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06BANGKOK5463 EX-CABINET SECRETARY ASSESSES PM THAKSIN’S POSITION

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“77274”,”9/6/2006 9:36″,”06BANGKOK5463″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO2102

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SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/06/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PHUM, MOPS, ASEC, TH

SUBJECT: EX-CABINET SECRETARY ASSESSES PM THAKSIN\’S POSITION

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 5423 (SURAYUD MEETING)

 

B. BANGKOK 5204 (CAR BOMB)

 

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

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Thailand has become a police state, according to

former Cabinet Secretary Borwornsak Uwanno, who claimed the

government tapped the phones of political figures and that

some key Thaksin Shinawatra loyalists remained in place out

of fear. In a September 5 call on the Ambassador, Borwornsak

explained that he resigned in June under pressure from a

member of the Privy Council. The entire Privy Council was

against Thaksin; one Privy Councilor had a tape of the Prime

Minister discussing how to \”neutralize\” (politically) the

King. Borwornsak cited possible upcoming events that could

lead to further resignations of Thaksin loyalists. He raised

the prospect of military intervention in politics; the

Ambassador stressed the USG would respond negatively to such

a move. Borwornsak was uncertain whether the recent car bomb

incident was genuine, but he claimed he could imagine

assassination attempts against the Prime Minister, whose

family members might also be targeted. End Summary.

 

RESIGNING UNDER PRESSURE FROM THE PALACE

—————————————-

 

2. (C) Former Cabinet Secretary Borwornsak Uwanno called on

the Ambassador on September 5. (Note: Borwornsak, a highly

regarded legal scholar, made headlines when he resigned in

June, citing political conditions. End Note.) He explained

he had decided to resign for various reasons, including the

deterioration of his public credibility as he was

increasingly seen by the elite as a defender of an unpopular

administration. Additionally, he cited ethical qualms with

some of Thaksin\’s practices, such as efforts to manipulate

the educational system to ensure the Prime Minister\’s

daughter\’s entrance into prestigious Chulalongkorn University.

 

3. (C) Borwornsak cited the Shinawatra family\’s tax-free sale

of Shin Corp to Temasek Holdings as the last straw for him.

But he said he accelerated his resignation under pressure

from an unspecified member of the Privy Council (he would

only say the person in question was neither Privy Council

President Prem Tinsulanonda, nor the King\’s principal private

secretary, Asa Sarasin, nor a public critic of Thaksin).

 

SIPDIS

That Privy Councilor, citing concern for Borwornsak\’s

reputation, urged him to quit, and to do so without delay.

Borwornsak related that after he resigned, he received

congratulatory messages from all Privy Councilors. The

entire Privy Council was against Thaksin, he asserted, adding

that Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont had a tape recording

that featured the Prime Minister talking to members of his

entourage about how to \”neutralize\” (politically) the King,

Thaksin asserting also that he exerted significant influence

over Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. (In an aside, Borwornsak

also complained that Thaksin had spoken of the Crown Prince

and written letters to him in a manner that appeared

disrespectful of the Crown Prince\’s royal heritage.)

 

\”THAILAND HAS BECOME A POLICE STATE\”

————————————

 

4. (C) When he informed Thaksin of his decision to resign,

Borwornsak noted, Thaksin did not appear surprised.

Borwornsak surmised that Thaksin knew of his plans from

electronic surveillance of his phone; he said that military

and police sources had informed him that the phones of over

500 individuals were being monitored, with the drug

suppression law and money laundering law provided to phone

service providers as justification. Such efforts would be

understandable if the targets were criminals, but for Thaksin

to monitor political officials in this manner was excessive.

\”Thailand has become a police state,\” he said, and appeared

democratic only on the surface. (Note: At the end of the

meeting, Borwornsak provided the Ambassador with his new cell

phone number but noted that, if contacted, he would use

another phone, whose number he did not provide, to return the

Ambassador\’s call. End note.)

 

5. (C) Borwornsak cited also Thaksin\’s heavy-handed response

to militant activity in southern Thailand. When the

Ambassador asked whether extra-judicial killings in southern

Thailand and elsewhere reflected state policy, Borwornsak

paused to consider his response carefully. Policemen carried

 

BANGKOK 00005463 002 OF 003

 

out killings, he said, and the perpetrators received

promotions, as if as a reward. Their higher-ups (NFI) \”just

close their eyes\” — there was no proof linking top officials

to extra-judicial killings.

 

6. (C) Citing Thaksin\’s recent negative public comments about

long-time loyalist Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak,

Borwornsak related that numerous other Thaksin supporters

were interested in resigning. Deputy Prime Minister

Surakiart Sathirathai, under pressure from his wife, wanted

to resign but stayed on only in order to have a shot at

becoming UN Secretary General. Other cabinet members,

including Somsak Thepsutin, Pinit Jarusombat, and Suranand

Vejjajiva, also wanted to leave the cabinet, but they feared

possible reprisals from Thaksin. (Borwornsak did not clarify

what sorts of reprisals he considered likely, but he implied

they would be severe.)

 

POSSIBLE SCENARIOS FOR A TRANSITION

———————————–

 

7. (C) More cabinet members might resign if only given some

sort of justification by a dramatic event, Borwornsak

observed. He cited several possible catalysts that could

prompt such a move:

 

– Further large-scale demonstrations by the People\’s Alliance

for Democracy;

 

– Incidents of political violence;

 

– An upcoming court ruling on a case brought by a plaintiff

named Reuangdet (LNU), who sued the Taxation Department after

an initial finding that he owed tax on a sale of shares; the

court\’s verdict could undermine Thaksin\’s claim that the

tax-free determination for the Shin Corp sale was legitimate.

 

8. (C) Borwornsak dismissed the possibility of political

conditions improving if Thaksin were to withdraw from

government office but install a \”puppet\” of his as Prime

Minister. (Leading candidates to stand in for Thaksin

included House Speaker Bhokin Bhalakula, whom Borwornsak

stated had earned Thaksin\’s gratitude by providing Thaksin

with early notice of the 1997 devaluation of the Baht, and

Agriculture Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan.) Citing reports

from members of Thaksin\’s close entourage, Borwornsak claimed

that Thaksin had sent retired General Mongkol Ampornpisit to

lobby Privy Council President Prem to ease up pressure on

Thaksin in the event that the Prime Minister were to withdraw

from politics. However, Borwornsak noted that no one could

guarantee the course of legal cases against Thaksin.

 

9. (C) Borwornsak said he could envision violence leading to

political intervention by the military, which would lead to

the establishment of an interim government to carry out

reforms. Borwornsak said he could envision no other way out

of the current crisis, and he asked how the USG would view

such an interim government. The Ambassador stated clearly

that the USG would oppose the military overthrow of a

democratically elected government.

 

CAR BOMB

——–

 

10. (C) Borwornsak professed uncertainty about the nature of

the alleged August 24 car bomb incident (ref B). Regardless

of the nature of that incident, though, he believed Thaksin\’s

enemies might try to kill the Prime Minister; he told the

Ambassador that since 2005 he had requested Health Ministry

officials to test the food provided for cabinet meetings for

poison. He stated twice that he believed that Thaksin\’s

family members might also become targets for Thaksin\’s

opponents.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

11. (C) Borwornsak is a preeminent legal scholar, former

member of the commission that produced Thailand\’s current

Constitution, and, until recently, a top government official

who played a critical liaison role with the Palace. We take

seriously his concern about domestic surveillance,

authoritarian tendencies, and the possibility of Thaksin

carrying out reprisals against his political enemies.

However, we note that there are credible scenarios — such as

that raised by Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont (ref A),

entailing a poor performance of Thaksin\’s party in the next

 

BANGKOK 00005463 003 OF 003

 

election — which might pave the way for Thaksin\’s exit with

far less upheaval that the prospective military intervention

that Borwornsak raised.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:38 am

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