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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07BANGKOK5695
2007-11-06 11:42:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bangkok
Cable title:  

NEXT ASEAN SECRETARY GENERAL ON BURMA

Tags:   PREL  PGOV  PREF  PHUM  KDEM  KPAO  ASEAN  TH  BM 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 005695 

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NSC FOR PHU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/31/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV PREF PHUM KDEM KPAO ASEAN TH BM
SUBJECT: NEXT ASEAN SECRETARY GENERAL ON BURMA

BANGKOK 00005695 001.2 OF 003


Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, reason 1.4 (b) and (d).

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 005695

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

NSC FOR PHU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/31/2017
TAGS: PREL PGOV PREF PHUM KDEM KPAO ASEAN TH BM
SUBJECT: NEXT ASEAN SECRETARY GENERAL ON BURMA

BANGKOK 00005695 001.2 OF 003


Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, reason 1.4 (b) and (d).


1. (C) SUMMARY: ASEAN's incoming Secretary General, Surin
Pitsuwan, stated that a regional approach was the best option
to resolve the current crisis in Burma. During a November 5
meeting with I/O Assistant Secretary Silverberg and the
Ambassador, Surin proposed that ASEAN, China, India, and
Japan come together and act as the guarantor of a process for
change in Burma. The region preferred to handle its own
affairs, he said. But he added that such an approach could
include a mechanism that allowed Western countries to
intervene if the regional core failed to meet pre-determined
benchmarks. Surin conceded that elements of his proposal
needed to be further developed, and it would become
unnecessary if China were to agree to the UN's current
proposal, which would include countries from outside the
region. However, he emphasized alternatives should be
explored if the Burmese and/or the Chinese rejected the UN
proposal. A/S Silverberg and the Ambassador expressed
skepticism about his proposal. Surin plans to present this
concept to Undersecretary Burns, EAP PDAS Davies, and EAP DAS
Marciel on November 13. Surin also presented his priorities
for ASEAN, as he prepared to take over as Secretary General
of the organization in January 2008. END SUMMARY.

--------------
REGION KNOWS BEST
--------------


2. (C) On November 5, I/O Assistant Secretary Silverberg, in
Bangkok regarding the situation in Burma, and the Ambassador
met with the future Secretary General of ASEAN, Surin
Pitsuwan. ASEAN should not be sidelined in attempts to
resolve the crisis in Burma, stated Surin at the onset of the
meeting. He felt this was important for the sake of the

institutional strengthening of ASEAN. The U.S. and EU should
take a step back and allow ASEAN to work with other regional
players such as China, India, and Japan. This approach would
explore dialogue at an intimate level, he claimed, rather
than the unwieldy grouping proposed by UN Special Envoy
Ibrahim Gambari. It would act as a guarantor of the process
rather than provide the substance of the process, which would
be determined by the Burmese. Surin believed that the
Burmese junta might be receptive to this proposal because the
generals would see themselves as dealing with countries with
similar experiences, who would not be inclined to completely
marginalize the military. The generals feared the
international approach, opined Surin, because it implied
outside actors dictating change.


3. (C) Surin believed that the Chinese did not want to
internationalize the response to the crisis in Burma.
However, he felt the Chinese might support an initiative led
by ASEAN that focused on a core group anchored in the region
rather than New York. The region had a long tradition of
non-interference, Surin pointed out. However, an ASEAN-plus
approach would provide China the cover it needed to break
with this tradition because it would demonstrate that there
was an emerging regional consensus for political
reconciliation and transition in Burma. Surin did not
comment on India's or Japan's likelihood of supporting this
proposal.


4. (C) Silverberg told Surin that there existed a perception
in the West that now was the time to act in Burma, and that
countries in Asia had yet to indicate that a regional process
would be pro-active. Surin stood his ground and replied that
the West could blame ASEAN for not taking a firmer stance
against Burma over the past decade, but international
dynamics had changed. The Ambassador agreed with the need
for ASEAN and other countries in the region to play a role in

BANGKOK 00005695 002.2 OF 003


resolving Burma's current crisis. However, he questioned how
a regional process would be received by opposition elements
inside Burma, who mistrust China and look to the U.S. in
particular for support. He also pointed out that Surin's
proposal could be perceived as a warmed-over version of the
discredited Bangkok Process of several years ago. Surin
replied that the answer to their concerns lay in the
two-tiered design of his proposal. He explained that the
core group would be regional, but that the process would
include benchmarks to hold this group accountable. If the
regional group failed to meet the agreed upon benchmarks, the
Western countries and/or the UN would be able justifiably
call them out.


5. (C) The Ambassador indicated that endorsement from the
National League for Democracy and the leaders of major ethnic
groups in Burma would significantly improve any prospects for
Surin's proposal. Surin acknowledged that he had not
finalized the details of his concept of a regional approach.
Silverberg and the Ambassador had valid concerns, he
recognized, and he agreed that such a process must
demonstrate definitive action and progress in order to be
credible in the eyes of the international community and those
working for change inside Burma. Surin conceded that if
China accepted Gambari's offer to join talks with the UN and
players from both within and without the region, his idea for
a regional approach led by ASEAN would be unnecessary. He
stated that ASEAN continued to wait for China to signal its
preferred approach to Burma; meanwhile, ASEAN would publicly
support Gambari.

--------------
ASEAN UNDER SURIN'S LEADERSHIP
--------------


6. (C) Surin also explained his priorities for ASEAN once he
takes over as Secretary General on January 1, 2008. He
viewed his mandate as the spokesman of ASEAN responsible for
strengthening the organization's various initiatives with
international institutions. Under this rubric, he identified
three communities within ASEAN: security (consisting of the
members of the Asian Regional Forum), economic, and
socio-cultural. The socio-cultural community would require
the most attention, he surmised, as it was essential to
creating an identity among the ten ASEAN member countries.
Community building would take the form of projects in the
areas of health, media, education, and the environment.


7. (C) Silverberg mentioned that the U.S. built its sense of
community based on shared principles and ethics among its
population and asked Surin the basis upon which ASEAN would
build its community. Surin answered that certain human
rights principles would comprise a part of the sense of
identity, but that due to the varied backgrounds of the ten
countries, they would have to be careful about identifying
common values. He welcomed that the new ASEAN charter
contained a human rights mechanism, but stated that now ASEAN
must focus on how this mechanism would be put in to practice.

--------------
COMMENT
--------------


8. (C) Surin's proposal for a regional process will resonate
within ASEAN, as have similar suggestions made by Thailand
and Indonesia. We worry that ASEAN, despite its recent
helpful language condemning the crackdown in Burma, has not
yet demonstrated a serious commitment to pushing the Burmese
regime to address international concerns, and that most
individual ASEAN governments are comfortable with China's
stance to date toward Burma. It is unclear to us whether

BANGKOK 00005695 003.2 OF 003


Surin's proposal reflects primarily a well considered view on
how best to bring about change in Burma, or a desire to
provide ASEAN (and its Secretary General) with the highest
degree of influence and stature. On November 13 Surin is
scheduled to meet with Undersecretary Burns, EAP/PDAS Davies,
and EAP/DAS Marciel. He plans to present his proposal in
these meetings as well. End Comment.


9. (U) A/S Silverberg did not have the opportunity to clear
this cable.
BOYCE