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05BANGKOK1933 AMBASSADOR CALLS ON FORMER PRIME MINISTER CHUAN LEEKPAI

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“28907”,”3/16/2005 10:52″,”05BANGKOK1933″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“CONFIDENTIAL”,”05BANGKOK1578|05BANGKOK948″,

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

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

161052Z Mar 05

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001933

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, EAP/BCLTV. HQ USPACOM FOR FPA (HUSO)

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2015

TAGS: PGOV, TH, Southern Thailand, Elections – Thai, BURMA, US-Thai FTA

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR CALLS ON FORMER PRIME MINISTER CHUAN

LEEKPAI

 

REF: (A) BANGKOK 1578 (B) BANGKOK 0948

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR RALPH L. BOYCE. REASON: 1.4 (D)

 

1. (C) Summary: During a March 8 meeting with the

Ambassador, former Prime Minister and Democrat Party (DP)

leader Chuan Leekpai said that Prime Minister Thaksin did not

understand the problems in southern Thailand and indeed his

policies were exacerbating the situation. Chuan feared that

if Thaksin\’s hard-line policies in the region continue,

international terrorist organizations such as the Jemaah

Islamiyah (JI) or al-Qaeda could be tempted to take advantage

of the situation. Chuan described the recent general

elections as the dirtiest he had seen in his political career

and accused the Thaksin administration of using troops and

provincial government officials to interfere in the voting.

Chuan described Thaksin as a formidable politician who uses

his control over much of the media to extend his political

power. End Summary.

 

CHUAN CONCERNED OVER SITUATION IN THAILAND\’S DEEP SOUTH

 

2. (C) During a March 8 meeting with the Ambassador, former

Prime Minister and Democrat Party leader Chuan Leekpai said

that Thaksin\’s policies are exacerbating the situation in the

southern Muslim majority provinces bordering Malaysia. To

Chuan, the Government does not appear to be interested in

solving the real problem, but variously blames the violence

on drugs, criminal gangs and separatists. Thaksin\’s approach

was superficial and frivolous, he said. The Thai Rak Thai\’s

(TRT) massive electoral loss in the southern border provinces

demonstrated the populace\’s rejection of his policies. \”They

saw the video of the security forces actions at Tak Bai,\”

Chuan said.

 

3. (C) According to Chuan, when the military was initially

in charge of security in the region during the tenure of the

Southern Border Provinces Center and the

Civilian-Police-Military Task Force 43, things were

relatively peaceful. With Thaksin\’s disbanding of those

structures and the ascendancy of the police in these \”special

areas,\” the situation deteriorated. Muslim feelings of

alienation increased.

 

4. (C) The Ambassador noted that the Indonesian Government

had a policy of recruiting police from local villages. Thai

officials, on the other hand, have maintained that most Thai

Muslims in the southern region who take the written test fail

because of inadequate education from the \”pondok\” (Islamic

school) system. This results in a police force that is from

the outside and does not understand local culture and

customs. The Ambassador added that Thaksin seemed

insensitive to Thai Muslim feelings by initially blaming the

suffocation deaths at Tak Bai on the weakness of arrested

protesters from Ramadan fasting.

 

SAYS THAKSIN ALIENATING MUSLIM NEIGHBORS

 

5. (C) Chuan said that he was concerned that if Thaksin\’s

hard-line policies continue, international terrorist

organizations such as Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) or al-Qaeda could

be tempted to try to take advantage of the situation created

by the conflict. He criticized Thaksin,s accusations that

neighboring countries Malaysia and Indonesia are sites for

training separatists. This is not the policy of these

countries and all Thaksin succeeds in doing is to anger them,

Chuan said. Chuan noted that Thaksin did not call Prime

Minister Badawi to discuss a suspected separatist held by the

Malaysian authorities but instead talked to the press about

wanting the prisoner turned over to Thailand. There are

complicated ties involved between Muslims living in southern

Thailand and in Malaysia, he continued. Malaysia and

Indonesia are majority Muslim countries and their people feel

for their fellow Muslims in southern Thailand when they see

films of Tak Bai. Chuan also expressed concern that Muslim

religious schools, by not concentrating on teaching

marketable skills, are producing graduates with poor

employment prospects who could turn to violence in

frustration. Chuan said that the southern Thailand region

needs investment in education and industry. He noted the

earlier success of \”growth triangles\” in the region and

suggested that an Indonesia/Malaysia/South Thailand triangle

with complementary factory and industrial production would

energize the region\’s economy.

 

6. (C) The Ambassador pointed out that in Indonesia,

religious schools in 99 percent of the cases are moderate,

almost secular in tone and include mainstream subjects in

their curriculum. He noted that in the three Thai provinces

Sharia law governs issues such as birth, death, marriage and

divorce. Religion and country should be able to coexist, he

said, and all could be made to feel Thai and not singled out

as different.

 

RECENT ELECTION \”DIRTIEST\” YET

 

7. (C) Turning to party politics, the Ambassador asked

about the recent elections in which the Democrat Party (DP)

was massively defeated by Thaksin\’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT)

party. Chuan responded that election was the dirtiest he had

seen in his political career. He accused the Thaksin

administration of using the bureaucracy to influence the

voting. He said that provincial governors and police had

interfered in the election process and that soldiers were

used to vote in early elections in attempts to unseat DP

candidates.

 

8. (C) Chuan specifically noted as an example the election

campaign fought by prominent DP MP (and former foreign

minister) Surin Pitsuwan in Nakorn Sri Thammarat. Surin

fought a tough race against his TRT challenger. Fortunately,

Chuan said, Surin collected enough support to overcome the

thousands of votes by troops bussed in by the government to

vote for the TRT candidate in early voting, a misuse of a

procedure that allows voters unable to get to the polls on

election day (such as soldiers on duty) to cast ballots

beforehand (Bangkok 0948). Chuan said that the use of army

and police personnel to interfere in the election was

indicative of increasing control in general by Thaksin. He

said that Thaksin controls virtually all of the media,

including television stations such as ITV and UBC. The Prime

Minister has a strong sense of public relations style and

will continue to use his control over the media for his own

political ends, he predicted.

 

ABHISIT HAS WORK CUT OUT FOR HIM

 

9. (C) Following the DP,s loss and Banyat Bantadtan,s

resignation, it is now Abhisit Vejjajiva,s turn as the

party\’s leader, Chuan said. The DP would have lost by less

if Abhisit had been leader at the time of the election.

Banyat was a straight talker but he couldn\’t compete with the

populist message of Thaksin. Abhisit will have to do a

better job inspiring the voters in his speeches.

 

BURMA

 

10. (C) The Ambassador noted the unpopularity of Thaksin\’s

Burma policy in the United States. He pointed to sharp

reaction to Thaksin\’s recent reported characterization of

Than Shwe\’s rationale for Aung San Suu Kyi\’s continued

detention as \”reasonable.\” Even if the remarks were quoted

out of context, the widespread impression is that Thaksin is

acting as an apologist for the Burmese regime and his

engagement policy is helping it to hold onto power.

 

11. (C) Chuan responded that as Prime Minister he never

visited Burma under the military regime. He didn\’t want to

demonstrate any form of support or sense of legitimacy to the

regime. He did meet Than Shwe in Chiang Rai to discuss

counter-narcotics and border security issues. Than Shwe

promised to cooperate on those issues. Chuan recalled that

he had used the army to clamp down on violence along the

border. He described Than Shwe as a \”religious\” man who told

Chuan that he hoped one day to visit the Buddhist temples of

Thailand.

 

12. (C) The Ambassador said that ASEAN should play a more

assertive role on the Burma issue. Next year, Burma will

have the Chair of ASEAN and that is a problem. The

Ambassador cited as \”encouraging\” the recent efforts by the

Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Committee, made up of

parliamentarians from some of the ASEAN member countries, to

quietly address this issue (see Bangkok 1578).

 

CAUTIOUS RESPONSE ON FTA

 

13. (C) In response to the Ambassador\’s question regarding

a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the U.S., Chuan said that

he supports it, but with reservations. He noted that

Thailand\’s FTA with China was \”not to our advantage.\” He

said that unfortunately in trade, \”one party prospers more

than the other.\” The biggest challenge is to figure out how

to adjust to the market changes that come about from free

trade patterns, and how to cushion the effects as industries

have to restructure in the face of competition. This is

difficult to explain to the public, he concluded.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 6, 2011 at 7:55 am

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