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09BANGKOK2125 PM ABHISIT LOSES POLICE CHIEF BATTLE…FOR NOW

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“221971”,”8/24/2009 10:28″,”09BANGKOK2125″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”09BANGKOK2009″,”VZCZCXRO9507

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #2125/01 2361028

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 241028Z AUG 09

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 8042

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 7385

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 9900

RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 5743

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 5717

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1848

RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 0061

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 6907

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002125

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR WALTON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/23/2019

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KDEM, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: PM ABHISIT LOSES POLICE CHIEF

BATTLE…FOR NOW

 

REF: BANGKOK 2009 (SIX MONTH CHECK-UP)

 

BANGKOK 00002125 001.2 OF 002

 

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

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) In the latest sign of Prime Minister Abhisit

Vejjajiva\’s tenuous political positioning, the Royal Thai

Police Office\’s 11-member board rejected Abhisit\’s nominee

for the National Police Chief job August 20. The vote

represented not only an embarrassing public rebuke for

Abhisit, but it also dramatically underscored Abhisit\’s

inability to dictate his agenda on even core issues like law

and order. Two members of the Phumjai Thai party (a crucial

member of the governing coalition) helped thwart Abhisit\’s

candidate by casting decisive \”no\” votes, amidst stories that

Democrat Party power broker DPM Suthep was siding with

Phumjai Thai rather than backing his own party leader,

calling into question the long-term viability of the Democrat

Party\’s Faustian pact with Phumjai Thai and Abhisit\’s

leadership of his own party. While we believe Abhisit will

ride out this latest political storm and perhaps even secure

approval for his Police Chief candidate, it is clear that, at

least for now, Abhisit remains on a very short political

leash. End Summary and Comment.

 

ABHSIT\’S MISCALCULATION

———————–

 

2. (SBU) On August 20, PM Abhisit sought to end several weeks

of speculation about the National Police Chief position by

putting his preferred candidate — Police General Prateep

Tunprasert — to a vote before the 11-member Royal Thai

Police Office Board. Prateep enjoys a reputation as a

relatively clean cop and seemed to represent a natural choice

for Abhisit and his ongoing good governance campaign.

 

3. (C) Current Chief Patcharawat Wongsuwan (the Defense

Minister\’s brother) faces compulsory retirement at the end of

September but has been dogged by controversy ever since the

October 7, 2008 police-People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD)

clash in front of parliament left two dead and hundreds

injured. Allegations by a ruling party MP that a Patcharawat

ally was selling positions on the upcoming promotion list,

and complaints by an assistant Police Chief that Patcharawat

was preventing an investigation into the attempted

assassination of PAD leader Sondhi, further undermined

Patcharawat. PM Abhisit concluded he had the executive

prerogative to name Patcharawat\’s replacement. Unfortunately

for Abhisit, he did not line up the votes on the Board ahead

of time.

 

4. (C) The 11-member Board rejected Police General Prateep by

a five to four vote (Abhisit and another Board member

abstained) thanks in large measure to \”no\” votes from two

Phumjai Thai associates represented on the Board: Interior

Minister (and Party leader) Chavarat Charnvirakul; and

recently appointed Interior Permanent Secretary Manit

Wattanasen, seen as close to Phumjai Thai de facto leader

Newin Chidchob. Both had publicly supported another

candidate — Police General Jumpol Manmai — for the

lucrative money generating position, and criticized the Prime

Minister after the fact for not allowing board members to

choose from multiple candidates. According to Embassy

contacts, however, the real reason they sabotaged Abhisit\’s

candidate was more straightforward: Phumjai Thai wanted a

Police Chief it could control.

 

ABHISIT STAYS THE COURSE

————————

 

5. (SBU) In the wake of the Police Chief vote debacle, calls

for Abhisit\’s resignation were swift and more or less broke

down along predictable political lines, with former PM

Thaksin\’s allies leading the charge. Thaksin\’s proxies in

the Pheu Thai party argued the vote provided clear evidence

 

BANGKOK 00002125 002.2 OF 002

 

of Abhisit\’s inability to govern effectively and control his

own cabinet, with some members forcefully calling on the PM

to dissolve parliament.

 

6. (SBU) Meanwhile, Abhisit brushed off the vote setback and

publicly vowed to try again, declaring: \”this kind of

situation has happened in the past. Pratheep still has a

chance because the law says the Prime Minister is entitled to

propose a new police chief for the approval of the board.\”

Abhisit also suggested he would pursue a compromise with the

Interior Minister in the interest of putting his candidate in

place. In public appearances and media events subsequent to

the vote, Abhisit remained composed and even playfully

characterized media coverage of the issue as overblown.

 

A CAPTAIN NOT FULLY IN CONTROL OF HIS SHIP

——————————————

 

7. (C) Despite assurances to the contrary, the vote setback

amounted to a political belly flop for Abhisit. At a

minimum, the vote demonstrated Abhisit\’s political naivete

and/or inability to count heads before a relatively

straightforward up or down vote; he badly miscalculated the

support he could expect for his candidate. Embassy contacts

from across the political spectrum have privately

characterized this latest setback as an alarming repudiation

of Abhisit and perhaps an ominous harbinger of things to come

for him. The incident made Abhisit look weak the moment most

would agree he could least afford it.

 

8. (C) The vote debacle also served to re-focus the media

spotlight on two fundamental political realities for Abhisit,

namely: Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban seems to

routinely place coalition management over his own Prime

Minister\’s agenda, as well as the fact that the coalition

itself is nothing more than a messy marriage of convenience

with all the attendant risks and downsides. Mission contacts

confirm DPM Suthep — who also doubles as the Democrat

party\’s Secretary General — has maintained a zealous focus

on keeping the coalition in place, with a particular emphasis

on tending to relations with Phumjai Thai and the army. At

the same time, Newin and Phumjai Thai party appear perfectly

content to milk their relationship with the Democrats for all

its worth, secure in the knowledge Newin and Phumjai Thai

amount to Kingmakers.

JOHN

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Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 2:11 am

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