
not as active as it would like to be in 2005 in coastal and
marine management, and expects to devote more time to the
issues that fall under this topic in FY 2006. In
particular, the REO plans to become more actively involved
in regional efforts to develop sustainable fishing
practices, in coral reef conservation and rehabilitation
activities, and sea turtle conservation efforts, and in
mangrove conservation and reforestation, as well as issues
important to sustainable development in coastal areas -
hotel and other tourism infrastructure construction, shrimp
farming, residential zoning, etc.

10. Sustainable Development through Eco- and Cultural
Tourism: The REO plans to work with USAID/RDMA and various
local and international NGOs to examine best practices in
eco- and cultural tourism. Eco-and cultural tourism, when
practiced effectively, can help preserve environmental
resources and cultural heritage, especially among indigenous
peoples, while at the same time affording local village
people the prospect of increasing their income earning
potential and diversify their livelihood opportunities away
from environmentally exploitative means. When practiced
unsuccessfully, eco- and cultural tourism can be
ecologically damaging and culturally exploitative in itself.

Science and Technology


11. Science and Technology Agreement: The REO will
maintain close coordination with State's OES Bureau and
other USG agencies in negotiating an S&T agreement separate
but parallel to the environmental chapter of the U.S.-Thai
FTA. Preliminary discussions have already been held
separately and on the margins of the FTA negotiating

12. Tsunami Early Warning System: Throughout the first half
of 2005, the REO played a leading role in the coordination
of USG efforts to assist in the establishment of an Indian
Ocean Tsunami Warning System (IOTWS). USAID/RDMA has now
taken the lead on this issue, but the regional environmental
hub will continue to play an important role in coordinating
and monitoring the efforts of NOAA, USGS, the U.S. Forest
Service, U.S. Trade Development Agency, and USAID/RDMA in
the development of an IOTWS.

Cross-cutting Issues


13. Close Coordination with USAID/RDMA: USAID/RDMA has
recently broadened its regional environmental programs from
a focus on brown issues such as urban air and water quality
to include blue issues such as coastal and marine resource
management, and green issues such as biodiversity and
wildlife conservation. USAID/RDMA has included the REO as
an integral part of its expanded regional environmental
activities - for example, inviting REO to sit on its
technical evaluation committee to evaluate and select
contractors for its clean drinking water and sanitation
program, which will include activities across the region
from the Philippines to India. REO will continue its close
working relationship with the USAID/RDMA Environmental
Office as it expands its regional environmental activities.

14. Establishment of a new Environmental Hub in Suva: The
Department, recognizing that limited resources and the sheer
geographic stretch of its constituent posts has hindered the
Bangkok REO's ability to maintain effective involvement with
its twelve constituent Pacific Island nation states, is
establishing a separate Pacific Environmental Hub based in
Suva, Fiji, in the summer of 2006. The Bangkok-based REO
will work closely with the incoming hubster and his/her new
FSNs to create a first-rate Pacific REO that will
effectively address the environmental and health concerns of
these island nations that are too often neglected or

15. Regional ESTH Officer's Conference: REO is planning to
hold an ESTH officers' conference for the region after the
Chinese New Year in 2006. This will be an opportunity for
ESTH officers to network with each other, regionally based
government agencies and NGOs, and participants from
Washington to strategize on bilateral and regional
opportunities to advance U.S. goals on environmental, health
and S&T issues.

16. Personnel: The geographic reach of the Bangkok regional
hub is so vast and the environmental, health, and S&T issues
so broad, that the REO is often hard-pressed to cover any of
the various issues with the depth necessary for
effectiveness. Because of a continuing housing shortage at
Embassy Bangkok, the REO is unable to bring over and utilize
the services of a Science Fellow. Additional manpower would
be helpful, however, especially if avian influenza
increasingly diverts human resources away from other issues.
To that end, REO is exploring with the Embassy front office,
the Economic Section, and Human Resources Section the
possibility of assigning a Junior Officer to the REO as part
of a Consular-Economic Section rotational tour. (Note: The
REO currently consists of the hub officer, an EFM (eligible
family member), and an FSN embedded in an Economic Section
with five other officers, two other FSNs, and an OMS.)

17. Muslim Outreach: Recognizing the importance of the
Department's Muslim World outreach strategy, the REO will
work closely with ESTH officers in Malaysia and Indonesia to
identify aspects of our bilateral S&T and/or environmental
activities that can be integrated with the concept of Muslim

Percentage of Time to be Spent on Each Priority



18. Avian influenza is the wildcard here - a human-to-human
outbreak or an increase in animal-to-human cases could mean
an explosive amount of avian flu-related activities and a
corresponding reassignment of workload priorities for U.S.
missions' resources in the region, including those of the
REO. Assuming that avian influenza remains a threat, but
not a pandemic, the REO estimates the following percentages
of time to be spent on each priority issue identified above:

Avian influenza: 20 percent
HIV/AIDS: 5 percent
Other Infectious Diseases: 5 percent
Overall Health: 30 percent

Combating Illegal Wildlife Trafficking: 15 percent
FTA Environmental Chapter: 10 percent
Illegal Logging: 5 percent
Integrated Water Management and Sanitation: 5 percent
Coastal and Marine Management: 5 percent
Eco- and Cultural Tourism: 5 percent
Overall Environment: 45 percent

Science and Technology Agreement: 5 percent
Tsunami Early Warning System: 5 percent

Overall Science & Technology: 10 percent

Coordination with USAID/RDMA: 2 percent
Establishment of a new Environmental Hub in Suva: 5 percent
Regional ESTH Officer's Conference: 4 percent
Personnel: 1 percent
Muslim Outreach: 3 percent
Overall Cross-cutting Issues: 15 percent

REO Travel Plan


19. All regional travel will include meetings and activities
associated with more than one listed priority so, it would
be difficult to make a list of planned travel under each
priority as requested in reftel. Most regional travel will
include meetings and public outreach associated with avian
influenza. Most travel will also include activities
associated with wildlife trafficking and/or illegal logging.
Travel to Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia will include
meetings and activities associated with marine and coastal
resource management. There will be travel associated with
the FTA and S&T Agreement negotiations, but the next formal
session will be in Thailand and the location of subsequent
sessions have not yet been decided. Travel to Fiji, Samoa,
and Papua New Guinea will be to gain a first-hand
understanding of the environmental and health issues that
will need to be addressed in the creation of the new Suva
hub. The following is a tentative schedule of REO travel in
the region:

November 2005: Vietnam (to participate in "S&T Days" event
and meet with CDC and USAID on avian flu activities)

December 2005: Papua New Guinea (to discuss wildlife,
forestry, HIV/AIDS, avian influenza, and other infectious
disease issues)

February/March 2006: Indonesia and Malaysia (to discuss
avian flu, wildlife, logging, coastal and marine issues)

April 2006: Fiji, Samoa, Tuvalu (to learn Pacific Island
environmental and health issues and lay groundwork for new
environmental hub)

June 2006: Cambodia, Laos, Burma (to discuss avian flu,
wildlife and forestry, HIV/AIDS, and other infectious
disease issues)

August 2006: Philippines (to discuss coastal and marine
issues primarily)

Note: The above travel plan is skeletal to allow
flexibility to attend conferences and other events as yet
unscheduled or unplanned.

Anticipated Training


20. The REO intends to send its FSN to attend the FSI ESTH
training for FSNs (PE 221), September 18-29, 2006.