Cablegate: Asean: Mfa Puts Spin On Meeting - Pushes Thai

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In an unusual move, the MFA summoned the
diplomatic corps to a briefing on the results of the recently
completed ASEAN Ministerial, Post Ministerial, ASEAN plus
Three and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). The MFA touched on
Rangoon's decision to forgo its turn as ASEAN Chair, UN
reform, the East Asia Summit, proposals for an ASEAN Charter
and ASEAN Defense Ministerial meeting, and readouts of the
ASEAN plus One sessions. However, MFA officials spent much
of the briefing emphasizing Thai Deputy Prime Minister
Surakiart's bid to become UNSYG. While ostensibly about
ASEAN, the MFA's briefing appears to be another attempt to
create momentum behind Surakiart's candidacy for UNSYG. END

2. (SBU) On August 3, the Thai MFA summoned the diplomatic
corps for a briefing on the outcome of the ASEAN Ministerial,
Post Ministerial, ASEAN Plus Three and ARF meetings which had
been held in Vientiane July 25-29. The briefing was lead by
Suriya Chindawongse, MFA's ASEAN policy director. Suriya
said the briefing had been called to emphasize the "highly
successful" nature of the ASEAN meetings, and to highlight
key issues on the ASEAN agenda.


3. (U) Suriya touched briefing on Rangoon's decision to
forgo their rotation as ASEAN Chair in 2006. MFA officials
distributed copies of the July 26 Statement by ASEAN Foreign
Ministers announcing that Burma had decided to relinquish its
turn to be ASEAN Chair. Suriya emphasized that the decision
to pass the Chair, while welcomed by ASEAN, was Burma's alone.


4. (SBU) MFA also distributed copies of the July 26 ASEAN
Foreign Ministers' Statement on UN reform. Suriya emphasized
the statement was a "consensus" document, and that ASEAN was
concerned that the push by "some" countries for a permanent
seat on the Security Council was divisive and is distracting
from a comprehensive approach to reform at the UN.


5. (U) There was a brief discussion on the December 14 East
Asia Summit (EAS). Suriya confirmed that the EAS would be
chaired by ASEAN and that China, Japan, South Korea,
Australia, New Zealand and India had all met the three
criteria endorsed by ASEAN for inclusion in the EAS. Suriya
noted that Russia had expressed interest in the EAS but that
a consensus had not been reached within ASEAN and that the
EU's request for observer status is being considered. Suriya
also indicated that ASEAN would press to have the EAS held
every two years (vice three).


6. (U) Suriya described ASEAN's "long-term project" of
building an ASEAN Charter. Suriya noted that ASEAN was in
the process of creating an Eminent Persons Group (EPG) to
provide Charter recommendations to ASEAN in time for the 2006
summit. He said the EPG would be made up of mostly former
leaders of ASEAN countries -- naming former Philippine
President Fidel Ramos as one possibility.


7. (U) Suriya commented on the progress for a proposed
ASEAN Defense Ministerial meeting. He said that ASEAN
members are still "building consensus" on details for a
Ministerial but there is agreement in principle for such a
meeting. Suriya confirmed that Thailand has offered to host
the proposed Ministerial which they hoped would take place in


8. (SBU) MFA provided a brief readout on each of the ASEAN
plus One meetings. The July 28 meeting with the U.S. was
characterized as "positive," with coordination on a range of
issues. The Thais emphasized the proposal to develop an
enhanced partnership with the U.S. and the positive
contribution that the U.S.'s ASEAN Cooperation Plan made to
the ASEAN Secretariat. Suriya noted that ASEAN had urged the
U.S. to work on a region-wide Trade and Investment Framework


9. (SBU) During the briefing MFA officials repeatedly
referred to Deputy Prime Minister (and former Foreign
Minister) Surakiart Sathirathai's public campaign to become
the next UN Secretary General. Suriya called Surakiart
"ASEAN's, not Thailand's candidate" and claimed that the
candidacy had been a topic "in all the meetings." He said
that ASEAN members had agreed to a coordinated policy to
promote Surakiart's bid and that member states would pursue
the candidacy as "the ASEAN candidate" because "ASEAN
believes this is Asia's turn."

10. (SBU) COMMENT: MFA's summoning of the entire
diplomatic corps after a relatively routine ASEAN meeting is
highly unusual. In the past, briefings for the dip corps has
been reserved for issues that require the Thai government to
offer an explanation for highly controversial events -- most
recently the issuance of the Emergency Decree that replaced
Martial Law in far southern Thailand. For many of the
diplomats present -- notably representatives from African or
South American nations -- ASEAN issues are not usually at the
top of their policy agenda. While the August 3 briefing was
ostensibly about ASEAN, it became quickly apparent that the
command performance was simply a pretext for the Thais to
continue their push of Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart's
ambitious bid to become UNSYG. END COMMENT

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