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06BANGKOK3202 THAILAND IN 2006 – POLITICS AND THE SOUTH

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“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

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Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:23 am

Posted in Secret, South Thailand

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