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08BANGKOK3585 KING ILL; DEMOCRATS PREPARE TO FORM NEXT GOVERNMENT

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“181801”,”12/8/2008 9:47″,”08BANGKOK3585″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

 

“08BANGKOK2327|08BANGKOK3167|08BANGKOK3386|

 

08BANGKOK3492|08BANGKOK3529″,”VZCZCXRO0667

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #3585/01 3430947

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 080947Z DEC 08

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5322

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1244

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 6603

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 5133

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 9277

RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1818

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 5950

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY”,”

 

 

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 003585

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR WILDER AND PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/08/2018

TAGS: PGOV, PINR, KDEM, TH

SUBJECT: THAI UPDATE: KING ILL; DEMOCRATS PREPARE TO FORM

NEXT GOVERNMENT

 

REF: A. HOTR IIR 6 895 0082 09

B. BANGKOK 3529 (PPP DISSOLVED)

C. BANGKOK 3492 (ARMY CHIEF URGES ELECTIONS)

D. BANGKOK 3386 (THAKSIN\’S DIVORCE)

E. BANGKOK 3167 (THAKSIN CONVICTED)

F. BANGKOK 2327 (POTJAMAN CONVICTED)

 

BANGKOK 00003585 001.2 OF 003

 

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

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and Princess Sirindhorn

announced jointly on December 4 that King Bhumibol was too

ill to deliver his annual address to the nation; subsequent

reports from the Palace indicated the King was recovering.

The Secretary General of Thailand\’s Democrat Party (DP),

flanked by newfound allies, claimed publicly on December 6

that he had sufficient support to form the next government.

The Democrats appear to have support from Newin Chidchob, a

former Thaksin loyalist who is also an occasional key

organizer of the \”redshirt\” pro-Thaksin protestors, as well

as minor coalition partners. The Democrats have formally

requested that the House of Representatives convene in order

to elect the next Prime Minister, but it remains unclear when

the House might come into session. The pro-Thaksin Puea Thai

party elected a low-profile politician as its new leader,

surprising those who expected a relative of Thaksin to take

the helm. Thaksin\’s ex-wife, Potjaman Damapong, returned to

Thailand on December 5 and may work to advance Thaksin\’s

political interests.

 

2. (C) Comment: Despite early speculation that the King might

have claimed ill health to avoid having to comment publicly

on the recent anti-government protests, the specificity of

Palace reports on the King\’s health, his recent frail

condition, and reporting in other channels (ref A), lead us

to believe he was genuinely ill. Further deterioration in

the King\’s condition would have a dramatic impact on the

nation. It remains unclear whether the Democrat-centered

putative coalition is firm and will last until the House

convenes to elect a new Prime Minister. We expect Thaksin

and his operatives to try to knock the Democrats off track,

although Thaksin\’s camp appears bereft of heavyweights who

can assume formal roles in the political process. Various

factors could account for the Democrats\’ newfound ability to

draw support from other parties. Newin\’s shift to supporting

the Democrats is significant not only because he represents a

meaningful block of legislators in the Northeast, but also

because pro-Thaksin street protests may be smaller and less

effective without Newin\’s leadership. End Summary and

Comment.

 

KING\’S HEALTH

————-

 

3. (SBU) On December 4, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn and his

sister, Princess Sirindhorn, appeared jointly before

assembled dignitaries to announce that King Bhumibol was ill

and unable to deliver his customary annual address to the

nation. After the Crown Prince made brief remarks on the

King\’s behalf, Princess Sirindhorn explained that her father

had bronchitis, was exhausted, on an IV, and unable to eat.

Subsequent official reports from the Palace indicated that

the King suffered from a fever and had an infection, but by

December 8 his condition was improving and he was able to eat

soft food.

 

4. (C) Comment: The rivalry between the Crown Prince and

Princess Sirindhorn is well known to Thailand\’s political

class, and we believe this joint appearance sent a deliberate

signal of Palace solidarity. While the Princess\’ briefing on

the King\’s health was justified by her recent meeting with

the King, we note that the Crown Prince served as the King\’s

formal representative at the event. End Comment.

 

DEMOCRATS UNVEIL COALITION

————————–

 

BANGKOK 00003585 002.2 OF 003

 

5. (SBU) On December 6, Democrat Party (DP) Secretary General

Suthep Thaugsuban, flanked by more than a dozen politicians

from other political parties (including the

recently-dissolved People\’s Power Party — PPP — and Chart

Thai Party), announced a new coalition, claiming the support

of 250 or more legislators. Attendees included Sanan

Kachornprasart, one of the few senior figures associated with

Chart Thai who were not disenfranchised as a result of the

Constitutional Court\’s December 2 ruling (ref B), and a

spokesman for the dozens-strong \”Newin\’s Friends\” faction of

PPP, which is directed by Buriram politician Newin Chidchob.

(Newin himself was one of 111 politicians banned from

politics for five years when the Constitution Court dissolved

the Thai Rak Thai Party in May 2007.)

 

6. (SBU) DP Party Leader Abhisit Vejjajiva is the

Democrat-centered coalition\’s candidate for Prime Minister.

It is unclear whom the pro-Thaksin Puea Thai Party might

propose as an alternative. The House has not yet set a date

for an extraordinary session to elect a new Prime Minister.

The Constitution stipulates that the House must elect a new

Prime Minister within 30 days of former PM Somchai\’s December

2 removal from office. The election of a new PM could be

derailed by House dissolution, but it is unclear whether an

Acting Prime Minister has the authority to dissolve the House.

 

7. (C) Comment: The Democrat Party served as the sole

opposition party during the pro-Thaksin Samak and Somchai

administrations. The DP has two principal support bases:

southern Thailand and Bangkok. Abhisit and many of his

colleagues in DP leadership positions are Bangkok-born and

foreign-educated; the DP is the party of choice of most

members of the Bangkok-based elite. Accordingly, the DP has

had difficulty appealing to rural voters in the North and

Northeast, where local power-brokers fit a different profile.

Although we have heard that Abhisit does not have close ties

to senior Army leaders, in the context of the current

polarization, both the Army and the DP appear solidly in the

anti-Thaksin, royalist sympathizer camp. Likewise, although

the DP has no formal connection with the anti-government

People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), and Abhisit personally

rejects the PAD agenda, some DP officials have worked closely

with the PAD, and minor PAD leader Somkiat is a DP MP. End

Comment.

 

PUEA THAI ELECTS NEW LEADERSHIP, SEEKS THIRD PARTY PM

——————————————— ——–

 

8. (SBU) The pro-Thaksin Puea Thai Party (PT), which was

formed as a backup vehicle in the event of the dissolution of

the People\’s Power Party (PPP), on December 7 elected former

Interior Ministry Permanent Secretary Yongyuth Wichaidit as

its Party Leader, despite widespread speculation that a

member of the Shinawatra family would hold this position. PT

figures\’ public remarks have acknowledged the Democrats\’

success in attracting legislators formerly aligned with the

PPP, but PT leaders proclaimed their intention to reassemble

their coalition before the election of the next Prime

Minister. In a sign of shifting dynamics away from the core

pro-Thaksin circle, the PT abandoned earlier expectations

that one of its own would be nominated as PM and indicated

its candidate for Prime Minister would be Industry Minister

Pracha Promnok, a retired Police General in a leading

position with the Motherland Party; Pracha subsequently said

publicly that he was not interested in receiving that

nomination, however. It is not clear whom the PT currently

intends to nominate as PM.

 

9. (SBU) Bio Notes: Yongyuth Wichaidit retired as Permanent

Secretary at the Ministry of Interior in 2002. He

subsequntly served as Assistant Minister of Public Health

(2003-2005), Advisor to the Minister of Agriculture and

Cooperatives (2005-2006), and Advisor to the Minister of

Interior (2008). He also served during his career as

Governor of Trang province and Governor of Nakhon Si

Thammarat province. He has never been elected to the

parliament. He was born on July 15, 1942; he received his

 

BANGKOK 00003585 003.2 OF 003

 

Bachelor\’s degree from Chulalongkorn University and his

Master\’s Degree from the National Institute for Development

Administration. He has also received a city planning

certificate from a U.S. university (NFI). We do not know how

fluently he speaks English. He is married and has a son and

a daughter. End Bio Notes.

 

10. (C) Comment: The selection of Yongyuth as PT Party Leader

and the initial effort to look outside of the party for a

nominee as Prime Minister highlight PT\’s lack of prominent

political figures and slipping leverage — not surprising,

given that two successive party executive boards have been

disenfranchised by Constitutional Court rulings. Defectors

from the pro-Thaksin camp to a Democrat-led coalition could

be motivated in part by the relative inexperience of PT\’s

formal leadership. Having seen the harmful impact of recent

anti-government protests, they might hope that a Democrat-led

administration can calm the situation and engender greater

stability. The views of the private sector, which has come

out decisively in favor of a Democrat-led government in

recent days, may have also played a role. The move toward

the Democrats might also reflect military influence, as

alleged by some Thaksin loyalists; an Army spokesman denied

the military was pressuring politicians, but Army Commander

Anupong Paojinda has made clear his antipathy for the last

pro-Thaksin PM (ref C). Finally, the Democrats\’ success in

coalition building could reflect disarray and/or a lack of

resources in the pro-Thaksin camp. End Comment.

 

POTJAMAN RETURNS

—————-

 

11. (SBU) Thaksin\’s ex-wife, Potjaman Damapong, returned to

Thailand on December 5. Potjaman had fled abroad while she

and her husband were on trial in connection with her purchase

of land from a quasi-government body. Potjaman was

subsequently acquitted in that case (ref E). She remains

free on bail while appealing an earlier tax evasion charge

(ref F).

 

12. (C) Comment: Subsequent to our reporting on Thaksin and

Potjaman\’s divorce (ref D), one of the couple\’s lawyers

credibly assured us that the divorce was strictly a legal

ploy to protect the couple\’s assets, which were primarily in

Potjaman\’s name. The lawyer dismissed speculation that the

divorce was driven in part by Thaksin\’s close relationships

with other women, telling us that Thaksin remained enamored

with Potjaman and called her many times per day. There is

ample open source speculation that Potjaman will lead

political maneuvers on behalf of Thaksin\’s interests; we

consider this speculation credible.

JOHN

 

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Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:37 am

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