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Cablegate: Scenesetter for Congressman Faleomavaega,S January

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ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 070908Z JAN 10
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9496
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 0282
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 5887
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 6085
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 2213
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 0253
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 7473
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 2202

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 000043

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR WALTON
H PLEASE PASS TO CODEL FALEOMAVAEGA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM TH
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR CONGRESSMAN FALEOMAVAEGA,S JANUARY
16-17 VISIT TO BANGKOK

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1. (U) This message is Sensitive but Unclassified. Please
handle accordingly.

2. (SBU) Congressman Faleomavaega, Embassy Bangkok warmly
welcomes your visit. You will arrive January 16 to a Kingdom
of Thailand divided politically and focused inward, uncertain
about the country's future after revered but ailing 82 year
old King Bhumibol eventually passes. Despite ongoing
domestic discord, Thailand's strategic importance to the U.S.
cannot be overstated. As one of only five U.S. treaty allies
in Asia, Thailand remains crucial to U.S. interests in the
Asia-Pacific region and beyond. The U.S. mission in Thailand
-- which is one of the largest in the world with over 2000
employees from nearly 40 different departments and agencies
-- affords the U.S. a regional operating platform that would
be almost impossible to replicate elsewhere. In just the
last three months alone, the U.S.-Thai partnership has
yielded a promising new lead in the drive to develop an HIV
vaccination and the seizure of more than 35 tons of North
Korean weapons, two examples which serve to illustrate the
depth and breadth of a relationship that provides
incalculable benefits in the military, law enforcement, and
health/disease research fields. Your meeting with the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs offers an opportunity to thank
the Thai for our productive alliance partnership, and to
express our support for Thailand's democracy to meet its
current challenges and emerge strengthened.

Temporary Calm in a Troubled Kingdom
------------------------------------

3. (SBU) The last eighteen months were turbulent for
Thailand. Court decisions forced two Prime Ministers from
office, and twice the normal patterns of political life took
a back seat to disruptive protests in the streets. The
yellow-shirted People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) occupied
Government House from August to December 2008, shutting down
Bangkok's airports for eight days, to protest governments
affiliated with ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The
red-shirted United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship
(UDD), followers of Thaksin, disrupted a regional Asian
Summit and sparked riots in Bangkok in mid-April 2009 after
Thaksin, now a fugitive abroad in the wake of an abuse of
power conviction, called for a revolution to bring him home.
2010 promises to be just as contentious, with Thaksin and the
red shirts having vowed to redouble their efforts to topple
the government in the New Year. While both yellow and red
try to lay exclusive claim to the mantle of democracy,
neither is truly democratic in intent or tactics.

4. (SBU) The current PM, Abhisit Vejjajiva, is a photogenic,
eloquent 44-year old Oxford graduate who generally has
progressive instincts and says the right things about basic
freedoms, social inequities, policy towards Burma, and how to
address the troubled deep south, afflicted by a grinding
ethno-nationalist Muslim-Malay separatist insurgency. He is
beset with a fractious coalition, as well as a resurgent
post-2006 coup military.

5. (SBU) While Thailand in 2009 was more stable than in 2008,
mid-April 2009 red riots notwithstanding, few observers
believe that the deep political and social divides can be
bridged until after King Bhumibol passes and Thailand's
tectonic plates shift. Nearly everyone expects the monarchy
to shrink and change in function after succession. How much
will change is open to question, with many institutions,
figures, and political forces positioning for influence, not
only over redefining the institution of monarchy but, equally
fundamentally, what it means to be Thai.

Engaging a long-term ally and friend strategically
--------------------------------------------- -----

6. (SBU) Both major parties in Thai politics -- the ruling
Democrats and the opposition, Thaksin-affiliated Puea Thai

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(For Thai) party -- are favorable towards the U.S.; in fact,
there are no radical, non-middle of the road parties
represented in the Thai parliament. The USG has consistently
stressed the importance of all sides working out differences
within the democratic framework and without resort to
violence, as well as our support for long-time friend
Thailand to work through its current difficulties and emerge
as a more participatory democracy.

7. (SBU) The North Korea challenge via implementation of
UNSCR 1874, Burma policy, the development of ASEAN, and
contentious relations with Cambodia are key foreign policy
issues to raise with the MFA. The rise of China is another
strategic issue worth addressing.

8. (SBU) There are several bilateral concerns of note. On
refugees, the recent forced repatriation of two groups of Lao
Hmong in late December provoked an international outcry;
Thailand continues to host more than 140,000 Burmese and
facilitate resettlement of more than 14,000 refugees to the
U.S. annually. Thai authorities facilitated the arrest of
notorious Russian arms trafficker Viktor Bout in March 2008,
and though a lower court ruled against the extradition
request in August of 2009, we remain hopeful this ruling will
be overturned on appeal. Owing to our longstanding bilateral
commercial treaty, U.S. firms receive preferred national
treatment in a number of sectors, bolstering a strong trade
and investment relationship, but Thai officials need to do
more to strengthen the investment climate, particularly on
Customs reform and intellectual property rights enforcement.

Enduring value from the relationship
------------------------------------

9. (SBU) Regional operational platform: The U.S. mission in
Thailand is one of the largest and most diverse in the world
- with over 2000 employees representing nearly 40 different
departments and agencies - for good reason: we can accomplish
a tremendous amount in Thailand, not only bilaterally but as
a regional platform, often in ways that would be almost
impossible to replicate elsewhere. More than half of the
mission's employees work regionally, not bilaterally, and
Bangkok's role as a regional operational, assistance,
financial/IT support, and training hub for the USG will
continue to expand in the coming years.

10. (SBU) Health/disease research: With approximately 400
Mission staff working on health issues, the Embassy hosts one
of the USG's largest efforts to fight the world's most
dangerous diseases: malaria; TB; dengue; HIV/AIDS; and
pandemic influenza. CDC, USAID, USDA/APHIS, and the Armed
Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences (AFRIMS)
collaborate with Thai counterparts on basic research and
trial vaccines, and are platforms for assistance throughout
the region. The sophistication of the Thai scientific and
public health community makes collaboration as useful to the
USG as it is to the Thai. A number of important
breakthroughs, such as in the prevention of HIV/AIDS
transmission from mothers to children, were developed here,
and the first partially successful phase III, double blind
trial for a potential HIV vaccine occurred in 2009; a second
such trial run by CDC is currently ongoing.

11. (SBU) Mil-Mil ties: As one of five U.S. treaty allies in
Asia and straddling a major force projection air/sea
corridor, Thailand is crucial to U.S. security interests well
beyond Southeast Asia, and facilitates military exercises
that would be difficult to duplicate elsewhere.

12. (SBU) Law enforcement: 40 years of law enforcement
cooperation initially focused on counter-narcotics efforts
has expanded to all aspects of transnational crime, defending
U.S. interests and securing extraditions of both U.S.
citizens and third country nationals, and building capacity
in the Thai criminal justice system. Eighteen federal and

BANGKOK 00000043 003 OF 003


local law enforcement agencies are currently represented in
the Embassy. The U.S. and Thailand co-host the International
Law Enforcement Academy, a regional platform to promote law
enforcement professionalism.
JOHN

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