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08BANGKOK3191 THAI PM SOMCHAI AIMS FOR CONSTITUTION AMENDMENT; EX-PM THAKSIN PROMISES RESISTANCE TO A COUP

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“174713”,”10/22/2008 10:11″,”08BANGKOK3191″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“CONFIDENTIAL”,”08BANGKOK3154|08BANGKOK3167″,”VZCZCXRO1274

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SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR DENNIS WILDER AND LIZ PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/22/2018

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KDEM, KJUS, TH, CB

SUBJECT: THAI PM SOMCHAI AIMS FOR CONSTITUTION AMENDMENT;

EX-PM THAKSIN PROMISES RESISTANCE TO A COUP

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 3167 (THAKSIN CONVICTED)

B. BANGKOK 3154 (EX-COP THREATENS)

 

BANGKOK 00003191 001.2 OF 002

 

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

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat told the Ambassador

he was committed to a peaceful resolution of political

disputes. He welcomed the Ambassador\’s expression of USG

support for democracy and the rule of law, and Somchai said

the way forward entailed a fact-finding commission\’s report

on the October 7 clash between police and protestors, and

constitutional amendment, likely followed by elections.

Somchai also said he looked forward to meeting Cambodian

Prime Minister Hun Sen in Beijing during the Asia-Europe

meeting, to ease bilateral tension. Separately, former Prime

Minister Thaksin Shinawatra phoned the Ambassador and

predicted that, despite his recent conviction in a Supreme

Court case, his political allies would continue winning

elections. Thaksin said Queen Sirikit was pressuring Army

Commander Anupong Paojinda to launch a coup, although Anupong

resisted, knowing King Bhumibol did not favor a coup.

Thaksin called for the recision of lese majeste laws.

 

2. (C) Comment: Previous attempts by Prime Minister Samak

Sundaravej to amend the constitution energized

anti-government protests, and it is unclear that Somchai will

be able to forge a consensus on an amendment process. The

fact-finding committee looking into the October 7 clash may

be able to buy Somchai some time, but the committee\’s work

and findings may stir up antagonism from one side or the

other. Thaksin may be correct that his allies still command

significant popular support, but his conviction does

represent a setback for them. We take at face value

Thaksin\’s threat that his supporters would resist a coup.

End Summary and Comment.

 

PRIME MINISTER ON DOMESTIC POLITICS

———————————–

 

3. (C) The Ambassador, accompanied by poloff, called on Prime

Minister Somchai Wongsawat on October 21. (Ref A reported

Somchai\’s comment on the just-released court verdict against

former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.) The Ambassador

explained that the United State Government was closely

watching developments in Thailand and wanted to help ensure

that political conflicts would be resolved peacefully, within

the rule of law, and in accordance with the constitution.

 

4. (C) Somchai, who was joined in the meeting by numerous

notetakers and advisors (and with a large press spray at the

top), welcomed this USG policy. He assured the Ambassador

that he was committed to a peaceful settlement of political

disputes. He emphasized his establishment of a fact-finding

committee to investigate and report on the October 7 clash

between the police and People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD)

protestors. Somchai predicted that all sides would be able

to accept the committee\’s explanation.

 

5. (C) Speaking more broadly, Somchai said that it would be

necessary to amend the Constitution in order that Thailand

could move toward \”genuine democracy.\” He said that a group

of self-selected protestors would not be appropriate leaders

of the amendment process; amendment should be done by \”the

people\” or by the parliament, acting as the people\’s elected

representatives. Somchai alluded to the possibility of

forming a Constitution drafting assembly similar to the one

that drafted the 1997 Constitution, saying it would be ideal

if \”the people\” could choose their representatives to amend

the Constitution. An election could then ensue, Somchai

said. (According to October 22 local press reports, a

government spokesman suggested that a proposed constitution

drafting assembly complete its work within 120 days of the

assembly\’s formation.)

 

BANGKOK 00003191 002.2 OF 002

 

6. (C) The Ambassador raised the public threat of former top

Royal Thai Police official Salang Bunnag to use former police

officers to clear PAD demonstrators from Government House

(ref B). The Ambassador asked if Somchai, having affirmed

his opposition to violence, felt confident that the

threatened confrontation would not take place. Somchai

reiterated his commitment against violence but, when pressed

on the specific threat by Salang (which had been widely

covered by the local media), Somchai simply said he did not

know who was involved in that effort, that the RTG would

operate under the law, and the RTG would not support any act

of violence.

 

CAMBODIA

——–

 

7. (C) The Ambassador also asked Somchai\’s view of the recent

border tension between Thailand and Cambodia. Somchai

assured the Ambassador that there would be no further armed

conflict between the two countries, and he planned to have a

bilateral meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen in

Beijing during the October 24-25 Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).

Somchai said he had already spoken with Hun Sen, that

Thailand and Cambodia were neighbors with peaceful relations,

and that any problems should be resolved through dialogue.

Somchai welcomed the Ambassador\’s statement that the border

tension represented a bilateral issue for the two countries,

rather than a multilateral issue.

 

THAKSIN ON PARTY POLITICS, MONARCHY

———————————–

 

8. (C) Shortly after the October 21 meeting with Somchai,

former Prime Minister Thaksin phoned the Ambassador. (Ref A

reported Thaksin\’s reaction to his conviction.) In a

rambling but spirited exposition of his views, Thaksin

recalled how his Thai Rak Thai party had won the 2005

election in a landslide, only to be evicted by the 2006 coup

d\’etat. Thaksin affirmed that he remained popular and said

\”my party\” (now the People\’s Power Party, but presumably he

also referred to any subsequent incarnation) would continue

to win elections by a significant margin.

 

9. (C) Thaksin said he had sent a message to Army Commander

Anupong Paojinda that the Army should not seize power.

Thaksin said he could guarantee that a coup in current

circumstances would not resemble General Sonthi

Boonyaratglin\’s 2006 coup — it would not be peaceful, and

Anupong would regret it, Thaksin said.

 

10. (C) Thaksin told the Ambassador that Anupong did not want

to launch a coup, but Queen Sirikit was pressing him to do

so. Thaksin also asserted that Anupong knew that King

Bhumibol did not favor a coup. Thaksin highlighted that, at

the same time when the Queen presided over the funeral of a

PAD protestor, the King granted an audience to PM Somchai,

sending a more positive public message than the Queen\’s.

Thaksin added that he had been on the verge of releasing a

letter in response to his conviction, but his staff had

discouraged him from doing so, saying his tone would have

been too angry and negative toward the monarchy. Thaksin

said one item on his agenda (and presumably in his draft

letter) was the need to remove lese majeste provisions from

the criminal code; Thailand could not rightfully claim to be

democratic so long as there remained a threat of prosecution

for lese majeste.

 

11. (C) The Ambassador advised that violence by any side in

the current political climate would be severely damaging, and

urged Thaksin to do what he could to prevent it. The

Ambassador also reiterated U.S. opposition to a coup, but

noted that we were equally committed to a peaceful, legal

resolution of the political standoff. Threats of violence by

either side would be counterproductive.

JOHN

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Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 3:05 am

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  1. […] a Wikileaks cable citing U.S. Ambassador Eric John and dated 22 October 2008, Thaksin Shinawatra is cited, having called John from exile. The […]


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