Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Consulate Chiang Mai
RR RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHCHI #0091/01 1830655
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 020655Z JUL 09
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1085
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 1167
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CHIANG MAI 000091
NSC FOR PHU
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM TH BM RP MY SN
SUBJECT: ASEAN MPS HEADLINE ASSK BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION
REF: 07 CHIANG MAI 165 (THAI CIVIL SOCIETY)
CHIANG MAI 00000091 001.2 OF 002
Sensitive but unclassified; please handle accordingly.
Summary and Comment
¶1. (U) Four members of the ASEAN Inter Parliamentary Myanmar
Caucus (AIPMC) called for tougher action against Burma by
Thailand and other ASEAN nations at a June 19 event jointly
hosted by Chiang Mai University to mark Aung San Suu Kyi’s 64th
birthday. Atypically for Burma events here, a large proportion
of the crowd was Thai, and many Thai press turned up.
¶2. (SBU) Comment: There are very few ethnically Thai civil
society groups working on Burma issues. The high turn-out at
this event may, however, be a sign that Thais — particularly
younger ones — are beginning to care more about Burma. The
auditorium was packed, mostly with college student-aged
individuals — standing room only. The number of Thais in
attendance at this event was proportionally much higher than in
the past, when Burmese formed the bulk of attendees. Burmese
accounted for the majority of the audience at an event held in
2007, just after the Saffron Revolution (Reftel). End Summary
Burma: Is Thai Civil Society Beginning to Care?
¶3. (SBU) On June 19, Pol/Econ staff attended an event to mark
Aung San Suu Kyi’s 64th birthday held at Chiang Mai University.
It was sponsored by the University’s Regional Center for Social
Science and Sustainable Development (RCSD) and the Center for
Ethnic Studies and Development (CESD) in conjunction with the
AIPMC. Previous Burma events at Chiang Mai University have been
hosted by the CDCE (Community Development and Civic Empowerment)
Program, which exclusively targets Burmese for capacity building
and training, and is relatively new. The RCSD and CESD on the
other hand are well-established at the University. Furthermore,
RCSD President and well-respected Thai professor Chayan
Vaddhanaphuti opened the forum, and participated until its
conclusion. To our knowledge, this is the first time Dr. Chayan
has lent his name to an event specifically focused on Burma.
¶4. (U) The invitation to the event stated that its purpose was
to “bridge a gap of understanding among Thai public and academic
communities regarding Burmese situations and its people.” (SIC)
It went on to say “The issues of democracy and ethnic
struggles, transborder investment and its impacts in relation to
Thailand, including internally displaced people (IDP) will be
highlighted in the forum.” (SIC)
¶5. (U) In his opening remarks, Dr. Chayan emphasized the impact
the situation in Burma has on the region, and that Thais should
care about what transpires there — right in Thailand’s
backyard. AIPMC President Kraisak Choonhavan (a Thai) led off
the presentations by MPs, followed by Loretta Ann P. Rosales
from the Philippines, M. Kulasegaran of Malaysia, and
Singaporean MP Charles Chong.
MP’s: ASEAN Must Do More
¶6. (U) Former Senator and current Democrat Party List MP
Kraisak, who has a long history of anti-SPDC rhetoric, told the
150-strong crowd, which was made up mostly of Thais, that Burma
was ASEAN’s “worst problem.” If Burma continued to ignore ASEAN
statements calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, ASEAN
would have to reconsider Burma’s membership, he said. He
pointed to the doubling in the number of political prisoners
since 2007 and the fact that most Burmese have not even seen the
text of the 2007 constitution as evidence of the Burmese
regime’s on-going human rights violations.
¶7. (U) Kraisak also pointed out the applicability of the ASEAN
Charter to the situation in Burma, particularly sections one and
two dealing with land, habitat, human security and public
health. Kraisak claimed that Burma’s failure to comply with the
Charter is what prompted Thai PM Abhisit to “condemn” the
situation there and call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Thais, he said, should be “embarrassed” by the situation in
Burma, pointing to the Burmese IDPs driven into Thailand by
fighting on the border and by the planned construction of dams
and gas pipelines in Burma funded by UNOCAL (now Chevron).
(Note: The dams, if built, will provide electricity to Thailand,
even though severe power shortages still persist in Burma.)
CHIANG MAI 00000091 002.2 OF 002
¶8. (U) Kraisak also stated that the international community
should make use of judicial bodies like the International
Criminal Court to act against Burmese Senior General Than Shwe.
The important thing, he opined, is that the international
community consider Than Shwe a war criminal like Sudanese
¶9. (U) Filipino MP Loretta Rosales focused her remarks on the
role of educational institutions in raising awareness of Burma.
She spoke passionately of an upcoming appearance she would make
at the University of the Philippines in Manila, emphasizing that
she would convey the important contributions Thai students were
making in this regard based on her experience in Chiang Mai.
¶10. (U) Kulasegaran discussed his role in forming a caucus of
Malaysian MPs on Burma, and pressuring the GOM to take a more
proactive stance. He also criticized the GOM’s investments in
Burma saying, “It’s all about dollars and cents at the end of
the day for governments such as Malaysia ,who invest with a
military that uses the money to repress and harm its leaders
like Aung San Suu Kyi and its citizens and not help them at
all.” ASEAN, he said, needed to introduce sanctions against
Burma or suspend it; ASEAN’s only success so far has been
convincing Burma not to assume the chairmanship in 2004.
¶11. (U) Singaporean MP Charles Chong recapped the history of
Burma’s relations with ASEAN, noting that ASEAN allowed Burma to
join in 1997 with the expectation that Burma’s membership would
give ASEAN a measure of influence over the situation there.
However, both ASEAN’s constructive engagement and western
sanctions have failed, he argued. While asserting that the UN
Security Council was the only mechanism that could effectively
bring change to Burma, Chong demonstrated an understanding of
the difficulties involved, pointing to the vetoes cast by Russia
and China when the Council voted on a resolution in 2007.
The Regime’s World View According to One Exile
¶12. (SBU) A Burmese journalist in exile also addressed the
gathering, asserting that the Burmese regime divides the world
into two groups – enemies and friends. The generals, he said,
see the Burmese people as subjects of their “empire.” Anyone
who opposes their will is viewed by the generals as an enemy, he
argued. Right now, democracy and federalism are the regime’s
two enemies, he asserted, making any supporter of these concepts
an enemy by association. He argued that Aung San Suu Kyi
represents democracy, and the ethnic groups represent
federalism, which is why both are still oppressed.