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06BANGKOK1844 SOUTHERN THAILAND: MORE ELECTION UNCERTAINTY

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“58202”,”3/27/2006 10:35″,”06BANGKOK1844″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO2494

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P 271035Z MAR 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7470

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

RHEFAAA/DIA DAH WASHDC

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RHFJSCC/COMMARFORPAC”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L

SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001844

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, EAP/MLS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/21/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PTER, TH

SUBJECT: SOUTHERN THAILAND: MORE ELECTION UNCERTAINTY

 

Classified By: Political Counselor Susan M. Sutton. Reason 1.4 (b,d)

 

1. SUMMARY: During a March 20-21 visit to the far southern

provinces of Songkhla and Pattani, poloffs heard that in

several districts Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party candidates would

not receive the minimum votes needed to take their seats in

parliament. Local TRT candidates are keeping a low profile

and are distancing themselves politically from Thaksin.

Violence directly related to the April 2 election is not

expected. However, the overall level of violence remained

high following the audacious attack on a local district

office and continuing intimidation of local Buddhist

residents. END SUMMARY

 

TRT UNLIKELY TO GET NEEDED 20 PERCENT OF VOTES…NOW WHAT?

——————————————— ————-

 

2. (C) In the run-up to the April 2 election, Thai Rak Thai

(TRT) candidates are running unopposed in 36 of 59 southern

seats. In these single candidate races the candidate must

receive 20 percent of the votes to win. It is likely that in

several southern districts the TRT candidates will not meet

that standard, potentially blocking the formation of a new

government. Chaiyong Maniraksakun, Chairman of the

Journalist Association of southern Thailand, was one of

several local political observers who pointed out several

districts in the far South where the TRT candidates had \”no

chance\” of securing the minimum votes needed to secure the

election because of widespread opposition to the Prime

Minister.

 

3. (C) Election rules stipulate that, in cases where the

minimum percentage is not reached, run-off elections must be

held until a candidate receives 20 percent. Songkhla

Election Committee Chairman Chawalit Kalambaheti said there

were two Democrat stronghold districts in Songkhla where it

was unlikely that the TRT candidates could meet the 20

percent threshold — no matter how many times the elections

were held. The Songkhla Election Committee, facing the

possibility of perpetual run-off elections, has boldly

decided to ignore the issue and has not made plans to hold a

runoff election. \”We will wait until we receive instructions

from the Central Election Commission,\” said the Chairman.

Pattani Election Commissioner Padoongyot Duangmala has also

not established plans to handle a run-off election, despite

his expectation that TRT would not be able to win the minimum

percentage of votes in two of the provinces constituencies.

 

OPPOSITION TACTICS

——————

 

4. (C) The Democrats, who have long dominated southern

politics, are actively working through their networks to

ensure that the TRT single candidates do not receive the

minimum 20 percent. Songkhla Democrat MP Nipon Bunyamani

said the Democrats were working throughout the South to have

their supporters abstain when voting. In cases where a 3rd

party candidate has managed to register the Democrats were

organizing voters to vote for that candidate. Nipon was

confident that their tactics, coupled with the ongoing

protests in Bangkok, would force Thaksin to step down.

 

TRT CANDIDATES: KEEPING A LOW PROFILE, AVOIDING THAKSIN

——————————————— ———-

 

5. (C) The election in the South is moving forward, but TRT

candidates are keeping a low profile and avoiding public

campaigning. TRT candidate Attacha Chaowawanit, running for

a seat in Songkhla province, said he had to keep a very low

profile in order to \”avoid confrontations\” with anti-Thaksin

people and did not dare attempt a rally or public speech.

His \”campaign headquarters\” had none of the usual signs or

banners usually associated with a political campaign.

Attacha was also quick to distance himself from Thaksin. \”I

am campaigning as an individual, not as a TRT member.\”

Pattani TRT candidate Vairoj Phiphitpakdee was following the

same course, noting that he and other TRT candidates did not

want the Prime Minster to campaign for them, as it would only

hurt their chances.

 

WOULD A CHANGE IN GOVERNMENT STOP THE VIOLENCE?

——————————————— —

 

6. (C) Prime Minister Thaksin\’s \”get tough\” policies since

2001 and dismantling of the joint command structure in 2002

 

BANGKOK 00001844 002 OF 002

 

are widely cited in the South as factors behind the increase

in violence in this volatile region. Several of our

interlocutors were cautiously optimistic that a change in

administration might have a positive impact on the violence.

Pattani Election Commission Padoongyot said most southerners

believed that a change in government would improve the

situation. Democrat MP Nipohn believed a new government

would have the political flexibility to introduce necessary

reforms for the South including more local control. \”This as

a critical time, a new government could allow us to turn

things around in the South.\”

 

7. (C) Other contacts weren\’t as sanguine. Songkhla

election commissioner Chawalit believed attacks would

continue despite a change in government because, as he sees

it, historic and cultural grievances were more central to the

violence in the South than Thaksin missteps. \”The Muslims

consider themselves to be Malays, a change in government

won\’t change a conflict between two cultures.\” Journalist

Chaiyong agreed, noting the local populations\’ larger

dissatisfaction with and lingering resentment of the central

government. Even if the Prime Minister stepped down he would

likely be replaced by another TRT candidate who would be

identified with Thaksin\’s policies.

 

MEANWHILE THE VIOLENCE CONTINUES: RED AREAS…

———————————————

 

8. (C) The National Reconciliation Commission has postponed

releasing its final report on root causes of the conflict in

the far South until a new government is established.

Meanwhile, violence continues at a steady pace. On March 16,

militants, in an audacious daylight raid, assaulted a small

district office in Pattani province with automatic weapons

killing 6 local officials. Pattani based reporter Paret

Lohansen told poloffs that the district chief had been

targeted because he had been expanding the local village

defense volunteer network. Reporters Paret and Chaiyong said

that the militants had been acting more boldly in recent

weeks, pointing to several identifiable \”red areas\” in the

far South, especially in Narathiwat, where militants were

acting more openly. Chaiyong claimed that Sungai Padi in

Narathiwat, for example, had effectively become

self-governing because Thai officials were afraid to go there.

 

…AND CONTINUED BUDDHIST FLIGHT

——————————–

 

9. (C) Anecdotal reports of Buddhist departing the far

South, especially Narathiwat and Yala provinces, were common

among our interlocutors. TRT MP candidate Vairoj

Phiphitpakdee, a lifelong resident of the South, noted that

in the past militants had usually targeted government

officials but were now just as likely to target Buddhist

civilians. In his opinion, the goal of the militants was to

make the southern 3 provinces an exclusively Muslim area.

Journalist Chaiyong claimed that the government was

manipulating official statistics in order to conceal the

departure of Buddhists from Narathiwat and Yala. He claimed

that local officials were refusing to register Buddhists when

they moved out of the South.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

10. (C) The very likely scenario is that TRT will not be

able to win several single candidate races in across the

South, thereby creating a situation where the full 500 seat

parliament cannot be filled. The inaction of the election

commissioners in Songkhla and Pattani in considering run-off

scenarios reflects the larger paralysis of the Thai body

politic. No one has a clear idea about how to break out of

the current impasse. Like everyone else, the election

commissioners appear to be waiting to see what happens after

the April 2 election. Meanwhile, there is no end in sight to

the violence afflicting the far South and opinion is divided

on whether change in government might pave the way for a more

successful policy. END COMMENT

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 5:37 am

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