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06BANGKOK1575 THAILAND POLITICAL UPDATE: HUGE ANTI-THAKSIN RALLY BOISTEROUS BUT PEACEFUL

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“56535”,”3/14/2006 23:31″,”06BANGKOK1575″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”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 001575

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/13/2016

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

SUBJECT: THAILAND POLITICAL UPDATE: HUGE ANTI-THAKSIN RALLY

BOISTEROUS BUT PEACEFUL

 

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Alex A. Arvizu, reason 1.4 (b) (

d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The Anti-Thaksin protesters gathered in

full-force this morning on March 14, in far greater numbers

than the demonstrations of March 5, and marched peacefully

from Sanam Luang to Government House. The People\’s Alliance

for Democracy (PAD) and the Dharma Army have both vowed to

remain there until PM Thaksin resigns. Thaksin\’s

tractor-riding supporters from the Northeast did not

materialize. In response to the morning\’s activities, the

Cabinet moved their meeting to the Health Ministry in

Nontaburi, in the outskirts of Bangkok. The Cabinet meeting

reportedly concluded with the elevation of Deputy Prime

Minister (DPM) Chidchai from third to first DPM. Meanwhile,

there are indications the Election Commission may disqualify

up to 200 candidates for the April 2 elections —

considerably more than had been anticipated. Thaksin,

meanwhile, is conveniently on the campaign trail in friendly

territory in northeast Thailand. End Summary.

 

THE REHEARSAL

————-

 

2. (C) Some 60-80,000 anti-Thaksin demonstrators gathered

peacefully, but loudly, at Sanam Luang on March 13, the

evening before the march, to hear Sondhi and others recite

the familiar charges against PM Thaksin: looting the

country, selling out the country and undermining democracy.

The crowd was also treated to a Chinese opera spoof of

Thaksin, a poem addressed to Thaksin\’s children, urging them

to persuade their father to resign, and musical appeals for

action reminiscent of the 1960s. Most of the speeches

stressed the importance of showing the opposition\’s strength

on this morning\’s march to Government House.

 

THE SHOW

——–

 

3. (C) A sizable crowd — estimated at over 150,000

demonstrators — marched from Sanam Luang, through the

Democracy Monument, to Government House at daybreak.

Peaceful and more sedate compared to their previous march

nine days ago, the crowd grew more passionate as the morning

wore on. Discipline and order characterized the large

procession, which stretched over a number of large

intersections but still obeyed its organizers to allow for

traffic to pass through. Ages ranging from the young to the

old, much of the crowd looked to be about middle-aged from

both the countryside and Bangkok itself. People waved Thai

flags along with anti-Thaksin paraphernalia in Thai, English

and Chinese high in the air and many smiled at pedestrians as

they passed by. Signage included the usual protesting of

Thaksin\’s lack of ethics, the Shin Corp sale, and the FTA —

but it should be noted that they are getting more coarse,

including curse words in English, an ocean of swastikas, and

even one with a picture of a man defecating on Thaksin\’s head.

 

4. (C) The police also appeared relaxed, and chatted amongst

each other. Though the crowd seemed twice as large as on

March 5, the number of police did not noticeably increase.

One of the police officers commented to an Embassy employee

that they were not worried, but \”at ease.\”

 

WE\’RE HERE TO STAY!…WE THINK

——————————

 

5. (C) Both the People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD)

coordinator, Suriyasai Katasila, and Dharma Army\’s own

Chamlong have declared that the protesters will remain in

front of the Government House until PM Thaksin resigns. That

said, Suriyasai also noted that they would reevaluate the

situation daily to assess the plausibility of doing so.

(Comment: This is not the first time the PAD has promised to

remain at Government House. They had made a similar

announcement before the March 5 demonstrations, but then

decided to turn back and set up camp at Sanam Luang

afterwards. End Comment.)

 

WHERE ARE THE TRACTORS?

———————–

 

6. (C) Following yesterday\’s uncertainty regarding whether

pro-Thaksin supporters from TRT strongholds from the

Northeast would ride their tractors in to cut off the

protesters, today they were a \”no show.\” There are varying

reports claiming that the Northeastern farmers either

suddenly withdrew their support for Thaksin after being

swayed by the PAD, or that the police or government asked

them to turn back. (Comment: We believe the latter to be

more likely. End Comment.)

 

AS FOR THE CABINET…

———————

 

7. (C) Opting to skip the excitement at Government House, the

Cabinet reportedly convened its meeting at the Ministry of

Health in Nontaburi today. Among the topics for discussion

was the reported elevation of DPM Pol General Chidchai from

third to first Deputy PM. This would make Chidchai the

next-in-line successor to become Caretaker Prime Minister

should Thaksin for whatever reason step down. This decision

to promote Chidchai coincidentally coincides with unconfirmed

reports that Thaksin and the TRT have devised a \”tactical

retreat\” by which Thaksin would resign from premiership while

Chidchai would succeed him. The PAD has come out to reject

this arrangement as they claim that it would only make

Thaksin the \”invisible hand\” behind the scene. Another

theory holds that Thaksin wants Chidchai to be in charge in

Bangkok while Thaksin campaigns upcountry, and will have

Chidchai (who is in charge of the Ministry of Justice) impose

an emergency decree. (Note: This seems unlikely in the

current environment. End note.)

 

WHAT ABOUT THE ELECTION?

————————

 

8. (SBU) According to some reports, a source at the Election

Commission (EC) noted that at least 200 election candidates

from the smaller, little-known political parties would most

likely be disqualified for the April 2 election. Most of

these candidates would be found ineligible because they would

have either: 1) been members of the parties they represent

for less than 90 days before the election, or 2) retained

membership of more than one political at the same time. This

figure at 200 is considerably higher than anticipated. If

true, it will add to TRT\’s pre-election woes.

 

MORE MONEY PROMISED

——————-

 

9. (C) In a separate decision, the Cabinet has just approved

a pay raise for State-Owned Enterprise (SOE) employees,

retroactive from October 2005. Though this proposal had been

made previously, it was originally turned down by the Cabinet

as they cited that a caretaker government should not make any

commitments. It should be noted that an estimated 30,000 SOE

employees joined the demonstrations today.

 

10. (C) On the farmer\’s front, Dr. Twatchai, the Secretary

General of the Thai Banker\’s Association (TBA) stated to

Econoff that the government will soon announce a

restructuring of small farmer debt in the amount of baht 2.2

billion (USD 56.1 million). This \”Agriculture Rehabilitation

Fund\” will be seen as another financial boost to rural

farmers.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

11. (C) Today\’s massive rally in front of Government House

was boisterous but peaceful. It\’s unclear how long they

intend to stay. But in a sense, the \”showdown\” at Government

House never took place; not only was Thaksin out of the

capital, but the cabinet itself met at a location in the

outskirts of Bangkok. The political machinations at both

sides continue to rivet the public\’s attention.

Interestingly, several TV stations broadcast live, extensive

coverage of today\’s events. End Comment.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 5:17 am

Posted in Confidential, PAD, Thaksin

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