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05BANGKOK948 THAI ELECTIONS: PROMINENT DEMOCRAT PARTY CANDIDATES IN TOUGH FIGHTS IN SOUTHERN CONSTITUENCIES

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“26454”,”2/4/2005 9:22″,”05BANGKOK948″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

 

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

 

he full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 000948

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/04/2015

TAGS: PGOV, TH, Elections – Thai, Southern Thailand

SUBJECT: THAI ELECTIONS: PROMINENT DEMOCRAT PARTY

CANDIDATES IN TOUGH FIGHTS IN SOUTHERN CONSTITUENCIES

 

Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR ROBERT J. CLARKE. REASON: 1.4 (D)

 

1. (C) Summary: Dr. Surin Phitsuwan, Democrat (DP) party

luminary and former Foreign Minister under the Chuan Leekpai

administration, is waging a tough fight for election to

Parliament in a traditionally DP Nakhon Si Thammarat

constituency. He faces a well-funded, younger Thai Rak Thai

(TRT) Party challenger. Surin, one of the DP\’s more

articulate and internationally known officials, told poloff

on February 2 that the TRT is using illegal campaign tactics

and legal intimidation to hobble his campaign. He admitted

that his decision to run for the constituency in place of the

incumbent, his sister, had attracted accusations of

\”carpetbagging\” and that this was hurting him. In a

constituency in nearby Phang – nga province, on the Andaman

Sea coast, Prime Minister Thaksin\’s response to the recent

tsunami disaster has won him points and could have an impact

 

SIPDIS

on DP incumbent Jurit Luksanawisit\’s chances. While no one

is willing to predict outright a TRT upset in either Nakhon

Si Thammarat or Phang-nga, DP candidates in these areas are

in the unaccustomed and uncomfortable position of having real

competition. End Summary.

 

PROMINENT DP CANDIDATE SWITCHES FROM PARTY LIST TO CONTEST

CONSTITUENCY SEAT

 

2. (SBU) On February 1-2, Poloff and PolFSN visited two

constituencies, one in Nakhon Si Thammarat and the other in

Phang-nga. Both have long been held by the opposition

Democrat Party, but both DP candidates are being heavily

challenged by the Thai Rak Thai party. In Nakhon Si

Thammarat\’s first constituency, incumbent Huwaiyda Phitsuwan

stepped aside so that her brother, nationally prominent DP

politician Surin Phitsuwan, could run for her constituency.

Most observers believe that Surin felt that Huwaiyda would

lose against the well-placed TRT candidate — Kanop Ketchap,

son of the powerful mayor of Nakhon Si Thammarat. With

indications that the TRT was targeting the constituency as an

opportunity \”trophy\” seat in the DP-dominated south, Surin

asked to step in for Hawaiyda. In return, the DP offered her

a party list candidacy. Party list seats are 100 national,

non-constituency seats awarded proportionately to those

parties who pick up five percent or more of the separate

countrywide vote on party lists. Surin had held a party list

seat in Parliament before opting to run for his sister\’s seat.

 

COMPLAINTS OF \”CARPETBAGGING

 

3. (C) Surin has served as an MP for Nakhon Si Thammarat

since 1986. His most recent term, from 2001 to 2005, had

been as a party list candidate. Surin is by his own

admission having a tough fight. During lunch with poloff, he

complained that his decision to run for the constituency seat

in place of his sister has evinced accusations of his being a

\”carpetbagger.\” Surin said that the TRT machine is painting

him as essentially uninterested in working for the

constituency\’s interests, but rather ambitious to use the

seat for his own national political agenda. He also noted

that some of the DP voters in the constituency, upset because

he had taken his popular sister\’s place, were threatening to

withhold their votes from Surin.

 

CLAIMS STRONG TACTICS BY OPPONENTS

 

4. (C) Surin told poloff that his supporters are also being

intimidated by the TRT. His TRT opponent\’s father is Mayor

of Nakhon Si Thammarat. Posters for Surin\’s candidacy are

being destroyed regularly and, he complained, the Provincial

Election Commission has been unresponsive. \”My supporters

are afraid to show their support for me in some areas,\” Surin

claimed. Surin said that over 4,000 voters cast their

ballots as \”early voters,\” an unusually high number of

persons taking advantage of the procedure that allows voters

who are unable to vote on election day to vote before then.

 

5. (C) Surin said that vote buying by TRT canvassers is

rampant, with phone cards in many cases replacing baht notes

as the currency. Surin noted wryly that though voters in

southern Thailand are justifiably known to show more party

loyalty then in other regions of Thailand, money is money,

and some of his potential supporters will be swayed. In the

case of TRT, anything goes, said Surin. He added that he has

to be careful in his speeches because the TRT is trying to

muzzle him legally. Surin said that he had to appear before

the election commission the following day to explain

complaints by the TRT that he had \”vilified\” his opponent in

his speeches. (note: Surin told poloff that he merely

pointed out to his audience that he was for honesty and

transparency in government and that voters wanted these

values in government they should vote for him and not the TRT

candidate.)

 

TRT CANDIDATE SAYS POLITICS ARE LOCAL

 

6. (SBU) Surin\’s TRT opponent Kanop told poloff that he

will adhere to a straightforward theme: to represent

directly the interests of Nakhon Si Thammarat\’s citizens —

traffic, flood control, tourism development. He said he will

have the advantage of being a member of a strong government

that is able to get things done. The DP candidate would not

have the access that he would and the voters understand that,

he said. They also know that if elected he will focus on the

voters\’ local issues, not matters of national policy. Kanop

said that he is a \”local son\” who has returned to his home

town from abroad (University of Colorado Civil Engineering).

 

…AND TOUTS YOUTH AND \”COMMON TOUCH\”

 

7. (SBU) Kanop, a young-looking 32 year old, told poloff

that he is reaching out to young voters (he had just come

from a local college to meet with poloff), portraying himself

as a change from old-style politics. He said that he hoped

that the parents of young voters (voter eligibility is 18 in

Thailand) will follow their children\’s lead and vote for

change. Kanop added that rather than the traditional mass

rallies, he had mounted a door-to-door campaign in order to

let the voters see and hear his message up close. (Note:

That evening, former Prime Minister and DP leader Chuan

Leekpai came to Nakhon Si Thammarat to support Surin at a

mass rally. End note.)

 

8. (SBU) Nakhon Si Thammarat Election Commission members

told poloff that no election-related violence had occurred so

far in constituency one and that there had been only a few

complaints of election fraud – most made by candidates

against their opponents. Commission Chairman Somboon

Promphan expressed confidence to poloff in the commission\’s

ability to manage the process, having learned from experience

in the 2001 general election. They told poloff that the

commission\’s control over the process is stricter than 2001

and that the commission has vote fraud investigative teams

stationed in each constituency in the country.

 

WAYS TO A MEANS – VOTE BUYING

 

9. (C) XXXXXXXX, regional head of XXXXXXXXX, an

Election Commission-funded organization mandated to observe

the activities of candidates, the local election commission

and related government officials, told poloff that supporters

from both sides were trying to influence voters through

handouts. One tactic was to hand prospective voters 20 Baht

notes (approx. 40 baht equals one U.S. dollar) with a unique

stamp on it. The recipient is told that if the named

candidate wins, the stamped 20 baht note can be redeemed for

a 1,000 baht note. Another tactic is to task the voter with

taking a cell phone equipped with a camera into the voting

booth to record that he or she had indeed marked the ballot

for the \”right\” party, allowing for payment.

 

EARLY VOTERS – EARLY FRAUD?

 

10. (C) XXXXX also noted Surin\’s suspicions about the large

numbers of early voters. She agreed that the number appeared

to be unusually high for constituency one. In earlier

elections about one thousand persons voted early in

constituency one. This election the number was about 4,400,

according to XXXXX She raised the question of possible

fraud, saying that Pollwatch had been informed that many of

the early voters had been brought in from Nakhon Si

Thammarat\’s tenth constituency, where numerous cases of voter

list name duplication existed. She opined that TRT had

exploited this situation and had arranged transport for these

fraudulent voters to the first constituency.

 

THAKSIN\’S TSUNAMI PERFORMANCE HELPING TRT CANDIDATE IN

PHANG-NGA

 

11. (SBU) Another DP incumbent, Jurit Luksanawisit, is

facing a tough challenge in the first constituency of

Phang-nga province. This province, also traditionally DP as

in Nakhon Si Thammarat, was particularly hard hit by the

recent tsunami. According to XXXXa and other observers,

Jurit\’s TRT opponent, Krit Seefah, is receiving a bump in

support from voters because of what was considered the quick

and decisive actions by Thaksin\’s government following the

tsunami. Jurit, like Surin, is a prominent DP politician and

 

SIPDIS

an upset by the TRT in his constituency would represent a

real coup for Thaksin.

 

TSUNAMI COMPLICATING ELECTION PROCESS IN PHANG-NGA

 

SIPDIS

 

12. (C) Election officials with whom poloff spoke in

Phang-nga said that there has been relatively little evidence

of vote-buying and virtually no violence in the constituency.

Commission Chairman Prasoet Kuadkitchakan\’s biggest concern

is over the potential for voter fraud. Prasoet said that the

Phang-nga Election Commission believes that because of the

chaotic circumstances of the December 26 tsunami, large

number of those Phang-nga residents killed have not been

reported to the commission. This leaves open the possibility

of voter fraud through use of deceased persons\’

identification documents. The Commission members also told

poloff that they had problems locating enough suitable

polling sites to replace those destroyed by the tsunami.

 

13. (C) Comment: TRT appears to be mounting a full court

press in these two high-profile southern constituencies.

They are traditional DP strongholds and, while no one we

spoke to is willing to predict outright a TRT upset in Nakhon

Si Thammarat or Phang-nga, the DP candidates in these areas

know they are fighting real contests.

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Posted in Confidential, Election

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