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Cablegate: Thai Government Affirms Importance of Peace Corps and Seeks

VZCZCXRO2855
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHBK #2860/01 3130722
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 090722Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8887
INFO RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 7263
RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002860

Department for EAP/MLS DSmith
Department pass to Peace Corps

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL ECON TH
SUBJECT: Thai Government Affirms Importance of Peace Corps and Seeks
to Deepen Partnership

BANGKOK 00002860 001.2 OF 002


1. Summary: Prime Minister Abhisit, Thai Princess Sirindhorn, and
the Director of Thailand International Development Cooperation
Agency (TICA) all affirmed on November 5 that the Peace Corps
Thailand program remains an anchor of the enduring Thai-U.S.
bilateral partnership. Accompanied by Ambassador John, visiting
Peace Corps (PC) Director Aaron Williams expressed appreciation to
the Prime Minister, Princess, and TICA Director for the support of
the RTG and warm welcome the Thai nation has provided volunteers
throughout the PC's 47 year experience in Thailand. Abhisit noted
his hope that Peace Corps continues to strengthen in presence in
Thailand, particularly through the successful Village Health
Volunteers Program. Director Williams, Ambassador John, and TICA
Director Apinan discussed additional areas for potentially increased
cooperation, including collaboration between PC and TICA on food
security issues, both at the program and field-level. Princess
Sirindhorn shared fond memories of her experience with individual PC
volunteers. End Summary.

Peace Corps and Thailand: An Enduring Partnership
-------------------------------------
2. In separate meetings on November 5, visiting Peace Corps (PC)
Director Aaron Williams and Ambassador John called on Prime Minister
Abhisit Vejjajiva; Apinan Phatarathiyanon, Director-General of TICA;
and Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, a daughter of Thailand's King
Bhumibol, accompanied by Peace Corps Thailand Director John
Williams. Also present in the meeting was Elisa Montoya, Peace
Corps White House Liaison; Allison Price, Peace Corps
Communication's Director; and Jeffrey West, Special Assistant to the
Peace Corps Director. Director Williams expressed deep appreciation
for the continued support of the RTG and Thai people. He described
the relationship between the Royal Thai Government (RTG) and the
Peace Corps as a true partnership, evidenced by the RTG's provision
of all housing costs for all 89 volunteers serving in Thailand, in
addition to approximately USD 24,000 in project support this year.


3. Director Williams explained that Peace Corps' partnership with
the people of Thailand is one of its strongest in the world, dating
back 47 years, during which time nearly 5,000 volunteers have served
in sectors such as education, rural and community development, small
business development, malaria eradication, health and HIV/AIDS,
agriculture, forestry, environment, and fisheries. The PC
Volunteers in Thailand today are working with Thai counterparts on
two projects: one focused on the RTG's education reform initiative
and the other on community based organizational development through
Sub-District Administrative Organizations (SAOs). An additional 61
trainees are expected to arrive in January 2010. Williams explained
our willingness to continue this partnership for as long as the
people of Thailand believe it is beneficial in achieving RTG
development goals and Peace Corps resources allow.

4. Prime Minister Abhisit thanked Director Williams for the Peace
Corps work in Thailand, stating that the Thai people welcome the
volunteers with open arms and that both Thailand and the United
States benefit from the improved cross-cultural understanding PC
promotes. (Note: Director Williams provided anecdotes from his
November 3 visit to volunteers in Utthai Thani and Chainat Provinces
north of Bangkok and others around the world to emphasize volunteers
come from all walks of life and represent various age groups. He
also explained the importance of in-country training for volunteers,
highlighted in Thailand through successful homestays with Thai
families. Williams also shared his pride that Thai national Surin
Pitsuwan, Secretary General of ASEAN, often speaks of his mentoring
as a child by PC volunteers. End Note.) Abhisit noted the
importance of PC's focus on community-based development and a
knowledge-based economy as a way to mobilize social capital. The
Prime Minister also noted Thailand's success in the area of health,
which has caused other countries to look at Thailand's health care
system as a model. As such, the Thai government hopes Peace Corps
can strengthen the Village Health Volunteers Program throughout
Thailand as a possible new area for future collaboration.

Deepening the Partnership
-------------------------
5. In a separate morning meeting, TICA Director General Apinan
echoed PM Abhisit's thanks and praise for PC's enduring partnership
with the Thai people (referring to PC volunteers as ambassadors for
the United States and, upon their return, Thailand's ambassadors
abroad). Linking his comments to greater ASEAN integration, Apinan
explained that the RTG is hoping to expand its own fledgling
international volunteer program, created approximately five years
ago and modeled to a large extent on PC. He stated the program's
focus is on technical cooperation and that volunteers serve in Laos,
Cambodia, Vietnam, Bhutan, and beyond. Apinan eagerly asked about
PC's long-term plans with Thailand, which sparked a discussion in
which he, Director Williams, and Ambassador John exchanged ideas
(and agreed) on possible ways to deepen the already successful
PC-RTG partnership.

BANGKOK 00002860 002.2 OF 002

6. Ambassador John noted the synergy between the goals of the PC
and RTG volunteer programs, and those of the USG Food Security
Initiative. He suggested PC and TICA explore coordination in this
area at the field level, headquarters level, or both. The idea of
developing a partnership, focused on strengthening the Village
Health Volunteers Program was mentioned by Director Williams as an
example of possible new sector for collaboration; but was mentioned
only in terms of possibilities in the future and not as a concrete
proposal.

Additional ideas included:
- have PC volunteers mentor their Thai counterparts in locations
where both PC and Thai volunteers are present;
- have interested Thai university students work voluntarily over
school breaks with PC Thailand volunteers; and
- organize a conference on expanding volunteerism for interested
nations from ASEAN, and the United States.

Princess Sirindhorn
-------------------
7. Princess Sirindhorn was gracious in receiving PC Director
Williams. The Director stated that he was aware of her interest in
promoting volunteerism and that he was aware that the Princess
herself was engaged in supporting many development projects. The
Princess spoke of her work in supporting schools for disadvantaged
children in rural areas throughout the country. She mentioned by
name a Peace Corps volunteer named Sean that she has met in Nan
Province about three years ago and who was teaching English to
novice monks in one of the schools she sponsors in Nan Province.
She also recalled other instances in the past when she had occasion
to meet Peace Corps volunteers. The Director thanked Princess
Sirindhorn for her support for Peace Corps as evidenced by her
patronage at the 45th anniversary celebration of Peace Corps in
Thailand in 2007. Director Williams noted PC Thailand will be
celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012 and that Peace Corps would
be honored if the Princess would join that celebration as well.

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