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Cablegate: Thai Civil Society Raises Public Awareness About Burma

VZCZCXRO7589
RR RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHCHI #0165 2850440
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 120440Z OCT 07
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0578
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 0629

UNCLAS CHIANG MAI 000165

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM TH BM
SUBJECT: THAI CIVIL SOCIETY RAISES PUBLIC AWARENESS ABOUT BURMA


------------------
SUMMARY
-----------------

1. (SBU) For the first time ever, Chiang Mai University (CMU)
held a public meeting on Burma designed to increase awareness of
the problems caused by the Burmese regime's repressive policies
and encourage students to pay closer attention to the plight of
the Burmese people. The gathering was well-attended by
university students and faculty, as well as Burmese exiles.
Separately, a loose grouping of students and NGOs led by a CMU
professor issued a statement calling for respect for democracy
in Burma that was broadcast by CMU radio. These events may mark
the beginning of increased activism on Burma by Thais in the
northern part of the country after years of indifference toward
the situation there . End Summary.

2. (U) On October 2, Consulate staff attended Chiang Mai
University's first ever public discussion on Burma, which was
attended by approximately 200 students and university staff.
Panelists included Toe Zaw Latt from the Democratic Voice of
Burma (DVB), Ethnic Nationalities Council (ENC) General
Secretary Lian Sakhong, and Charm Tong of the Shan Women's

SIPDIS
Action Network (SWAN). The exile activists provided their
perspective on recent events in Burma, as well as some basic
background information on a wide range of issues, including
refugees, health, and the plight of women inside the country.
They appealed to the audience to pay closer attention to events
in Burma, emphasizing that what happens inside Burma directly
affects Thailand.

3. (U) Charm Tong (SWAN) called openly on the Thai government to
implement a "clear-cut" policy regarding refugees from Burma,
particularly affording them proper protection and granting
asylum. She also called on the Thai government to halt joint
investment projects in Burma, particularly in ethnic areas,
making specific reference to a proposed hydroelectric dam
planned on the Salween River. In his speech, Lian Sakhong (ENC)
highlighted the effects of the deteriorating situation inside
Burma on the Southeast Asian region as a whole, emphasizing in
particular problems caused by refugees, disease, and narcotics
trafficking. He asserted that the Burmese regime's main
lifelines are: Chinese aid, trade and investment; revenue from
narcotics trafficking; and trade with ASEAN. Lian Sakhong also
made an impassioned appeal to the attendees to pay close
attention to events in Burma and their impact on Thailand, even
in the midst of the active domestic Thai political scene.

4. (U) On October 3, the day after the CMU-hosted discussion, a
loose grouping of students and NGOs called "Protection of
Democracy and the Environment," which is led by a CMU professor,
issued a statement that was broadcast on CMU radio condemning
the violent crackdown on the demonstrators by Burmese
authorities. The statement called on key regional players, such
as China, India and ASEAN, to come up with a clear plan to solve
the "Burma problem," including the suspension of investment,
particularly in natural resource projects. Lastly, the
statement called for the general public to pressure governments
to help return democracy to Burma.

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

5. (SBU) Though the CMU discussion and subsequent public
statement will not change the course of events on the ground
inside Burma, we believe they are significant. CMU has never
hosted a public gathering to discuss Burma before, and it is not
common for Thai civil society groups to speak out bluntly about
Burma. These events may signal the beginning of an attitudinal
change on the part of some segments of Thai society from
indifference to the plight of the Burmese people to recognition
that the Burmese regime's repression impacts the Southeast Asian
region as a whole, and that Burma's neighbors can and should
play a constructive role in solving the country's problems. We
will continue to monitor Northern Thai civil society groups to
determine whether they expand upon these nascent efforts.

6. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassies Bangkok and
Rangoon.

MORROW

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