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06BANGKOK2294 MORE TROUBLED ELECTIONS: SENATE RESULTS AND MP UPDATE

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“61124”,”4/20/2006 10:20″,”06BANGKOK2294″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN”,”06BANGKOK2156″,

“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

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/20/2016

TAGS: PGOV, TH, Elections – Thai, SNAP Elections

SUBJECT: MORE TROUBLED ELECTIONS: SENATE RESULTS AND MP

UPDATE

 

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

ELECTEES

 

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

 

SIPDIS

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

Province.

 

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.

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 7:52 am

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