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06BANGKOK965 DEMOCRAT PARTY LEADERS DISCUSS POLITICAL SITUATION

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“53367”,”2/17/2006 0:10″,”06BANGKOK965″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“05BANGKOK4367|05BANGKOK7732|06BANGKOK538|06BANGKOK636”,

“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 000965

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/15/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, ECON, TH, Thai Prime Minister, Democratic Party

SUBJECT: DEMOCRAT PARTY LEADERS DISCUSS POLITICAL SITUATION

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 00636 (CORRUPTION ISSUES IN THE HEADLINES)

B. BANGKOK 0538 (THAILAND\’S DEAL OF THE CENTURY)

C. 05 BANGKOK 07732 (THAKSIN ALLY PAINTS GLOOMY

PICTURE OF PM\’S STANDING

D. 05 BANGKOK 04367 (PARLIAMENT AMENDS CONSTITUTION

CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION OF BAGGAGE

SCANNER DEAL LAUNCHED

 

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

 

1. (C) SUMMARY:Ambassador Boyce called on former Prime

Minister Chuan Leekpai, a senior figure in the Democrat

Party, on February 15. Chuan believed that opposition to PM

Thaksin was growing as a result of the scandal around the

sale of Shin Corp (ref A,B). Chuan said that Thaksin\’s

efforts to undermine democratic institutions over the past

five years was a more serious offense, but did not have the

power to mobilize opposition to the PM the way the Shin Corp

scandal did. Although the Democrat Party had not come out in

open support of anti-Thaksin agitator Sondhi Limthongkul,

Chuan agreed with many of his statements. Other Democrat

Party representatives in the meeting commented on two

sensitive issues: the bribery case involving the CTX baggage

scanners (ref D) and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA)

negotiations. On CTX, they urged the US to provide the

information requested under the MLAT. On the FTA, they warned

that the US risked being dragged into the middle of the tense

political standoff between Thaksin and his opponents if the

FTA negotiations continued. End Summary.

 

Thaksin\’s Troubles

——————

 

2. (C) Ambassador Boyce met on February 15 with former Prime

Minister Chuan Leekpai and other leading members of the

Democrat Party, the largest opposition party in Thailand.

Former Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan and MP Kiat

Sittheeamorn also participated in the discussion of the

current political situation in the country. Chuan said that

the public perception of the Prime Minister was changing due

to the scandal surrounding his sale of Shin Corp (ref A, B).

Thaksin had undermined all the country\’s democratic

institution for the past five years, but the public was not

really aware of these problems. The Shin Corp sale, in

contrast, was getting the public\’s attention.

 

3. (C) The Ambassador noted that the 1997 Constitution set

up a range of independent institutions to provide checks and

balances to the power of the government. Under Thaksin,

however, these institutions were not working. (Ref A). Chuan

noted that these institutions had been established when he

was Prime Minister and had functioned well when the Democrats

were in power. This showed that the problem was not with the

concept, but with the current government. He recounted a

recent report about the ruling party (Thai Rak Thai – TRT)

control of the Senate, which according to the Constitution is

supposed to be non-partisan. The TRT Senate \”whip\” was

asked, casually, how many Senators take money from TRT. The

whip answered just as casually that about 60 were on the TRT

payroll. This highlighted the way Thaksin and his party were

subverting the checks and balances of the system.

 

4. (C) The Ambassador asked how the situation could be

resolved. If Thaksin called a snap election, TRT would

simply win again. Chuan agreed that TRT was still strong,

but emphasized the importance of the increasing public

awareness of Thaksin\’s misdeeds. The Ambassador agreed that

there was a shift beginning in the some of the mass media.

For example, \”Thai Rath\”, the largest circulation paper in

the country, had begun to publish some articles critical of

the government. MP Kiat commented that some of the

newspapers had begun to stray from the TRT line in part

because the public was demanding more news about these issues

and the papers had to respond. Chuan referred to the rise of

anti-Thaksin agitator, Sondhi Limthongkul. Chuan said that

the Democrat party had not come out in open support of Sondhi

because it would have undermined Sondhi to be too closely

connected to opposition politicians. Chuan expressed

agreement, however, with much of what Sondhi was saying. The

Ambassador noted that even a high-ranking associate of

Thaksin had said that all Sondhi\’s claims were true (ref C).

Chuan believed that Thaksin had dropped his lawsuits against

Sondhi in part because he did not want to have to face his

accuser in a trial and have to answer difficult questions.

Former Foreign Minister Surin pointed out the importance of

the next rally, scheduled for Sunday, February 26. He

indicated that the demonstration would not end on Sunday, but

would keep going, turning the pressure on the PM up yet

another notch.

 

VOA, CTX, FTA…

—————-

 

5. (C) Chuan put in a strong plea to keep VOA Thai language

service on the air, noting its importance as a source of

international news for Thai listeners. The group also noted

the upcoming celebration of the centennial of Democrat Party

founder Seni Pramoj (who also led the \”Free Thai\” opposition

to the collaboration of the Thai government with the Japanese

during World War II). The Democrats hoped for a statement in

the Congressional Record commemorating this anniversary. MP

Kiat recalled the CTX issue (ref D) and said that they were

awaiting a response to the Thai Attorney General\’s MLAT

request for further information. FM Surin expressed concern

that the US had not yet been forthcoming on the request for

more information, and emphasized that the US should share

their interest in countering any corrupt business practices.

We advised him that the Department of Justice was working on

a response.

 

6. (C) Finally, MP Kiat raised the issue of the ongoing Free

Trade Agreement negotiations. (Note: The Democrat Party does

not oppose an FTA in principle, but has repeatedly urged the

US not to continue the negotiations because Thaksin\’s

government is tainted by corruption and it is not carrying

out the negotiations in a transparent manner, among other

criticisms. Opponents of Thaksin have seized on the

shortcomings in the RTG\’s FTA negotiating procedures as

another blunt object with which to bludgeon the PM. End

note.) Kiat warned that the US was being dragged into an

internal Thai political controversy due to the timing of the

FTA talks, just as Singapore was being put into a difficult

situation due to the purchase of Shin Corp by a Singapore

company.

 

Comment

——-

 

7. (C) The leadership of the Democrat Party are an

impressive group, with a good record of commitment to

democratic government. Their opposition to TRT and Thaksin

is not just partisan, but reflects a genuine concern about

the PM\’s autocratic rule and particularly his role in

undermining the fledgling democratic institutions that they

helped to foster during Chuan\’s term as PM. The Democrats

have remained in the background to a surprising extent as

civil society and the firebrand Sondhi have led the

opposition to the Prime Minister; they are clearly encouraged

by the rising tide of criticism of Thaksin. We believe they

may be rather too optimistic about the effect the Shin Corp

scandal will have on the PM. Although the deal has widened

the circle of Thaksin critics, it still has not become the

huge rallying point Sondhi and other had hoped for. But

further revelations about the controversial transaction could

change public perceptions. End Comment

 

BOYCE

 

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:00 am

One Response

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  1. […] a revealing Wikileaks cable of 17 February 2006, U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce expresses his admiration for the Democrat Party […]


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