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09BANGKOK3003 AMBASSADOR ENGAGES THAKSIN’S SISTER AND ADVISER ON UPCOMING RED SHIRT PROTESTS, POLITICAL PROSPECTS

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“236573”,”11/25/2009 7:51″,”09BANGKOK3003″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”09BANGKOK2402|09BANGKOK2644|09BANGKOK2875|09BANGKOK2931″,”VZCZCXRO8040

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SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR WALTON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/24/2019

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KDEM, TH

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR ENGAGES THAKSIN,S SISTER AND ADVISER ON

UPCOMING RED SHIRT PROTESTS, POLITICAL PROSPECTS

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 2931 THAI POLITICAL ROUNDUP

B. BANGKOK 2875 THAKSIN STICKS FOOT IN MOUTH

C. BANGKOK 2644 AMBASSADOR MEETS CHAVALIT

D. BANGKOK 2402 AMBASSADOR MEETS WITH OPPOSITION

 

BANGKOK 00003003 001.2 OF 003

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR ERIC G. JOHN, REASON: 1.4 (B) AND (D).

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) On November 23, the Ambassador met with fugitive

former PM Thaksin\’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra and former

Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, key unofficial figures

within the opposition Puea Thai party leadership. The

Ambassador underscored U.S. concerns about the potential for

unrest during upcoming red-shirt rallies and urged Yingluck

and Noppadon to prevail upon Thaksin to disavow the use of

violence entirely. Yingluck and Noppadon bemoaned the

judicial double standards they said applied to Thaksin

supporters, and expressed an interest in reconciliation talks

led by a neutral third party, though both struggled to

identify any suitable candidate for such a role. Noppadon

told the Ambassador he did not think the next round of

protests would lead to the dissolution of Parliament, and he

conceded the government would likely remain in power for the

foreseeable future. Neither Yingluck nor Noppadon believed

Thaksin\’s trip to Cambodia or Times interview would prove

damaging in the long term (REF B), and both were dismissive

of the idea that new Puea Thai Chair General Chavalit would

serve as Prime Minister in the event Puea Thai was able to

form the next government.

 

2. (C) Comment: Both Yingluck and Noppadon came across as

less confident about Puea Thai\’s short to medium term

prospects than in recent meetings (REF D). We were struck by

the fact that they seemed resigned to the likelihood that

Puea Thai would remain in the political wilderness in the

short-medium term. With no obvious trigger on the horizon

for the next round of elections and PM Abhisit and the

Democrats seemingly holding all the cards for now, Puea Thai

and the red-shirts appear to be struggling to identify a

viable path forward.

 

3. (C) Comment, continued: Yingluck appeared far more poised

during this meeting than she has been in the past. She spoke

with confidence about Puea Thai party operations, strategy

and goals, and deferred less to Noppadon, who has accompanied

her to all of our sessions with her. While it was obvious

that politics does not come as naturally to Yingluck as it

does to her brother, one suspects she may well have a bright

future with the party. As they departed the Residence,

Noppadon quipped: \”You just shook hands with Thailand\’s next

Prime Minister\” (i.e., Yingluck). End Summary and Comment.

 

RED RALLIES, AND A CAUTION AGAINST VIOLENCE

——————————————-

 

4. (C) The Ambassador hosted Puea Thai notables Yingluck and

Noppadon for tea at the Residence November 23 as part of our

ongoing outreach to red-shirt movement leaders, Puea Thai

notables, and those in Thaksin\’s inner circle to urge them to

avoid violence in their upcoming round of planned red shirt

protests (initially scheduled to begin November 28, but may

now be postponed). The Ambassador noted that, tactically

speaking, Thaksin and the red shirts had an opportunity to

seize the moral high ground by renouncing violence and

distancing themselves from some of the more extreme red

rhetoric that had emerged in recent days, such as a Chiang

Mai red-shirt leader who used his community radio program

November 19 to threaten PM Abhisit\’s life. Yingluck and

Noppadon took the Ambassador\’s point and stressed that the

red shirts learned their lesson last April and had disavowed

the use of violence.

 

BANGKOK 00003003 002.2 OF 003

 

5. (C) Noppadon told the Ambassador that while he was not

worried about red shirts initiating violence in the coming

weeks, he feared the government would attack the red shirts

and provoke a confrontation. The government had no

compunction about carrying out acts of violence against

Thaksin and his supporters, he claimed, as evidenced by the

fact that Thaksin had already survived repeated alleged

planned car bomb attacks (Note: the best-known of the alleged

plots was attributed to ex deputy ISOC GEN Panlop, who joined

Thaksin\’s camp about a year ago).

 

STACKING THE DECK AGAINST THAKSIN?

———————————-

 

6. (C) Turning to the subject of the long running feud

between Thaksin and the current government, both Yingluck and

Noppadon outlined for the Ambassador a list of grievances and

injustices they believed Thaksin and his supporters had

suffered over the course of the last few years. Yingluck

argued that Thaksin and his allies had long been handicapped

by a system of double standards. For example, the yellow

shirts shut down airports with impunity on one hand, while

the government suppressed red shirts protests with repeated

use of the Internal Security Act (ISA) on the other.

 

7. (C) Noppadon alleged the judicial system was also skewed

against Thaksin and his supporters, as evidenced by the fact

that former PM Samak Sundarvej had been jettisoned as Prime

Minister for a minor conflict of interest transgression

related to his role as the host of a cooking show. Noppadon

told the Ambassador that Thaksin and Puea Thai were the true

champions of democracy in Thailand, while Abhisit and the

Democrats were simply interested in maintaining power.

 

RECONCILIATION PROSPECTS

————————

 

8. (C) When the Ambassador asked about the prospects for a

reconciliation between Thaksin and the government, both

Yingluck and Noppadon noted that presently both sides were

deeply dug in. In order for there to be a dialogue, a

neutral third party with sufficient stature to bring both

sides to the negotiating table and who enjoyed the respect of

both sides would have to emerge and initiate talks. When the

Ambassador asked whether they could name any individuals who

might be able to fit that bill, both Yingluck and Noppadon

conceded that they could not.

 

9. (C) When the Ambassador asked Yingluck and Noppadon

whether any members of the royal family would be able to play

a mediating role, they demurred, clearly aware of the perils

of commenting on the matter. In response to a question about

the Privy Council, Noppadon told the Ambassador that normally

the Privy Council Chair would be the obvious candidate to

play the role of mediator, but with GEN Prem Tinsulanonda as

Privy Council Chair, that was obviously not a viable option.

 

10. (C) Yingluck claimed that Thaksin was not a stubborn

person; he was simply interested in dialogue, and as a true

businessman, he just wanted the government to \”make him a

deal.\” Noppadon added that the RTG had seized 78 billion

baht from Thaksin, despite the fact that when he had entered

office he had already been worth over 45 billion baht.

Thaksin simply wanted the government to come to the

negotiating table and be even handed (Note: Thaksin\’s assets

forfeiture trial is winding up, with the last witness to

testify November 26, and a verdict expected in early January).

 

PUEA THAI AND ELECTIONS

———————–

 

11. (C) Turning to the subject of Puea Thai\’s future, the

Ambassador asked Yingluck and Noppadon whether they believed

there would be new elections at any point in the near term.

Noppadon told the Ambassador that he believed elections were

 

BANGKOK 00003003 003.2 OF 003

 

\”possible but not probable.\” Noting that Abhisit and the

Democrats were enjoying the spoils of political power after a

long time out of office, Noppadon claimed that they had no

real incentive to dissolve Parliament any time soon, and as a

result, he did not anticipate they would choose to do so

unless their hand was forced.

 

12. (C) When pressed for possible scenarios that could lead

to the dissolution of Parliament, Noppadon suggested that a

no-confidence debate expected in February might be one

possible trigger. Puea Thai had abandoned its earlier effort

to adjust the current Constitution, however, removing one

realistic path to new elections. He defended the abandonment

of the amendment process, claiming it had become increasingly

obvious to Puea Thai that the 1997 Constitution — not the

2006 version — should be the baseline for reformation

discussions.

 

13. (C) Though the party would likely remain in the

opposition in the near term, Yingluck characterized the mood

within the party as optimistic and energetic, particularly in

the north and northeast. When the Ambassador asked about the

political impact of Thaksin\’s recent visit to Cambodia and

his interview with the (London) Times online, both Yingluck

and Noppadon downplayed their significance. Yingluck told

the Ambassador that Thaksin\’s trip to Cambodia was simply the

product of an interest on his part in helping the Cambodian

people, while Noppadon claimed Thaksin\’s Times interview had

been distorted. Neither Yingluck nor Noppadon believed that

the issues would prove to have any serious long term

political implications for Thaksin or the party.

 

GENERAL CHAVALIT AND FUTURE PUEA THAI LEADERSHIP

——————————————— —

 

14. (C) On the subject of Puea Thai party Chairman Chavalit

Yongchaiyudh, the Ambassador asked Yingluck and Noppadon

whether he would become the Prime Minister in the event of a

Puea Thai victory in the next round of elections. Both

Yingluck and Noppadon replied dismissively, adding that while

it would be \”up to the people,\” Chavalit would not be the

party\’s choice as PM. Chavalit was not involved in the

day-to-day details of Puea Thai party operations either,

Noppadon added, noting that at the age of 77, Chavalit was

more of a big picture strategic thinker for the party than

anything else.

 

15. (C) Contrasting Chavalit unfavorably with Thaksin\’s

management of Puea Thai\’s original precursor party Thai Rak

Thai, Yingluck pointed out that Thaksin had managed the party

from top to bottom and overseen every detail. Chavalit was

much older than Thaksin had been then, and could not be

expected to reprise the role Thaksin had once played.

According to Yingluck, the future political leadership of

Puea Thai remained in flux. Someone could easily emerge

relatively late in the game to take the reins of the party

and serve as the next Prime Minister, and this as yet

unidentified figure would likely have strong economic

credentials.

JOHN

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Written by thaicables

June 28, 2011 at 10:41 am

Posted in Confidential, Thaksin

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