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Cablegate: Japanese Consulate General Expanding Presence in Northern Thailand

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

UNCLAS CHIANG MAI 000215

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PINR PREL PHUM TH JA CH
SUBJECT: JAPANESE CONSULATE GENERAL EXPANDING PRESENCE IN NORTHERN THAILAND

REF: A) CHIANG MAI 214, B) CHIANG MAI 195, C) CHIANG MAI 72, D) 2004 CHIANG MAI 278

1. Summary. Japanese diplomatic representation in Chiang Mai
continues to expand with the addition of a fluent Thai speaker, the first to be stationed in the north in many years. The Consul General has made it clear that Japan is interested in playing a more active role in this region and that he welcomes cooperation with our staff on a variety of issues. End summary.

2. With the arrival of Thai specialist Horikoshi Hisao, the Japanese Consulate General in Chiang Mai now has seven officers on the diplomatic list. Upgraded from consulate status in January 2004 and the only Japanese diplomatic representation outside of Bangkok, the consulate forms with the U.S. and China the triad of Consulates General in Chiang Mai.

3. Newly arrived officer Horikoshi Hisao paid an introductory call to the U.S. Consul General and ConOff September 16, accompanied by Consul Itaru Yoshida, who handles security
issues. The two were eager to hear U.S. perceptions of the
threat level in northern Thailand, whether we had increased security as a result of the Haad Yai airport bombing in April, and how we handle security for large receptions, such as the Emperor's Birthday celebration the Japanese Consulate will host in December.

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4. Hisao described the Consulate's 2004 upgrade as based on three main factors: (1) the growing number of "long-stay"
Japanese citizens in northern Thailand, (2) specific requests from Japanese businesses in nearby Lamphun province, and (3) interest in Burma border issues and transnational drug trafficking.

5. While not expressed openly, the increased Japanese role is likely also aimed at balancing growing Chinese influence in northern Thailand (ref b, d). In a lunch discussion September 29 with ConOff, Hisao dismissed the recent Thai-Chinese talks on economic partnerships (ref a) and other recent trade talks as largely agricultural in nature and of little monetary value to either side. Instead, he saw increased commercial engagement by China in Thailand as a means of exerting its influence in regional political and economic affairs, just as he said the U.S. and Japan were doing through their free trade agreements with Thailand.

6. The Japanese Consulate has already gained visibility with a number of activities, including a grant of $80,000 for anti-trafficking work in Phayao province (ref c), a recent donation of ambulances, and several cultural exhibits. Hisao estimated that 1,800 Japanese citizens reside in a consular district of nine northern provinces (vs an estimated 5,000 AmCits in our US consular district of 15 provinces). Japanese businesses, mostly electronic assembly plants, dominate the nearby Lamphun industrial estate, operated by the Industrial Estate Authority of Thailand. The biggest of more than 15 Japanese-owned companies in the export-processing zone is "Murata," employing 2,000-3,000 workers. (One U.S. electronics company, Innovex, operates in the same industrial zone.)

7. Hisao, a career Thai specialist, has spent almost his entire career in Bangkok or the Foreign Ministry's Thailand desk. He also studied for two years at Thammasat University and lived with a Thai family to perfect his language skills. Even the five months he spent in the U.S. were in the Southeast Asia studies program at Cornell University.

8. This is not the first time that the collegial Japanese Consul General Katsuro Shinohara has sent staff to consult with us. He himself has come over to compare notes on Burma and, on another occasion, to consult on a list of management practices regarding local staff. Our vice consuls have compared consular practices, including the proper procedure for denying a visa (the Japanese politely escort rejected applicants to a private room for the denial and return the application fee). CG Shinohara has been very open with us on matters of mutual concern and has participated in U.S. Consulate-sponsored programs such as a seminar on the U.S.-Thai Free Trade Agreement July 17.

9. Comment: The addition of a Thai-speaking officer with interests similar to ours opens up possibilities for joint
collaboration. In particular, our shared concern about
trafficking in persons, particularly in Phayao province, could lead to productive future cooperation on programs and approaches to this issue.


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