WikiLeaks: Cablegate on U-tapao airfield-PPT
June 24, 2012
Political Prisoners in Thailand: June 20, 2012
PPT hasn’t got much to say about the debate over Utapao and the U.S. desire to extend its access to a base that was once one of its most important. Hence, we thought readers might find this Wikileaks cable from 2005 might be of some interest. We reproduce it in full minus the alphabet soup that begins each cable,and with bits of our emphasis:
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002280
SUBJECT: UTAPAO NAVAL AIR STATION – OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVED FACILITIES Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce. Reason 1.4 (d)
¶1. (C) The Royal Thai Naval Air Station at Utapao represents the most strategically significant location in Thailand, and one of considerable importance regionally. In the past several years Utapao has been used to support OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM, OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM and various smaller contingencies. Most recently, while serving as the regional hub for the U.S. led OPERATION UNIFIED ASSISTANCE (OUA), the value of our nearly unfettered access to the facility was once again clearly demonstrated.
¶2. (C) In addition to supporting contingency operations, approximately 30 U.S. military aircraft routinely transit Utapao monthly, and the base is central in supporting an average of 40 joint and combined exercises conducted between United States and Royal Thai Armed Forces (RTARF) annually. There are also commercial pressures on Utapao that will likely grow in the future, including booming business in the nearby Eastern-Seaboard industrial zone, international charter flights, the base’s use as a commercial aircraft diversion airfield, and civilian competition for control of airfield operations.
¶3. (C) Although successive Thai governments have been responsive to U.S. requests to use Utapao, we cannot take for granted the access we have enjoyed to date. Despite the high tempo of U.S. activity in Utapao, we have offered very little in the way of lasting facility improvements or maintenance that would provide mutual benefits and be supportive of our strategic objectives regarding expanded access and influence.
¶4. (C) The aftermath of OUA and increased interest in further development of Utapao as a Cooperative Security Location (CSL) requires careful consideration of how to best advance our own interests while fully acknowledging legitimate partner nation sovereignty and commercialization issues. In this effort, it is critical that all U.S. military initiatives that would in any way alter the current status quo first receive thorough review, vetting and approval of Commander, USPACOM, and that they be considered in the context of any other “competing” or complementary programs. Those programs approved by Commander, USPACOM should then be reviewed by the U.S. Country Team in Thailand to provide a perspective on what is achievable given existing political realities and conditions, thereby resulting in a cooperatively developed product which will have examined all equities. The Joint United States Military Advisory Group Thailand (JUSMAGTHAI) will serve as the in-country focal point for all U.S. military initiatives potentially affecting Utapao, to include construction projects, renovations, facility expansion and all interaction with applicable RTARF representatives.
¶5. (C) Although the Royal Thai Government (RTG) is aware of the general U.S. interest in the CSL concept globally, it is important to note that there are no formal agreements with any level of the RTG regarding the establishment of CSLs in Thailand. The access that we currently enjoy is solely the result of our traditional alliance and military-to-military partnership that has been sustained over many years. The past practice of disparate offices from various organizations surveying Utapao based on stove-piped coordination and objectives inadvertently jeopardizes our current level of access through potential Thai misperception of USG intent. It is important now, and will become increasingly important in the years ahead, that we concentrate efforts to develop a single plan, endorsed by USPACOM and the U.S. Country Team, that promotes Theater Security Cooperation Plan (TSCP) and Mission Performance Plan (MPP) objectives, but is tempered by a realistic analysis of RTG concerns and sensitivities.
¶6. (C) The U.S. Country Team’s preferred approach would be a plan that is implemented in phases addressing near-, mid- and long-term objectives, and that contains elements directly benefiting both U.S. and RTG goals. This approach would seek to front-load improvements that would be perceived as most beneficial from the Thai perspective in order to both serve as tangible evidence of our appreciation for the access we have been granted over many years, as well as offset the potential impression that follow-on improvements might be seen to have greater benefit to the U.S. Specifically: A. Near Term: Provide equipment and services addressing immediate needs in improving airport safety and upgrading air traffic control capability. These are areas that have long been neglected and represent fundamental, required airport capabilities supporting U.S. military, Thai military, and commercial aircraft. Examples of improvements in the near term would include: 1) Area Surveillance Radar (ASR-10); 2) VOR/DME capability; 3) UHF/VHF integrated communications package; 4) Improved fire-fighting and crash and rescue capability; 5) Airfield Grounding System B. Mid Term: Develop the largely unused portion of Utapao east of the main runway for use as a U.S. lodgment point supporting small deployments of U.S. personnel and equipment, such as might be expected during an exercise. The significant advantages associated with moving U.S. operations to the east side include: 1) Reduced visibility of U.S. forces; 2) Reduced interference between military and commercial traffic; 3) A self-contained capability to receive and process U.S. military personnel, cargo and equipment separate from primary flightline Thai military and foreign commercial operations and facilities C. Long Term: Expand development of the east side, to include exploring the possibility of leasing existing warehouse structures in order to support larger contingency deployments of U.S. TDY personnel, and to formalize U.S. presence on a long-term basis. Consideration should be given to the placement of mobile equipment to support greater logistics capacity, to include: 1) Fuel trucks; 2) MHE (10K forklift, 10K rough terrain forklift, 25K Loader (NGSL), ground power unit (GPU), air start unit (ASU), aircraft maintenance stands, runway sweeper)
¶7. (SBU) Each of these phases offers the partner nation significant benefits and contributes to infrastructure improvement necessary to better support routine and contingency U.S. deployments. The option to develop the east side creates an ability to expand or contract the U.S. footprint, using temporary structures and mobile equipment tailored to mission requirements, while avoiding unwanted conflicts with ongoing airport operations, particularly on the commercial side. This option does not envision the construction of large, permanent structures that would advertise the U.S. presence. It would, however, address anticipated RTG/RTARF concerns. ARVIZU