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06BANGKOK1472 EAP DAS JOHN MEETS WITH THAKSIN’S BRAIN TRUST

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“55876”,”3/9/2006 10:06″,

 

“06BANGKOK1472″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

“CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

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

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

091006Z Mar 06

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 001472

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/08/2016

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH, TRT – Thai Rak Thai, Thai Prime Minister, SNAP Elections

SUBJECT: EAP DAS JOHN MEETS WITH THAKSIN\’S BRAIN TRUST

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary. In a March 3 meeting with visiting EAP DAS

Eric John and the Ambassador, principal advisor to the Prime

Minister Pansak Vinyaratn brushed aside rumors that Thaksin

could yet resign, that the ruling Thai Rak Thai party could

have problems in the April 2 snap election, or that military

or royal intervention in the political crisis was likely.

Pansak instead outlined his own colorful analysis of the

situation, calling the current challenge to Thaksin the \”last

hurrah of the old wealthy class.\” Thaksin and his party,

meanwhile, are preparing to expand their efforts to reform

the Thai political system to include more direct

participation following the April 2 vote. Pansak even hopes

to export this new \”custom of democracy\” to Burma and China.

End Summary.

 

THAKSIN STILL HOLDS ALL THE CARDS

———————————-

 

2. (C) In a meeting with DAS John and the Ambassador on March

3, Pansak Vinyaratn–one of Thaksin\’s closest advisers and

strategists–brimmed with fatigued confidence. Replete with

profanity-laced riffs which are his trademark, Pansak

dismissed rumors that the PM may resign, or that Thaksin\’s

Thai Rak Thai party (TRT) would have technical difficulty

filling enough seats to form a new government following the

April 2 snap election. The Army remains \”balanced\” and a

military coup improbable. According to Pansak, the King has

signaled that he is not currently interested in intervening;

\”why should he want to be a hero at the wrong time?\” When

asked if Thaksin and TRT still hold all the cards in the

current crisis, Pansak responded \”absolutely.\” That said,

the situation remains fluid and Pansak did not completely

rule out a scenario where Thaksin loses power. \”Worst case?

I (get some) rest.\”

 

\”THE LAST HURRAH OF THE OLD WEALTHY CLASS\”

——————————————

 

3. (C) The current political crisis is the \”last hurrah of

the old wealthy class,\” according to Pansak. This cabal of

political and economic elite who have dominated modern Thai

society are \”absolutely, deeply resentful\” of Thaksin, who

Pansak suggests is a new type of businessman and politician.

Pansak said he told Thaksin, \”all of these people who have

lost their role in society, who have lost their shirts

because of arrogance, want to come back (and defeat

Thaksin.)\” This \”unholy alliance\” of big business, the

Democrat Party and \”some people close to the palace\” remain

feckless. They have no specific programs or platforms and

lack even the leadership to defeat Thaksin, according to

Pansak. They had to get media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul \”out

of the grave\” to lead their cause. They \”keep losing at the

polls because they never follow through on their promises.\”

After decades of dominance under both military and civilian

rule they have been pushed aside by Thaksin, \”someone who

actually does what he says he\’ll do.\”

 

4. (C) According to Pansak, these elite \”dream that pre-97

(the era predating the current constitution, which was marked

by unstable political coalitions prone to party switching)

can come back…they are dreaming.\” Shifts in the regional

economy were also contributing to the waning influence of the

traditional elite. \”Is it really possible to have the

commodity-peer-competitor mercantile group (from) the cold

war era now?\” As an example, Pansak stated that a recent deal

with a major Chinese corporation to build and operate a

massive motorbike factory in Thailand was the first time that

such a deal had been completed without the participation of

one of the elite Thai mega-corporations as a middle man. The

Chinese had made the deal directly with local contractors and

suppliers. According to Pansak, \”the Chinese dynamo affects

Thai politics\” and the old elite don\’t even know it.

 

5. (C) Pansak also denounced the \”arrogance\” of the political

opposition. According to Pansak, the King\’s personal private

secretary Arsa Sarasin had called Democrat Party Chief

 

SIPDIS

Abhisit Vejjahiva to ask him if he would like to meet Thaksin

at the palace to discuss the current crisis. Abhisit

refused, saying that if the palace would like him to meet

with the PM, they would have to submit a list of subjects for

discussion first. (Comment. Abhisit told the press on

Thursday that he had been invited to meet with Thaksin at the

palace, but would only palaver with the PM if a neutral

witness was present. End Comment.)

 

THAKSIN HASN\’T WEAKENED DEMOCRACY

———————————

 

6. (C) While acknowledging the conventional wisdom that

Thaksin was the first politician to master the changes of the

1997 constitution in building his electoral juggernaught,

Pansak rejected the assertion that the PM has undercut the

independent institutions designed to check his office. Using

a colorful and unprintable metaphor to support his point,

Pansak explained that TRT was not about to undercut the

public perception that Thaksin is very strong. The facts,

however, belie this assertion, according to Pansak. Thaksin

has failed to push through several big-ticket programs, such

as public utility privatization.

 

7. (C) Indeed, the independent institutions formed under the

1997 constitution remain robust if not openly opposed to the

PM, according to Pansak. The head of the constitutional

court is the owner of former PM and Democrat Party senior

adviser Chuan Leekpai\’s rental house. Pansak also denied

that Thaksin had manipulated the consitutional court. (In

2001, the court, in a 8-7 vote, acquitted the PM of failing

to disclose assets in 1997. In 2006, the court, again in a

close vote, denied a request by a group of senators to

investigate his sale of Shin Corp.) \”If Thaksin was so good,

do you think the court would have accepted either case? If

he\’s a dictator…(the vote to acquit) should be 14-0.\”

 

A NEW MODEL FOR THAI DEMOCRACY

——————————

 

8. (C) Thaksin, in fact, has strengthened democracy,

according to Pansak, and TRT will continue to consolidate

these gains after their certain victory in the April 2 vote.

\”Everyone thinks that Thaksin came from the Thai elite,

meaning the system is not completely democratic yet…that\’s

not reality.\” Thaksin\’s power base \”is the people.\” Quoting

another Thai intellectual, Pansak said, \”It took the

communists forty years to try and divide Thai society, but

TRT took only five years to capture the hearts and minds of

the people.\”

 

9. (C) Pansak envisions a better balance between

representational democracy and direct, popular democracy. In

Pansak\’s analysis, the Thai elite who have dominated the

country for so long have focused too much on a form of

representative democracy that meets their needs and minimizes

the voices of the masses. The success of more direct

democracy will depend in large part on the ability of the

people to exercise their rights. The current crisis \”shows

that the political elite are still fairly immature.\” Pansak,

who is currently involved in a project to develop a world

class public library system in Thailand, wants to build a

custom or culture of democracy in Thailand, \”where people

exercise their rights.\” Example: \”if you want to protest go

ahead, but then go ahead and participate in the election.\”

In the past, journalists were thrown in jail. \”Now, we sue

them, because we believe in the custom of democracy.\”

 

10. (C) Pansak was less clear in explaining how he and TRT

intend to formalize this mix of democracy, but he appears to

support Thaksin\’s public intentions to reform the

constitution. \”I have never accepted the (1997)

constitution…it\’s crap, not democracy…how can you write

in the amount of national spending that each province is

supposed to get? That\’s not even written in the newly

independent African states\’ constitutions.\”

 

BUT WHAT ROLE FOR THE MONARCHY?

——————————-

 

11. (C) Absent from Pansak\’s \”big-think\” analysis was any

explicit mention of a role for the monarchy in a new Thai

democracy. However, Pansak did diverge from a discussion

about the political opposition with a cryptic sentence or two

that seemed to suggest a preference for a respected but

politically uninvolved monarch. \”To revere the King in the

correct manner is to allow him to be in the palace with

happiness and his eunuchs only come out of the palace to go

to the supermarket. So always fund beautiful roads for

eunuchs to go back to the palace…the situation now is,

build beautiful roads for eunuchs to go back to the palace.\”

 

THAILAND\’S NEW EXPORT…DEMOCRACY TO BURMA/CHINA?

——————————————— —-

 

12. (C) Pansak hopes to take his idea of a \”custom of

democracy\” on the road. \”If we can finish this (current

crisis) I\’ll tell Thaksin to go to Rangoon and tell the

(military leadership), see? Democracy means you have

insurance…you can feel safe about giving up some powers.

After Rangoon, we go to Beijing…if successful, we can

export to your guys in Latin America…I should get a Nobel

Prize for this!\”

 

COMMENT

——-

 

13. (C) Pansak is one of Thaksin\’s closest advisers and the

source of much TRT strategy. His unmistakable confidence

that the PM will weather the current political storm could be

taken as further evidence that the conventional wisdom among

much of the Bangkok elite–that Thaksin\’s days are

numbered–remains wishful thinking and that TRT is prepared

to overcome any technical challenges in the April 2 vote. On

the other hand, it could simply represent misplaced TRT

hubris. Pansak\’s predictions (and humorous efforts to paint

Thaksin as a man of the people) aside, his analysis of the

structural battles between the old elite and the new rings

true. Either way, Pansak\’s colorful commentary, in addition

to being supremely entertaining, offered a persuasive

explication of what the Thaksin phenomena is all about and

why it may have yet to run its course.

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:36 am

Posted in Confidential, Thaksin

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