thaicables – It's Your Right to know the Truth!

08BANGKOK2592 THAILAND PROTESTS: A PAD PRIMER

leave a comment »

“167861”,”8/29/2008 10:14″,”08BANGKOK2592″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“CONFIDENTIAL”,”08BANGKOK2546″,”VZCZCXRO1552

PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

DE RUEHBK #2592/01 2421014

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 291014Z AUG 08

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4160

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 6268

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 8970

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 4843

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0982

RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 2375

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 002592

 

SIPDIS

 

EAP FOR MLS, DRL FOR BUCKLEY, NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/28/2018

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PINR, PREL, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND PROTESTS: A PAD PRIMER

 

REF: BANGKOK 02546 (PAD PROTESTS)

 

Classified By: DCM James F. Entwistle, reasons 1.4 (b, d)

 

1. (SBU) Summary: The People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD)

behind the ongoing street protests against PM Samak\’s

government first surfaced in 2005 in reaction to growing

discontent over the alleged corruption of then-PM Thaksin.

It largely disappeared following the September 2006 coup that

ended the Thaksin administration, only to reemerge in Thai

politics on March 28 with the same leadership but fewer

supporters and a more radical agenda. Since then, it has

been an active, occasionally aggressive, daily force on the

Thai political stage. The last 90 days of protests have

halted Bangkok\’s infamous traffic on numerous occasions,

temporarily seized a media outlet, and even displaced the

Prime Minister on several occasions from his office. This

primer is meant to serve as a guide to PAD, its leaders, and

motives.

 

2. (C) Comment: Before the aggressive actions launched August

26 which led to arrest warrants for its leadership and left

its future uncertain, PAD appeared to be transforming itself

from a movement whose purpose was to combat Thaksin and his

allies whenever they were perceived to be untouchable, to a

political party with a simultaneous populist and

royalist-nationalist bent, with megalomaniac Sondhi

Limthongkul using it as his personal vehicle, much as Thaksin

did with Thai Rak Thai. PAD\’s 2008 reincarnation largely

abandoned its origins as a wide, loose coalition of the

working class, royalists, and middle class Bangkokians

seeking justice and increased transparency in government in a

shift to anti-democratic principles and increasing

association with the Queen\’s circle rather than the King

alone. End Summary and Comment.

 

The Founders

————

 

3. (SBU) PAD was formally established on February 8, 2006 by

a five-member committee: Sondhi Limthongkul; Major General

Chamlong Srimuang; Phiphob Thongchai; Somsak Kosaisuk; and

Somkiat Pongpaiboon.

 

–Sondhi: Educated at UCLA and Utah State, a former

journalist turned media mogul whose holdings include the

Manager Daily, a Thai-language newspaper, and the Manager

Group, which contains multiple media outlets. Sondhi

supported the 2006 coup against the Thaksin government, but

later took a critical stance against the post-coup government

following its appointment of former Thaksin administration

officials to the cabinet and the holding of elections in

2007. In June 2008, Sondhi delivered a speech on what he

called \”New Politics,\” calling for a parliament comprised of

70 percent appointed MPs and only 30 percent elected, a lower

ratio than in any constitution since 1932, when the absolute

monarchy was abolished; he also proposed enshrining the

military\’s right to intervene in politics at will. Sondhi

plays the key role in shaping the PAD message and political

agenda.

 

–MGEN Chamlong: A former politician and military officer,

and second most prominent PAD leader, Chamlong led the May

1992 protests against GEN Suchinda, which ended in the most

recent bloodshed in the streets of Bangkok and the King\’s

intervention to restore civilian-led government. While in

the military, Chamlong was a leader of the \”Young Turks\”

clique in the army in the 1980s behind several failed coups

against perceived corrupt government/military leadership. He

served for six years as governor of Bangkok and founded the

now-defunct Phalang Dharma party, which gave Thaksin his

first start in politics. A devout Buddhist and member of the

controversial Santi Asoke sect of Theravada Buddhism,

Chamlong claims to be celibate, vegetarian, and to have no

worldly possessions (Note: Santi Asoke enforces a moral-based

community that rejects materialism, consumerism, and

questions the roles and actions of the RTG. End Note.)

Chamlong supported the 2006 coup that overthrew Thaksin, his

one-time protege. Chamlong plays the key role in determining

the tactics and street movements employed by PAD against

government authorities, as he did in 1992.

 

BANGKOK 00002592 002 OF 003

 

–Phiphob: An activist since he served as Secretary for the

University Student Federation of Thailand, Piphob is famous

for his work with NGOs, including the Children\’s Foundation

of Thailand, the Council of Socio-economic Consultants of

Thailand, and the Committee for Democratic Advocacy of

Thailand.

 

–Somsak: A leading figure in advocating the rights of

state-owned enterprise (SOE) employees, Somsak is the

Secretary of the Thailand\’s Federation of SOE Labor.

 

–Somkiat: A former professor of social development and an

advocate for the poor, Somkiat serves as PAD\’s link to the

academic community. He is considered to be a charismatic

speaker and is a regular contributor to newspapers and

magazines. Elected to parliament in the 2007 election as a

Democrat Party MP.

 

Second tier leaders

——————-

 

4. (SBU) A group of Sondhi\’s former employees of Manager

Media provide a second tier of leadership ready to take-over

should the core founders be arrested or detained during the

ongoing protests: Amon Amonrattananon (who led the NBT TV

assault and is also subject to an arrest warrant); Sawit

Kawwan, Samran Rotphet, Sarocha Phonudomsak, Phichi

Chaimongkhon, Surachai Mai-ngam, Anchali Phairirat, Panthep

Phuaphongphan, and Chindarat Charoenchaichana. Arrest

warrants were also issued for Chaiwat Sinsuwong and Thoetphum

Chaidee, PAD leaders in north and northeastern Thailand.

 

PAD\’s Origins: 2005-06

———————-

 

5. (SBU) PAD\’s origins lie in a 2005 weekly political TV talk

show hosted by journalist and media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul.

The show\’s fiery critique of the Thaksin administration

resulted in it being dropped from public television and

picked up by Sondhi\’s Manager Media\’s website, where the tone

of the show turned even more controversial and anti-Thaksin.

This transformation was rather ironic, since the Manager

Group media outlets had been Thaksin\’s most fervent boosters

in the runup to the 2001 election which swept Thaksin into

office, and Thaksin had rewarded Sondhi by directing

state-owned banks to restructure/forgive the massive debts of

Manager Group had incurred in the 1990s. Sondhi split from

Thaksin once Thaksin failed to grant Sondhi ownership/control

of a TV station with national reach.

 

6. (SBU) Sondhi\’s anti-Thaksin shows attracted increasing

numbers of supporters with various agendas and formed the

basis for the PAD\’s agenda. Sondhi sought to affiliate the

PAD movement with support for the monarchy by having PAD

supporters wear yellow, the color traditionally associated

with King Bhumiphol; he eventually attracted more than

100,000 to his rallies. PAD\’s support base in 2006 consisted

of middle to upper-class residents of Bangkok, then expanding

to include the surrounding provinces, as well as poorer rural

residents, particularly from the south. Prominent socialites

and even secondary members of the royal family joined PAD\’s

pro-monarchy efforts. Academics, students, and members of

the Santi Asoke sect also made up a core portion of PAD

supporters.

 

PAD reborn: 2008

—————-

 

7. (SBU) On March 28, 2008, the five founders of PAD gathered

supporters in the auditorium of Thammasat University to rally

against PM Samak Sundarvej, reemerging officially as a

political force, separate from the official Parliamentary

opposition led by the Democrat Party. Supporters united

around the perception that PM Samak\’s People\’s Power Party

(PPP) acted on behalf of Thaksin\’s banned Thai Rak Thai party

and was focused only on amending the constitution to assist

Thaksin, not attending to the country\’s real needs.

 

8. (SBU) Taking advantage of a joint Thai-Cambodian statement

supporting the listing of the 11th century Khmer Preah Vihear

border temple as a UNESCO World Heritage site and claiming

that FM Noppadol had sold out the national interest, PAD

 

BANGKOK 00002592 003 OF 003

 

leaders took to the streets and began a series of

demonstrations on May 25 at Democracy Monument. PAD

continued its rallies in similar format until June 20, when

PAD marched in force to the Government House, setting up a

large stage and camp site, and calling for Samak\’s

resignation. The numbers of participants remained a fraction

of what they had been in 2006, however, with a narrower and

more aggressive agenda driven by Sondhi and Chamlong.

 

9. (SBU) PAD street actions were one of several pressure

points against the Samak government, combined with actions by

the Democrats in the House, the Senate, half of which was

appointed, and the courts. PAD aggressive tactics, including

pushing through police lines to reach the Government House

compound, are thought to have blocked the Samak government\’s

attempts to amend the constitution in Thaksin\’s favor.

 

10. (C) Democrat Party Secretary General Suthep told us in

early August that he viewed Sondhi and PAD as eventual formal

political rivals; PAD was positioned to compete as a

populist, royalist-nationalist force that could take support

away from both the Democrats and the Thaksin camp. Democrat

Party deputy leader Kraisak Choonhaven told us that Sondhi

had made an indirect approach via relatives to sound him out

about joining \”his party,\” even though the PAD remains a

movement, not a formal political party.

 

PAD now a polarizing force, seeking bloodshed?

——————————————— –

 

11. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

and a long-time critic of Thaksin, told us in early August

that he now views Sondhi and the PAD as a greater threat to

Thai democracy than Thaksin. He cited the July clash in Udon

Thani in the Northeast, known as Thaksin country. XXXXXXX

claims the PAD organized the rally as an intentional

provocation, hoping to spark bloodshed and violence that

could then be used to promote its agenda, including calling

for renewed military action against the Samak government.

Thaksin\’s supporters obliged, with the brother of a deputy

Agriculture Minister using local radio and truck-borne

bullhorns to goad local residents to attack the PAD rally,

and offering a 30,000 baht bounty to anyone who \”bloodied\”

the lead PAD speaker.

 

12. (C) Kraisak told us on August 26, the first day of the

current standoff in Bangkok, that PAD leaders had freely

admitted to him on the eve of their self-styled \”final push\”

that they similarly hoped to spark a violent reaction from

the police and force the military to intervene/remove the

Samak government.

 

13. (C) In the latest round of protests, PAD supporters have

also started wearing armbands and other items in light blue,

a color associated with the Queen, seen by many in Thailand

to support a more nationalistic approach on issues like the

south and a more aggressive opposition to the Thaksin camp,

including if necessary with military involvement. Stories

that the Queen personally donated 50,000 baht ($1,700)

recently to the PAD are running through the Bangkok rumint

mill. Arsa Sarasin, the King\’s Personal Private Secretary,

emphatically rejected this link in an August 29 conversation

with Ambassador; while acknowledging the protesters were

attempting to associate with the palace, he stated: \”It is

not true. The King and Queen are not involved.\”

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 2:31 am

Posted in Confidential, PAD

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: