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05BANGKOK4238 CENSURE OF TRANSPORT MINISTER ENDS IN AFFIRMATIVE VOTE OF CONFIDENCE

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“35554”,”6/29/2005 10:48″,”05BANGKOK4238″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,

“UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY”,”05BANGKOK4001″,

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

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”UNCLAS BANGKOK 004238

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV, USPAC FOR FPA HUSO

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: CENSURE OF TRANSPORT MINISTER ENDS IN

AFFIRMATIVE VOTE OF CONFIDENCE

 

REF: BANGKOK 4001

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The Thai Parliament voted overwhelmingly

and along party lines not to censure Transport Minister

Suriya Jungrungreangkit for irregularities related to bribes

reportedly paid by InVision Corporation to win a procurement

contract for airport scanners at Bangkok\’s new international

airport. While the outcome of the no confidence vote came as

no surprise, Thai media stories are characterizing the

parliamentary debate as an example of democratization in

Thailand. It remains to be seen whether the opponents of PM

Thaksin\’s Government can continue to use the scanner scandal

effectively to attack him. Rumors abound that Thaksin will

continue to do damage control by reshuffling the Cabinet,

perhaps as early as mid-July. END SUMMARY.

 

VOTE COMES AS NO SURPRISE

 

2. (U) On June 29, the Thai Parliament responded to more

than 14 hours of debate held the previous day by voting not

to censure Transport Minister Suriya. As expected, the

voting went mainly along party lines: 367 opposing censure,

119 in favor, with 7 abstentions. None of the ruling Thai

Rak Thai (TRT) MPs present voted to punish Suriya while all

of the opposition Democrat and Chart Thai MPs voted in favor

of censure. The two MPs from the Mahachon Party abstained.

Six MPs were absent.

 

FOCUS ON SNOH

 

3. (U) While the vote was never in doubt, pundits were all

watching how TRT faction leader Snoh Thienthong would vote.

Snoh has been involved in a very public feud with PM Thaksin

— even threatening to leave the TRT with his supporters.

Speculation over whether Snoh would fall on his sword over

the case died once he opted not to attend the vote on

censure. Notably, Snoh\’s son, Sorawong Thienthong, voted

with his TRT colleagues against censure.

 

OPPOSITION LEADER PROVIDES THEATER

 

4. (U) The most colorful part of the parliamentary debate

centered on Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva locking

horns with the well-coached Suriya. Among other things,

Abhisit alleged that InVision Corporation paid bribes through

a local contracting company to TRT officials in order to win

the airport baggage scanner contract and that those TRT

officials in turn used that money to finance TRT\’s

overwhelming electoral victory in February. Abhisit also

erroneously claimed that a report issued by the U.S. Justice

Department alleged bribes were paid to a Thai political party

— a charge Suriya refuted.

 

PUBLIC OPINION MIXED — DEMOCRACY SUPPORTED

 

5. (U) The national media generally credited Abhisit with

having won his verbal sparring match with Suriya, even though

the final vote went Suriya\’s way. The Nation newspaper

heralded the censure debate as \”an exemplary demonstration of

checks and balances at work in a parliamentary democracy.\” A

number of Thai political observers have taken to quoting a

recent Asian Wall Street Journal editorial which noted that

InVision was allegedly involved in bribing officials in three

countries — the Philippines, Thailand and China — but that

only Thailand chose to conduct its own inquiry into the

matter.

 

COMMENT

 

6. (SBU) By ensuring that Snoh\’s supporters, including

Snoh\’s son, marched in step with the rest of the TRT, Thaksin

demonstrated his firm control over his Party. It remains to

be seen whether the corruption scandal can continue to help

Abhisit breathe new life into the Democrat Party — or

whether Abhisit\’s performance in the debate will improve his

ability to win new supporters for his Party. Rumors continue

to circulate widely in Bangkok that, in response to the

corruption scandal and as a way to show his characteristic

decisiveness, Thaksin might shuffle his Cabine

 

Written by thaicables

July 7, 2011 at 5:35 am

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