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06BANGKOK1627 ‘NO EXIT’ – SENIOR TRT OFFICIAL ON THE WAY OUT OF THE DEADLOCK

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“56773”,”3/16/2006 10:19″,”06BANGKOK1627″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”06BANGKOK1472″,

“VZCZCXRO0689

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DE RUEHBK #1627/01 0751019

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O 161019Z MAR 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7221

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

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RHFJSCC/COMMARFORPAC”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 001627

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/01/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH

SUBJECT: \’NO EXIT\’ – SENIOR TRT OFFICIAL ON THE WAY OUT OF

THE DEADLOCK

 

REF: BANGKOK 1472 (EAP DAS JOHN MEETS WITH THAKSIN\’S

BRAIN TRUST)

 

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

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The Ambassador and Minister of Education

Chaturon Chaisaeng discussed possible scenarios to resolve

the political deadlock on March 16. According to Chaturon, PM

Thaksin might consider stepping down as Prime Minister

\’temporarily,\’ but only after he receives the vindication of

a substantial vote for him in the April 2 elections. Then he

could step aside \”for the good of the country,\” and preserve

his option to return to politics later. However, Chaturon

could not describe a likely scenario in which that move is

followed by a politically acceptable outcome to the current

impasse. Chaturon is concerned that the PM may wait too late

to make a decision, and this could have a negative impact on

Thai democracy and, not incidentally, on TRT\’s fate. End

Summary.

 

2. (C) Ambassador met March 16 with Chaturon Chaisaeng,

Minister of Education and a senior member of the ruling Thai

Rak Thai party (TRT). Chaturon is one of the more well

regarded members of the cabinet, as much for his

level-headedness as his credentials as a student leader in

the political protests of the 1970s. The Ambassador told

Chaturon that we see the current political situation as a

Thai problem, for Thais to solve. We were however, very

interested to hear his views on the political situation.

Chaturon outlined the various possible ways forward to

resolve the political deadlock between Prime Minister Thaksin

Shinawatra and his opposition. All scenarios, however, run

up against seemingly immovable objects, most often the ego or

interests of the PM or his senior advisors.

 

TEMPORARY BREAK

—————

 

3. (C) Chaturon described the PM\’s dilemma. The PM is

considering options in which he agrees to take a \”temporary

break\” from the leadership. However, he wants to have the

validation of an election, in which he would demonstrate that

he still has wide support. After the election on April 2,

once he has proven he is still \”beloved\” by the people, then

he might be prepared to announce that he will not be Prime

Minister during the next Parliament, for the good of the

country. He has already announced that this next Parliament

would be in session for only about one year, to consider

constitutional changes and \”political reform,\” and then there

would be new elections.

 

4. (C) However, there are several obvious reasons why this

scenario will not break the political deadlock, according to

Chaturon:

 

— Thai Rak Thai is expected to take virtually all the seats

in the Parliament, given the absence of a real opposition.

Therefore, the constitutional reform would be carried out by

TRT exclusively, which will not be acceptable to the

opposition. The opposition demonstrations would continue;

the conflict would remain unresolved. Further, Chaturon does

not believe that the Thai people will accept a one-party

parliament.

 

— Then there is the problem of even seating the Parliament,

given the large number of races that may not result in a

valid winner, due to technicalities with the election law.

It is widely presumed that the constitution requires all 500

seats to be filled before the Parliament can sit and elect a

government. The only solution to that problem that Chaturon

could suggest is recourse to Article 7 of the constitution,

which would allow the King to intervene and authorize a

Parliament with fewer than 500 MPs to convene and function.

Again, this extraordinary step to solve one problem only

brings Thailand back to the next unacceptable situation — an

all-TRT parliament.

 

ENDING THE BOYCOTT

——————

 

5. (C) What about scenarios which get the opposition parties

back into the race? Chaturon noted that the Election

Commission was considering recommending a delay in the

elections until the last week in April (60 days after the

dissolution – the maximum time allowed by the Constitution).

This would permit more time, perhaps, to get the other

parties to participate.

 

BANGKOK 00001627 002 OF 003

 

6. (C) Why wouldn\’t this work?

 

— The other parties would only participate, we all agreed,

if there were a clear and public assurance from the PM that

he would step down after the elections. But the whole point

of the elections, to Thaksin, is to claim vindication by

getting a large vote supporting him. Chaturon pointed out

all the TRT posters (set up all over Bangkok, and presumably

the country) that say \”Vote for TRT — Vote for Thaksin to

be Prime Minister.\” If Thaksin announces that he won\’t be

PM, he loses his shot at vindication, and TRT loses its main

weapon to turn out the vote.

 

— The longer the wait until elections, the more

unpredictable and dangerous the situation gets. Chaturon was

particularly concerned about the possibility of violence.

With some irony, he noted that Bangkok people are privileged,

\”not like the people in the South.\” In the South there are

2,000 people dead, and the government is not affected. \”If

10 people die in Bangkok,\” however, Thaksin is finished, and

TRT is finished also. Thaksin would be unable to return to

political life afterwards, and TRT would probably split up.

 

— The opposition is not unified, and some elements of it

would not accept any deal along these lines. They want

Thaksin vilified, exiled, stripped of his \”ill-gotten gains.\”

However, Chaturon still had friends within the opposition

coalition, and believed that many of them would accept a

compromise solution, if one could be found.

 

GAME THEORY

———–

 

7. (C) In Chaturon\’s assessment, the issue of timing is

crucial. The sooner Thaksin can find an acceptable and

dignified way to step down, the higher his chances are of

returning to power after an interval. TRT would stay

together in the meantime, unified by the expectation that he

would return to lead the party again. Thaksin might have to

accept that some independent commission would investigate the

Shin Corp sale or other business dealings, but Chaturon was

confident they would not find anything illegal. The longer

Thaksin waits, however, the higher the chance of something

happening that would make it impossible for him to come back.

\”The Thai often make decisions … (long pause) … late,\”

Chaturon said. He bemoaned the PM\’s decision to dissolve

Parliament rather than resign. Chaturon said that he had

argued against the dissolution, \”because it wouldn\’t solve

anything.\” If Thaksin had resigned, TRT would still be

sitting pretty with 375 MPs, and the opposition would have

nothing to protest about. The whole problem would blow over.

 

CAN HE MAKE IT TO APRIL 2?

————————–

 

8. (C) Chaturon acknowledged that it was not a foregone

conclusion that Thaksin could even make it to the April 2

election. Thaksin was suffering as more segments of society

came out against him daily. If a broad consensus really

emerged asking him to step down, he might not last until the

elections. (Septel will report on some evidence of waning

support for the PM in the countryside and in the TRT ranks.)

Chaturon mentioned the importance of the business community

in this regard. (Comment: we have been struck by the absence

of a strong defense of Thaksin by the big business

associations, who theoretically should support a strong

leader who has been good for the economy. End comment)

 

9. (C) The Ambassador asked where Thaksin was getting his

advice from, and what were the views of others within TRT?

Chaturon acknowledged he was not able to discuss his views

very widely within TRT. Many of Thaksin\’s close advisers

were not ready to accept the idea of his resignation, even

temporarily. (Among this group, he named Newin Chidchob and

Pansak Vinyaratn, reftel). They still believed that TRT

would get a lot of votes in the election, the technical

problems would somehow be dealt with, and that TRT could

come out on top in the end. Some of those who are running

unopposed for seats in Bangkok and the South \”just want a

chance to be an MP for once.\”

 

A MATTER OF PRINCIPLE

———————

 

10. (C) Chaturon emphasized that, first of all, he wanted to

defend the Constitution. He did not agree with those in the

opposition who wanted to have a new government without having

any election at all (note — a reference to the proposal to

 

BANGKOK 00001627 003 OF 003

 

have the King name a new PM and allow an interim government

to amend the constitution and supervise new elections. end

note.) He believed that it was very important to have an

election and to stick to the principle of resolving issues

through the vote and democratic means, not to take a step

backward. Chaturon commented on the theory that the current

crisis represented the death struggle of the old \”Bangkok

elite\” against the new political forces, represented by the

PM (reftel). \”Neither side is black or white,\” he said,

\”they are both shades of gray.\”

 

COMMENT

——-

 

11. (C) Chaturon is probably the most thoughtful and

impressive senior TRT member we have spoken to during this

crisis. For all his intelligence, however, he cannot come up

with a likely scenario that leads to a peaceful and generally

acceptable resolution of the political confrontation. From

his description, it appears that we may be getting closer to

some kind of solution, but key elements are not yet in place

to bring the deal together. We believe that Chaturon is right

in his assessment that, the longer Thaksin waits, the harder

it will be to find a peaceful, legal and generally acceptable

way out of the deadlock. End comment.

BOYCE

 

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Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 5:22 am

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