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06BANGKOK1411 THAILAND POLITICAL CRISIS: WHAT IT’S ABOUT, AND WHAT WE SHOULD DO

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“55561”,”3/7/2006 11:26″,”06BANGKOK1411″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“06BANGKOK1208|06BANGKOK538|06BANGKOK959”,

“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 001411

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/06/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, SNAP Elections, Thai Political Updates

SUBJECT: THAILAND POLITICAL CRISIS: WHAT IT\’S ABOUT, AND

WHAT WE SHOULD DO

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 1208

B. BANGKOK 0959

C. BANGKOK 0538

 

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

 

1. (C) We are not likely to see an early resolution of the

political confrontation between Prime Minister Thaksin and

his opponents. To facilitate better understanding of

possible outcomes and the significance of these events for

the U.S.-Thai relationship, and to contemplate the best way

to position the USG vis–vis these unfolding events in

Thailand, we offer the following analysis and suggestions.

 

WHAT\’S NOT HAPPENING

——————–

 

2. (C) What we are witnessing is not a power struggle

between the boycotting opposition parties and the Prime

Minister. The three boycotting parties are not leading the

opposition to the Prime Minister, rather, they are being

dragged in its wake. They decided on the boycott strategy

with great reluctance, and only when it became clear that

they would be severely criticized by the activist groups

leading the anti-Thaksin demonstrations if they participated

in the polls. Until Thaksin dissolved parliament, the

opposition Democrats were still trying to use more

conventional legal mechanisms to uncover Thaksin\’s unethical

or illegal dealings and to hold him accountable in that way.

 

3. (C) This is not about reducing Thai Rak Thai\’s majority

in the Parliament. The opposition movement — NGOs and civil

society groups — raises no objection per se to another TRT

leader taking over as Prime Minister. Many people who oppose

Thaksin personally, even vehemently, nonetheless support many

of the TRT policies. The leaders of the protest movement

have, for the most part, no strong ties to any political

party.

 

4. (C) The opposition boycott is neither unconstitutional nor

illegal. The Democrats point out that this is not the first

time they have used this tool: they boycotted the elections

of 1952 to protest military rule. The boycott may prove to

be unpopular (public opinion polls present a mixed picture so

far) and the opposition parties know it may cost them in the

polls during subsequent elections, but they made their

calculation and decided it was a political gamble worth

taking.

 

5. (C) This impasse will not last forever. Thailand will

host dozens of VIP visitors, including many of the crowned

heads of Europe, beginning in early June to celebrate the

King\’s 60th anniversary on the throne. The significance of

this anniversary for the Thai people cannot be overstated.

Our contacts are virtually unanimous in predicting that the

crisis will be resolved before the anniversary gets underway.

 

6. (C) Are the \”elite\” in Bangkok taking an undemocratic

stance in trying to oust a popularly-elected leader? There

is an element of truth to this accusation, but it is not the

whole story. The Bangkok elite never really warmed to what

they see as the nouveau-riche, upstart, know-it-all Prime

Minister and his very un-Thai abrasiveness. Initial support

from some who liked Thaksin\’s \”fresh\” thinking on the economy

and his appeal to Thai nationalism faded as questions about

his ethics and his effectiveness as national leader grew.

Many Bangkok residents are convinced that although government

corruption across-the-board is no worse than with previous

administrations, corruption at the top is the worst it has

ever been. Following the promulgation of the 1997

constitution, the Thai Senate and a variety of independent

institutions were supposed to play an important

checks-and-balances role, but Thaksin has neutralized almost

all of them. In the opposition view, with no viable legal

venues left to hold Thaksin accountable for anything, there

was little recourse but to take the argument to the street

(ref A).

 

WHAT\’S IT ALL ABOUT?

———————

 

7. (C) This struggle is to ensure that Thailand is a genuine

democracy, with checks and balances on power that work in a

Thai context. It is the second act of the story which

started with the 1992 pro-democracy demonstrations, followed

by the efforts to put in place a new constitution to ensure

civilian government that was both effective and democratic.

The 1997 constitution is a good document, but, like a new

roof, it sprang leaks in some places. Thaksin, with steely

efficiency, exploited these leaks to his political advantage

over the past 5 years. While most of Thaksin\’s current

critics castigate him for a wide variety of reasons,

including their personal self-interest, the controversy over

the Shin Corp sale (ref C) turned out to be the last straw,

the single issue around which a fractious array of Thaksin

opponents could galvanize. Tellingly, many of his old allies

turned against him. In this conflict, Thai society is

sorting out some important questions: how much corruption is

just too much? How do you balance the right of the citizens

to elect whomever they choose with the need of society to

have respect for the rule of law? What kinds of checks and

balances are necessary to keep society just, and how do you

make them work?

8. (C) Thaksin has been accused throughout his term of

office of a variety of illegal or unethical actions in

connection with his family\’s Shin Corp. When he was first

accused of concealing his assets, the Constitutional Court

issued a controversial acquittal in 2001. It is widely

believed that Thaksin paid off judges in order to secure this

8-7 decision. When a journalist wrote about the degree to

which Shin Corp had benefited from the Thaksin government\’s

policies, the company sued her for libel, and she is facing a

possible fine of usdols 10 million and two years in prison.

Frustration over the PM\’s impunity in relationship to Shin

Corp dealings reached a head in February, when the

Constitutional Court refused to consider the petition from 28

Senators to review the Shin Corp deal and examine whether the

PM had violated Thai law. Ironically, it is possible that

this controversial sale was at least technically legal. But,

just as there is no institution in this country that has the

power to convict Thaksin, there also appears to be no

institution that has the moral authority to acquit him.

 

WHAT ABOUT THE U.S.?

——————–

 

9. (C) As in other places around the world, Thais tend

either to look to the US for leadership or blame the US for

what goes wrong. In 1992, reports that the US believed the

leading civilian candidate for PM was involved in drug

trafficking circulated widely. Our opposition to that

candidate was the opening utilized by junta leader General

Suchinda to claim the top job, the act that led to the

prodemocracy demonstrations and the violence that accompanied

them. During this past year, opposition elements seized on

our FTA negotiations as a club with which to beat the PM.

 

10. (C) That said, it is particularly striking that neither

side is asking for the US to take their part in the ongoing

struggle. We have regular contacts with the protest

movement, the opposition parties, the military and with

leaders in the TRT, including the embattled PM himself. We

talk to journalists and academics. As rumors fly, everyone

wants to know what we know — but no one has asked us what to

do. The Thai seem prepared to work this out themselves, in

the context of their constitution (with all its quirks). The

US does have a role to play: emphasizing the need for all

parties to use peaceful means and to find a just solution.

If either side begins to use violence or improper means

(vote-buying, intimidation, etc. then we will want to use

public statements and private channels to voice our concern.

For the time being, respecting the collective Thai ability to

sort their way through the current impasse is the best thing

we can do for Thai democracy and our bilateral relationship.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:33 am

Posted in Confidential, General

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