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Cablegate: New Consulate Opens in Northern Thailand

DE RUEHCHI #0166/01 3090217
P 040217Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

CHIANG MAI 00000166 001.2 OF 002

Summary and Comment

1. Consul General and five staff engaged in "soft diplomacy"
while operating as "ConGen Chiang Rai" during a two-day road
show to the city October 29-30. Based at the brand new Le
Meridien Hotel - which is managed by the U.S. firm Starwood - CG
hosted a reception and U.S. wine promotion for 80 local
Americans and Chiang Rai community leaders. CG also visited a
secondary school and hospital that American missionaries founded
over a century ago. At the former, he addressed 700 students
and faculty about the 175th anniversary of U.S.-Thai relations.
CG held a one-hour Thai-language interview with three dozen TV,
radio and print journalists; partnered with the EducationUSA
advisory network to hold two outreach events promoting
higher-education opportunities in the U.S.; and hosted a lunch
with recent International Visitor alumni. Lastly, CG visited
the New Life Center to deliver books donated by the Ambassador's
wife to teenage hill tribe girls sheltered and educated there.
Throughout the two days, staff provided consular services to
local American citizens.

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2. Comment. "ConGen Chiang Rai" encountered highly receptive
audiences at every event. The two-day road show to northern
Thailand's second-largest city advanced our Mission Strategic
Goal of promoting deeper understanding of the U.S. and its role
in the world, especially among younger Thais. Our public
encounters allowed us encourage a better understanding of
democracy among the local populace, and to share ideas about
American culture and society. Moreover, our message highlighted
the wide-range of Mission efforts supporting issues important to
the Thai Government and people. We plan to take our road show
to Lampang in Spring 2009. End Summary and Comment.

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Soft Diplomacy in the North's "Second City"
--------------------------------------------- ---------

3. We selected Chiang Rai as the venue for our two-day road
show given its status as northern Thailand's second-largest
province (1.3 million people, including a significant ethnic
minority population). Chiang Rai's size makes it a political
heavyweight in the region, with eight seats in the national
parliament. For three straight elections dating back to 2001,
all eight seats have been swept by the governing People's Power
Party and its Thai Rak Thai antecedent. Economically, Chiang
Rai holds promise as Thailand's gateway to the Greater Mekong
Subregion and its growing trade flows to and from China via
neighboring Laos and Burma.

--------------------------------------------- --------------
Outreach, Business Promotion Among Community Leaders, Local
--------------------------------------------- --------------

4. We staged "ConGen Chiang Rai" out of the brand new Le
Meridien hotel, which is managed by Starwood, a U.S. company.
We were in fact the hotel's very first overnight guests, and
helped put the property on the local map by drawing about 80
American and Thai guests to a reception there the evening of
October 29. CG addressed the guests, who included the city's
mayor and the president Chiang Rai's leading university, by
highlighting the century-old links between Americans and Chiang
Rai as well as this year's 175th anniversary of U.S.-Thai
relations. Guests visited a promotional corner decorated with
U.S. flags, posters and brochures. Guests also were served
"Peter Vella" wine from California that is imported by
Thailand's Siam Winery.

5. During both days of the road show, "ConGen Chiang Rai"
provided consular services to American citizens in the area, who
comprise a sizeable portion of the over 7,000 Americans resident
in our northern Thailand consular district.

--------------------------------------------- -----------
Promoting Educational Opportunity in the U.S.
--------------------------------------------- ------------

6. Several road show activities focused on educational
opportunities in the U.S. At the Chiang Rai Wittayakhom School,
founded by American missionaries in 1888, CG spoke in Thai to
700 students and faculty about study programs in the U.S., and
described how educational exchanges have been a central part of
the 175 years of U.S.-Thai relations. CG and staff then visited
Overbrook Hospital, also founded by American missionaries over a
century ago.

7. We also partnered with the Thailand office of EducationUSA,

CHIANG MAI 00000166 002.2 OF 002

a State Department-funded educational advisory network, for two
outreach events promoting higher-education opportunities in the
U.S. One event was held at Chiang Rai's most prominent
secondary school, the Samakkhee Wittayakhom School. There the
CG kicked off an EducationUSA advisory session with about 50
students, faculty, and guidance counselors from four area
schools. In his remarks, CG noted that Thailand ranks ninth in
the world in terms of the number of foreign students who pursue
studies in the U.S. CG and staff also visited an EducationUSA
promotional booth at the Chiang Rai branch of Thailand's
American University Alumni Association, which provides
English-language training for Thais and Thai-language training
for Americans and other foreigners.

Meet the Press

8. A keynote event of the road show was CG's one-hour
Thai-language interview with over 30 TV, radio and print
journalists. The journalists included stringers from several
national newspapers and the Chiang Rai affiliates of four
national television stations as well as Radio Thailand. CG
opened the session with remarks about the purpose and goals of
the two-day road show, and highlighted the 175th anniversary of
U.S.-Thai relations as well as the upcoming U.S. presidential
elections. During the Q-and-A session that followed, CG
commented on the U.S. electoral process, the impact of the U.S.
presidential elections on our Asia policy, the global financial
crisis, Thailand's domestic political crisis, U.S.-Thai
counternarcotics cooperation, U.S. policy toward Burma, and U.S.
diplomatic objectives and operations in northern Thailand.

Support for Vulnerable Populations

9. We concluded our two-day road show with two events that
highlighted USG support for NGOs engaged in combating
trafficking in persons (TIP). CG hosted a lunch with four
recent International Visitor alumni, three of whom had visited
the U.S. on anti-TIP programs. CG and staff also visited the
New Life Center to deliver books donated by the Ambassador's
wife to teenage hill tribe girls sheltered and educated there.
The Center, a registered NGO that was founded in 1987 by
American Baptist missionaries, shelters about 60 female hill
tribe teens who are at-risk for or have experienced labor
exploitation. The Center also offers educational opportunities
to these young women, who have little or no previous formal

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