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05BANGKOK1739 THAI PARLIAMENT FORMALLY RE-ELECTS THAKSIN AS PRIME MINISTER

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“28411”,”3/9/2005 10:46″,

 

“05BANGKOK1739”,

“Embassy Bangkok”,

“CONFIDENTIAL”,”05BANGKOK1278|05BANGKOK1375″,

“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 001739

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/09/2015

TAGS: PGOV, TH, Elections – Thai

SUBJECT: THAI PARLIAMENT FORMALLY RE-ELECTS THAKSIN AS

PRIME MINISTER

 

REF: A) BANGKOK 1278 B) BANGKOK 1375

 

Classified By: Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke, Section 1.4 (b)

 

1. (U) Summary: On March 9, in a vote that surprised no one,

Thailand\’s new National Assembly chose Thaksin Shinawatra as

Prime Minister, formally completing a historic re-election

bid, the first time an elected Thai PM has regained the top

post after a full four-year term. The over-whelmed political

opposition dissented from the choice of Thaksin as PM, with

most abstaining. Royal approval of a controversial Thaksin

proposal to streamline the authority of the cabinet in cases

of national emergency appears imminent, but the proposal

continues to be decried as an end-around of proper democratic

procedures by critics. The official cabinet lineup will be

announced March 11. End Summary.

 

2. (U) On March 9, the third full day of official business by

Thailand\’s new 500-member National Assembly, 377

parliamentarians (MP) chose incumbent PM Thaksin Shinawatra

of the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party as prime minister. 116 MPs

abstained, 1 voted \”no\” and 6 were recorded absent. This

outcome was no surprise following TRT\’s landslide victory on

February 6 (Ref A). According to Parliamentary sources, 374

of TRTs 377 MPs voted for Thaksin, along with two Mahachon

Party MPs, who form that party\’s entire parliamentary

delegation. Joining the \”yes\” votes for Thakin was Chart

Thai (CT) Party leader and former prime minister Banharn

Silapacha, who made good on his public promise to vote for

Thaksin. Those abstaining included all of the main

opposition Democrat Party (DP) members present, 23 members of

the CT Party and Thaksin himself. Another CT MP,

controversial massage parlor tycoon turned politician Chuwit

Kamolvisit, was the only MP to vote against Thaksin. Chuwit

is making every effort to gather as much personal publicity

as he can by not following conventional Thai political norms,

one of which stipulates that members (especially first term

MPs) should follow the party leader\’s direction. In another

break with tradition, the three new Assembly leaders voted

for the Prime Minister. In the past, the Assembly President

and Deputies abstained as a symbol of neutrality. (Note:

Prior to the vote for prime minister, the National Assembly

on March 7 had elected former Interior Minister Phokin

Phalakun as President of the National Assembly (equivalent to

Speaker of the House), veteran MP Suchart Thancharoen as 1st

Vice President, and Lalita Lerksamran as 2nd Vice President.

All three are TRT party MPs. Lalita\’s election marked the

first time a woman was selected for that post. End note.)

 

CONTROVERSIAL POWERS TO HOLD CABINET MEETINGS APPROVED

 

3. (C) Despite his overwhelming victory and popularity,

Thaksin continues to be controversial. One example is the

February 25 revelation by Borwornsak Uwanno, Secretary to the

Cabinet, that PM Thaksin has proposed cabinet \”reforms (which

will be submitted to the King for Royal approval on March 11)

to allow him to call a cabinet meeting with a quorum of only

one-third of the 35 cabinet ministers, or 12 members. The

Constitution does not specifically state the number of

ministers required for a quorum, but generally it has been

the practice that at least half the ministers be present,

mirroring the requirement that at least half the members of

parliament must be present to form a quorum in the nation\’s

House of Representatives. While 12 ministers would be needed

under \”normal\” circumstances, the proposal also states that

under \”emergency situations, cases important to the national

interest,\” and for the benefit of secrecy, a cabinet meeting

can take place with the Prime Minister and only one cabinet

member. Borwornsak has unconvincingly argued in public that

these changes are simply designed to make the Cabinet more

efficient. Embassy sources inside the PM\’s office expect

that the proposal will be endorsed by the King (who does not

normally intervene in day-to-day politics) and become

effective on March 12, just prior to the endorsement of the

new cabinet.

 

CRITICS REACT

 

4. (U) Opposition leaders, academics and local press have

all severely criticized the Cabinet reform plan, generally

characterizing it as a dangerous move giving too much

authority to the executive. They also pointed out that it

was unnecessary as there are already measures in place for

the cabinet to operate expeditiously in times of national

emergency. The announcement of the reform plan coincided

with the release of a paper by Thirayut Boonmi, a Thammasat

University Sociology professor well-known for his trenchant

criticism of Thaksin. His study compared the Thaksin

\”regime\” to that of former Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat, who

served as the nation\’s prime minister from 1958 to 1963 and

enacted many dictatorial laws to uphold Sarit\’s grip on

power. Others have been just as critical but more plain

spoken. One critic, noted lawyer and Senator Thongbai

Thongpao, warned that \”Power is being consolidated into the

hands of one man, Thaksin.\” Thaksin\’s timing for

announcement of the Cabinet reform plan seemed poorly

planned, coming on the heels of sharp negative public

reaction to his color-coded \”zoning plan\” to guide

distribution of government funds in Thailand\’s separatist

violence-plagued three most southernmost provinces (Ref B).

 

CABINET LIST OUT MARCH 11

 

5.(U) On March 11, Thaksin will submit his list of 35

cabinet members to the King for approval. This list will

name selections for 7 deputy PMs, 19 ministers and 9 deputy

ministers. Speculation on who will get what position is

rife, but still unreliable. It is expected that many

familiar faces from the first Thaksin administration will

reappear, some wearing a new hat. It\’s also expected that

the PM will appear with his full cabinet for an audience with

the King on March 14.

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 6, 2011 at 7:47 am

Posted in Confidential, Thaksin

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