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06BANGKOK1208 PERSPECTIVES ON CURRENT POLITICAL STALEMATE

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“54603”,”2/28/2006 11:46″,”06BANGKOK1208″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“05BANGKOK7197|06BANGKOK1091|06BANGKOK538”,

“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 001208

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, Thai Political Updates, Thai Prime Minister, Elections – Thai

SUBJECT: THAILAND: PERSPECTIVES ON CURRENT POLITICAL

STALEMATE

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 1091

B. BANGKOK 0538

C. 05 BANGKOK 7197

 

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, reason 1.4 (b) (d)

 

1. (C) Summary and Introduction: The Thai political system

is working through its biggest crisis since 1992. Prime

Minister Thaksin Shinawatra enjoyed a precipitous rise to

power in 2001. Since then, he has dominated all the elements

of government that were intended to balance the increased

powers given the PM in the 1997 constitution. This has

revealed weaknesses in the constitution and the political

system that Thaksin has no interest in fixing, since they

benefit him. Faced with a tilted playing field, the

opposition, at least for now, has resorted to a time-honored

tactic of minority parties: to boycott elections in order to

highlight their inherent unfairness. This move may force an

impasse that takes Thai politics into territory uncharted by

the constitution. At this point, we believe there is a

reasonably good chance the Thai will work through this

problem peacefully, and in a way that will be considered

generally acceptable and legitimate here. This may involve

some creative interpretations of their constitution; a role

for the King is entirely conceivable. Embassy recommends

that the USG message emphasize:

1) respect for democratic process;

2) importance of restraint and peaceful methods; and

3) resolution that reflects the will of the Thai people.

We are in a good position. We have frank communications with

the government, NGOs and the opposition parties. We have

used our contacts with police and military to caution against

the use of force against peaceful demonstrators, a coup, or

other illegal intervention by the security forces. We should

allow the players here to work through the problem, carefully

limiting our statements to avoid being seen as taking sides.

End Summary and Introduction

 

IVORY TOWER MEETS SMOKY BACK ROOM

———————————-

 

2. (C) Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has changed the

nature of Thai politics. The 1997 constitution sought to

strengthen the role of the Prime Minister in order to avoid

continuation of weak, short-lived and often ineffective

governments that had plagued Thailand under civilian rule.

The constitution also called for the creation of a range of

institutions to counterbalance that increased power. For

example, the state was supposed to divest itself of control

of broadcast media by allocating broadcast frequencies in a

transparent manner through an independent regulatory agency.

It was supposed to have strong anti-corruption watchdogs in

the National Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC) and the

Auditor General. A non-partisan Senate, composed of

respected and well-known leaders of society, was supposed to

be involved in the selection of the members of these

institutions, with the King approving them.

 

3. (C) The problem is, it didn\’t work. The Senate is not

an independent body. A large number of the senators are

unabashed TRT supporters, whether through conviction or out

of self-interest, in exchange for pay-offs or other favors.

In a cascade effect, one after another of the watchdog

institutions has either succumbed to TRT control or been

strangled at birth. The Election Commission and the

Constitutional Court are widely believed to be excessively

influenced by TRT. The NCCC and the National Broadcasting

Commission are not functioning, due to bureaucratic problems

in a Senate that lacks the commitment to push through

credible appointments to these important oversight bodies.

Money politics is nothing new here, but Thaksin is one of the

richest men in Thailand, and he has played the game expertly.

The drafters of the Constitution clearly underestimated that

ability of a strong, determined Prime Minister to turn these

institutions into toothless tigers.

 

4. (C) As we have reported (ref A, C), the opposition parties

see no way to break through the TRT\’s control of the media

and other institutions. Given only a month to organize a

electoral challenge, the main opposition parties have opted

— for the time being — not to lend legitimacy to this

process by participating in it. As they further point out,

the problem is not with the Parliament, the problem is with

Thaksin. Meanwhile, the demonstrators are not calling for

new elections, they are demanding Thaksin\’s removal,

primarily because they believe, with some justification, that

he violated the law with some aspects of his Shin Corp sale

(ref B), and that he will get away with it because no

institution is strong enough to hold him accountable.

 

HIT THE \’RESET\’ BUTTON

———————-

 

5. (C) What will happen now? It is possible that Thaksin and

the TRT will hang together and barrel forward to elections on

April 2, without the participation of the boycotters.

However, we think that this is an unlikely outcome at this

point. Without the three opposition parties, the elections

will clearly lack legitimacy.

 

6. (C) At one end of the spectrum, there are solutions to

the impasse that bring the opposition parties back to the

table. Thaksin may finally offer a compromise acceptable to

them. Yesterday, he announced he was willing to discuss

constitutional reform issues, but his offer fell so far short

of the opposition party demands that they could not accept

it. Today, he said he was willing to delay the elections to

give the opposition more time to prepare. Thaksin knows that

the opposition parties decided on the boycott strategy with

great reluctance, and may be open to compromise. The NGOs

that are leading the charge against the PM will keep the

pressure on the parties to hold the line, however.

 

7. (C) Or, the Thai ship of state may sail off into uncharted

territory for a while. Commentators are referring to the

constitution\’s Article 7: \”Whenever no provision under this

Constitution is applicable to any case, it shall be decided

in accordance with the constitutional practice in the

democratic regime of government with the King as Head of

State.\” This seems to be a very Thai provision that

essentially says, \”do whatever works as long as most everyone

can agree on it, and the King will approve it.\” Solutions at

this end of the spectrum could involve more direct pressure

on Thaksin to resign, the appointment of some kind of

interim, compromise government under the royal aegis to

oversee constitutional changes and new elections, or some

other option we haven\’t thought of yet.

 

OUR ROLE – DON\’T GET IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS

——————————————

 

8. (C) Our first interest is to use our influence to ward

off any move by the security forces to use force against

peaceful protesters or to intervene in the political process.

We have been emphasizing this concern with our RTG contacts.

So far, we believe that the police have made the decision to

behave responsibly in policing the demonstrations, and the

Army is reluctant to intervene. This is encouraging.

 

9. (C) Our next interest is to ensure that the U.S. is not

seen as taking sides in a political contest that needs to be

decided by the Thai people. Both sides have looked for ways

to drag the U.S. into this fight. Our FTA negotiations have

been used to whip up a frenzy of opposition to the Prime

Minister, who in turn likes to highlight his close

relationship with the U.S. In our statements, we should

emphasize the need for a peaceful outcome, but avoid getting

drawn into discussions about what is or is not constitutional

here. Because the TRT is attempting to paint the opposition

boycott as unconstitutional and illegal, we need to be

particularly careful about the words we choose.

 

SUGGESTED PRESS GUIDANCE

————————

 

10. (C) — We urge all parties in the current confrontation

in Thailand to refrain from the use of force and to find a

peaceful solution to the current impasse.

 

— Thailand has experienced a series of large demonstrations.

They have been peaceful. The police have behaved

responsibly. We believe that the Thai people have the

political maturity to continue to work toward a solution to

the political questions they are facing.

 

Q: Do we support the opposition\’s boycott of the elections?

A: — It is up to the Thai people to decide whether to

support the boycott or not.

 

Q: If the opposition parties don\’t participate in the

elections, are they free and fair?

A:– We are not going to speculate. We believe the Thai

people and their leadership can work through this problem.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:13 am

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