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05BANGKOK4001 THAKSIN RUNS INTO POLITICAL TURBULENCE

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“34897”,”6/17/2005 8:59″,”05BANGKOK4001″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,”05BANGKOK3852″,

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

The full text of the original cable is not available.

“,”UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 004001

 

SIPDIS

 

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C O R R E C T E D C O P Y

CHANGING PARAGRAPH NUMBERING AND CLASSIFICATION MARKINGS

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SENSITIVE

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: ECON, PGOV, TH

SUBJECT: THAKSIN RUNS INTO POLITICAL TURBULENCE

 

REF: BANGKOK 3852

 

1. (SBU) Just over four months since his massive election

victory, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is looking much

less like the invincible politician who easily swept back

into power. The opposition is tenaciously pursuing

corruption questions regarding purchase of security equipment

for the massive new airport being constructed on Bangkok\’s

fringes and that story is in the Thai and English headlines

every day. Transport Minister and Thai Rak Thai (TRT)

financier Suriya Jungrungreangkit is headed for a bruising

Parliamentary debate over his management (although not his

personal involvement in corruption) which will reflect badly

on Thaksin. To make matters worse, long disgruntled TRT

faction leader Sanoh Thienthong is openly threatening to

leave the party, and angling for an expulsion (versus

voluntary withdrawal), which would protect his member of

Parliament (MP) status. It is a long way from that point

still, but if Sanoh can take enough people into the

opposition camp, then the Administration\’s debunkers would

have enough votes under the 1997 Constitution to force

Thaksin,s ministers to face embarrassing impeachment

hearings. End Summary.

 

TRANSPORT MINISTER DUE FOR A GRILLING

 

2. (U) Thaksin\’s administration continues to catch the

glare of public scrutiny over allegations of corrupt

practices. Opposition Democrat Party (DP) and Chart Thai

Party (CT) leaders Abhisit Vejjajiva and Barnharn Silpa-archa

have agreed to file a no-confidence motion against the

Transport Minister Suriya Chungrungruangkit over the CTX

scandal in the new international airport project. They

delivered the motion to the House Speaker on June 15. The

debate date has not been decided, but will likely be in the

last week of June.

 

SANOH POLITICAL THORN IN THAKSIN\’S SIDE; WANG NAM YEN FACTION

IS RESTIVE

 

3. (U) TRT faction leader Sanoh Thienthong is continuing

his very public feuding with Thaksin Shinawatra, going out of

his way to provoke him. In a recent interview he derided

Thaksin\’s \”fancy populist policies\” as simply political

promises that will increase the personal debts of farmers and

villagers. In addition to slamming the Prime Minister\’s core

policies, Sanoh is making the extravagant claim that the 1997

Constitution \”has enabled one single person to take over the

whole country.\” (Note: Sanoh has long bridled under the rule

that a candidate must be a member of a political party for a

minimum 90 days to be eligible to run for the Parliament. An

MP who voluntarily leaves a party loses his seat in

Parliament. However, if an MP is expelled from his party and

the Constitutional Court rules that the party was

\”undemocratic\” in taking that step, the MP retains their

seat. This accounts in part for Sanoh\’s strategy of baiting

Thaksin and for also associating himself with such popular

causes among Senators as an end to the one consecutive term

limit for Senators. End Note.) Thaksin, for his part, is

trying to appear above the fray, telling reporters that

governing the country is a higher priority than treating with

Sanoh.

 

TRT ROILED BY SANOH\’S ACTIONS

 

4. (U) But Sanoh\’s antics are having their impact. A TRT

MP and Wang Nam Yen faction member from Ubon Ratchathani,

Sombat Ratno, vowed publicly last weekend to follow Sanoh to

another party if the latter is ejected from the TRT. Sombat

claimed that more than 40 other faction members would follow

suit. The faction will discuss its position this week.

Meanwhile, another Wang Nam Yen member from Ubon Ratchathani,

Kriang Kaltinan, has reportedly denied rumors that Sanoh

would resign from the TRT, pointing out that what Sanoh had

actually said to the public was he wouldn\’t care if the TRT

expelled him because of his acrimonious speech in the last

House meeting (Ref. A). Observers here speculate that Sanoh

could precipitate his expulsion by ordering his faction

members to vote against Transport Minister Suriya

Chungrungruankit in the censure debate.

 

CABINET SHUFFLE SOON?

 

5. (U) Government Whip Committee Spokesperson Watthana

Sengphairo said on June 13 that if Sano Thienthong and his

Wang Nam Yen faction members vote in the coming censure

motion against Transport Minister Suriya Chungrungruangkit in

defiance of the party\’s line, they will certainly face TRT

disciplinary punishment. The Deputy Interior Minister, who

is also Chairman of the TRT MPs, Somchai Sunthonwat has

stated that a cabinet reshuffle is likely soon, but denied it

is because of the pressure by the opposition, or the Wang Nam

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Yen, or any corruption problem in the government. Somchai

optimistically predicted that Sanoh and his faction will not

vote against the TRT in the upcoming National Counter

Corruption Commission (NCCC) constitutional amendment

proceedings (Ref A.).

 

WHY THE TRT DOES NOT WANT TO FORCE SANOH OUT

 

6. (SBU) A source in the TRT leadership told the Embassy on

June 10 that the party does not want to expel Sanoh and his

faction members out of fear that if they keep their MP status

they would join the opposition. Currently the opposition

Democrat Party (DP) and Chart Thai (CT) hold 121 seats, just

short of the requisite 125 votes to formally request the

Senate to remove a cabinet member (section 304 of the

Constitution). The DP and CT command 121 votes. A move by

Sanoh and even a portion of his faction to the opposition (if

the opposition would accept the volatile Sanoh) would give it

the votes to bring potentially damaging impeachment

proceedings against Thaksin\’s ministers. According to the

TRT source, the plan now is to let Sanoh stew impotently

within the party, despite his attacks on Thaksin.

 

7. (SBU) Comment: Thaksin is looking his most

bedeviled at least since his assets concealment case in the

opening weeks of his administration. Apart from the ongoing

airport purchase scandal and Sanoh Thienthong\’s open

rebellion, Thailand has had a long drought, oil prices are up

and economic growth forecasts are being scaled back. The

recovery from the tsunami and news of an almost daily toll of

separatist violence in the Thai southern border provinces

have hit tourism numbers. The press seems emboldened by

Thaksin\’s troubles. From his recent image as a political

Midas set to shape Thailand\’s future for some years to come,

Thaksin for now is finding himself in the unfamiliar

situation of being on the defensive. End Comment.

BOYCE

 

Written by thaicables

July 7, 2011 at 5:34 am

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