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05BANGKOK7732 THAKSIN ALLY PAINTS GLOOMY PICTURE OF PM\’S STANDING

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“48039”,”12/19/2005 9:46″,”05BANGKOK7732″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”05BANGKOK6978|05BANGKOK7317|05BANGKOK75

 

“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 007732

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/15/2015

TAGS: PGOV, TH, Thai Prime Minister, TRT – Thai Rak Thai

SUBJECT: THAKSIN ALLY PAINTS GLOOMY PICTURE OF PM\’S STANDING

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 07529 (LUNCH WITH THAKSIN)

B. BANGKOK 07317 (COURT VICTORIES FOR

RABBLE-ROUSING JOURNALIST SONDHI)

C. BANGKOK 06978 (FORMER PRIME MINISTER ANAND

CRITICIZES SURAKIART RUN FOR UN

SECRETARY GENERAL POST)

 

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, reasons 1.4 (b) (d)

 

1. (C) Summary and Introduction: I met with Deputy Prime

Minister Surakiart Sathirathai on December 16, expecting to

hear another campaign speech from the would-be UN Secretary

General (ref C). Instead, Surakiart unexpectedly delivered a

downbeat analysis of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra\’s

standing in the wake of the King\’s speech (ref A). Surakiart

contradicted Thaksin\’s rosy view of the speech completely,

reinforcing the view that the palace remains unhappy with the

PM. Surakiart recognized that Thai Rak Thai (TRT) is still

strong, particularly in the countryside, but repeated the

adage that \”Prime Ministers are elected in the countryside

but deposed in Bangkok.\” He said that rabble-rousing

journalist/businessman Sondhi Limthongkhul (ref B) is not the

man to lead a successful opposition to Thaksin, but he may

continue to plague TRT with his (accurate) revelations of

government corruption. Although Surakiart is an opportunist

who has hitched his wagon to Thaksin\’s star, he is also a

member of the Bangkok elite, tied into the palace through his

wife, the daughter of the King\’s former principal private

secretary and current Privy Counsellor. His personal

 

SIPDIS

interests give him a keen concern for the PM\’s fortunes. End

Summary and Introduction.

 

2. (C) At the very outset of our meeting, Deputy Prime

Minister Surakiart dismissed Thaksin\’s contention that the

King and the PM had discussed the issues in the King\’s

December 4 speech beforehand and reached an understanding.

Surakiart explained that, if the King thought that Thaksin

would listen to his private advice, then he would have given

it privately. The King had 60 years of experience dealing

with prime ministers, and he knew how to handle them. The

problem was that Thaksin simply doesn\’t listen, so the King

felt compelled to make his points in a public, albeit

typically veiled way. Surakiart also refuted Thaksin\’s claim

that the Queen urged the PM to meet the King regularly to

\”cheer him up,\” maintaining that the Queen was also no fan of

Thaksin. Overall, Surakiart\’s view tallied with what we\’ve

heard from other sources, that the palace, including the

King, still has issues with the Prime Minister. Surakiart

leaned toward the view that Thaksin had convinced himself

that this was not so, and was just refusing to acknowledge

the signs to the contrary.

 

3. (C) I pointed out that Thaksin and TRT still have strong

support, especially in the countryside. I noted also that

the general populace were probably only dimly aware, if at

all, of tensions between the beloved monarch and the popular

PM, and did not see any need to choose between them.

Surakiart acknowledged this, and added that TRT is the first

political party to have \”two legs\” — support both upcountry

and in Bangkok. Nevertheless, Surakiart assessed that the

Bangkok elite were now really engaged in opposing Thaksin.

He cited the saying, \”Prime Ministers are elected in the

countryside but deposed in Bangkok,\” to illustrate the

dangers that this development posed for Thaksin.

 

4. (C) Surakiart said that the steady opposition to the PM

demonstrated by the crowds who turn out to hear Sondhi each

week was significant, but that Sondhi himself was not the man

to spearhead a successful campaign against Thaksin. However,

the King\’s speech had implicitly absolved Sondhi of any

wrongdoing, and forced the PM to drop the lawsuits against

him. Sondhi would have to tone down one of him most saleable

themes — defending the \”King\’s prerogatives\” — but he was

doing a good business in exposing and highlighting corruption

scandals. According to Surakiart, it was clear that Sondhi

had excellent sources for these stories, since \”everything

he\’s said is true.\” Given the high levels of corruption in

the government, this could be a deep well to draw from, and

there was apparently no shortage of sources to dish dirt on

the government. For the next few weeks, Surakiart

predicted, political activity would quiet down somewhat as

people would be busy with vacations and the new year holiday,

but things might pick up around mid-January. (Note: Sondhi

announced last Friday that he was taking a break and would be

back in mid-January. End note.)

 

Comment

——-

 

5. (C) Surakiart\’s insistent, unequivocal contradiction of

Thaksin\’s upbeat claims about his relationship with the

palace was striking. Surakiart is not above manipulation,

and his comments need to be taken with the proverbial grain

of salt. But their basic thrust is consistent with other

soundings we\’re detecting. Surakiart has the contacts to

speak with authority about both the palace and TRT. Like many

other prognostications of trouble for Thaksin, Surakiart\’s

account was short on details of where Thaksin, with his 375

seat parliamentary majority, could be vulnerable. However,

TRT is not a political party unified around a set of

principles; it is a loose confederation held together by

networks of favor and self-interest. There continue to be

rumors that some of the marginalized factions within the

party are disgruntled and looking for options, but no real

indications to date of serious or significant defections from

TRT. Still Surakiart\’s final question shows that even some

of the TRT stalwarts are worried. If Thaksin goes down, he

asked, \”how will it affect my bid to be UN Secretary

General?\”

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 2:24 pm

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