06BANGKOK2294 MORE TROUBLED ELECTIONS: SENATE RESULTS AND MP UPDATE
“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 002294
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/20/2016
TAGS: PGOV, TH, Elections – Thai, SNAP Elections
SUBJECT: MORE TROUBLED ELECTIONS: SENATE RESULTS AND MP
REF: BANGKOK 2156
Classified By: POLITICAL COUNSELOR SUSAN M. SUTTON. REASON: 1.4 (D)
1. (U) Summary: Thai voters turned out in reportedly lower
than expected numbers on April 19 to elect new members of the
200 seat Senate. The polls were largely uneventful save in
the separatist violence afflicted southern border province of
Narathiwat, where three persons died in separate shootings
and bombings. Critics are charging that that at least half
of those likely to be announced as winners have some tie to
the Thai Rak Thai party. Preparations and controversy
continue for the April 23 by-elections in some 39 lower house
constituencies where no candidates had been able to garner
more that 20 percent of the votes in single party polls in
the earlier general elections (and one where the single
candidate was later disqualified). End summary.
2. (SBU) On April 19, Thai voters cast ballots for the 200
member national Senate. Observers say that there were fewer
voters turned out than they had anticipated. Embassy monitors
saw a mixed turnout – high in some places and low in others.
As noted in reftel, each province is regarded as one
constituency and awarded Senate seats proportional to
population. In cases where a province has more than one
senatorial seat, the candidates who receive the highest
number of votes in respective order will be elected as
Senators up to the seats available. Some observers said that
the lower voter numbers was due to the polls being held in
the middle of the week. An official from the election
monitoring organization Poll Watch, however, attributed the
low turnout in some areas to \”election fatigue.\” As he
explained to poloff, the April general election for the lower
house and next week\’s by-election to address unresolved
elections in some 40 constituencies have induced in some
voters a sense of ennui. (Note: a recent poll in Bangkok
reported that almost 44 percent of respondents were unsure of
the role and duties of the Senate. End note)
CRITICS SEE THAKSIN TRT THAI CONNECTIONS IN MANY OF THE
3. (C) Already the new Senate is being criticized for
containing too many TRT-related members. Prominent new
Senators in Bangkok considered to be in the Thaksin camp
include: Samak Sunthonwet, former Governor of Bangkok and
critic of U.S. foreign and human rights policy; Uthai
Phimchaichon, former House Speaker and TRT party list MP;
Samat Malulim, a former Bangkok Councilor; Dr. Nalini
Thaisin, sister of Bangkok Metropolitan Administration
Permanent Secretary Natthanon and Professor Manwipha
Intharanat, spouse of Major General Trairong, who is a close
associate of Defense Minister General Thammarak.
BUT OTHER PROMINENT TRT OPPONENTS WIN SEATS
4. (C) But prominent candidates in Bangkok identified as
linked to Thaksin\’s opponents in the political opposition,
such as the Democrat Party (DP), or the activist groups such
as the People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), also won seats.
Police Captain Nitiphum Naowarat won the most votes in the
Bangkok polls. He is, among other things, a former Border
Patrol official, a convert to Islam, prominent anti-Thaksin
speaker during recent PAD rallies and a critic of U.S.
foreign policy. Ex-National Counter Corruption Commission
Secretary General Klanarong Chanthik pursued Thaksin\’s asset
concealment case in the NCCC and in the Constitutional Court.
He was also a frequent PAD speaker against the PM in recent
rallies. Rosana Tositrakun, a noted social and political
activist, was a leader in the successful effort to block
privatization of the Electricity and Gas of Thailand and a
vigorous pursuer of corruption charges against Thaksin. She
also campaigned against a Thai-U.S. FTA. On the other hand,
former Bangkok Governor Phichit Rattakun appears to be more
pro-U.S. in his attitude.
5. (C) Other new Senators are less politically active and
more of a question mark. Sombat Sukthinthai, a well known
former actor, has never been politically active. Nor has
been Chutinan Phiromphakdi, a relative of the Queen and son
of a wealthy beverage business family.
6. (C) Not surprisingly, candidates linked to the TRT are
believed to have done well in the Northeast and North, where
in Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram, Roi-et and Chiang Mai, for
example, spouses and siblings of prominent TRT MPs and
Cabinet members took seats. In fact, the local press is
dubbing this \”the Senate of husbands and wives.\”
7. (C) Just as predictably, Senate candidates thought
linked to the popular opposition Democrat Party (DP) did well
in the southern provinces. Huwaidiya Phitsuwan, sister of DP
Deputy Leader Surin Phitsuwan, took a Senate seat from Nakhon
Si Thammarat. In Chumphon, Chatchai Phalang, brother of DP
MP Suwarat, picked up the province\’s seat. In Songkhla,
Thipphan Phatthano, spouse of a former DP MP, won a seat.
BLOODSHED DISRUPTS POLLS IN NARATHIWAT
8. (SBU) Though nationwide the polls were peaceful,
election-related bloodshed occurred in the separatist
violence-effected southern border province of Narathiwat.
The Narathiwat Vice Governor\’s Office confirmed to the
Embassy that three fatal attacks took place on election day.
On April 19, suspected separatists reportedly shot dead a
police sergeant (and wounded another policeman) at a polling
station in Muang district. Later in the day, a bomb planted
in a roadway killed a person riding on a truck carrying
ballots. Another roadside bomb killed an election official
and wounded 11 others after the polls closed. Several other
bombings, but no deaths, were reported in neighboring Yala
BY-ELECTIONS LOOM: CURRENTLY BEING FOUGHT IN THE COURTS
9. (SBU) Now eyes are turning to the upcoming by-elections
on April 23 to decide seats unresolved in the April 2 general
elections, all but one because the single TRT candidate in
the April 2 polls couldn\’t get the required 20 percent of the
vote. The pre-election skirmishing is now taking place in
the courts. Following a DP complaint, the Thai Supreme Court
issued a milestone ruling this week to disqualify nine MP
candidates, including two for \”hopping\” to run in another
constituency on April 23. This brings the total number of
TRT MP candidates who must stand-alone and face the 20%
minimum rule from 16 to 24. (Comment: Since voters of the
affected by-election constituencies did not give the 20%
minimum support for their stand-alone TRT candidate on April
2, it would be difficult for the same TRT candidate to win
the required votes if they were to run unopposed again in the
by-elections. End Comment.)
10. (SBU) When asked about their rational for allowing the
\”constituency-hopping\” to take place during by-election
registration, EC officials stated the EC and the Supreme
Court had different interpretations of the Constitution. The
EC pointed out that allowing the same candidate who failed to
obtain the required 20% minimum the first time to re-run in
the same constituency would simply lead to the same results.
Therefore, it made sense for them to register elsewhere.
However, the Supreme Court ruled that since there are no
official results from the April 2 election, allowing the
\”hopping\” would legally mean that the same candidate filed to
run in two separate constituencies, which contravenes Article
108 of the Constitution.
11. (U) Meanwhile, the Democratic Party (DP) has filed a
criminal lawsuit against the Election Commission (EC) for its
abuse of power during the snap elections. The hearing will
begin on May 29.
SAME OLD, SAME OLD?
12. (C) Comment: The new Senate will have its work cut out
for it in overcoming the negative image suffered by its
predecessor as being a mere \”rubber stamp\” body. The
political inclinations of its nominally \”non-political\”
members will be a particularly sensitive issue as questions
of Thaksin influencing the governing process from behind the
scenes will arise over coming months. Meanwhile, the
lawsuits just keep coming in the wake of the fraught House
election, guaranteeing that a cloud will hang over the new
parliament — whenever it convenes — for some time to come.