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09BANGKOK208 TH CHECK: AMBASSADOR\’S INTERLOCUTORS DISCUSS PM ABHISIT\’S START, EX PM-THAKSIN/OPPOSITION

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“188954”,”1/27/2009 10:18″,

 

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SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/26/2019

TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, KJUS, TH

SUBJECT: ONE MONTH CHECK: AMBASSADOR\’S INTERLOCUTORS

DISCUSS PM ABHISIT\’S START, EX PM-THAKSIN/OPPOSITION

 

REF: 2008 BANGKOK 3226 (HOPE FOR MEDIATION)

 

BANGKOK 00000208 001.2 OF 003

 

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

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) One month into the government of PM Abhisit Vejajjiva,

a series of interlocutors shared generally positive

impressions of the new PM\’s initial weeks in office with

Ambassador but seemed more animated discussing the

opposition, particularly ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra\’s lingering

influence from abroad. Privy Council President Prem

Tinsulanonda told the Ambassador that PM Abhisit was

well-qualified to lead the government and could perform well;

Prem believed former PM Thaksin, a fugitive overseas, was

seeking to maintain his public profile and should be

imprisoned if he returned to Thailand. Separately, former PM

Anand Panyarachun told the Ambassador that Abhisit had done

well during his first month in office. Anand praised Army

Commander Anupong Paojinda for having refrained from

intervening in politics, claiming Anupong had understood King

Bhumibol\’s desire for a peaceful political transition without

military interference. Separately, Noppadon Pattama, who

served as Foreign Minister in the (pro-Thaksin) Samak

administration, predicted that protests against the current

government would remain essentially peaceful. Noppadon

believed pro-Thaksin figures should not risk discrediting

themselves but should allow time to erode Abhisit\’s positive

image. Noppadon also bemoaned the lack of capable

politicians able to lead the Puea Thai party, as most of

Thaksin\’s allies among senior politicians had been

disenfranchised by Constitutional Court rulings.

 

2. (C) Comment: The Ambassador\’s conversations with these

significant interlocutors reinforced our own view that PM

Abhisit is off to a reasonably good start, but that his

government faces significant policy challenges given the

current economic situation in Thailand and globally, and that

Thaksin and \”redshirts\” remain forces to be reckoned with.

Given that the \”redshirt\” anti-government protesters have

thrown eggs at a former Prime Minister and rocks at Democrat

MPs\’ cars, we are unsure whether Noppadon spoke with

authority or simply expressed his own hope when he claimed

these demonstrators would remain within reasonable bounds to

preserve their credibility. End Summary and Comment.

 

PRIVY COUNCILORS PRAISE ABHISIT, STILL WARY OF THAKSIN

——————————————— ———

 

3. (C) In a January 22 lunch with Ambassador, DCM, and

PolCounselor, Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda

described PM Abhisit as \”clean\” and \”one of the best we

have.\” Prem hoped the government would get off to a good

start. Prem and Privy Councilor Siddhi Savetsila were

considerably more animated about ex-PM Thaksin and his

supporters. Prem stated that Thaksin would not stop his

political efforts; he would keep trying to protect and

promote himself. Siddhi claimed that anti-government

protestors were losing credibility as a result of their

actions, such as throwing eggs at their opponents (such as

former PM Chuan). He suggested the tactics were designed

simply to keep the protestors, and by extension Thaksin, in

the news. Prem added that this type of motive was also

behind Thaksin\’s talking up an alleged assassination plot

(possibly that in reftel).

 

4. (C) The Ambassador said he could easily imagine two

scenarios for Thaksin going forward: stay abroad and fight,

while slowly losing influence here in Thailand; or come back,

go to jail, and hope for a pardon as part of a deal. Prem

replied that he considered it \”almost impossible\” for Thaksin

to come back, because he did not think Thaksin would ever

agree to go to jail. Prem added that Thaksin was a very

dangerous man and should be jailed, not traveling abroad.

Prem claimed that the Chinese Ambassador had told him that

the PRC would not welcome Thaksin visiting China again (note:

after the 2006 coup, Thaksin spent significant time in Hong

Kong, occasionally traveling to Beijing).

 

BANGKOK 00000208 002.2 OF 003

 

EX-PM ANAND: ARMY HEEDED KING\’S WISHES; ABHISIT GOOD START

————————————— ——————

 

5. (C) Separately, former PM Anand Panyarachun remarked to

Ambassador in a January 23 office call that the political

situation seemed to have stabilized. A peaceful change of

government was the outcome he had long hoped for, with no

need to resort to military power. Anand said he gave great

credit to Army Commander Anupong — in the past, military

leaders interpreted the King\’s or Queen\’s remarks in a way

that furthered their selfish interests. But Anand believed

Anupong had correctly understood a \”signal\” from the King

that no coup should take place.

 

6. (C) Anand said it was a pity there was not sufficient

appreciation that the King helped to usher in this peaceful

change — in his \”shrewd, diplomatic\” manner, the King had

resisted attempts to pressure him to send a signal he favored

change. (Comment: Anand may have been referring to

widespread stories that the Queen pressed for a coup, but he

was not explicit. End Comment.) The Ambassador noted that

he had explained to his audiences that the December

transition was consistent with parliamentary practices; Anand

enthusiastically agreed and said many people in other

countries did not understand parliamentary systems.

 

7. (C) Anand spoke well of Abhisit, saying he had been \”quite

adept\” so far, with no gaffes. Anand predicted Abhisit\’s

government would last two years; he was not very worried

about the impact of \”redshirt\” anti-government protesters,

but he said one key issue would be how Abhisit and the

Democrats would be able to restrict the corruption of their

coalition partners, especially as some huge infrastructure

projects would be forthcoming. Anand praised Finance

Minister Korn Chatikavanij (a close friend of Abhisit) as a

\”man of action\” who should do well in his current role. As

for Thaksin, Anand scoffed that Thaksin said publicly that he

wanted a \”quiet life,\” but he kept giving interviews that are

\”self-damaging.\”

 

PRO-THAKSIN EX-FM PREDICTS MODERATE PROTESTS

——————————————–

 

8. (C) Former FM Noppadon Pattama, who had previously served

as Thaksin\’s spokesman and lawyer, told Ambassador in a

January 20 call at the Residence that Abhisit was trying to

do a good job, but it was unclear whether the government

would be able to stimulate the economy. If the ruling party

failed in improving the economic climate, political

instability would likely return, and Puea Thai would be

well-positioned to form a government.

 

9. (C) In the short-term, Puea Thai was hamstrung by its

struggles to find a good leader, Noppadon said. Court

rulings against executives of the Thai Rak Thai and the

People\’s Power Party had created a void in the top ranks of

politicians allied with Thaksin. Yongyuth Wichaidith had

only reluctantly accepted the Puea Thai leadership position,

as he did not like politics. Puea Thai hoped that the Thai

Pride Party (Phumjai Thai), the Democrats\’ largest partner in

the government, would push for an amnesty that would restore

political rights to those banned from political office for

five years by Constitutional Court decisions. It was

doubtful this would be pursued within the next six months,

however, as the ruling coalition would most likely seek time

to solidify its power before considering allowing banned

politicians back into politics.

 

10. (C) With its own internal issues to deal with, Puea Thai

was not planning to attack the government during the first

few months of the year, Noppadon said. It was likely that

public opinion would turn against Abhisit, and the press

would start to attack the government. If this happened, Puea

Thai would become an attractive alternative without having to

tarnish its image by attacking the government.

 

11. (C) Noppadon said that the \”redshirts\” would protest at

the upcoming ASEAN summit, but the protests would be polite.

 

BANGKOK 00000208 003.2 OF 003

 

Protest leaders planned to take the high road and not follow

the example of the People\’s Alliance for Democracy.

Disruptive protests would cause the redshirt movement to lose

legitimacy, a dangerous prospect considering that the elite,

some members of the Privy Council, and the Army were already

aligned against the redshirts.

JOHN

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Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 3:10 am

One Response

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  1. […] prepared to accept anything short of their own rule. As Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda observed more than two years ago, “… Thaksin was a very dangerous man and should be jailed…”. Nothing much has changed and […]


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