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Cablegate: Ambassador for Global Women's Issues Melanne

VZCZCXRO8466
PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHBK #3174/01 3510337
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 170337Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9315
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7794
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 0251
RUEHKL/AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR 7975
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 6046
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2175
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 0235
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 7418
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE 0409
RHEFDHS/DIA DHS WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 003174

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP, S/GWI FOR YU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KTIP KWMN KPAO TH
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR FOR GLOBAL WOMEN'S ISSUES MELANNE
VERVEER RENEWS RELATIONSHIPS IN THAILAND

BANGKOK 00003174 001.2 OF 003


1. (U) Summary: Ambassador for Global Women's Issues Melanne
Verveer's December 4-7 visit to Thailand energized RTG and
NGO interlocutors on women's issues and highlighted the
invaluable role USG initiatives play in promoting women's
empowerment in Thailand. During the first leg of her trip in
the northern province of Chiang Mai, Ambassador Verveer sat
down with female activists and journalists involved in the
Burmese exile community and visited projects that promote the
economic empowerment of women and vulnerable populations. In
Bangkok, Ambassador Verveer held productive discussions with
officials from the Ministry of Justice and local grassroots
NGOs, and hosted a luncheon for UN agency representatives in
Thailand.

2. (SBU) Comment: Ambassador Verveer's visit highlighted the
vital importance of the work being done to promote the full
range of women's issues, including gender-based violence
against refugees on the Burmese border, and the RTG's work in
the UN to develop standardized rules governing the treatment
of women prisoners. Ambassador Verveer was able to build on
her previous visits to Thailand to demonstrate the important
role that women's issues play in foreign policy - in all
sectors and throughout every population. End Summary and
Comment.

RENEWING TIES IN CHIANG MAI
---------------------------

3. (SBU) While in Chiang Mai December 5-6, Ambassador Verveer
visited the New Life Center (NLC), a shelter for women and
girls who are victims of human trafficking, sexual violence
or otherwise at risk for exploitation. NLC staff noted that
trafficking for sexual exploitation to traditional brothels
had markedly decreased, especially among the Thais. However,
many adolescent girls, especially from Burma, were still
being trafficked to karaoke bars, massage parlors and other
establishments. NLC staff told Ambassador Verveer that many
of such establishments were located in rural areas along
Thailand's borders with Laos and Burma, where law enforcement
was not as well-developed. Ambassador Verveer commented on
the sizeable expansion of the NLC's empowerment programs
since her last visit over a decade ago, and thanked Director
Karen Smith, NLC staff, and the shelter residents for their
warm reception. Ambassador Verveer praised NLC as a strong
USG partner, noted that as the recent recipient of a G/TIP
grant, the strong collaboration was poised to continue.

4. (SBU) During a December 5 lunch meeting with prominent
Burmese women activists from the Burma Relief Center, Shan
Women's Action Network, the Karen Women's Organization, and
the Kachin Women's Association of Thailand, the participants
decried the use of rape as a tool of war by the Burmese
regime and described in graphic detail several abhorrent
incidents. They urged Verveer to pay more attention to
violence against women, particularly in ethnic areas, and
Ambassador Verveer outlined existing USG initiatives to
combat this problem. Ambassador Verveer was particularly
interested in those organizations' empowerment and capacity
building programs on the border. She further suggested that
the USG could potentially help identify funding for the
purchase of communications equipment, such as satellite
phones, to allow residents in conflict areas to tell their
story to the outside world. She commended all the women for
their bravery and emphasized the Secretary's personal
interest in their plight. At the conclusion of the lunch,
she distributed autographed photos of the Secretary to all
attendees.

5. (U) Following the lunch and a roundtable discussion with
journalists from the Irrawaddy (the leading magazine outside
Burma covering Burmese-related issues) and the Shan Herald
Agency for News, Ambassador Verveer paid a visit to the
Integrated Tribal Development Project, which has helped
countless Hill Tribe families in Northern Thailand switch
from opium to coffee production. The bulk of the coffee is
now sold to Starbucks and a local Chiang Mai cafe; Verveer
praised the project's ability to economically empower
highlanders.

BANGKOK 00003174 002.2 OF 003

BACK TO BANGKOK
---------------

6. (U) During the G/TIP conference for EAP and SCA posts held
in Bangkok on December 7 and 8, conference attendees watched
a video from Secretary Clinton, in which she discussed her
visit to the NLC as First Lady and described the profound
impact interaction with trafficking victims at NLC had made
on her life. Following the video, Ambassador Verveer shared
her detailed recollections from that 1996 visit to NLC as
well as experiences from her just completed trip to Chiang
Mai during her opening remarks. Ambassador Verveer's remarks
focused on how the USG and the Secretary became involved in
the TIP issue, and the importance of continuing USG's
leadership on this issue in the world.

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE MEETING
---------------------------

7. (SBU) Ambassador Verveer met with relevant Ministry of
Justice (MOJ) representatives on December 7 to discuss the
full range of women's issues they address. The MOJ has
worked closely with Princess Bajrakitiyabha, daughter of the
Crowm Prince, since 2008 on the ELFI (Enhancing Lives of
Female Inmates) Project. This collaboration triggered
Thailand's decision to propose draft UN rules on the
treatment of women prisoners, and Ambassador Verveer
discussed the procedural progression of the draft UN rules,
possible areas of collaboration related to United Nations
Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as well as the current
violence against women debates in the UN. While praising
these RTG international efforts, Ambassador Verveer
emphasized that Thailand's domestic policies needed to remain
consistent with its commitment to human rights. After she
was briefed on Thailand's domestic violence law, Verveer
encouraged MOJ officials to visit the United States for
consultation and training, and urged them to work with the
S/GWI office in the future.

NETWORKING WITH NUMEROUS NGOS
-----------------------------

8. (SBU) Ambassador Verveer met December 7 with a with a
small cross section of the sizeable NGO community involved in
addressing women's issues in Thailand. The local grassroots
Friends of Women (FOW) Foundation described its work in
curbing violence against women. FOW then introduced a
domestic violence survivor, who shared her experiences and
told Ambassador Verveer that she had devoted herself to
helping other women. Verveer asked the FOW representatives
about their strategies for engaging men in their efforts, and
they described their successful "Less Drinking Less Violence"
campaign, noting that it was launched after extensive
research had established the connection between alcohol abuse
and domestic violence. Verveer expressed admiration for the
group's use of mainstream media outlets, including Marie
Claire magazine, to share survivor stories, and requested
that they provide English translations of some of their
materials to her office so they could be shared with others.

9. (SBU) Ambassador Verveer also consulted with two larger,
multifaceted NGOS, the Thailand Burma Border Consortium
(TBBC) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), to
discuss their programs on the Burmese border and to get their
perspective on the plight of Burmese female refugees and
displaced persons. Sally Thompson of TBBC gave a detailed
historical, sociological, and geographic picture of the
Burmese border situation based on her two decades of
experience and the many issues that have an impact on women,
ranging from landmines to sex work in refugee camps. Abby
Erikson, who runs the IRC Gender Based Violence program in
Mae Hong Son, addressed the issues of domestic violence and
sexual assault in the camps. She described the refugee camps
as "perfect storms" for violence, due to substance abuse,
depression, and the warehousing of individuals for years on
end. She also spoke about IRC's efforts to engage on access
to justice issues, including both inter-camp alternative

BANGKOK 00003174 003.2 OF 003


dispute resolution and within the Thai system, with
provincial authorities.

10. (SBU) Finally, Verveer met with Dr. Alfred Hannig of
Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) in order to discuss
the financial inclusion of women. AFI is a major Gates
Foundation grantee headquartered in Bangkok; it works with 70
Central Banks and other governmental actors to develop
innovative solutions to allow the 2.5 billion "unbanked"
people in the world to be able to use financial institutions.
AFI's goal is to bring 50 million people into the banking
system over the next four years. Ambassador Verveer and Dr.
Hannig discussed regional projects extensively, and she
encouraged him to follow the model of women's success in
microenterprise and microcredit programs and target them in
the new world of financial inclusion initiatives, a
suggestion that triggered AFI engagement with relevant
contacts at Post.

INTERACTION WITH INFLUENTIAL INTERLOCUTORS
------------------------------------------

11. (U) During a December 7 lunch meeting, Ambassador Verveer
met with all the major United Nations agencies located in
Thailand that address women's issues in the region.
Ambassador Verveer discussed human trafficking, migrant
workers, and violence against women with representatives from
UNIFEM, UNICEF, ILO, OHCHR and ESCAP. She challenged them to
coordinate their work more closely.

12. (SBU) At a December 7 roundtable with Thailand's most
prominent champions for women's rights, Ambassador Verveer
discussed political and economic opportunities for women and
the challenges they face in Thailand. The interlocutors
included Professor Amara Phongsaphit, former Chulalongkorn
University professor and current Chair of Thailand's National
Human Rights Commission (NHRC); Dr. Phutsadi Thamthai, a
Democrat MP and a longtime politician and rights advocate;
and Maytinee Bhongsvej, the Executive Director of the
Association for the Promotion of the Status of Women (APSW).
After Ambassador Verveer was briefed on the background of
these organizations and institutions, she focused on
potential areas for improvement in Thailand, including quotas
for equal participation of women in local governments, an
initiative that had enjoyed great success in India. Verveer
highlighted resources that could be useful, such as the
Gender Gap Report from the World Economic Forum, and she
encouraged the women to use economic entry points to increase
opportunity and start dialogue with male decisionmakers.

13. (SBU) Ambassador Verveer concluded her trip with a dinner
meeting with longtime friend, and foremer senior Thai
official and rights advocate Dr. Saisuree Chutikul. Along
with Phil Robertson, former labor consultant and soon-to-be
Asia Deputy Director for Human Rights Watch, Ambassador
Verveer and Saisuree discussed the new developments in ASEAN,
including both the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on
Human Rights and Saisuree's participation in the working
group that had recently drafted the Terms of Reference for
the nascent ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection
of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC). Ambassador
Verveer intends to find ways to engage with ACWC on issues
and projects once it is launched.

14. (U) Ambassador Verveer's staff has cleared on this cable.
JOHN

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