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08BANGKOK2977 AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES WITH FORMER PM SAMAK HIS DOWNFALL, WITH DPM CHAVALIT NEW GOVERNMENT’S PROSPECTS

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“172121”,”10/1/2008 10:48″,”08BANGKOK2977″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

 

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SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/01/2018

TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, KJUS, PINR, TH

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES WITH FORMER PM SAMAK HIS

DOWNFALL, WITH DPM CHAVALIT NEW GOVERNMENT\’S PROSPECTS

 

REF: BANGKOK 2778 (SAMAK UNDERCUT)

 

BANGKOK 00002977 001.2 OF 002

 

Classified By: Ambassador Eric G. John, reason: 1.4 (b, d)

 

1. (C) Summary: Former Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej

resigned from his position as Party Leader of the People\’s

Power Party (PPP) September 30. He remains free on bail as

he continues to appeal a years-old defamation conviction.

Samak told the Ambassador September 26 that he believed Queen

Sirikit, working through Privy Council President Prem

Tinsulanonda, supported the People\’s Alliance for Democracy

(PAD) protest movement. Samak viewed himself as loyal to the

King, but implied that the Queen\’s political agenda

differened from her husband\’s. Separately, new Deputy PM

Chavalit Yongchaiyudh confirmed to the Ambassador October 1

that he had begun direct negotiations with the PAD and

suggested that he and the current Somchai administration had

90 days to produce results.

 

2. (C) Comment: Chavalit\’s expectation that his term in

office may be short-lived tracks with a widespread view among

Thais that the PPP will be fighting against the odds for its

survival in upcoming party dissolution proceedings. Although

Chavalit — who served as Prime Minister in 1996-97 and left

in disgrace after the Asian Financial Crisis — provides

proof that senior Thai politicians can often revive careers,

we believe Samak has lost virtually all of his influence and

has little prospect of staging a political comeback. PM

Somchai Wongsawat appears likely to succeed Samak as PPP

Party Leader. End Summary and Comment.

 

SAMAK QUITS PPP POST, HEADS TO DISNEY WORLD

——————————————-

 

3. (C) On September 30, a PPP official told the media that

former PM Samak Sundaravej had formally resigned from his

position of PPP Party Leader. This resignation followed an

Appeals Court\’s September 25 ruling upholding a previous

conviction of Samak on defamation charges, and affirming the

two-year prison sentence for Samak. In a September 26 lunch

with the Ambassador, Samak explained that he expected to

remain free on bail while continuing to appeal this case

through other channels; he predicted his legal battle could

continue for approximately two years before he might have to

face incarceration. Samak planned to join unnamed associates

for an extended North American vacation starting with Disney

World, criss-crossing the United States and parts of Canada

by car.

 

4. (C) Note: Once Samak lost face after PPP legislators

signaled their unwillingness to support his reelection as

Prime Minister (reftel), it would have been awkward for Samak

to retain the position of Party Leader. PPP immediately

named PM Somchai as acting party leader. Political parties

typically nominate their Party Leaders for the position of

Prime Minister; it would be logical to assume that Somchai

will formally take the top job in PPP. Samak\’s resignation

will not protect Samak from a five-year loss of political

rights in the event that PPP is dissolved. Party dissolution

by the Constitutional Court entails sanctions against the

executive board that was in place at the time of the

dissolution-warranting offense.

 

SAMAK DISCUSSES HIS DOWNFALL, CRITICIZES THE QUEEN

——————————————— —–

 

5. (C) Samak described to Ambassador the political pressure

against him during his seven months in office. He showed

disdain for Queen Sirikit, claiming that she had been

responsible for the 2006 coup d\’etat as well as the ongoing

turmoil generated by PAD protests. He alleged the Queen

operated through Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda

who, along with others presenting themselves as royalists,

worked with the PAD and other agitators. Citing his own

regular meetings with King Bhumibol, Samak claimed he —

rather than his opponents — was sincerely loyal to the King

and enjoyed the King\’s support. In his discussion of the

 

BANGKOK 00002977 002.2 OF 002

 

monarchy, Samak made no mention of the Crown Prince.

 

6. (C) Samak, a former journalist, lamented his opponents\’

success in manipulating media coverage of his administration.

Samak noted that jockeying for control over the media had

often caused rifts within Thai Rak Thai and, subsequently,

the People\’s Power Party.

 

7. (C) Samak\’s eyes became misty as he recalled that, when he

was contemplating returning to the premiership after eviction

from office by the Constitutional Court, his wife and one of

his daughters had pressed him to abandon this quest. \”I told

them to get out,\” he related. \”I didn\’t need to be betrayed

by them.\”

 

Out with the Old, Out with the New?

———————————–

 

8. (C) DPM Chavalit Yongchaiyudh indicated to Ambassador

October 1 that he expected the Somchai administration to be

short-lived, though he hoped it could be extended if it

proved successful in addressing the serious challenges facing

the country. Chavalit gave himself 90 days to complete his

self-assigned tasks (negotiate with the PAD, arrange a

solution to the southern insurgency, come to agreement with

Cambodia\’s leaders on border disputes). If Somchai\’s

administration were to prove effective, he hoped the

Constitutional Court might delay dissolution proceedings

against various coalition parties to allow the government

more time in office (note: the Attorney General announced

later on October 1 that he had referred the first case,

against Chat Thai, to the Constitution Court for review).

 

9. (C) On the ongoing PAD occupation of Government House,

Chavalit said he had twice spoken with PAD co-leader Chamlong

Srimuang, most recently on the night of September 30.

Chavalit described his approach toward the PAD as similar to

that which he had taken toward communist insurgents in the

1970s and 80s: he would initially stress commonalities while

deemphasizing differences, which would be sorted out later.

(Septel will report Chavalit\’s views on mediating the

southern insurgency.)

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 3:00 am

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