CABLE: Law enforcement cooperation between Thailand and the United States runs deep

“197904”,”3/20/2009 4:14″,”09BANGKOK706″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”09BANGKOK611″,
“P 200414Z MAR 09
“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L BANGKOK 000706


E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/19/2014


Classified By: Amb. Eric G. John. Reason: 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: As one of five U.S. treaty allies in Asia,
and the only such on the mainland of SE Asia, straddling a
major force projection air/sea corridor, and as one of Asia\’s
democracies, Thailand remains crucial to U.S. interests in
the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. For decades law
enforcement (LE) cooperation has been a core component of a
broad and deep relationship which has served both countries,
interests. From an initial primary focus on
counter-narcotics efforts, chiefly in combating heroin
trafficking from the Golden Triangle and promoting
alternative development to opium cultivation within Thailand,
the LE relationship has expanded greatly, defending U.S.
interests and persons. For instance, the U.S. and Thailand
co-host the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in
Bangkok, a regional platform to promote law enforcement
professionalism. Nearly every federal law enforcement agency
and even some local ones are represented in the Embassy,
often with regional responsibilities. The Embassy\’s Law
Enforcement Working Group (LEWG) has 18 different agencies
and offices as members.

2. (C) American law enforcement agencies interact with their
Thai counterparts smoothly on the whole, and the
counter-narcotics relationship has been a model for LE
development. In recent years the USG\’s LE emphasis has
expanded from counter-narcotics to encompass all aspects of
transnational crime, as well as to building capacity in the
Thai criminal justice system (CJS). This includes reforming
training and education and enhancing professionalism among
police, prosecutors, and judiciary. Thailand has
traditionally been one of the top source countries for
extradition of criminals to the U.S., though success in this
area cannot be taken for granted and requires constant
attention. Thailand cooperates well with the USG on
counter-terrorism issues, but needs considerably more
capacity in that area.

3. (C) This cable is one in an occasional series on key
elements of U.S.-Thai relations that are crucial to U.S.
interests in the region and beyond. These components of the
bilateral relationship do not often get headlines. One such
addressed MIL-MIL relations (reftel), while others describe
intelligence cooperation, refugee issues, and cooperation in
health programming and disease research (see reftel). End

4. (C) Comment: Post\’s large LEWG, positioned to help build
capacity in the Thai Criminal Justice System, sees a real
opportunity in recent RTG requests for American assistance in
effecting reforms to its CJS. We intend to approach this in
a systematic way through the LEWG, building upon existing
relationships and seeking new ones. We regard this kind of
institution-building as an effective way to assist an ally in
a politically troubled time by bolstering a crucial but
flawed public institution. We also regard it as the kind of
assistance most likely to be esteemed by the Thai public,
regardless of their political affiliation. While improving
RTG capacities is important in and of itself, more important
is the increased Thai capability to support U.S. LE and
policy objectives in the region. End Comment.

A Strong Foundation
5. (C) The U.S. started investing in Thai law enforcement
agencies in the 1950s as part of the effort to contain
communism. The Border Patrol Police, Special Branch Police,
and the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB), among
other units, were established with U.S. funding to serve as
regional partners. For four decades starting in 1963, when
DEA\’s predecessor organization began operations in Thailand,
the main thrust of USG-RTG LE cooperation was in counter-
narcotics. It focused chiefly on fighting the Golden
Triangle heroin trade both through heroin interdiction and
opium eradication, with attendant crop substitution efforts.
DEA now maintains offices in several parts of the country,
enjoying remarkable freedom of action in-country and high
levels of cooperation (including the right to carry weapons
and freely conduct investigations, with the RTP making the
final arrests). This special relationship has benefited
American LE greatly, and the Thai clearly feel that they have
had the benefit of a large, well-trained and effective
organization as a partner. This is the high road to
successful capacity building in Thailand, and should be the
model for other LE development efforts. The U.S. sought to
expand this type of bilateral success throughout the region
by the launching of the International Law Enforcement Academy
(ILEA) in Bankok in 1998.

6. (C) This investment in relatioships and institutions
over decades has yielded he American official community
preferential treament in security-related matters by the
Royal Thai Police (RTP) – in intelligence sharing, in
protction of American installations and personnel, andin
overall operational leeway in-country. The U-Thai jointly
sponsored ILEA, with its regional andate to improve LE
capacity and coordination, and the transformation by INL
Bureau of the formerNarcotics Affairs Section (NAS) into a
regional ransnational Crime Affairs Section (TCAS), make
hailand a logical and welcoming focal point for mutilateral
efforts to improve international crime-fighting capacity
across the region.

7. (SBU) The leading areas of current LE cooperation are:
extradition and mutual legal assistance (Thailand s the
third largest worldwide source of wanted ciminals extradited
to the US, with pedophiles a frequent target);
counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, trafficking in persons
(TIP), intellectual property (IP) protection,
money-laundering, cyber- and other white-collar crime, and
refugee issues. The USG\’s numerous parallel bilateral
efforts are aimed not just at eliciting and sustaining the LE
cooperation we want, but also at bolstering the Thai criminal
justice system (CJS) as a whole with the long-term goal of
making of it a strong and respectable public institution. As
global priorities shift and budgets for Thai-related
programming diminish, the challenge is to keep nurturing a
relationship that has proven so productive over the years.

Dangers Old and New
8. (C) The Thai CJS as a whole stands in need of
comprehensive development, streamlining, and reform. While
better than what often pertains in other countries in the
region, Thai LE is still very weak by Western standards and
the police are at the heart of the problem. Their
professional skills remain quite low (the exceptions being
SWAT and special units trained for counter-narcotics
operations), yet they face a whole new set of challenges
given new developments in the international crime situation
(especially new patterns in narcotics trafficking and
international terrorism) and Thailand\’s current turbulent
domestic political situation. For all their shortcomings,
the RTP are helpful to the USG, so it is clearly in our
interests to improve their performance.

9. (C) Thailand\’s borders are long and extremely porous and
the country is therefore vulnerable to international criminal
elements of all kinds, many of them equipped with tools and
skills the country\’s LE agencies do not yet have. The courts
lack most of the accoutrements of a modern justice system and
the police, prosecutors, and judiciary do not interact
effectively. Instead they represent jealous fiefdoms, and
the whole system relies upon confessions rather than
adjudicated evidence. In addition to international organized
crime, terrorism and institutional shortcomings, the RTP and
the CJS at large currently face two serious domestic crises
for which they are not adequately prepared: they lack the
proper tools to respond to the political unrest in Bangkok,
and they are not effective in their approach to the
Malay-Muslim ethno-nationalist insurgency in the deep south
of the country.

10. (C) Apart from a distinct regional identity based on the
historical Kingdom of Pattani, the southern insurgency is
fueled by a communal sense of grievance based on an overall
lack of justice. The police and judiciary have historically
been part of the problem in the deep south. Corrupt and
abusive police units coupled with a weak and opaque judicial
system have inflamed the long-standing animosity of majority
Malay-Muslim population towards the central government. As
these institutions have exacerbated the problems in the
South, their reform is crucial to any RTG effort end the

Help Wanted
11. (SBU) All the shortcomings of Thai LE notwithstanding,
some well-placed elements within the Thai CJS, including
high-ranking police and judiciary, are trying to make the
system turn a corner. They need help with such a large job
and are turning to U.S. counterparts for assistance in
reforming and up-grading both the curricula for education and
in-service police training across the board. Thai
prosecutors and judiciary have welcomed offers of exchanges
and opportunities for consultation with American
counterparts. With Embassy Bangkok\’s large inter-agency
LEWG, the Mission is well-positioned to respond to this
request for capacity-building and we regard this as an
opportunity to effect profound changes over the medium term.
An example: The RTP request for help includes
institutionalizing training in human rights and community
policing – areas in which the police in Thailand have been
wholly wanting in the past.

12. (U) The paragraphs below describe the relationships
between the RTG and the main parts of the American security
and LE community in Thailand, encompassing a wide range of
official contacts.

US Department of Justice Attach
13. (SBU) USDOJ is represented by five offices in the
Embassy. The DOJ Attache is an experienced federal prosecutor
assigned to the DOJ\’s Office of International Affairs, and
represents DOJ in all criminal matters in Thailand and other
countries in Southeast Asia. In particular, the DOJ Attache
works closely with U.S. and foreign LE agencies to facilitate
prosecutions, extradition, and mutual legal assistance for
operational matters. He also provides the RTG with advice on
criminal justice issues generally. Two treaties, one on
extradition and one on mutual legal assistance, allow and
support these cooperative efforts. On extradition, the DOJ
Attache cooperates directly with the Attorney General of
Thailand, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, and the RTP. Despite a history of general
cooperation, it is in the operations of this office that the
shortcomings of the Thai criminal justice system become clear
in cases of interest to the USG.

14. (SBU) Over the past 30 years 135 defendants have been
extradited to the U.S. There have also been dozens of direct
deportations to the U.S. The defendants have been prosecuted
for offenses ranging from murder and other violent crimes,
including child molestation, through narcotics trafficking
fraud and money laundering, to IP violations, cyber-crime,
and corruption. The DOJ Attache is the representative of the
\”Central Authority\” for the USG under the Mutual Legal
Assistance Treaty, which permits requests for evidentiary and
other assistance in criminal cases, such as those for
records, interviews, and assets forfeiture. The Attache
works directly with US and Thai LE Agencies to ensure the
execution of American legal requests in Thailand. The
Attache also routinely provides expert legal advice to USG
Agencies in the Mission.

15. (C) While overall numbers of extraditions from Thailand
are high and a positive point in the bilateral relationship,
there can be glitches, and some significant high profile
cases require intensive high-level USG involvement. At
present, the extradition case of Russian arms trafficker
Viktor Bout, wanted in New York on charges of conspiring to
provide arms to terrorists, is an example. Bout was arrested
a year ago by the RTP with DEA assistance, and the case
continues to slowly work its way through the Thai legal
system. Then-President Bush mentioned the importance of the
case the then-PM Samak in August 2008, during a visit to
Bangkok, and there have been several telephone exchanges
regarding Bout between the American and Thai Attorneys
General. The Ambassador and other Mission officials raise
the case frequently at all levels of the RTG. This has been
especially important in the wake of recent suggestions that
efforts may be afoot by Bout\’s associates to influence the
judicial process. Such influence has a precedent in the case
of Iranian national Jamshid Ghassemi, whose extradition to
the U.S. for arms export violations was denied by the Thai
courts last year, following intense pressure from Iranian
authorities. The Bout extradition case represents a
difficult test of the rule of law in Thailand, and we are
determined that the outcome of the Ghassemi will not be

Regional Security Office (RSO)
16. (SBU) The RSO\’s main mission is protection of the
Embassy, other American facilities, and the American
community. To that end RSO maintains an active relationship
with the RTP, particularly through the Diplomatic Security
Anti-Terrorist Training (ATA). The RSO brings ATA
instructors to Thailand about 12 times annually to conduct
training in intelligence, VIP protection, canine operations,
small arms, and similar subjects. For its part the RTP
Commissioner has stated that the RTP are prepared to offer
the US Embassy whatever level of force is required for
effective protection. In fact a police SWAT unit has been
detailed for additional Embassy protection for almost two
decades (since the first Gulf War), and this detail is always
greatly augmented in advance of any possible demonstration or
perceived threat.

17. (SBU) Two recent incidents illustrate how easily Thai LE
can be brought into play by an American request. In the
first, an AMCIT being held against her will in a hotel by a
third-country national managed to get a cell phone call to
her family in the US, who notified the Embassy. The ARSO
simply exited the Embassy, borrowed one of the SWAT officers
from the protection detail at the front gate, and went
directly to the hotel in time to free the woman. In the
second, after the Embassy received information that a felon
wanted in the U.S. for particularly horrific sex crimes was
in Thailand, the RTP\’s Special Branch put a ten-person
surveillance team on the streets to work with the RSO until
the man was apprehended, two-and-a-half months later.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)
18. (U) For DEA, the main mission has always been narcotics
and narcotics-related intelligence (to a lesser extent money
laundering and other satellite narco-crimes). DEA has
uniquely fruitful working relationships with 13 RTG agencies
and offices whose operations have some bearing upon narcotics

19. (SBU) The main target drug in Thailand for a generation
was opium and its heroin derivative. Opium cultivation
within Thailand was at last suppressed to the vanishing point
during the 1990s, chiefly because RTP Sensitive
Investigations Units (SIUs), modeled on American units, were
trained to a keen operational edge and deployed effectively,
at times even against narcotics operations in neighboring
ungoverned spaces. Those units can now serve as a model as
the USG seeks to improve the professional standing of other
elements of the RTP. However, a new drug threat,
methamphetamine, has emerged over the past decade, presenting
a new set of enforcement challenges. DEA also works with the
RTG\’s Money Laundering Office (AMLO), identifying illicit
assets for seizure, and has launched capacity-building
programs intended to improve the RTG\’s access to
international narcotics and other crime intelligence sources.
The organized crime aspects of the narcotics trade has
compelled a regional approach, and DEA has accordingly
deployed in several neighboring countries.

20. (SBU) In 45 years of productive LE cooperation DEA and
their Thai counterparts have worked together on many
thousands of individual cases. In 2008 alone there were 84
case investigations resulting in 1,150 arrests. Nearly 8
metric tons of marijuana, 800 kilograms of methamphetamine,
several hundred kilograms of heroin and large amounts of
precursor chemicals were seized, with a total value of $13.7
million. Several priority target organizations were
effectively dismantled by LE work during 2008, the
highest-profile case being that of the arms smuggler Viktor
Bout (para. 15, above).

Transnational Crime Affairs (TCAS)
21. (SBU) The Narcotics Affairs Section of the Embassy, the
INL Bureau\’s presence at Post, traditionally supported the
narcotics enforcement efforts of DEA with funding for
capacity building. In July 2008 the NAS became the
Transnational Crimes Affairs Section (TCAS), with a regional
role and an expanded mandate to target all aspects of
transnational crime. In addition to narcotics the section
now encompasses more capacity-building, addressing a range of
issues of high importance to the USG, such as terrorism,
trafficking in persons, intellectual property rights
protection, cyber-crime, money laundering, false travel
documents, organized crime, and sex crimes against minors.
Employing the skills of USDOJ experts from the Offices of
Overseas Prosecutorial Development and Training (OPDAT) and
International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance
Program (ICITAP), TCAS is preparing Thai criminal justice
agencies and organizations to play more effective and
civic-friendly roles domestically as Thailand moves through
an era of political tumult, as well as for new international
criminal challenges.

22. (SBU) At RTG request, TCAS is mounting a large-scale
training program for police and consultation programs for
Thai legal sector entities. The first goal is to reform and
improve education and in-service training curricula for
approximately 170,000 Thai police officers and NCOs. This
will be pursued by inserting not only a new range of
investigatory skills, but also through sustained exposure to
human rights, humane crowd control, and community policing.
These things are new to the training of Thai police, but the
RTP hierarchy, desirous of improving their public standing,
has thus far welcomed new suggestions. The ICITAP Law
Enforcement Policy Advisor focuses on police capacity in such
areas as crime scene management, intelligence management,
criminal investigations, humane interrogation, instructor
development, and crisis management. A parallel forensics
program seeks to build reliance upon scientific evidence in
accordance with international standards.

23. (SBU) The OPDAT Regional Legal Advisors concentrate on
Thai court procedures and prosecutorial capacity. The Thai
judiciary and Attorney General\’s Office have also welcomed
the participation of American legal experts, including
ranking American judiciary, for discussions of problems and
logjams in the Thai court system. Another dimension of the
LE capacity-building is helping Thailand to improve
coordination with its ASEAN neighbors, especially those with
which it shares borders. TCAS seeks to have the Thai involve
their neighbors in training programs funded by INL as the
most effective means of achieving better coordination. This
leads naturally to the following topic; the International Law
Enforcement Academy.

The International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA)
24. (SBU) Founded in 1998-99, ILEA has been offering law
enforcement training to 10 Southeast Asian countries for a
decade. The ILEA model worldwide has shown the value of
bringing police and other LE personnel from many countries
together for a common learning experience, and in having that
curriculum decided largely by the USG. American law
enforcement thereby gains an opportunity to project itself in
the region, and the police officers of countries otherwise
not always particularly cooperative can build professional
relationships while learning new skills. ILEA certificates
and diplomas have become coveted professional credentials in
police departments across the region. As of the beginning of
2009, ILEA has trained some 9,000 LE officers in a range of
skills essential to good police work. By making community
policing and human rights an inherent part of many course
offerings, ILEA materially advances the USG\’s human rights
agenda in East and Southeast Asia.

The Legal Attach (LEGATT)
25. (SBU) The Embassy\’s FBI representative, or LEGATT, like
the DOJ Attach, has an active operational interface with
Thai LE counterparts, including all the branches of the RTP.
The LEGATT\’s Office is in charge of requests for LE
assistance to the RTP from the U.S. Federal Bureau of
Investigation, with particular emphasis on terrorism, federal
fugitives and cyber-crime. The LEGATT has built a
particularly close relationship with the Thai Department of
Special Investigations, supposedly an organization modeled on
the FBI, but as yet unable to function to the level of its
mandate, and in need of considerable capacity-building and

Economic Section, Foreign Commercial Service, and USPTO
26. (C) The Economic Section (ECON), The Foreign Commercial
Service, and the Regional IPR Officer from the U.S. Patent
and Trade Office (USPTO) all play a role in facilitating law
enforcement on economic issues. Since Thailand is a nation
with which the US has a business and investment treaty giving
special status to American business interests, the
functioning of the Thai civil court system is of particular
interest to the USG, and to an active and vocal American
Chamber of Commerce. The Thai have frequently been receptive
to our suggestions (for example, creating an Intellectual
Property Rights Court at USG behest). The Economic Section
of the Embassy has the lead on TIP issues. ECON produces the
annual Trafficking In Persons report in addition to regular
reporting throughout the year. Thailand, a middle-income
economy surrounded by much less developed countries, and
having long and porous borders, faces a large and diffuse TIP
problem. The RTG has taken many steps to address TIP issues
over the years, particularly in the areas of legislation,
care for victims, public awareness, and investigation of
labor abuses. Nonetheless, its ability to push forward and
track TIP-related investigations, prosecutions, and
convictions is limited by a lack of resources. Post believes
that with additional staff (police officers and prosecutors)
dedicated to TIP cases, more streamlined and dedicated
bureaucratic procedures, and improved case tracking systems,
the Thai could achieve greater prosecutorial success. The
Economic Section also monitors the operations of Thai
Customs, the IPR police and courts, labor issues, and Thai
performance in the protection of the environment and
endangered species.

27. (SBU) The Regional IPR Officer, representing USPTO,
provides expertise for USG IPR efforts throughout the region.
There have been episodic improvements in Thai IPR
enforcement in recent years, but the continuing political
uncertainty has made sustained enforcement, and engagement on
key IPR issues, a serious challenge. The Mission continues
to support a robust IPR training and assistance regime, with
the support of several USG agencies (ECON, the LEGATT,
Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and USAID), and engages
both the RTG and business leaders to gain traction on the
issue. The Commercial Section chairs the IPR Working Group
wherein the Regional IPR Officer has put forward a work plan
to engage Thai LE and administrative officials on IP. Most
training and technical assistance on IP emerges from USPTO.

Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE)
——————————————— ——-
28. (U) The Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
division of DHS investigates labor law violations,
immigration scams, financial crimes, trafficking in weapons
and persons, and the activities of pedophiles. The office
works closely with Thai law enforcement and NGOs to assist
victims of child sex tourism, with the goal of successful
prosecutions. Since 2003, when the office opened, ICE
investigators have pursued more than 500 cases in cooperation
with Thai authorities.



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