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05BANGKOK5917 CONFLICT OVER AUDITOR GENERAL EMBARRASSES THAKSIN GOVERNMENT

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“40574″,”9/14/2005 10:28″,”05BANGKOK5917″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”05BANGKOK3381|05BANGKOK3471″,

 

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

 

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 005917

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/14/2015

TAGS: PGOV, TH

SUBJECT: CONFLICT OVER AUDITOR GENERAL EMBARRASSES THAKSIN

GOVERNMENT

 

REF: (A) BANGKOK 3471 (B) BANGKOK 3381

 

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR SUSAN M. SUTTON. REASON: 1.4 (D)

 

1. (C) Summary. Some 96 days after a candidate for new

Auditor-General was submitted by the Senate for the King’s

approval, the Palace remains mute, leaving the Thaksin

Government in an awkward situation. Though the issue of

appointments to the independent Auditor-General position is

made by the nominally neutral Senate, the nominee, Wisut

Montriwat, is widely believed to have been picked by Prime

Minister Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Party to replace

incumbent Khunying Jaruwan Maintahai (ref. B). Jaruwan is

considered by observers here as a straight-shooting,

incorruptible officer who was closing in on alleged

government malfeasance in awarding contracts for the new

airport. The Palace’s silence has become deafening and now

there is increasing call for the resignation of Senate

Speaker Suchon Suwanpanont for trying to remove Jaruvan and

for sending Wisut’s name to the King for approval without

final determination of Jaruwan’s status. The issue is also

causing tensions within the TRT. More significantly, the

discussion emanating from the Auditor-General controversy has

ignited discussion over the powers of the monarchy. End

Summary.

 

BACKGROUND

 

2. (SBU) As noted in earlier reporting, on July 6, 2004,

the Constitutional Court ruled that the selection process

that made Jaruwan Auditor General was unconstitutional. The

Court did not rule, however, if the unconstitutional

selection process meant that Jaruwan had to resign. The

ruling catalyzed intense debate on Khunying Jaruwan,s

status. Some said she was defacto removed from her office

by the ruling, but others argued that without the royal

command for her removal and in light of the fact that the

Court did not rule on her vacation of office, she could stay

on as Auditor-General. However, a majority of senators

(especially those under the government’s control) championed

the first notion; thus, moving for selection of a new

Auditor-General. On May 10 this year, the Senate selected

Wisut Montriwat, a former Deputy Permanent Secretary of

finance considered by many to be a supporter of the Thaksin

government, as new Auditor-General.

 

3. (SBU) This selection met with resistance from some

Senators, MPs and law experts, who warned of legal

complications. 60 members of the TRT’s Wang Nam Yen faction

sent a letter to Senate Speaker Suchon, asking him not to

propose the name of Wisut for the King’s appointment (as

noted in previous reporting, around 40 members of the faction

were later pressured by PM Thaksin into withdrawing their

names from the support of this act). Regardless of all the

opposition, Suchon presented the name of the new

Auditor-General to the King on June 10, 2005, but to date the

King has not yet issued the Royal Command appointing the new

Auditor-General, although such appointments are normally

quickly endorsed by the Palace. (Note: It was believed that

Suchon, known as the Government,s supporter, had been

instructed by the powers that be to forge ahead with Wisut,s

nomination as new Auditor-General. End note.) Observers such

as XXXXXX Editor XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX claim to us that

the Palace was unhappy over the Senate’s attempt to make the

King complicit with rubber-stamping the removal of Jaruwan –

a popular official who had been officially endorsed by the

King.

 

THE POWER OF THE MONARCHY COMES UNDER DISCUSSION

 

4. (C) The Palace’s passive-aggressive response to the

attempt to oust Jaruwan was certainly on the minds of

participants in a September 6th 2005, Thammasat

University-hosted seminar discussion on the powers of the

monarchy in modern Thailand. The seminar drew a much larger

crowd than officials had expected. Many insiders were

interested in how the modern-day monarchy plays into Thai

politics, and were looking for insights into the resolution

of the Auditor-General row. The main speaker was TRT MP

Pramuan Rutchanaseri, who recently wrote a best-selling book

called “Royal Powers”. Pramuan has recently faced threats of

expulsion from the TRT party because of his dissenting views

from Prime Minister Thaksin on several issues. As expected,

Pramuan and others at the seminar strongly criticized the

Thaksin administration, especially the perception that he

was, through Suchon’s attempt to remove Jaruwan, challenging

the power of the King.

 

ISSUE COMING TO A HEAD

 

5. (C) COMMENT: It has been 96 days since Wisut’s name was

presented to the King for his appointment, and the feeling

here is that something has to give. Many observers here,

such as Senator Thawin Phraison, tell us that Thaksin wants

to extricate himself from this embarrassing impasse by having

Senate Speaker Suchon pull back Wisut’s nomination. There is

reportedly a good deal of behind-the-scenes maneuvering.

Recently, for example, four Senators, led by Bangkok Senator

Seri Suwanphanon, reportedly asked the King’s Principal

Private Secretary, Asa Sarasin, for a meeting to discuss a

solution to the situation. Suchon is facing increasing

criticism for his role in the clumsy attempt to remove a

popular and honest official. The Campaign for Popular

Democracy (CDP) and other civic groups will decide shortly on

whether to gather the 50,000 signatures needed for an

impeachment petition against Suchon. Though the imbroglio has

been an embarrassment for Thaksin, he has so far managed to

avoid becoming too publicly linked with this issue.

Thaksin’s opponents hoped that the conflict might seriously

weaken the Prime Minister, but it seems to lack resonance

outside the highly politicized circles in Bangkok — another

embarrassment, but hardly a fatal blow. End Comment.

ARVIZU

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 2:07 pm

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