thaicables – It's Your Right to know the Truth!

05BANGKOK953 THAI ELECTIONS: PAPER TIGER CAN’T KEEP UP WITH THE MONEY

leave a comment »

“26479”,”2/4/2005 14:00″,”05BANGKOK953″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

 

“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 000953

 

SIPDIS

 

EAP/BCLTV

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/04/2015

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, Elections – Thai

SUBJECT: THAI ELECTIONS: PAPER TIGER CAN\’T KEEP UP WITH THE

MONEY

 

Classified By: Classified by Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke, Reas

on: 1.4 (D)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Embassy visits to Phijit and Phitsanulok

provinces before the February 6 parliamentary election

revealed that allegations of vote buying and other campaign

violations have a basis in truth in Thailand\’s \”Lower North.\”

Local Election Commission officials and NGOs there are

frustrated with their inability to enforce election

regulations. Well-known faces from all parties in rural

Thailand remain popular. Politicians have plans for

post-election contingencies for Election Day violations well

underway. END SUMMARY.

 

ELECTION COMMISSION RESIGNED TO VOTE BUYING QUESTIONS EMBASSY

INTEREST

 

2. (C) Poloff visited Phijit and Phitsanulok provinces just a

few days prior to Thailand\’s first general election in four

years. In this \”Lower North\” region of rural Thailand,

agriculture and related food processing industries are the

economic kingpin and local interest in all things political

remains high. Civil service staff from the Phijit provincial

Election Commission (EC) predicted a 75 percent voter turnout

rate in the provinces four constituencies. These officials

claimed that election related violence is much lower than

four years ago and they reported only six official complaints

of election fraud have been reported. They predicted that no

\”red cards\” eliminating candidates will be issued, but

admitted that vote buying was common since it was part of

\”Thai political culture.\” In a separate meeting with the

Phijit EC Chairman and former Deputy Permanent Secretary of

Education, Phiphop Karnchana, the retired civil servant

appeared surprised and somewhat irritated at our interest in

the elections in his province. After taking his seat in a

formal meeting room at the provincial hall, the 70-something

man stated loudly, \”Why did you come here? Write down your

questions right now so I can answer them all right now.\” He

then continued to look at papers and sign letters as we

politely discussed some of the issues that we had just been

talking about with his staff, who seemed a bit embarrassed at

his behavior. The Chairman then gave a nice overview of

preparations for the election, stating Phijit was fully

prepared for the election and there were \”no problems\” with

vote buying or fraud in his province.

 

NGO SHEDS LIGHT ON CANDIDATES, DESPITE THREATS

 

3. (SBU) Unofficial vote monitors presented a somewhat

different picture. XXXXXXX, XXXXX of the

Phijit-based NGO, XXXXXX (XXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXX, told us of his grassroots efforts to monitor

elections using a network of rice farmers and small business

owners that has been working together for some 10 years.

These NGO members believed in some respects this

parliamentary election appeared to be better than the last,

with a notable drop in violence, particularly shootings among

rival party canvassers. However, parties appear to be

getting more sophisticated in vote buying, offering a

two-tiered system of pre-election gifts, such as dishes,

clothes or Buddha images to voters in early January and now

following up with \”bonus money in the next few days leading

up to election day. XXXXXXXXX

election-monitoring group People\’s Network for Election

Monitoring in Thailand or PNET) had recently released a story

to a daily Thai newspaper detailing vote buying by a Democrat

Party (DP) Candidate. They had also brought vote buying

allegations to the EC regarding a Thai Rak Thai (TRT)

candidate but asked to withdraw the complaint after villagers

received death threats. XXXXX commented that Phijit won,t

see a red card go to the TRT candidate because it\’s well

known that one of the commissioners is in the pocket of the

government and TRT party. \”Since a decision to issue a red

card must be a unanimous consensus of the EC, this won\’t

happen,\” he said.

 

PARLIAMENT: IT\’S A FAMILY BUSINESS

 

4. (C) Poloffs met with MPs from two well-known Phijit

families. First, in Tapan Hin district, we met with veteran

MP Adul Boonsert, of the TRT. Adul,s late father was a

prominent New Aspiration Party (NAP) MP. Now, with NAP

merged into TRT, both Adul and his son, Nawin Boonsert (who

is running for the first time in another district in Phijit)

are campaigning under the TRT banner. If Nawin pulls out an

unexpected win, he would be the first third generation MP in

Thai history. The elder Boonsert appeared very confident of

his own chances, noting that he really doesn\’t need to

campaign on his own, leaving it to his beloved elderly mother

and canvassers. He also admitted that going out on the

campaign trail on his own was risky due to the possibility of

dirty politicking and fraudulent claims of election

violations being thrown at him from rivals. He predicted that

the TRT will win 349 seats (constituency and party list

total) and that Finance Minster Somkid Jatusripitak will

continue to play a more prominent role in the TRT party,

possibly even being groomed as a replacement for Thaksin in

four years. Adul then showed off his many cars, including a

Cadillac limousine, a Lincoln Town Car and a red Corvette

sports car, all guarded by several men brandishing guns under

their jackets.

 

5. (SBU) Poloffs also met with the young, energetic

opposition Democrat Party (DP) MP, Narapat Kaewthong, whose

father was also a New Aspiration Party MP from Phijit

province. Narapat received a yellow card four years ago for

alleged irregularities that were noticed in ballots during

the counting process. He was elected after a re-vote was

mandated by the EC. This year, the PNET has already accused

him of vote-buying, citing villagers who claim his canvassers

distributed 400 baht to them in exchange for votes (100 baht

was kept by the canvasser). Narapat never directly denied or

acknowledged the vote buying when asked. After a long

conversation over Pepsi at a hot, sunny roadside stand,

Narapat finally surmised, \”The real reason I,m confident

I\’ll win is because the other party promised 500 baht per

vote but is only paying 200. What an insult to the

villagers!\” He predicted that he will be red-carded by the EC

after the election but has already made a plan. First he

claimed to have a videotape of the TRT candidate at a meeting

with local administration officials where the candidate

actually gives out thousands of baht in advance for future

vote buying. In case this blackmail doesn\’t work, Narapat has

his younger sister running in his district under the \”Thai

Rak Thin\” party banner, an older nearly defunct party with no

current representation in Parliament. If he\’s eliminated and

there is a revote, Narapat believes she will surely win with

her name recognition. (Note: In a side conversation with

members of PNET, and flanked by two armed bodyguards close at

hand, Narawat said to them, \”I respect your work, but you

are just a paper tiger, you and the EC.\” End note.)

 

HILL TRIBE VILLAGES \”REAPPEAR\” TO VOTE?

 

6. (U) In nearby Phitsanulok Province, the EC Chairman Supot

Pruekwan, vice rector and professor at Ratchaphak Phitsanulok

provided a cogent, professional brief of the status of

election fraud in his large, rural and mountainous province.

The local EC expects voter turnout at about 65 percent,

numerous accusations of voter fraud continue. In one area,

voter registration lists include over 400 names of hill tribe

villages who NGOs have confirmed have not lived in this area

for years and whom no one in these small isolated communities

has even heard of. As recently as last year, there were

records that all of these persons voted in municipal

elections. Predicting that at least two MP candidates

(unnamed) will be issued red cards, the EC chair added that

there have been numerous complaints about Thai police

harassing voters with false allegations of fraud, illegal

searches, and other tactics. (Note: The Police, upon

referral from the EC, undertake initial investigations of

election violations. End note.) Taking cell phone calls

about various ongoing fraud investigations throughout the

meeting, Suphot noted that the EC is really just a mechanism

for holding elections but has no real power to monitor

election fraud, let alone hold candidates or party operatives

responsible for violations.

 

7. (C) COMMENT: Allegations of vote buying and fraudulent

activities by candidates are nothing new in Thai politics,

and certainly this week leading up to Sunday\’s election is no

exception. Increasingly vigorous rounds of election day and

post-election day accusations, investigation and potential

re-balloting probably will continue for the next month or

longer. Meanwhile, MPs with family ties, an ability to

deliver to their constituents, and tried and true methods of

cash-for-votes are confident that Sunday\’s vote will bring

them another term in office. END COMMENT.

BOYCE

Advertisements

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:41 pm

Posted in Confidential, Election

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: