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Cablegate: Thailand Pushes for Usg Engagement On Asean

VZCZCXRO4280
PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHBK #0385/01 0471005
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 161005Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9948
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 8041
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 0455
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 6225
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 2378
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 0332
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CJCS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 000385

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL PREF ETTC CH JA TH
SUBJECT: THAILAND PUSHES FOR USG ENGAGEMENT ON ASEAN
CONNECTIVITY

REF: A. BANGKOK 113
B. 09 TOKYO 2567
C. 09 STATE 94920

1. (SBU) MFA Department of ASEAN Affairs Counselor Suriya
Chindawongse told PolOff and EXBS Advisor February 12 that
ASEAN leaders had prioritized Connectivity, an ASEAN
initiative established by heads of state and government in
October 2009. Suriya told us that ASEAN would promote
Connectivity as it would facilitate community building among
Southeast Asian nations, and because it would assist in
maintaining ASEAN centrality in regional architecture. As
such, ASEAN would push for inclusion of the project as a
primary agenda item for meetings with Dialogue Partners.

2. (SBU) There are three main focus areas for Connectivity,
Suriya said. These were "hardware", which included physical
linkages such as air, land, and sea transportation
infrastructure; "software" such as legal and other
facilitation arrangements including Customs and Immigration
procedures; and connecting hearts and minds within ASEAN.
Security issues including transnational crime and the
transfer of materials for WMD would also be important areas
for consideration. Security was an area of emphasis for
Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, according to Suriya, and the
Thai MFA planned to consider this carefully as it was
important that Thailand and ASEAN were considered safe and
secure links in the global supply chain.

3. (SBU) To highlight the importance of the Connectivity
project, many ASEAN Foreign Ministers had joined an overland
trip from Mukdahan on the Thai-Lao border across Laos through
the Lao Bao border crossing to Vietnam and on to Danang for
the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Retreat, Suriya said. ASEAN had
organized the trip in order to give Foreign Ministers a
better awareness of what would be needed to improve
transportation links within Southeast Asia. As Foreign
Minister Kasit considered ASEAN Connectivity a priority, the
MFA had in January prepared a paper to further develop the
concept, which FM Kasit tabled for consideration at the
Foreign Ministers retreat.

LOWER MEKONG INITIATIVE TIED TO ASEAN CONNECTIVITY
--------------------------------------------- -----

4. (SBU) While recognizing that the Philippines was
coordinator for U.S.-ASEAN dialogue, the MFA would like to
discuss means of engagement with the USG due to FM Kasit's
strong interest in the project, Suriya said. The RTG hoped
that the USG would engage strategically with ASEAN on
Connectivity so that the project would be considered an
important area of discussion for all levels of U.S.-ASEAN
dialogue. Suriya raised the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI),
launched by Secretary Clinton in July, as a possible
mechanism for assisting ASEAN Connectivity. As such, Suriya
asked when the U.S. would propose to hold the next LMI
meeting. The MFA also pointed out that ASEAN Connectivity
would address the main objectives of State's EXBS program,
and hoped that the two initiatives would be complementary.

JAPAN, CHINA PUSH ASEAN-MEKONG INITIATIVES
------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) Suriya described China and Japan as having been the
most active in helping ASEAN promote Connectivity. The
Chinese were pressing hard for implementation of projects to
be funded through $20.5 billion that had been pledged for
investment cooperation and credit for infrastructure
projects. Japan, having pledged $2 billion, was pushing
forward by means of a November 2009 Japan-Mekong Leaders
Summit and a recent visit of a ten-person team to Thailand to
explore avenues of linking the Japanese Mekong initiative
with ASEAN's Connectivity project.

6. (SBU) While the Chinese and the Japanese were the most
active so far in engaging on Connectivity, ASEAN preferred
that many entities were engaged on the issue, Suriya said.
As such, Thailand and other ASEAN nations were very
interested in learning more about USG thinking in regard to

BANGKOK 00000385 002 OF 002


assisting ASEAN Connectivity.

HIGH-LEVEL TASK FORCE TO DEVELOP CONNECTIVITY CONCEPT
--------------------------------------------- --------

7. (SBU) Suriya told us that ASEAN would appoint a high-level
task force at the end of February or in early March to
develop a master plan for Connectivity, and expected that the
plan would be submitted for approval by the leaders of ASEAN
nations in October. Regarding concerns about how to insure
that an interconnected ASEAN was safe, Suriya asked for USG
assistance in providing papers or studies on USG lessons
learned regarding border security in an interconnected world.
Suriya also suggested that capacity building and
transportation infrastructure lessons from the Mississippi
River could be applied to the Mekong area.

THAI MFA ADJUSTS WHO WILL ASEAN REPRESENTATION
--------------------------------------------- -

8. (SBU) Suriya told us that Deputy Permanent Secretary
Chitriya Pinthong would replace the Permanent Secretary as
Thailand's representative at ASEAN Senior Officials Meetings.
This was the result of a recent reorganization of the MFA
(REF A) that had led to the Permanent Secretary gaining more
responsibility for management of the Ministry. As such,
ASEAN issues would be coordinated by either Foreign Minister
Kasit or Deputy PermSec Chitriya.
JOHN

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