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07BANGKOK5041 PRE-ELECTION ROUND-UP: ELECTION LAWS, MILITARY RESHUFFLE, CROWN PRINCE SCANDAL

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“122959”,”9/20/2007 10:49″,”07BANGKOK5041″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”07BANGKOK4793|07BANGKOK4905|07BANGKOK5041″,”VZCZCXRO3085

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/19/2017

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH

SUBJECT: PRE-ELECTION ROUND-UP: ELECTION LAWS, MILITARY

RESHUFFLE, CROWN PRINCE SCANDAL

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 4905 (EX-TRT FIGURES

B. ARMY CHIEF)

C. BANGKOK 4793 (RESHUFFLE)

 

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, reason 1.4 (b) and (d).

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The new Army Chief will be GEN Anupong

Paochinda, as widely anticipated. Current Army Chief Sonthi

told the Ambassador he was not planning to run for

Parliament, but would seek a political position in the new

government to protect himself from those with \”tremendous

assets.\” The legislature is working to complete the laws

needed to hold the elections; these must be passed by October

3. While there is a chance their entry into effect could be

slowed if they faced a constitutional challenge, this does

not appear likely. The current draft includes very tough

penalties for parties and party leaders if their members

engage in election fraud. A scandalous video of the Crown

Prince and his wife is in wide circulation and has prompted

more (but quiet) criticism of the unloved Prince. Fractures

already threaten the recently-formed \”For the Motherland\”

party. END SUMMARY.

 

ARMY DECISIONS

————–

 

2. (SBU) The long-awaited military reshuffle list was

published on September 19. GEN Anupong Paochinda, a key

actor in last year\’s coup, is the new army commander. GEN

Saphrang Kalayanamitr, another leading participant in last

year\’s coup, will move to deputy permanent secretary at the

Ministry of Defense, a position widely seen as a consolation

prize for the former front runner for the top Army job. GEN

Montri Sangkasap, who was rumored to be the favorite of

current Army Chief GEN Sonthi, will move to deputy supreme

commander. Everyone will take his new position on October 1.

New Army Chief Anupong declared, apparently without irony,

that he would keep the military out of politics. (REF B)

 

3. (C) Current Army Chief GEN Sonthi Boonyaratglin told the

Ambassador on the margins of a social event that he was not

planning to run for a seat in the next parliament. However,

he did plan to take a political position when the dust

settles. He noted that he had to protect himself from \”those

who have tremendous assets.\” We take this as further

evidence that he is angling for a ministerial position in the

new government. As we have noted, the defense minister

portfolio is normally held by a retired general. GEN Sonthi

will retire as Army chief at the end of the month, but will

remain as chairman of the Council for National Security (CNS)

until the new government is installed.

 

LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR ELECTIONS

—————————–

 

4. (C) The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is working on

three key laws that form the framework for the upcoming

elections: the Law on election of MPs and Senators, the Law

on the Election Commission, and the Law on Political Parties.

An NGO working on election assistance told us that the

drafts, which were prepared by the Constitution Drafting

Assembly, were reportedly very weak. They showed signs of

having been prepared under the pressure of the deadlines set

out in the interim constitution, which required the draft

legislation to be submitted to the NLA in mid-August. The

NLA has until October 3 to pass the three laws, according to

the deadline in the interim constitution (and affirmed in the

adopted 2007 constitution.)

 

5. (C) According to Yuwarat Kamolvet, a member of the NLA

drafting committee, the draft laws will be ready for

submission to the full NLA at the end of this week. Given

the fractious nature of the NLA, this is a tight deadline to

permit debate and ensure that the laws finally adopted are

consistent internally and with the constitution. The latter

is particularly important. NLA member and staunch

anti-Thaksin activist Prasong Soonsiri has warned that the

constitutionality of these laws could be challenged, leading

to Constitutional Court review before they could go into

effect. (According to the 2007 Constitution, one-tenth of

the members of Parliament can call for constitutional court

 

BANGKOK 00005041 002 OF 002

 

review of any legislation after it has passed. It is not

clear how this would be applied to the existing structure of

the NLA and the Constitutional Tribunal.) Our NLA source

admitted that a constitutional challenge was theoretically

possible; this was why, he said, they were being very careful

to ensure that there were no legal weaknesses in the final

versions. He anticipated that the projected election date of

December 23 would hold.

 

6. (C) Political parties have raised concerns that new laws

will impose excessive penalties on politicians and parties

for election transgressions. Yuwarat said that the current

draft includes stiff penalties for parties and their leaders

if they know party members are involved in election fraud and

do not intervene. We pointed out that severe penalties of

this kind could eventually lead to the decimation of

Thailand\’s political class, as most parties appeared to have

at least some members who engaged in vote-buying or other

transgressions. Yuwarat defended the decision. First of all,

he noted that nothing so far had worked in reining in

campaign abuses, and so tougher measures were necessary.

Candidates who engaged in vote-buying were not spending their

own money, for the most part; they were getting funding from

their party and its leadership. Yuwarat predicted also that

the toughest penalties would rarely be imposed. The cases

would be considered by the courts, and he expected the

parties to have better lawyers than the prosecution, and

would be able to defend themselves against unfair charges.

 

SCANDALOUS VIDEO

—————-

 

7. (C) A disturbing video of the Crown Prince and his wife is

in wide circulation here, after being posted on website

VEOH.com. The video, which is reportedly several years old,

shows the CP and his wife at a birthday party in a garden

after dark. The wife is wearing nothing but a G-string and a

smile as she lights the birthday candles. The video shows

servants waiting on the table, and the flash of photographs

being taken. According to a number of contacts, this is

being passed around on DVD, both in Bangkok and in the

provinces; the tawdry incident has provoked more (but

whispered) criticism of the CP.

 

MOTHER\’S NOT QUITE HERSELF TODAY

——————————–

 

8. (SBU) The recently announced merger of post-Thai Rak Thai

(TRT) elements with the Pracharaj party is already showing

strains. Several dozen former MPs loyal to Matchima leader

Somsak have threatened to leave \”Peua Pandin\” (For the

Motherland.) Their chief concern appears to be how the

Motherland party would solve the conflicts when each faction

has MPs who want to run in the same constituencies. They

have threatened to jump ship and declare their allegiance to

the other new coalition (Ruam Jai Thai/Chart Pattana).

Leaders of the Motherland factions are in negotiations to

heal the rift. (REF A)

 

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:47 am

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