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07BANGKOK5802 NLA MOVING QUICKLY ON WIDE-RANGING INTERNAL SECURITY ACT

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“130065”,”11/14/2007 23:58″,”07BANGKOK5802″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO6501

PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #5802/01 3182358

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P 142358Z NOV 07

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0656

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 5165

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 7957

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 3912

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RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 BANGKOK 005802

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPT FOR EAP/MLS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/13/2017

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KDEM, PHUM, ASEC, TH

SUBJECT: NLA MOVING QUICKLY ON WIDE-RANGING INTERNAL

SECURITY ACT

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 5593 (SOUTHERN DETAINEES)

 

B. BANGKOK 3528 (THAI ACTIVISTS DENOUNCE DRAFT

SECURITY LAW)

C. BANGKOK 3502 (DRAFT SECURITY LAW SUMMARY)

D. BANGKOK 3402 (DOUBLE SECRET LEGISLATION: THAI

SECURITY ACT)

E. BANGKOK 1754 (THAILAND\’S NEW SECURITY STRUCTURE:

BETTER LIVING THROUGH ISOC)

F. 06 BANGKOK 5711 (ALLEGED BOMB PLOT)

 

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission James Entwistle, reasons 1.4 (b)

and (d).

 

1. (C) Summary. The Thai government is pushing ahead with

the Internal Security Act with the National Legislative

Assembly which passed the first reading by a wide margin on

November 8. The Internal Security Act would provide the

military, through its role in the Internal Security

Operations Command, the power to act outside of judicial or

parliamentary review; many see it as an effort by the

military to retain a political role after the return to

elected government. Despite calls by academics or human

rights organizations for the NLA to reject the law, most

anticipate that it will pass before the end of the month,

although perhaps with substantial changes. The law may also

face constitutional court review. NGOs, media and academics

are beginning to mobilize against the draft; post will

continue to encourage legislators and government contacts to

ensure the final version, if passed, respects citizens\’

rights. End Summary.

 

ISA MOVING QUICKLY

——————

 

2. (U) The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) November 8

passed the draft Internal Security Act through the first

reading by a margin of 101 votes for, 20 against, and 2

abstentions. The draft ISA had been scheduled for action in

the NLA on November 7, but the first reading was re-scheduled

without explanation. Thai Cabinet had approved the draft

October 16. The Act will now move to an ad hoc committee for

consideration of amendments.

 

3. (C) According to the committee rules provided to us by a

member of the National Legislative Assembly, members of the

Assembly will be permitted seven days to submit amendments of

the draft to the committee. The rules permit the committee

to spend two to three weeks considering the bill and

amendments to the bill before returning the Act to the

Assembly for second and third readings. The second reading

will allow NLA members the opportunity to debate the bill

article by article while the third reading would be the final

vote on the Act. The NLA member predicted the bill would

leave the committee in time for the NLA to vote on the draft

on November 29.

 

4. (C) Of the twenty-four members of the committee, ten will

be former senior military officers, six academics known to be

pro-military and four NLA members who are critics of the

bill. Four additional members will be selected by the RTG,

likely by Deputy Prime Minister General (Ret.) Sonthi

Boonyaratglin, the NLA member said.

 

BACKGROUND TO THE ISA

———————

 

5. (C) Thai government officials have stressed the need for a

legal framework to cope with security contingencies such as a

terrorist attack. The Thai cabinet June 19 approved the Act

and passed it to the Council of State for legal review.

Amendments by the Council of State addressed some of the

concerns raised by human rights organizations such as

removing explicit power to arrest, placing the Internal

Security Operations Command (ISOC) under control of the Prime

Minister, and requiring cabinet approval for the imposition

of curfews and other measures to maintain security. However,

the proposed law still provides the military broad powers, as

described below.

 

BANGKOK 00005802 002 OF 005

 

6. (C) ISOC is the successor to the Communist Suppression

Operations Command (CSOC), a security apparatus created in

the 1966, when communist activity in parts of Thailand

represented a serious threat to national security. CSOC

became ISOC in 1969; in addition to its role combating

communist insurgents, it played a role in the suppression of

student-led pro-democracy protests in 1976. With the end of

the communist insurgency, ISOC became an organization with no

clear purpose. Former Prime Minister Thaksin re-constituted

ISOC as a coordinating entity for border security and

anti-narcotics activities, but the organization continued to

be viewed as ineffective. (Refs d and e provide more detailed

background on the history and development of ISOC.)

 

MILITARY DOMINANT IN ISOC STRUCTURE

———————————–

 

7. (C) The interim government has been working on the

proposed reform of ISOC for months. RTG officials frequently

cite the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as the

model for the proposed ISOC structure. The ISA, however,

would provide the military with a central role in maintaining

internal security. The Prime Minister would be the Director

of ISOC but the Army Commander in Chief would be the Deputy

Director. A separate Internal Security Operations Board

chaired by the PM and composed of ministers, senior military

and government officials, the police Commissioner-General,

and other security agency heads would be established. The

Board\’s duties are unclear but include the power to oversee,

offer consultation, and make operational proposals to ISOC.

The ISOC Director would be able to direct personnel from

other agencies to serve at ISOC.

 

8. (U) ISOC\’s structure would extend to the regional and

provincial level with commanders of the Army\’s four regions

serving as regional ISOC Chairs, while provincial governors

would chair ISOC committees in each province under the

regional ISOC command. The director of the regional ISOC

would be empowered to command representatives from the

police, military and civilian agencies while the provincial

ISOC Director would command government officials, but not the

military.

 

AUTHORITIES PROVIDED IN THE ISA

——————————-

 

9. (U) The ISA, according to Section 6 of the draft, would

grant ISOC the power and duty to \”monitor, investigate, and

evaluate situations that may give rise to a threat to

internal security.\” If any matter arises which \”does not yet\”

merit the declaration of a state of emergency, but \”has a

tendency to persist for a long time,\” and falls under the

responsibility \”of several government agencies,\” the Cabinet

may pass a resolution for ISOC to take responsibility \”within

an assigned area.\” According to Section 15, in accord with

this Cabinet resolution, ISOC will have the responsibility

for coordinating the government response, including to

\”prevent, suppress, eradicate, and overcome or mitigate any

matter that affects internal security.\” It will retain these

authorities until the Prime Minister revokes them. Section

15 also provides ISOC the power to exclude from a designated

area any government official whose behavior is a threat to

internal security.

 

10. (U) Subsequent sections outline further areas that the

ISOC may regulate. Section 17 of the draft Act would grant

the ISOC Director, with approval of the Cabinet, the

authority to:

 

–order government officials to implement any action or

withhold any action,

–prohibit entry and exit from a locality, building, or area,

–establish curfews,

–prohibit the use of transportation routes,

–and interfere with electronic communications.

 

11. (U) Section 21 of the Act would curb judicial process and

review. The bill stipulates that regulations, notifications,

orders and actions under the Act not subject to review by the

 

BANGKOK 00005802 003 OF 005

 

Administrative Court. (Note. The Administrative Court

adjudicates disputes between individuals and state

organizations concerning abuses of power by the

organizations. End note.) Section 22 decrees that officials

performing their duties under the Act will not be subject to

civil, criminal or disciplinary action if they have followed

orders and believe that the orders were lawful and

appropriate.

 

PUBLIC REACTION TO THE DRAFT

—————————-

 

12. (C) Opponents to the ISA have voiced concerns that the

bill would strip the legislature and judiciary of power.

XXXXXXXXXX a lawyer and XXXXXXXXXXXX

theXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX told us he

believed the ISA is contrary to the rule of law. The ISA was

unconstitutional in that it divests power from the

Administrative Court and violates the Thai people\’s right to

bring a lawsuit against the government as provided by Chapter

3, Part 1, Section 28 of the constitution, Somchai said. The

ISA would also, according to XXXXX contravene Thailand\’s

commitments under the International Convention on Civil and

Political Rights (ICCPR.)

 

13. (U) The International Commission of Jurists has publicly

raised concern that the ISA would provide extraordinary

powers that could be used at any time. Human Rights Watch

has warned that the Act would provide ISOC with exceptional

powers to respond to alleged threats to national security by

restricting fundamental rights and overriding civilian

administration and due process of law. Meanwhile, web forums

and bloggers have nicknamed the ISA the \”mustache bill\” in

reference to Hitler.

 

14. (C) Despite the above criticisms, the Thai public and

politicians have been largely mute about the law. XXXXX

believed this reflects the pragmatic nature of Thais; they

react when an issue is immediate and pressing. Thais are now

focused on the coming general election and the health of King

Bhumibol, Somchai said. (Comment: In addition, we suspect

that reaction has been muted because the current draft has

dropped many of the more controversial elements present in

earlier versions. Previous drafts had given the ISOC

explicit powers of arrest, search and seizure, and the

ability to prohibit political meetings that might cause

\”inconvenience\” to the public. It included the power to

recommend individuals be sent for \”voluntary\” six-month

vocational training (ref A). (These last two provisions were

only dropped last week.) The earliest versions also made the

Army Commander-in-chief the ISOC director, with limited

oversight from elected officials. These positive changes,

however, are undercut by the very broad language on what is

still permitted, particularly the power to order government

officials to \”implement any action or withhold any action.\”

End comment.)

 

A LEGISLATIVE TRIUMPH FOR THE HARDLINERS…

——————————————-

 

15. (C) In addition to human rights activists highlighting

concerns over the possible impact on personal and political

freedoms, some in the military have told us privately that

the draft Act is flawed. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXX, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX at the

Royal Thai Supreme Command and one of the key players in

establishing the new ISOC, told us that the original intent

was to provide such a legal framework to deal with security

threats. For example, Thailand needed a legal structure to

respond to a terrorist attack, XXXXX explained. Despite

the genuine effort early on to draft a bill to provide a

legal structure in times of crisis, XXXXXX said hardline

elements in the government have hijacked the Act as a means

to maintain power after elections and the formation of a new

government. \”Hawks\” have taken advantage of the power seized

in the coup to enshrine into law a permanent role for the

military to influence politics, XXXXXX explained.

 

… OR ENSHRINING THE ROLE OF THE MILITARY

 

BANGKOK 00005802 004 OF 005

 

——————————————

 

16. (C) General (Ret.) Pallop Pinmanee, a candidate for

parliament under the Motherland Party banner and former ISOC

Advisor, told us the bill was a necessary tool for the

military to address security challenges such as narcotics

trafficking, abuse of natural resources such as the removal

of trees from forests, and trade with Cambodia in stolen

vehicles. Pallop said that although many in the government

claim that ISOC was modeled after the Department of Homeland

Security (DHS), ISOC should take on Thai characteristics as

opposed to civilian control found in DHS. \”Thais trust the

military,\” Pallop said in explaining the military\’s dominant

role in ISOC.

 

17. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX told us that

he believes the chief reason for the bill is the military

would like to strengthen its role in politics. The military

and the bureaucracy are the two pillars of the government

and, as the bureaucracy is weak, the military needs to

establish legal mechanisms for it to wield power to protect

the country, XXXXXX said. (Although XXXXXXX put a positive

spin on some elements of the draft law, he subsequently voted

against it on November 8.)

 

18. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and a

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX explained to us that the Act was an

attempt by the military to regain a prominent role in

Thailand. The military desired a return to a more dominant

position because the 1997 Asian financial crisis had caused

the Thai military\’s budget to be cut and Thaksin had favored

the police, XXXXXXX explained. Now the military was in a

position of control and is worried about the pro-Thaksin

People\’s Power Party doing well in the election. The

military wants tools to deal with the situation, XXXX

said.

 

A POLITICAL TOOL?

—————–

 

19. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX told us that the Act

could be a powerful political tool because the authorities in

the bill would allow the military control of movements,

meetings, and communication equipment. Despite this,

political parties have been relatively quiet because they do

not want to be seen as opposing the military in the run up to

the election, XXXXX said. The political parties also have

a selfish reason to keep quiet, XXXXXX explained, because

future Prime Ministers would have the tools to use the ISA

either as a symbolic threat to opposition parties or as a

tool to disrupt the opposition\’s political activities.

 

20. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and a former security affairs

advisor to XXXXXXXX likened the ISA to a silent coup. He

said that language in the bill reflects the emergency decree

that Thaksin declared on July 16, 2005, to deal with the

southern insurgency. XXXXXXX pointed to language in the

ISA that had likely been copied directly from the emergency

decree. While the powers in that legislation were limited to

declared emergencies, the ISA would be permanent and would

allow the military wider leverage in determining what

constituted a security threat, XXXXXXXXXX said.

 

PROSPECTS IN THE NLA AND BEYOND

——————————-

 

21. (C) While the committee review process and the second and

third readings of the bill provide opportunities for

opponents to amend or possibly stop the bill, the vote during

the first reading of the bill points to wide support for the

draft ISA among members of the junta-appointed Assembly. In

discussing the bill\’s prospects, both XXXX and XXX

predicted the NLA would quite easily approve the bill, quite

likely on November 29. This viewpoint was not unanimous. XXX

XXXXX believed the NLA would be not be a rubber stamp

and pointed to the NLA postponing the first reading.

XXXXX said the government postponed action on the bill

 

BANGKOK 00005802 005 OF 005

 

because an insufficient number of pro-military NLA members

were in attendance at the NLA on November 7. Press reports

indicate that the ad hoc committee examining the draft is

prepared to consider substantial changes, including dropping

the provision providing immunity for security personnel (Art.

22).

 

22. (C) XXXXXXX told us that although he expects the NLA to

approve the bill, there may be a sufficient number of members

in the Assembly who oppose the bill to require a review by

the Constitutional Court after the bill passes the NLA, but

before becoming law. According to XXXXX the bill would be

sent to the Court for review if twenty-five members requested

such action. One such member is vocal critic Squadron leader

Prasong Soonsiri; Somchai said Prasong may be able to

organize sufficient opposition to make passage difficult, or

at least require the court to review the bill.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

23. (C) The RTG already has an emergency law which enables

it to give the security forces sweeping powers if the

government declares an emergency and the parliament concurs.

The ISA raises concerns because it makes it even easier for

the government to give the military ill-defined powers that

would seem to violate the Thai public\’s constitutional

rights, in the name of protecting against ill-defined threats

to national security. As Thailand moves closer to the

general election and the end of any formal government role

for the military, passage of the ISA would raise further

concerns about the military\’s desire for continued influence

in the political process.

 

24. (C) The substantial vote in favor of the ISA has caught

the attention of the media and public, which is mobilizing

opposition. They may be able to influence the RTG and NLA to

make further changes in the draft, perhaps even resulting in

a security structure that provides security forces with

well-defined powers to respond to genuine threats of

terrorism or natural disasters, while respecting

constitutional and international norms. In the coming weeks

we will continue to raise concerns about the draft law with

NLA and RTG contacts.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Posted in Confidential, ISA

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