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Archive for July 11th, 2011

06BANGKOK3277 THAI POLITICAL UPDATE: CHECKS, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE

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“65979”,”5/31/2006 8:50″,”06BANGKOK3277″,

 

“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 003277

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPT FOR EAP/MLS

PACOM FOR FPS (HUSO)

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/31/2016

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH, Thai Political Updates

SUBJECT: THAI POLITICAL UPDATE: CHECKS, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE

 

Classified By: ACTING POLITICAL COUNSELOR JAMES F. COLE. REASON 1.4 (B,

D)

 

1. (C) Summary. Thailand\’s bipolar political disorder

remained stable Wednesday as caretaker Prime Minister

Thaksin\’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party pushed to move on to a

new election while the political opposition remained focused

on using alleged irregularities in the April 2 vote to

destroy TRT. Thaksin\’s caretaker cabinet agreed on May 30 to

hold the next election on October 15, which would mean

that–for the first time since 2001–candidates would have a

short window to switch parties before the vote. Meanwhile,

the Criminal Court has agreed to accept an opposition

Democrat Party (DP) case accusing the Election Commission of

malfeasance. Newspaper headlines, however, focused on new,

leaked videotape footage that seems to support DP claims that

senior TRT officials colluded with \”micro-party\” candidates

in the April 2 election. The tapes have sent the TRT into

heavy spin mode, with at least one opposition newspaper

reporting that Thaksin vented his fury over the leaks in

yesterday\’s cabinet meeting. True to form, TRT is now

preparing a lawsuit charging the DP with hiring the micro

parties to \”frame\” TRT. This will likely be the last

bombshell before the King\’s anniversary celebration next

month forces a political time-out. End Summary.

 

ELECTION SET FOR OCTOBER 15

—————————

 

2. (SBU) The caretaker cabinet on Tuesday approved the

Election Commission\’s (EC) proposal to hold new House

elections on October 15. Given the long lead time until the

next vote, and the requirement that candidates be members of

their political party for at least 90 days prior to

registering for the race, this would be the first \”open

window\” for party switching since the new 90-day rule came

into effect in the 2001 vote. That window, however, would

close in the next two-three weeks. In the \”for what it\’s

worth\” category, Deputy TRT leader and caretaker Agriculture

Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan told reporters on Tuesday that no

TRT members had expressed a desire to leave the party, yet.

 

CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST EC MOVES AHEAD

————————————

 

3. (SBU) In a boost to opposition efforts to force the

controversial EC to resign before any new elections, the

Criminal Court announced on May 30 that it will proceed with

a court case charging EC members with malfeasance. The case,

filed by the Democrat Party, contends that the four EC

members broke the law in allowing candidates in the April 2

vote to switch constituencies in the second round of voting

on April 23. (Note, a move that was widely seen as beneficial

to TRT. End Note.) The trial date has been set for June 19.

 

SMILE! YOU\’RE ON MOD CAMERA

—————————

 

4. (SBU) The cabinet and court\’s decisions were soon

overtaken by the release of photos allegedly showing Defense

Minister Thammarak Issarangkul Na Ayyuthaya–who managed the

TRT campaign–meeting with leaders of the micro-parties at

the Ministry of Defense in March. DP Secretary-General

Suthep Thuagsuban provided the images to the Criminal Court

as evidence of his claim that TRT paid the smaller parties to

run in the April 2, in order to help TRT avoid having to get

20 percent of the votes in single-candidate constituencies.

 

5. (C) The initial TRT response to these charges was poorly

coordinated. MOD Permsec General Sirichai Thunyasiri told

reporters on Tuesday that the photos were indeed from MOD

cameras and that he was investigating how they were leaked.

Following a meeting with Thammarak, Sirichai added that

Thammarak denied any knowledge of the footage. Another

senior aide to Thammarak told reporters that the micro-party

leaders had sought a meeting with the Defense Minister, but

were turned down. According to this account, the man

resembling Thammarak in the photos is actually his

photographer. Deputy TRT spokesman Chatuporn Prompan

attempted a separate tack, suggesting that the micro-party

leaders had been paid by DP officials to \”set-up\” Thammarak;

indeed, TRT lawyers have prepared a lawsuit charging the DP

with just that. The Nation newspaper–often at the forefront

of anti-Thaksin reporting–reported Wednesday that the

kerfluffle had prompted the PM to demand Thammarak explain

himself in yesterday\’s cabinet meeting, saying \”why is it so

obvious? It is damning evidence…how can you come up with a

defense?\”

 

COMMENT

——-

 

6. (C) For the minority of Thai who still have the

energy/desire to follow politics, this new \”evidence\” merely

confirms the conventional wisdom that TRT worked with the

micro-parties in the April 2 vote. That said, it could form

the basis of a stronger case calling for the dissolution of

TRT or, at the least, force Thammarak to fall on his sword.

Either way, this episode is likely to be the last bombshell

before preparations for the King\’s 60th anniversary in June

force politics into a short, but fitful slumber.

BOYCE

“65979”,”5/31/2006 8:50″,”06BANGKOK3277″,”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 003277

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPT FOR EAP/MLS

PACOM FOR FPS (HUSO)

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/31/2016

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH, Thai Political Updates

SUBJECT: THAI POLITICAL UPDATE: CHECKS, LIES AND VIDEOTAPE

 

Classified By: ACTING POLITICAL COUNSELOR JAMES F. COLE. REASON 1.4 (B,

D)

 

1. (C) Summary. Thailand\’s bipolar political disorder

remained stable Wednesday as caretaker Prime Minister

Thaksin\’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party pushed to move on to a

new election while the political opposition remained focused

on using alleged irregularities in the April 2 vote to

destroy TRT. Thaksin\’s caretaker cabinet agreed on May 30 to

hold the next election on October 15, which would mean

that–for the first time since 2001–candidates would have a

short window to switch parties before the vote. Meanwhile,

the Criminal Court has agreed to accept an opposition

Democrat Party (DP) case accusing the Election Commission of

malfeasance. Newspaper headlines, however, focused on new,

leaked videotape footage that seems to support DP claims that

senior TRT officials colluded with \”micro-party\” candidates

in the April 2 election. The tapes have sent the TRT into

heavy spin mode, with at least one opposition newspaper

reporting that Thaksin vented his fury over the leaks in

yesterday\’s cabinet meeting. True to form, TRT is now

preparing a lawsuit charging the DP with hiring the micro

parties to \”frame\” TRT. This will likely be the last

bombshell before the King\’s anniversary celebration next

month forces a political time-out. End Summary.

 

ELECTION SET FOR OCTOBER 15

—————————

 

2. (SBU) The caretaker cabinet on Tuesday approved the

Election Commission\’s (EC) proposal to hold new House

elections on October 15. Given the long lead time until the

next vote, and the requirement that candidates be members of

their political party for at least 90 days prior to

registering for the race, this would be the first \”open

window\” for party switching since the new 90-day rule came

into effect in the 2001 vote. That window, however, would

close in the next two-three weeks. In the \”for what it\’s

worth\” category, Deputy TRT leader and caretaker Agriculture

Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan told reporters on Tuesday that no

TRT members had expressed a desire to leave the party, yet.

 

CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST EC MOVES AHEAD

————————————

 

3. (SBU) In a boost to opposition efforts to force the

controversial EC to resign before any new elections, the

Criminal Court announced on May 30 that it will proceed with

a court case charging EC members with malfeasance. The case,

filed by the Democrat Party, contends that the four EC

members broke the law in allowing candidates in the April 2

vote to switch constituencies in the second round of voting

on April 23. (Note, a move that was widely seen as beneficial

to TRT. End Note.) The trial date has been set for June 19.

 

SMILE! YOU\’RE ON MOD CAMERA

—————————

 

4. (SBU) The cabinet and court\’s decisions were soon

overtaken by the release of photos allegedly showing Defense

Minister Thammarak Issarangkul Na Ayyuthaya–who managed the

TRT campaign–meeting with leaders of the micro-parties at

the Ministry of Defense in March. DP Secretary-General

Suthep Thuagsuban provided the images to the Criminal Court

as evidence of his claim that TRT paid the smaller parties to

run in the April 2, in order to help TRT avoid having to get

20 percent of the votes in single-candidate constituencies.

 

5. (C) The initial TRT response to these charges was poorly

coordinated. MOD Permsec General Sirichai Thunyasiri told

reporters on Tuesday that the photos were indeed from MOD

cameras and that he was investigating how they were leaked.

Following a meeting with Thammarak, Sirichai added that

Thammarak denied any knowledge of the footage. Another

senior aide to Thammarak told reporters that the micro-party

leaders had sought a meeting with the Defense Minister, but

were turned down. According to this account, the man

resembling Thammarak in the photos is actually his

photographer. Deputy TRT spokesman Chatuporn Prompan

attempted a separate tack, suggesting that the micro-party

leaders had been paid by DP officials to \”set-up\” Thammarak;

indeed, TRT lawyers have prepared a lawsuit charging the DP

with just that. The Nation newspaper–often at the forefront

of anti-Thaksin reporting–reported Wednesday that the

kerfluffle had prompted the PM to demand Thammarak explain

himself in yesterday\’s cabinet meeting, saying \”why is it so

obvious? It is damning evidence…how can you come up with a

defense?\”

 

COMMENT

——-

 

6. (C) For the minority of Thai who still have the

energy/desire to follow politics, this new \”evidence\” merely

confirms the conventional wisdom that TRT worked with the

micro-parties in the April 2 vote. That said, it could form

the basis of a stronger case calling for the dissolution of

TRT or, at the least, force Thammarak to fall on his sword.

Either way, this episode is likely to be the last bombshell

before preparations for the King\’s 60th anniversary in June

force politics into a short, but fitful slumber.

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:26 am

06BANGKOK3237 SEED PIRACY IN THAILAND: A “GROWING” PROBLEM

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“65786”,”5/30/2006 7:27″,”06BANGKOK3237″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”UNCLASSIFIED”,

“06BANGKOK3237″,”VZCZCXRO0683

PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

DE RUEHBK #3237/01 1500727

ZNR UUUUU ZZH

P 300727Z MAY 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9131

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC PRIORITY

RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC PRIORITY 0715”,

“UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 003237

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE PASS USTR

COMMERCE PASS USPTO FOR DKEATING AND PFOWLER

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: KIPR, EAGR, TH

SUBJECT: SEED PIRACY IN THAILAND: A \”GROWING\” PROBLEM

 

1. Summary: Behind the headlines of record losses to

optical disc and trademark piracy in Thailand lies a less

known but equally serious form of intellectual property

infringement. Plant breeders in Thailand have seen their

plant varieties and the seeds derived from them, which

typically take years and large capital investments to breed,

copied and sold by small-time seed dealers. Thailand passed

a Plant Variety Protection Act in 1999 to protect these

investments, but delays in implementing regulations and

registration procedures has meant that enforcement is

non-existent. Seed firms look forward to enforcement of

rights to their new plant varieties, but in the meantime are

using their own security tactics to protect their valuable

products. End Summary.

 

Seed sales flowering, but piracy growing like a weed

——————————————— ——-

 

2. Thailand is a net exporter of seed for both field crops

(corn, rice, soybeans, etc.) and vegetables, and a growing

site of seed production and research and development for

breeding new plant varieties. The Thai seed market is

estimated at over USD 200 million in annual sales, mostly in

field crops. Thailand imported about USD 11 million in seed

in 2005, but exported approximately USD 35 million worth and

projections are for that number to triple in the next five

years. The U.S. and Japan are the top export destinations.

Multinationals control about 80 percent of the field crop

seed market, but Thai firms are dominant in vegetable seed

sales.

 

3. Like most intellectual property, new plant varieties

are costly and time consuming to develop, but cheap and easy

to copy. Seed firms in Thailand develop their products the

old-fashioned way, selecting plants with desirable properties

such as high yield and resistance to disease and insects,

then cross breeding them to develop improved varieties.

After development and testing in field trials, the firms

contract with local farmers to grow the new and improved

variety to produce seed for sale to farms around the country

and for export. As Thailand\’s seed market began growing in

the 1990s, seed piracy grew right along with it. Seed

pirates, usually small-time sellers in rural areas but also

increasingly more sophisticated operations, purloin firms\’

new plant varieties by either surreptitiously stealing the

parent lines of the new hybrid from test fields or paying off

contract farmers for a sample. The pirates then reproduce

the new breed on their own farms and sell the resulting seed.

(Note: Genetically modified crops are not authorized in

Thailand, but there is anecdotal evidence that some farmers

are growing bootlegged GM cotton and papaya without

authorization.)

 

4. Mr. Manas Chiravavonda, director of Chia Tai, the

largest vegetable seed seller in Thailand, couldn\’t put a

figure on the percentage of seed piracy, but labeled it

\”huge\”, a problem affecting both Chia Tai\’s domestic sales

and exports. Monsanto reps estimated the piracy rate at

single digits, but saw it as a growing problem. Field theft

accounts for much of the piracy, but Manas said firms\’ own

employees were perhaps the greatest danger. Manas described

how one of Chia Tai\’s employees recently quit the company,

walked out the door with the company\’s latest line of melon

seeds and immediately set up his own business selling the

seeds to the Indonesia market. Without a means to protect

their variety, Chia Tai was helpless to prevent the theft.

\”It\’s the wild West out here,\” says Manas.

 

5. To combat seed theft firms have developed a raft of

security procedures, from stationing security guards around

contract farms and research fields to growing and storage

protocols to prevent pirates from getting the latest variety.

Chia Tai treats plant development as a trade secret, keeping

research under tight wraps and in house to prevent

disclosure. The firm develops new varieties more quickly

than before and releasing them earlier, trying to stay one

step ahead of the pirates. Simon Jan de Hoop, Director of

R&D for East-West Seed, said their farms grow the male and

female parents of a new hybrid in different fields, making it

more difficult for pirates to get both keys to the new plant.

When possible multinationals like Monsanto keep the parent

lines back in the home country.

 

6. To further avoid piracy, seed firms are moving

production bases offshore to China, India, and Thailand\’s

ASEAN neighbors, particularly countries where the seed

variety to be sold in Thailand is not being sold locally.

Although piracy occurs in these countries as well, pirates

 

BANGKOK 00003237 002 OF 003

 

are less familiar with the plant material and the risk is

consequently lower. However, seed firms worry that the

pirates are developing their own international connections,

working with partners in other countries to pilfer the best

new varieties.

 

PVP Act yet to reap benefits

—————————-

 

7. Thailand passed the Plant Variety Protection (PVP) Act

in 1999 to extend intellectual property rights to new crop

varieties, but many implementing regulations have yet to be

promulgated and registration of new varieties is only now set

to begin. East West\’s Simon de Hoop blamed some of the

delays on staff turnover in the Ministry of Agriculture, but

considered the staff capable and knowledgeable about the

issues. Nevertheless, until varieties are officially

registered there exist no legal restrictions to prevent a

seed pirate from freely selling another seed firm\’s variety.

\”It\’s free to steal,\” says Chia Tai\’s Manas.

 

8. The Ministry of Agriculture\’s (MoA) Plant Variety

Protection Office has responsibility for examining and

approving new plant varieties. Under the PVP Act only

certain crops can be protected; at the moment MoA accepts

applications for 33 crop varieties though plans are in the

works to add more crops to the protected list. Breeders can

request additional crop varieties to be added, and though the

variety must meet a set of criteria, MoA says that in

practice breeders are unlikely to be turned down. MoA has

accepted 99 applications for new plant variety protection in

the two years since they began accepting applications, but

only recently got closer to issuing approvals for the first

batch: 14 new varieties of orchids. If a new variety is

commercialized, MoA requires that one percent of revenues be

paid into a plant variety protection fund to go towards

conservation and community development projects. The fund

contribution is considered compensation for use of Thai

genetic resources in developing the product. Firms that do

not use Thai plant resources are exempt from the fund payment.

 

9. The PVP Act provides protection for new plant varieties

for between 12 to 27 years depending on the plant. The Act

lays out penalties for unauthorized sales of a protected

variety, up to two years imprisonment and/or a USD 10,000

fine, though there has yet to be a case filed. Mr. Sakorn

Tripetchposal of Pioneer Hi-bred said that a DNA

fingerprinting laboratory at Kasetsart (Agriculture)

University was available to seed firms and could offer proof

within days that a protected variety had been counterfeited.

Sakorn looks forward to enforcement authorities bringing seed

pirates to court, but it is uncertain whether authorities

will take this form of piracy any more seriously than they

have other IP piracy in Thailand. Without active involvement

from police, firms would be forced to resort to bringing

lawsuits against infringers and hoping for damages. East

West Seeds, which is expecting a new sweet corn variety to be

approved soon, said they were prepared to enforce their

rights, but were concerned that in the end a legal suit may

not be worth the cost to bring an infringer to justice.

 

10. In recent negotiations for a U.S.-Thai Free Trade

Agreement, Thai negotiators resisted a U.S. proposal for

Thailand to join the International Union for the Protection

of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV in the French acronym).

Thailand\’s PVP Act is based in large part on an earlier

version of the convention, UPOV 1978, but the 1991 updated

version tightens protections for plant breeders that Thai IP

experts consider not in Thailand\’s best interests. Dr. Tanit

Changthavorn of Biotec, part of the Ministry of Science and

Technology, explained that the RTG had concerns over UPOV\’s

restrictions on farmers saving seed for the next harvest,

resource issues on protecting all crop varieties rather than

only select crops, and the lack of a requirement for benefit

sharing for the use of local plant resources in breeding new

varieties. Some seed firms said that although they would

support Thailand joining the UPOV convention, they considered

the PVP Act to contain sufficient protection for their new

varieties and were substantially more concerned with

proceeding with enforcement of the current law.

 

11. Comment: Not as visible as the rampant trade in

counterfeit CDs, DVDs and Billabong shorts on the streets of

Bangkok, seed piracy is nevertheless having an economic

impact on Thailand, specifically on farmers, a population

perhaps least able to afford an economic blow. Firms have

been unwilling to conduct in-depth research into new

vegetable varieties that have relatively low sales, and

 

BANGKOK 00003237 003 OF 003

 

improvements in yield have lagged compared with the more

lucrative field crops. Counterfeits of new plant varieties

are typically not properly controlled in production and

farmers do not have access to detailed information on

fertilizer and herbicide spraying techniques and timing for

the new varieties, resulting in higher costs and lower

production yields. Hopes are high among plant breeders that

enforcement of the PVP Act can turn this situation around,

but it is an open question whether the police or courts will

take the crime seriously enough to put a dent in piracy. End

comment.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:25 am

06BANGKOK3231 ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL’S MEETING WITH FORMER PM ANAND: SOUTH, POLITICS

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“65768”,”5/30/2006 2:13″,”06BANGKOK3231″,

 

“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 003231

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, EAP/MLS

PACOM FOR FPA (HUSO)

NSC FOR MORROW

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/22/2026

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PTER, TH, NRC – National Reconciliation Committee, Thai Political Updates, Southern Thailand

SUBJECT: ASSISTANT SECRETARY HILL\’S MEETING WITH FORMER PM

ANAND: SOUTH, POLITICS

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary: On May 22, EAP Assistant Secretary

Christopher Hill, EAP DAS Eric John and the Ambassador met

with former PM Anand Panyarachun to discuss his work on

southern Thailand and the current political situation. Anand

said the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) would

release its final report by June 9. He requested a U.S.

statement in support of the report. However, he strongly

urged the U.S. to continue to distance itself from this Thai

domestic issue in order to avoid \”internationalizing\” the

problem. Anand was highly critical of acting Prime Minister

Thaksin, characterizing him as someone who would do anything

to save himself politically. Anand praised the King\’s

limited role in the current crisis. End Summary

 

2. (C) Over dinner on May 22, Anand Panyarachun — the

highly respected former Prime Minister and current head of

the National Reconciliation Commission (NRC) — discussed the

violence in southern Thailand and the current political

situation with EAP Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill, EAP

DAS Eric John and the Ambassador. Anand\’s NRC is working to

address root causes of the southern violence and has recently

completed its final report which is being translated into

English, Arabic, and the local southern \”Yawi\” Malay dialect.

 

NRC TO RELEASE REPORT IN EARLY JUNE

 

3. (C) Anand said he would release the NRC report by June

9. The commission\’s report wouldn\’t mention specific

separatist groups because there was no discernible unified

separatist movement. He cautioned against looking at the

situation in the South as strictly a \”Muslim\” or \”separatist\”

issue. Separatism and religion are sometimes used as

pretexts for violence. However, local Malays have

long-standing, deeply felt, grievances which are driving much

of the violence. \”The problem is more about being ethnically

Malay in Thailand than it is about being Muslim,\” he said.

Anand also said we should be careful to differentiate between

the Muslim population of the far South and Muslims in central

and northern Thailand as they have little in common.

 

4. (C) The NRC report will seek to address stovepiping

among Thai government agencies, Anand said. Legislation will

be proposed to create a new unified command which will

replicate the joint commands dismantled by Prime Minister

Thaksin in 2002. The head of this agency would be royally

appointed in order to avoid political conflicts of interest.

Anand complained that Thaksin had shown absolutely no

interest in the NRC\’s work over the past year and had little

interest in the South in general because the region was

politically unimportant to him. (Note: The South is the

traditional stronghold of the opposition Democrat Party. End

Note) As long as Thaksin remains in power the situation in

the South would not improve, he added. Thaksin has

completely lost the trust of Southern Malays and his image is

\”irreparable.\”

 

WHAT SHOULD THE U.S. DO?…SUPPORT THE NRC, BUT STAY AWAY

 

5. (C) Anand requested that the U.S. issue a statement in

support of the NRC\’s work soon after the report is released.

He noted that the European Union and Australia have already

privately pledged to issue such a statement. However, he

cautioned that the U.S. must word its statement carefully,

offering general support for the NRC, while emphasizing that

this was a \”Thai domestic issue.\” An impression of U.S.

involvement or direct interest in the South would be \”the

kiss of death\” for the commission\’s work. \”The most

important thing is that the U.S. cannot be perceived to be

involved in the South,\” he said. The perception of — or

actual — U.S. intervention would attract international

terrorists, he said.

 

A DESPERATE POLITICAL FIGHT FOR THAKSIN

 

6. (C) Turning to the domestic political scene, Anand was

highly critical of acting Prime Minister Thaksin, calling him

\”amoral\” and someone \”without a shred of integrity.\” Thaksin

is more interested in self promotion and financial gain than

serving the Thai people, Anand believes. He opined that

Thaksin has been fighting so hard politically because he

believes the opposition is trying to destroy him not only

politically, but also personally and financially. Anand said

it was highly unlikely that Thaksin would be able to return

to power after the October election and that there was a

strong possibility that Thaksin, and his Thai Rak Thai party,

could be banned from Thai politics.

 

7. (C) Anand acknowledged that Thaksin remains a formidable

political force who understands the psychology of rural

voters. Some of Thaksin\’s populist programs — like the 30

baht health care scheme — were good ideas, Anand admitted.

However, they were not properly funded and are now

collapsing. When the political protests started last year,

most people in Bangkok had been reluctant to join because the

opposition was run by \”disreputable\” characters. However,

the sale of Shin Corporation to Singapore\’s Temasek

galvanized the Bangkok middle class against the Prime

Minister.

 

THE KING REMAINS OBJECTIVE, BUT WATCH THE COURTS

 

8. (C) Anand — who had been appointed Prime Minister by

the King during the 1991-92 political crisis — heaped praise

on the monarch\’s restraint during the current political

crisis. \”The King knows Thai politics better than anyone and

is also the best constitutional lawyer in the country,\” he

said. Anand said the King is a committed democrat who

remains objective and impartial and would never allow himself

to be politically manipulated. Anand dismissed reported

complaints by Thaksin — that he had supposedly made

privately to British PM Tony Blair and others — that he had

been ousted by \”a palace coup.\” Anand said the Privy Council

does not have as much power as is commonly believed and that

the courts were not acting as proxies for the King.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:24 am

06BANGKOK3202 THAILAND IN 2006 – POLITICS AND THE SOUTH

leave a comment »

“65550”,”5/26/2006 6:54″,

 

“06BANGKOK3202″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

“SECRET”,

“06BANGKOK2338|06BANGKOK2621|06BANGKOK2988|06BANGKOK2990

|06BANGKOK2991|06BANGKOK3147

|06BANGKOK3179|06BANGKOK3180|06BANGKOK3192|06BANGKOK3196”,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 003202

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR D, P, EAP, EAP/MTS

PACOM FOR FPS (HUSO)

NSC FOR MORROW

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/26/2016

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PHUM, PTER, TH, Thai Political Updates, Southern Thailand

SUBJECT: THAILAND IN 2006 – POLITICS AND THE SOUTH

 

REF: A. A) BANGKOK 003180 DAS ERIC JOHN MEETS THAKSIN\’S

ORACLE

B. B) BANGKOK 003147 THAKSIN BACK AT HIS DESK

C. C) BANGKOK 002991 MANICHAEAN STRUGGLE FOR THE

SOUL OF THAILAND

D. D) BANGKOK 002990 THAKSIN SEES SELF AS

THAILAND\’S AUNG SAN SUU KYY

E. E) BANGKOK 002988 PRIVY COUNCILOR ON THAI

POLITICAL SITUATION

F. F) BANGKOK 003196 SOUTHERN VIOLENCE: THE POLICE

SEARCH FOR SYNCHRONICITY

G. G) BANGKOK 003192 SOUTHERN VIOLENCE: MAY 17-18

VISIT TO FAR SOUTH

H. H) BANGKOK 003179 SOUTHERN VIOLENCE: SENIOR THAI

OFFICIALS BRIEF DAS JOHN

I. I) BANGKOK 002338 THE WAY AHEAD IN SOUTHERN

THAILAND

J. J) BANGKOK 002621 THE ANDAMAN SEA MARITIME

INITIATIVE

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR RALPH L. BOYCE. REASONS 1.4 (B,D)

 

1. (C) Summary: Political uncertainty will be the theme the

rest of this year in Thailand as Thaksin and his political

opponents gird for renewed conflict. US-Thai FTA

negotiations can be expected to languish during this period.

If the political instability becomes protracted a decline in

foreign and domestic investment, already evident, could

worsen. Violence continues on a virtual daily basis in the

deep south. We have evinced interest from Thai leaders for

increased U.S. training focused on southern security forces

with the proviso that this would not be held in the south or

couched publicly as related to the region. End summary.

 

2. (C) Thailand will spend the balance of 2006 in a state of

political uncertainty. As noted in Embassy reporting, the

Thai political crisis has grown increasingly complicated, as

multiple lawsuits work their way through the three high

courts, charged by the King with finding a solution to the

\”mess\” created by the \”undemocratic\” April 2 parliamentary

elections. Over the next five or so weeks, the surface

situation will likely remain calm as the country celebrates

the 60th anniversary of the King\’s ascension to the throne.

Currently, Thaksin presides over the Council of Ministers,

the lower house elections are scheduled for mid-October –

with the three main opposition parties participating this

time – and the courts are deliberating.

 

WHAT LIES BENEATH?

——————

 

3. (C) Under the surface of this temporary calm, the

opposing forces are marshaling to renew the political

struggle. The cycle of anti-Thaksin protests will ratchet up

following the end of celebrations in June. A vital arena is

in the courts as the justices decide dozens of lawsuits

against Thaksin and lesser numbers against his opponents such

as the People\’s Alliance for Democracy\’s (PAD) and Sondhi

Limthongkul. Another critical point will be the intentions

of Mr. Thaksin himself. Despite criticism from his enemies,

Thaksin returned from his \”leave\” from office on May 23 to

reassume his full responsibilities as caretaker Prime

Minister until formation of a new government after October\’s

elections. His timing was canny in light of PAD\’s self

imposed break from demonstrations in the lead-up to the

King\’s anniversary celebrations.

 

OPPONENTS QUIET FOR NOW

———————–

 

4. (C) After the celebrations end, however, PAD and the rest

of the \”street\” opposition, will be ready, in the wake of

Thaksin\’s return to work, to begin baying anew for his

political blood. If Thaksin has been diminished by the

crisis of events over the past several months, however, there

has not yet been a commensurate rise in the stance of his

formal opposition. So far, Democrat Party Leader Abhisit

Vejajjiva has been relatively quiet and there have been

expressions of disappointment in his lackluster performance,

despite the current situation being the DP\’s greatest

political opportunity since Thaksin\’s election in 2001.

 

WHEELS OF JUSTICE GRINDING QUIETLY

———————————-

 

5. (C) One investigation, based on a petition by DP

Secretary-General Suthep Thaugsuban, holds the potential to

 

SIPDIS

change the entire complexion of the current crisis. An

Election Committee (EC) subcommittee is investigating

Suthep\’s claims that TRT officers bankrolled a number of

small parties to run against TRT in April\’s election. (The

inclusion of these minor opponents allowed TRT candidates, in

the wake of the opposition boycott, to avoid having to pick

up the required 20 percent of the vote in unopposed

contests.) Though there has been no official announcement,

rumors are rife that some TRT officers are already implicated

by the subcommittee. If the EC and ultimately the

Constitutional Court finds them guilty, the TRT would be

liable for dissolution. If this occurs, there could be a

swift return to a political arena with a dozen political

parties contending for office.

 

6. (C) Other observers view the political upheavals of the

past few months as blowback from the conservative \”old

order,\” symbolized by the monarchy, against Thaksin\’s brave

new world of consumer-driven growth, rapid social change and

globalization. Critics see Thaksin as brash, corrupt and

contemptuous of traditional Thai culture and social

structure. In the eyes of Thaksin\’s detractors, a balance

has returned to the political stage and Thaksin and his

confederates have had their wings clipped. The new

parliament is slated to deliberate Constitutional reforms

that will theoretically improve the present version by

shutting off the abilities of future governments to suborn

the independent watchdog bodies and stifle dissent.

 

WHAT IS THE EFFECT?

——————-

 

7. (C) Supporters of the events of the past four months say

that Thai democracy has \”matured\” and point to the peaceful

nature of the uprising against Thaksin, the professional

response of the police, the non-involvement of the military

and the actions of the courts. Other observers, however,

warn that the resort to street pressure by Thaksin\’s

opponents and the subsequent reliance on palace intervention

to untangle the constitutional Gordian knot created by the

April election impasse sets a dangerous precedent. As we

noted in earlier reporting, future politicians may find it

more difficult to operate as a result of the current

upheaval. But amidst the elation of Thaksin\’s enemies, the

swerve off the path of clearly defined political process into

murky legal waters has many Thais feeling unsettled.

 

THE FTA AND THE ECONOMY

———————–

 

8. (C) For US interests, the most immediate and visible

casualty of the current political instability is the

suspension of FTA negotiations. The last negotiating round

was held in January, and talks probably will remain on hold

at least through the end of the year. The FTA\’s prospects

for 2007 are iffy: a newly elected, fully empowered Thai

government may deem the whole FTA project too controversial

and divisive, and may shy away from further pursuit of a

comprehensive trade deal with the US. Thai politicians have

told us that at least over the short-to-mid term future, Thai

candidates will shy away from FTA-related issues. As a

counteroffer, Thailand may propose a narrower trade deal that

focuses on market access.

 

9. (C) Political instability, if it becomes protracted,

could have a serious impact on Thailand\’s economy. Both

domestic and foreign investment already is drying up, and

this will worsen if the current lack of effective leadership

persists.

 

THE SITUATION IN THE SOUTH

————————–

 

9. (C) Although the domestic political crisis has dominated

the news headlines (both national and international) in

recent months, violence continues apace in the far South,

with attacks occurring on a daily basis across the provinces

of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat. These attacks include the

recent bombing attack on soldiers in Pattani that killed 3

and the hostage taking/beating of two government teachers in

Narathiwat. However, recent statistics show that since

December 2005 the total number of attacks has declined when

compared with the prior two year period. It remains the

RTG\’s most pressing security issue and a potential threat to

our interests. Approximately 1,200 persons have been killed

either by militants or by security forces since January 2004

when the decades-old insurgency flared up again.

 

10. (C) There is no current evidence of direct transnational

terrorist involvement in the South, but we know some linkages

with suspected regional terrorists (JI) exist. Southern

separatists direct their anger at the government in Bangkok,

not at the U.S., and continue to define their struggle mainly

along ethnic rather than religious lines. However, rumors

that the U.S. is somehow fomenting the violence as part of

our war on terror continue to be widely believed in the

South. To avoid feeding these rumors, we meticulously avoid

military training exercises and the like in the South, and do

not label our security assistance as related to the conflict.

 

11. (C) The National Reconciliation Commission — working to

address root causes of the southern unrest — is expected to

release its final report during the first week of June. NRC

Chairman Anand Panyarachun asked EAP Assistant Secretary Hill

that the U.S. issue a statement in support of the NRC\’s

report after it is released.

 

12. (S) The Thai government has entered into secret

negotiations with Thai separatist leaders. It is unlikely

that the talks — scheduled to take place in June in Geneva

— will impact the violence, as the separatist leadership has

questionable control over the disparate militant cells that

are operating in the far South.

 

13. (C) The RTG response to violence in the far South remains

undercut by poor security force capabilities, rampant

stove-piping, and the lack of an effective prosecutor-police

partnership. In the last two years we have shifted a

significant portion of our wide ranging training and

assistance programs to help improve Thailand\’s capabilities.

We have determined that our excellent military-to-military

assistance program is generally on the right track. The Thai

police, however, remain the weak link in the southern

security apparatus (ref F). We have proposed to Washington a

bold, new interagency plan to refocus our assistance, combat

Thai shortcomings, and help the government reverse some of

its losses in the South.

 

THE WAY AHEAD IN SOUTHERN THAILAND

———————————-

 

14. (C) Ref I outlines our plan for refocusing our efforts

to improve Thai capabilities in the troubled South. In

subsequent weeks, we have worked within the interagency to

streamline these proposals and identify funding (see DOS

strategy paper for details). We have discussed the basics of

these proposals with Thai officials–at both senior and

working levels. In separate meetings with visiting EAP DAS

Eric John and the Ambassador (ref H), both Deputy Prime

Minister Chidchai Vansatidya and NSC SecGen Winai

Pattiyakul–the RTG\’s \’point men\’ on the South–expressed

support for increased USG training focused on southern

security forces, but cautioned that any such training cannot

be held in or publicly connected to the South. We also have

brought together our subject experts at the International Law

Enforcement Academy in Bangkok and senior police officials

from the South to discuss specific training needs and

opportunities.

 

THE ANDAMAN SEA MARITIME INITIATIVE

———————————–

 

15. (C) Ref J describes our 20 million dollar proposal —

part of Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization

Act — to assist the Thai by setting up a radar array on the

Western coast of Thailand that could cover the entire Western

seaboard of Thailand down to the northern entrance of the

Strait of Malacca. The proposal also includes patrol boats

and enhanced air-borne radar for patrol aircraft. The Thai

radar array could be linked with radar systems in neighboring

countries. Our initiative supports Regional Maritime

Security, the Proliferation Security Initiative and overall

counter-terrorism goals. In recent days, we have received

assurances from DOD and PM that our proposal will be funded.

The concept is endorsed by PACOM, DSCA, JCS, OSD as well as

the Thai Supreme Command and Navy. We are working with

Washington to declassify the proposal once funding is assured.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:23 am

Posted in Secret, South Thailand

06BANGKOK3180 DAS ERIC JOHN MEETS THAKSIN’S ORACLE

leave a comment »

“65531”,”5/26/2006 1:51″,”06BANGKOK3180″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

260151Z May 06

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 003180

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/26/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, Thai Political Updates

SUBJECT: DAS ERIC JOHN MEETS THAKSIN,S ORACLE

 

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

 

1. (C) SUMMARY. On May 22, EAP/DAS Eric John and the

Ambassador visited caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin,s chief

political advisor, Pansak Vinyaratn. Pansak railed against

the Thai courts for their decision to annul the April

elections. Pansak suggested that it was time for the USG to

make a public statement on its position with regard to the

current state of democracy in Thailand. He accused a small

cabal of advisors in the palace of twisting the King,s words

to force Thaksin,s resignation. He said that Thaksin

resumed his duties as caretaker Prime Minister this week

primarily to ensure that the Thai economy remains stable – a

matter of strong personal interest to Thaksin. He maintained

that Thaksin will campaign as a Thai Rak Thai party member in

the upcoming election. END SUMMARY.

 

THE LAW IS AN ASS

—————–

 

2. (C) On May 22, EAP/DAS Eric John and the Ambassador

visited caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin,s chief political

advisor, Pansak Vinyaratn. In his colorful, often poetic

fashion, Pansak blasted the Thai courts for their decision to

annul April,s parliamentary elections. His criticism

focused mainly on the court,s justification for its ruling.

\”If you want to do bad things\” he said, \”you must do them

with a sense of style. If you don,t, the serfs won\’t

understand.\”

 

3. (C) Pansak then condemned the court verdict as crude and

undemocratic. In anatomical terms, he portrayed the ruling

as based on the physical orientation of the voter,s

buttocks. (Note: Pansak was referring to the ruling that,

because of the positioning of ballot boxes during the April 2

election, voters backs\’ were facing outward such that polling

officials and the general public could see how the ballot was

marked. End note.) He accused the opposition and the courts

of undermining democratic principles. Pansak noted that the

opposition chose to boycott the elections and, further, that

they took advantage of their democratic rights to campaign

actively against the election process. When that tactic

failed them, the opposition declared that the elections were

illegal.

 

4. Pansak suggested that it was time for the USG to make a

public statement about the \”regression of Thailand to a

quasi-monarchy\”. He argued that the US \”got the tablet from

God\” and the time is ripe to issue a \”subtle reminder\”

focusing on \”democratic principles\” and the dangers of

political manipulation of the court system. He further noted

that, \”when you talk to us, you talk to the Burmese Generals.

And they hear your silence.\”

 

INTERPRETING THE KING – YET ANOTHER VERSION

——————————————-

 

4. (C) Asked about the circumstances behind Thaksin,s

decision to step down as Prime Minister, Pansak accused a

small cabal of advisors in the palace of interpreting the

King,s words and actions to force Thaksin,s resignation.

He said that Privy Councilor Prem Tinsulanonda (whom Pansak

referred to as the \”Monarch, Jr.\”) was a key player in this

group. He said that Prem viewed Thaksin as an

\”inappropriate\” Prime Minister because he did not share

enough with the \”old power groups\” in Bangkok. He also

asserted that Prem rarely meets directly with the King.

 

5. (C) Pansak reaffirmed that Thaksin had intended to

withdraw from politics all along, but that he wanted to leave

in a credible, face-saving manner. When Thaksin told the

King, during their April 4 meeting, that he was willing to

resign, the King nodded and then ended the meeting. It was

only later that Thaksin received a phone call from one of the

King,s advisors telling him that the nod, meant that he

should resign immediately. Pansak lamented that \”Thaksin

took the King,s ephemeral statements too seriously\” and was

thus manipulated by the King,s advisors. Asked if he

thought Prem and his confederates were acting independent of

the monarch, Pansak said, \”Yes. The King is never that

explicit.\” Nevertheless, he noted, the outcome is favorable

for the King as it allows him to maintain plausible

deniability of any interference in the democratic process

while appearing as the stabilizing force in Thai democracy.

In the end, according to Pansak, \”whichever serf wins, he

will give credit to the King.\”

 

THAKSIN,S FUTURE

—————-

 

6. (C) Asked about Thaksin,s decision to resume his duties

as caretaker Prime Minister, Pansak said that his main

objective is to ensure a stable domestic economy. He noted

that Thaksin\’s livelihood depends on the Thai economy because

much of his wealth is held in Thai baht.

 

7. (C) He maintained that Thaksin will campaign as a Thai Rak

Thai party member in the upcoming election. Pansak said that

it is possible for Thaksin to come back to power even with

the current King on the throne. He said Thaksin will likely

run as a party member, leaving open the question of whether

he would accept the post of Prime Minister. In the end,

Pansak argued, Thaksin must return to power to solidify his

own integrity. Once back in power, he can leave on his own

terms and with his credibility intact.

YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A CABAL

——————————-

9. (C) COMMENT: Pansak,s confidence in Thaksin,s ability

to stay in power remains unwavering. His usual flair for

biting analysis laced with off-color commentary was subdued

(for him) during this meeting – perhaps a reflection of the

current cooling-off period between the main political

adversaries. His theory of a palace cabal acting independent

of the King sounds farfetched. But it is just the kind of

story that would salve Thaksin,s wounded ego and steel him

for the coming election campaign. End Comment.

 

10. DAS Eric John has not had the opportunity to clear on

this cable.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:22 am

06BANGKOK3147 THAKSIN BACK AT HIS DESK

leave a comment »

“65219”,”5/24/2006 8:57″,”06BANGKOK3147″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”06BANGKOK2991″,

“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 BANGKOK 003147

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/24/2016

TAGS: PGOV, TH, Thai Political Updates

SUBJECT: THAKSIN BACK AT HIS DESK

 

REF: BANGKOK 2991 AND PREVIOUS

 

Classified By: ACTING POLITICAL COUNSELOR JAMES COLE.

REASON: 1.4 (D)

 

1. (SBU) Summary: Prime Minister Thaksin returned to chair

the weekly Tuesday Cabinet meeting at Government House on May

23. This in effect ended the \”political break\” that he began

on April 5. The cabinet members revoked its previous

resolution appointing Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai

Vanasatidya as acting Prime Minister, allowing Thaksin to

reassume his duties as full time Prime Minister. Cries of

\”foul\” are coming from his opponents. Some legal experts

such as law school lecturers and members of the Law Society

of Thailand, who had already filed lawsuits in the Central

Administrative Court to remove Thaksin and his cabinet, are

contending that Thaksin had no legitimacy to return to work

as — in their view — he had already resigned. They claimed

that the letter he submitted to the Cabinet meeting on April

5 constituted a \”letter of resignation\” not a notice of

leave. Street reaction will likely be on hold however.

People\’s Alliance For Democracy (PAD) leader Suriyasai

Katasila, has said that PAD will not launch any major

demonstration until the upcoming 60th anniversary next month

of the King\’s accession to the throne has passed. End

summary.

 

DEPENDS ON WHAT WORDS YOU CHOOSE TO EMPHASIZE

 

2. (C) Thaksin\’s April 5 letter stated that he was \”taking

leave\” until \”a new government is formed.\” While his

supporters say that the Prime Minister is now simply

returning from leave, his critics charge that because a new

government has not been formed, Thaksin is, in effect,

committing a violation by returning to his office. The

Constitution would seem to give Thaksin the legal nod in this

case. In his April 5 letter, Thaksin stated that \”I,

therefore, would like to take a break from performing my

duties as the Prime Minister under Article 215, paragraph two

of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Thailand until the new

Council of Ministers takes office.\” Article 215 states that

\”The outgoing Council of Ministers shall remain in office for

carrying out duties until the newly appointed Council of

Ministers takes office…\” It would appear that Thaksin has

not violated any legal stricture; merely gone back on his

word regarding the circumstances under which he would stay

away. (Note: Ironically, the Lawyers\’ Council had earlier

sued Thaksin for failure to perform his duties. As noted in

previous reporting, the Lawyers\’ Council claimed that while

on leave the PM was essentially \”AWOL,\” collecting a salary

while not actually working. End note.)

STREET DEMONSTRATIONS PROBABLY MUTE FOR NOW

 

3. (U) As for prospects for street protests, PAD is

expected to restart anti-Thaksin demonstration only after the

celebrations of the King\’s accession to the throne are

concluded in June. Suriyasai Katasila, a PAD leader, has

charged that Thaksin had \”perjured\” himself by returning to

the office. According to Suriyasai, PAD will not launch any

major demonstration until the 60th anniversary of the King\’s

accession to the throne has passed, however.

 

AND CIRCUMSTANCES HAVE CHANGED

 

4. (C) Comment: The political situation has evolved

significantly since Thaksin took his leave from Government

House. On April 5, there was still a cautious belief that a

government would somehow be formed from the results of the

general election three days before. But, on May 8 the Thai

Constitutional Court ruled that the April 2 general elections

were unconstitutional, the results null and that a new

election must be held for the lower house of Parliament.

Since then, one of the four sitting Election Commissioners

has resigned and there is strong pressure on the remaining

three to step down. The election has now been set for late

October. Ominously for Thaksin\’s party, unofficial reports

say that an Election Commission Subcommittee has implicated

TRT executives for the alleged illegal bankrolling of small

parties to contest the April 2 general election (to provide

an \”opposition\” presence in the face of the formal

opposition\’s boycott.). If these TRT officers are found

guilty and if the EC and finally the Constitutional Court

endorse the subcommittee\’s ruling, the TRT would be in danger

of being dissolved. Under these conditions, Thaksin\’s

decision to return to the helm is not surprising.

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:20 am

Posted in Confidential, Thaksin

06BANGKOK2991 MANICHAEAN STRUGGLE FOR THE SOUL OF THAILAND

with one comment

“64503”,”5/18/2006 9:51″,”06BANGKOK2991″,”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 002991

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

SINGAPORE PLEASE PASS A/S HILL FROM AMBASSADOR BOYCE

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/17/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, Thai Political Updates

SUBJECT: MANICHAEAN STRUGGLE FOR THE SOUL OF THAILAND

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary and introduction: The Thai political crisis

has grown increasingly complicated, as multiple lawsuits work

their way through the three high courts, charged by the King

with finding a solution to the \”mess\” created by the

\”undemocratic\” April 2 parliamentary elections. Thailand will

spend most of 2006 in a protracted political crisis. I would

like to take a break from our play-by-play reporting to look

at the longer term prospects for Prime Minister Thaksin, and

for Thai democracy, as a result of the crisis.

 

2. (C) At issue is not just who will be the next prime

minister. Rather, this is a confrontation between different

models for Thai society, playing out in the struggle between

the beloved King, and all he represents, and the popular

prime minister, and what he portends. Right now, the

momentum is running against Thaksin, who may have to pay a

high price for his hubris. But in the longer run, the King

is old and the Thailand he represents is changing. Thaksin

faces serious challenges right now, but he, or someone like

him, is likely to be back. That said, we think that Thai

democracy may be stronger, as a result of the event of this

year, the next time around. End summary and introduction.

 

THE KING

——–

 

3. (C) On the one hand, the King represents traditional

Thai values: respect for age and authority, moderation,

modesty, and Buddhist values. He is the father of the people,

his country is the Thailand of the rice farmers. He champions

\”sufficiency economy,\” in which people eschew debt and dreams

of quick riches, and instead build their lives around honest

labor and prudent investment. Pictures of him are everywhere

in the country, iconographic images often showing him with

the elderly, the poor, and children.

 

4. (C) On the other hand, to some the King represents an old

and perhaps out-dated order. His periodic interventions in

Thai politics may, as in 1992, have had a positive influence,

but he has also supported military governments and condoned

their human rights abuses in the past. Governments come and

go, but the King has been there since before most Thai were

born. Knowing this to some degree discourages the Thai from

taking the training wheels off their democracy, building

strong institutions and relying on them, instead of the

monarch, to unify their nation and defend their rights.

 

THE POLITICIAN

————–

 

4. (C) On the one hand, Thaksin Shinawatra represents a

modern political and economic order. He is decisive, not

risk-averse, confident about himself and about Thailand\’s

place in the world. He is the CEO of Thailand, Inc. His

Thailand is best symbolized by Bangkok\’s many luxury shopping

malls — it\’s big! it\’s modern! everything here is imported

and expensive! He advocates a mixture of capitalism (red in

tooth and claw) with populism. He tells the rural people to

do what he did — borrow money, think big, leave behind your

rural roots, play the system, and strike it rich. I did, and

so can you. People don\’t put up his photos, but his Shin

Corp. products are everywhere — its cell phones in every

shopping center and many pockets, its TV station beamed to

every TV set.

 

5. (C) On the other hand, to some people Thaksin represents

everything that is wrong with development in southeast Asia.

He is greedy, corrupt, inherently undemocratic under his

facade, (did we mention corrupt?), conceited and

self–promoting. In his heart, he defers to no one — not to

age, not to Buddhist hierarchy, and not to the King. He

introduced many positive aspects to Thai politics: his party

had a platform that attracted rural voters, and he kept many

of his promises to them, introducing the 30 baht health

scheme and cheap credit for farmers. But the cost was high

— a Prime Minister who, in the end, disdains many of the key

features of a democracy, such as a free press and civil

society, and was eager to grasp power more openly and

greedily than any civilian PM before him.

 

THE STRUGGLE

————

 

6. (C) The conflict between these two political orders has

played out under the surface for several years, as Thaksin\’s

power grew. It is now being fought out in the daily

headlines, as the Courts demolish the April parliamentary

elections and attempt to dismantle Thaksin\’s political

machine, starting with the Election Commission (EC). With

the annulment of the elections, we may never know to what

extent elements of the Electoral Commission actually abused

their power. However, the EC decisions as they administered

the April elections so effectively favored TRT — whatever

their reason — that the EC lost all credibility. The

refusal of the majority of the commissioners to resign, even

in the face of the King\’s statement and the courts\’

direction, is almost unbelievable, and lends credence to

suspicions that they are staying in order to prevent a new

commission from finding the skeletons in their closet.

 

7. (C) Right now, the momentum is all on the side of the

courts. Almost everyone here presumes that the EC will be

forced to resign. The information about the role of the

ruling Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party in subverting the elections

(by paying off microparties in order to avoid the mandatory

20 percent minimum in one-party races) will likely come out

completely. If the leaked information available so far is

correct, there is a very good prospect that TRT will be

dissolved and the party leaders, including Thaksin, banned

from politics for five years.

 

SOME LIVES HAVE SECOND ACTS

—————————

 

8. (C) Of late, Thaksin has begun complaining that he was

the victim of a palace coup and that he could not return as

prime minister as long as this King lives. Melodramatics

aside, we think that Thaksin may wind up taking a \”political

break\” that is rather longer the year or so he anticipated.

Even if Thaksin somehow successfully wards off the attacks on

himself and his party and emerges as prime minister in the

next government, he would be constrained by the

newly-invigorated courts and press, and the knowledge that he

is not as invincible as he thought. But Thaksin is only 57.

The King is 78. Even if \”the worst\” happens — Thaksin is

banned for five years, or truly cannot return until the King

dies — he knows he has time to make a comeback. He has

cultivated a good relationship with the Crown Prince,

expected to take the throne upon his father\’s death. He is

enormously rich. Thaksin cannot be counted out for the long

term, whatever happens over the next few months.

 

9. (C) However, just as the King\’s Thailand of poor but

honest rice farmers is slipping into history. the

circumstances that allowed Thaksin so seize so much power are

also changing, and have been altered by the current crisis.

Many Thai intellectuals view the current crisis

philosophically, and feel that the democracy here will be

strengthened by what has happened. In particular, the vigor

with which the courts have taken on the entrenched power of

the ruling party is unprecedented and encouraging. The

Peoples\’ Alliance for Democracy and opposition political

parties have taken to the country road to try to bridge the

perception gap on Thaksin and his policies between the city

and the countryside, an important step to building broader

support for real democracy.

 

CONCLUSION

———-

 

10. (C) There is always a price to be paid for change. The

Thai have, amazingly, avoided bloodshed and are using

constitutional means to solve an extremely complicated

problem. True, they will be without a \”real\’ government for

most of 2006, and this will have implications, particularly

for the economy. If this investment pays off, however, it

means that the next wealthy politician who tries to arrogate

excessive power to himself will face a tougher challenge,

even if this King is no longer there to call him to account.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:20 am