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06BANGKOK2082 THAKSIN TELLS ALL (ALMOST)

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“59745”,”4/7/2006 11:52″,”06BANGKOK2082″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO5772

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INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

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RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

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SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/06/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH

SUBJECT: THAKSIN TELLS ALL (ALMOST)

 

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

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Thaksin told me on April 7 that he had

planned all along to step aside after the April 2 election.

He admitted that he had been taken by surprise to the strong

reaction to his family\’s sale of Shin Corp to Singapore, and

that he may have made a tactical error when he snubbed an

opposition offer that might have headed off their boycott. In

his mind, the \”Bangkok elite,\” the press, \”the mob,\” and some

privy councilors brought him down, despite his broad support

in the countryside. Thaksin said he thought the obstacles to

seating the new Parliament would be overcome, and mentioned

three TRT members as good candidates to be the new PM

(Bhokin, Somkid, Sudarat). Thaksin said that the opposition

would never be satisfied until they could block him from

public office forever. He confirmed that several of the

protest leaders might be arrested and charged with lese

majeste or offenses against internal secuirty, but said that

any such move would depend on the courts. Right now, he did

not feel any interest in trying to return as PM, he claimed.

Thaksin seemed calmer and more relaxed than he had appeared

in some time. Although his decision to step aside relieves

some of the pressure on him, it does nothing to resolve the

political dilemmas the result from this election. After a

brief respite, political tensions may rise again. End

summary.

 

2. (C) I met with caretaker PM Thaksin Shinawatra on April

7 at his request to discuss his political fortunes and the

way ahead. Thaksin recounted how surprised he had been by

the reaction to the Shin Corp sale to Singapore. He said

that the opposition Democrat Party had reacted negatively to

the sale not on principle, but because they feared his

increased political clout if he had so much disposable

wealth. I noted that part of the opposition to the sale

stemmed from the widely held belief that Thaksin himself must

have been involved; no one would believe that his children

had managed the sale by themselves. Thaksin baldfacedly said

there had been no other alternative; he could not be seen to

have been involved because \”there was insider trading.\”

(Comment: any comment would be superfluous. End comment.)

 

ALL ACCORDING TO PLAN

———————

 

3. (C) Thaksin reviewed the events of the week. He said

that, despite his defiant performance on TV Monday night, he

had gone to the audience with the King on Tuesday knowing

that he would have to step aside. He said that he knew that

the King did not like him. For the first four years of his

tenure, he and the King had had a good relationship. After

Thai Rak Thai\’s (TRT) landslide victory in February 2005, the

relationship had deteriorated, since the King saw Thaksin as

challenging the King\’s popularity in the countryside. Soon

after dissolving Parliament in late February, Thaksin\’s plan

had been to hold the election in order to show his continued

relevance but then to take a break in order to allow the

political situation to calm down. Although his support in

the rural areas was strong, he faced opposition from a cabal

of the \”Bangkok elite,\” the press, \”the mob,\” and some privy

councilors.

 

4. (C) I asked about some of the decisions he had made,

including dissolving Parliament and then turning down the

opposition\’s compromise proposal (to participate in the

election in exchange for concessions on the process to amend

the constitution). Thaksin insisted that he had no option

other than to dissolve the Parliament, given the building

pressure to respond to calls for his resignation. The

opposition had made it clear that they would not hold a

no-confidence debate, because they knew they would lose.

Therefore, Thaksin dissolved the House and called new

elections, because he knew he would win.

 

5. (C) Regarding turning down the opposition\’s compromise

proposal, he complained that the three parties had not been

sincere in making the offer. (Even as they were discussing

it, he said, certain of the opposition were approaching

Thaksin and looking for money in exchange for participation

in the election.) Thaksin reluctantly conceded to me that it

had probably been a tactical error not to call their bluff,

at least. Once the boycott was in effect, he said, he

realized that he would not be able to come back as PM, but he

wanted the elections \”to make his mark.\”

 

6. (C) Thaksin said that he had retained the post of

caretaker PM in order to preserve the constitution. If he

resigned (without a parliament in session to vote for a new

PM), then it would have required the King to intervene to

 

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name a temporary successor (under Article 7). He did not

want to be the one \”to tear up the constitution,\” or to force

the King to play a role he did not want. Therefore, he

retained his office and, during this interval, he had turned

over day to day responsibility to DPM Chidchai as a further

effort to calm the situation. Should anything urgent arise,

he said he would return to assume his responsibilities.

 

WHAT NEXT?

———-

 

7. (C) Thaksin said he would go to the UK to join his

daughter, who is starting school there, and then take her for

a visit to the US. He hoped to be able to call on former

President Bush, which whom he has a personal relationship,

while he was in the U.S. He said he would vote by absentee

ballot in the April 19 Senate elections, and return before

the April 23 round of voting for the unfilled MP seats. He

expected that the next round of voting would succeed in

filling the remaining seats, and he expected to overcome the

other obstacles to seating the Parliament as well. He

thought that some of the micro parties might win seats in the

southern constituencies, since TRT was so disliked there.

(Note: The Electoral Commission, in a controversial decision,

will permit new candidates to register and run for the 39

open seats. We presume that, given the additional time they

have had to prepare, there will be at least two legally

qualified, or at least plausible, candidates in each race,

circumventing the 20 percent rule. This could enable all the

remaining seats to be filled, even if the overwhelming

majority of voters vote \”no vote.\” End note.) Thaksin said he

would welcome the participation of Chart Thai or Mahachon

parties in the new government that follows; the Democrat

Party has already said that they will not participate. If

they changed their mind, they would also be welcome.

 

8. (C) Asked about the new PM, Thaksin suggested Parliament

speaker Bhokin, DPM Somkid, or Agriculture Minister Sudarat.

(Comment: the usual suspects. End comment.) I noted that many

Thai he had heard discussing this issue had raise suspicions

about corruption issues connected to Sudarat. Thaksin noted

that Bhokin, a lawyer, would be the right person to oversee

the Constitutional reform. Somkid was strong on economic

issues, but wouldn\’t be able to stand up to the Democrats, in

Thaksin\’s view. In any event, he didn\’t have to decide right

away.

 

AS FOR THE OPPOSITION

———————

 

9. (C) I asked if Thaksin planned to come back to the PM

position after the political reforms and the next election.

He said that the opposition would be happy if they could pass

a constitutional amendment to say \”Thaksin Shinawatra can

never participate in politics again.\” And if Thaksin changed

his name, \”they\’d pass an amendment that no one with his DNA

could run for office.\” Thaksin said that, \”the way he felt

right now,\” he didn\’t want to come back as PM. He noted that

the opposition did not just want him to step down, they also

wanted to seize his assets and force him to leave the

country. (Comment: this is true for some elements of the

opposition, although they do not speak with one voice. End

comment.)

 

10. (C) I asked whether there were plans, as we have heard,

to arrest protest leaders Sondhi or Chamlong. Thaksin

immediately confirmed that they could face charges for lese

majeste and for violating section 116 of the penal code,

\”Offenses against the internal security of the Kingdom,\”

based on the protesters breaking into the Government House

compound in a mid-January demonstration. I cautioned that

such arrests could provoke a backlash, and suggested that the

protest movement and its leaders would probably lose steam

now that Thaksin had stepped aside. I also said that such

moves against the opposition over protest activities would

raise the question of why similar steps weren\’t taken against

TRT members, such as Newin Chidchob, who had organized

illegal demonstrations against a newspaper. Thaksin\’s only

response was, \”That\’s different.\” He also said that any

moves to arrest Sondhi or Chamlong would depend on the courts.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

11. (C) Thaksin appeared calmer and more relaxed than I

have seen him in some time. The decision to step aside has

relieved the enormous pressure on the caretaker PM. However,

it has hardly solved the political dilemmas caused by this

election. Versions of the week\’s events we have now heard

 

BANGKOK 00002082 003 OF 003

 

from both the PM and the opposition PAD indicate that there

was no deal or prior understanding between the PM and the

opposition on Tuesday before the PM\’s announcement that he

would step aside. Elements of the opposition are still

pursuing their goal, which for many of them is, as Thaksin

said, to ensure that he never returns to power again. Thus,

after a brief respite next week for the Thai new year, we can

expect the political temperature to rise again.

 

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 7:42 am

Posted in Confidential, Thaksin

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