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06BANGKOK5500 THAKSIN DEPUTY REVEALS LITTLE OF TRT PLANS

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“77454″,”9/7/2006 9:59″,”06BANGKOK5500″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“06BANGKOK1091|06BANGKOK4610|06BANGKOK5335|06BANGKOK5463″,”VZCZCXRO3536

OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #5500/01 2500959

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 070959Z SEP 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1462

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RHFJSCC/COMMARFORPAC

RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 005500

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/05/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH

SUBJECT: THAKSIN DEPUTY REVEALS LITTLE OF TRT PLANS

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 5463 [EX-CABINET SECRETARY ASSESSES

THAKSIN\'S POSITION]

B. BANGKOK 5335 [ALLEGED BOMB PLOT]

C. BANGKOK 4610 [MORE ON MILITARY RESHUFFLE]

D. BANGKOK 1091 [CHALLENGE TO THAKSIN]

 

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

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: In a September 5 meeting with the

Ambassador, Thai Rak Thai\’s Pongthep Thepkanchana gave a

fairly standard version of the TRT view of the political

situation. He insisted that the car bomb was real, that PM\’s

conflict was with the Privy Council, and not with the King,

and that Thaksin would decide whether to step aside based on

the good of the country. Pongthep was unimpressive, but he

is, according to many contacts, one of Thaksin\’s leading

choices for PM if Thaksin has to step down. The PM

reportedly doesn\’t want anyone too good, who might eclipse

him. Pongthep should fit the bill. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) Ambassador met September 5 with Pongthep

Thepkanchana, Deputy Thai Rak Thai (TRT) leader and potential

replacement Prime Minister if Thaksin steps aside. The

Ambassador sought Pongthep\’s views on the origins and

possible cures of the Thai political crisis, which has

dragged on for the better part of a year. Pongthep predicted

that things would settle down and get back to normal after

the election. He did not foresee any problems with putting

in place the new election commission soon, and setting a new

election date. probably in November.

 

STANDARD TRT SPIEL

——————

 

3. (C) Turning to the origins of the conflict, Pongthep gave

a fairly standard TRT-style review of the issues. He pointed

to TRT\’s landslide victory in February 2005 as a problem.

People looked at the PM and saw someone who \”had it all:\”

money, education, connections and political power. He is a

visionary and, especially after the landslide, extremely

self-confident. \”Higher echelons\” of Thai society did not

like this type of elected leader. Academics turned against

him. There followed a series of accusations against the PM.

Some, perhaps, had some foundation, but others were baseless.

Pongthep singled out opposition firebrand Sondhi

Limthongkul, motivated by a personal grudge against Thaksin,

as a key opponent. He said that Sondhi used his \”illegal

community radio station\” and his \”illegal, illegitimate cable

TV station\” to spread untrue accusations. (Note: Sondhi\’s

small cable station, ASTV, is repeatedly cited by contacts of

all persuasions as one of the most important tools the

opposition has. They claim that ASTV makes a huge impact as

it moves into new markets, even though it is not available in

most homes. Like most independent media, its legal status is

somewhat unclear due to the government\’s failure to establish

clear procedures for the licensing of independent outlets.

End note.)

 

4. (C) Ponthep gave a similarly familiar explanation of the

April 2006 election and the opposition party boycott,

although with a twist. He dismissed all other

considerations, saying that the opposition parties only

boycotted because they knew they\’d lose. He then launched

into a cryptic and, in the end, incomprehensible response to

the Ambassador\’s question about why Thaksin decided to

dissolve the Parliament in February. He agreed with the

Ambassador that it was a strange move for the PM to give up

his 375 seat dominance of the House and plunge into new

elections. Pressed to give a reason, he alluded to some

unspecified pressure that forced the PM to that action.

Pongthep said that even he had not known beforehand that the

PM would dissolve the House. The Ambassador noted that

Thaksin had talked to him about it several days before he

announced his decision (ref C), indicating that he was ready

to dissolve Parliament. Pongthep expressed surprise, but

still would not clarify what dark force he thought has forced

Thaksin\’s hand. Pongthep admitted that the decisions Thaksin

made at that time — such as the way the Shin Corp sale was

handled, and the dissolution — could have been better.

 

5. (C) The Ambassador asked about the ever-more-public

conflict between Thaksin and the Privy Council, particularly

Prem Tinsulanond. Pongthep emphasized that \”there is no

misunderstanding\” between the royal family and Thaksin. The

issues are with the Privy Council, which is used to having a

lot of authority. In the past, for example, Prem could have

influence over the military promotions of his proteges. He

 

BANGKOK 00005500 002 OF 002

 

doesn\’t want to lose that. Similarly, the Army Commander in

Chief wants to promote his own aides (ref C). However,

Pongthep added that he did not anticipate military

intervention. Even if the military launched a coup, they

would not be able to form a military government — those days

were past. So, they would be taking a significant risk for no

real benefit. Pongthep said he did not fear \”big violence\”

as there were no large groups facing each other in this

conflict. He was concerned about smaller incidents of

violence, as tensions remained high.

 

IT WAS BOMB. REALLY.

———————

 

6. (C) Pongthep stood by the government story that the August

24 car bomb was for real (ref B). He said that the plotters

were in the military, but it was not a plot by the military.

(Comment: we take this to mean that he is exculpating the

military leadership. end comment.) His version of the

events surrounding the bomb differs from other accounts in

one respect: he claims that the assassin had sent the signal

for the bomb to explode, but he was standing behind a pillar,

which blocked the signal, so the bomb didn\’t go off.

(Comment: this story gets more dramatic with each retelling.

End comment.) The Ambassador noted his concern, as a friend

of Thailand, over the political tensions. He asked what the

Prime Minister\’s plans were about remaining prime minister.

Pongthep said that Thaksin would decide what to do based on

the \”best interests of the country.\”

 

COMMENT

——-

 

7. (C) Pongthep did not impress. He replayed familiar themes

of persecution by the old guard, jealous of the PM\’s success.

He was disingenuous about a number of issues, including the

relationship between Thaksin and the King. His mysterious

allusions regarding the decision to dissolve Parliament were

just plain annoying. Contacts point out how TRT is being

weakened, as more respected figures are pushed to the margins

and the \”hawks\” keep Thaksin\’s ear. Pongthep took over as

the leading legal advisor to the PM after the resignation of

the widely respected jurist Bowornsak Uwanno (ref A), and

many sources say he is the leading contender for next Prime

Minister if Thaksin decides to take a break and is able to

chose his own successor. Part of the PM\’s calculation

appears to be that he doesn\’t want anyone too good, who might

eclipse him; Pongthep should fit the bill.

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:42 am

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