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06BANGKOK1946 ELECTION ON APRIL 2. THEN WHAT?

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58883″,”3/31/2006 11:02″,”06BANGKOK1946″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

“VZCZCXRO8574

OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #1946/01 0901102

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 311102Z MAR 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 7597

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

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 03 BANGKOK 001946

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/30/2016

TAGS: PGOV, ASEC, PHUM, TH

SUBJECT: ELECTION ON APRIL 2. THEN WHAT?

 

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

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The elections on Sunday will not end the

political crisis. Given the lack of monitors or meaningful

opposition parties, it seems likely that Thaksin\’s Thai Rak

Thai (TRT) will be able to rack up a substantial vote.

However, it faces serious problems in the South, and

potentially in Bangkok, getting the required 2 percent of the

eligible vote for single candidate seats. If Thaksin steps

down, as some people have predicted, there will still be many

unresolved Constitutional problems to deal with resulting

from this essentially one-party election. If he does not

step down, the long period of peaceful and generally amusing

demonstrations may be over, and the risk of miscalculations

and provocations resulting in violence becomes much more

pronounced. The EAC has reviewed our security posture, and

our Consular Information Sheets give appropriate warnings.

Septel provides suggested press guidance. We will use

contacts with security officials and protesters to urge that

all sides exercise maximum restraint and avoid violence

during this volatile time. End summary.

 

2. (C) The elections on Sunday will not end the political

crisis gripping Thailand; they are just the next pivot point

for this long-running drama. Many of the possible scenarios

for the next few weeks are not very appealing. For the past

several months, through waves of huge demonstrations, the

Thai — both demonstrators and police — have shown admirable

restraint and commitment to peaceful protest. We should be

prepared for the possibility that this will change as both

the Prime Minister and his opponents become more desperate to

end the uncertainty, and win.

 

3. (C) First, a quick look at what the election will and

will not tell us. We will probably see preliminary election

results Monday, but the Election Commission (EC) will likely

require weeks or even months to investigate and resolve fraud

charges. Each side will try to spin the results to its

advantage, but opposition to Thaksin will not be dampened

even in the face of a large vote in his favor.

 

COUNTING THE BALLOTS

———————

 

4. (C) Many analysts are speculating about what it will

\’mean\’ if TRT gets a million more votes than the 19 million

it got in 2005, or a million less. In reality, TRT should be

able to rack up hefty totals in the countryside. There are

about 45 million total registered voters. About 15 million of

them live in the northeast, and about another 8 million in

the north, both areas where local officials, at least, seem

to be solidly behind Thaksin. There will be no independent

observers (the local poll monitoring organization is also

boycotting), and no genuine opposition parties to monitor the

vote. We have already seen the lengths to which some Thaksin

supporters will go in this election — about a third of the

candidates who registered were disqualified, many for blatant

fraud in which TRT members are likely to be implicated. The

northeast and north are prone to voter fraud already (the

Northeast is known as the area where \”the voters stay

bought\”). With no monitoring, the sky is really the limit.

Under such circumstances, almost everyone expects TRT to do

extremely well in these areas.

 

4. (C) Greater Bangkok (7 million voters) and the South (6

million voters) will pose stiffer challenges for TRT, as

polling place personnel and local officials are more likely

to be Thaksin opponents. But there will still be no official

monitoring, and the integrity of the process will depend on

the commitment of the election officials. The Bangkok vote

is difficult to predict, as many people here are recently

from the northeast or other rural areas, and their sympathies

may lie with their rural roots. There may also be lurking

resentment at the middle class and student-oriented protests

that have rocked Bangkok for weeks. TRT ran well in Bangkok

just a year ago, capturing most of the seats. In the far

South, TRT does not seem to be even trying to turn out the

vote, and it made an even worse showing in the mid-South in

2005, getting less than 20 percent of the vote in most

districts. Greater Bangkok and the South have over 120 seats,

for many of which there is only one candidate. These are the

areas most likely to provoke a constitutional dilemma: what

to do if the voting does not produce all 500 MPs required?

 

WILL THAKSIN STEP DOWN?

———————–

 

5. (C) The first question on everyone\’s mind Monday morning

will be: is Thaksin going to step down? The media has been

 

BANGKOK 00001946 002 OF 003

 

full of hints that he is considering \’taking a break\’ and

some TRT members and officials predict he will follow

through. At this point, Thaksin himself probably doesn\’t

know what he\’ll do after the vote. Unfortunately, even if he

steps down, there are still many problems in store. He may

be planning a very short break indeed — just a few months to

permit constitutional reform, and then new elections. This

offer is unlikely to satisfy the demonstrators. Even if

Thaksin is ready to step down for a longer period, the

question will arise, what about these April 2 elections? No

one discussing post-election scenarios has really dealt with

that question. One logical solution if Thaksin steps down

would be to toss out the results of the April 2 vote and

start over, giving the opposition parties time to regroup and

participate. However, the expense and effort make this a

tough option to choose. Declare the elections void and

reconstitute the old Parliament? Also a difficult choice.

 

OR WILL HE TOUGH IT OUT?

————————

 

6. (C) If Thaksin decides to fight on, then there will be a

wrenching process with seating the newly-elected Parliament.

If, as expected, the election does not produce 500 winners,

the EC has said that the question will have to go to the

Constitutional Court, to see if the Parliament can be seated

without the full quota of 500. In a similar situation five

years ago, the Court ruled that the Senate had to have all

200 members before it could convene. Nonetheless, this Court

has a reputation for falling in line with the PM\’s interests,

Thus, it is possible that, after several re-votes fail to

produce a legitimate winner, Thailand will have a House of

Representatives composed almost exclusively of TRT members.

 

IS THE PARTY OVER?

——————

 

7. (C) The opposition to Thaksin is tired, but they are not

running out of steam. The demonstrations are getting bigger,

and our contacts in the countryside indicate that they are

making some headway even in the cities and towns of the TRT

strongholds. If the PM tries to dig in after the elections,

the anti-Thaksin demonstrators will assuredly be back on the

streets again.

 

8. (C) Until now, the anti-Thaksin PAD (People\’s Alliance for

Democracy) has been impressively disciplined and organized;

their demonstrations have generally been cheerful, family

affairs with a festive atmosphere. They have cultivated good

contacts with the police. They have also had almost a

complete monopoly on demonstrating — there has been

remarkably little protest activity outside the framework of

the PAD. But this could change if Thaksin does not step

down. Particularly in Bangkok, tensions are high and nerves

are frayed. There will be at least a few who will be inclined

to employ more confrontational methods.

 

9. (C) During the past week, we saw several previews of

demonstrations that could have provoked a violent response.

In Bangkok, a group of students dumped trash in front of the

TRT party headquarters in the middle of the night. Farmers

seeking debt relief blockaded a bank and the PAD blockaded

the Electoral Commission headquarters. In Chiang Mai,

violence actually broke out on Thursday, when pro-Thaksin

supporters blocked the roads to prevent a Democrat Party

rally, and then disrupted the meeting with jeers, throwing

rotten eggs, and eventually driving the Democrat leader off

the stage and back to the airport. A small bomb was also

found at Democrat Party headquarters in Bangkok earlier this

week.

 

10. (C) The police and military have so far refrained from

intervening to arrest peaceful protesters, despite some

threats from the government that it would like to do so.

After the election, the pressure on police to arrest

demonstrators is likely to increase greatly, as Thaksin

struggles to reassert control over the capital. The

government has also announced that it has videotaped protest

speeches and will prepare to bring criminal defamation

charges against the speakers. Efforts to arrest the

charismatic demonstration leaders or peaceful demonstrators,

or a heavy-handed police response to rowdy students — any of

these options could provoke a violent response. Without

wanting to sound alarmist, there is a very real risk in the

next few weeks that the situation could deteriorate fairly

quickly.

 

ACTION ITEMS

————

 

BANGKOK 00001946 003 OF 003

 

11. (C) We plan to convene the EAC after the elections, and

as often as necessary, to review our security posture.

However, there are no signs of any anti-American element to

the demonstrations. In addition:

 

– We have reviewed the Consular Information Sheet and warden

messages, which advise travelers to avoid crowds and

demonstrations. We believe that this advice is still

appropriate.

 

– We have prepared press guidance (septel) for use

immediately after the election, if we are called upon to

comment.

 

– Post will continue to use contacts with security forces,

opposition groups and government officials to underscore the

need for restraint and the use of only peaceful means in

resolving the conflict.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

12: (C) It is generally believed here (rightly or not) that

if violence breaks out and people are injured or killed,

Thaksin will have to step down. Since Thaksin and his

stalwarts understand this, they have a compelling reason to

avoid violence. Even so, Thaksin himself may not be able to

control the forces supporting him. The incident at the

Democrat rally in Chiang Mai could easily have resulted in

serious injuries or worse. The anti-Thaksin forces have also

whipped up strong feelings they may be unable to contain.

There are still optimists who believe that Thaksin will find

a way to make a graceful exit after April 2, or that the

Palace will intervene in the event that he stubbornly refuses

to go. Two things appear certain: 1) the election, which

many saw as a 50/50 proposition only a couple of weeks ago,

will almost certainly proceed as scheduled on April 2; and 2)

the period after the election will be tense. The protests to

date have been remarkably peaceful, given the stakes. But

it\’s unlikely to remain that way indefinitely.

 

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 5:45 am

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