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06BANGKOK5565 THAKSIN LOYALIST SEES LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

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“77853″,”9/11/2006 9:32″,”06BANGKOK5565″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO6549

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“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 005565

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/11/2016

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

SUBJECT: THAKSIN LOYALIST SEES LIGHT AT THE END OF THE

TUNNEL

 

Classified By: DCM Alex Arvizu, reason: 1.4 (d).

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Former House of Representatives Speaker Bhokin

Bhalakula claimed the upcoming legislative election would

reaffirm majority support for Thai Rak Thai (TRT), although

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra likely would not seek to

remain as Prime Minister. In a September 8 lunch with the

Ambassador, Bhokin — a Deputy Leader of TRT rumored as a

potential successor to Thaksin — claimed the King also

wanted elections as soon as possible and would refrain from

undemocratic political intervention. Upcoming elections

would further deflate the challenge from Thaksin\’s opponents,

and an upcoming reshuffle of top military, police, and civil

service positions would ensure the complete loyalty to the

administration of state bureaucracies and the security

forces. End Summary.

 

OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ELECTIONS

————————–

 

2. (C) In a September 8 lunch at the Ambassador\’s residence,

former House of Representatives Speaker Bhokin Bhalakula

expressed optimism about upcoming legislative elections. The

northern and northeastern regions of Thailand — which

together accounted for a majority of the constituency-based

seats in the House — remained solidly pro-TRT, he asserted.

Reviewing the background behind TRT\’s populist policies,

Bhokin noted TRT would continue the programs that had

generated enthusiasm among the lower and middle class; future

government grants under the small, medium, and large-scale

(SML) village fund program would increase by at least 50

percent. Other political parties could not compete with

TRT\’s proven approach of delivering benefits. Rival Democrat

Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was too young to challenge TRT

effectively; Abhisit knew only how to criticize, and he did

so in a long-winded manner that most Thai found unappealing,

according to Bhokin.

 

THE KING\’S POSITION

——————-

 

3. (C) Bhokin said the King wanted elections as soon as

possible, highlighting that the King had quickly signed the

Royal Decree (issued on September 6) calling for an

extraordinary session of the Senate (September 8-10) to

select Election Commission members. Prior to receiving the

decree for approval, Bhokin related, the King had signaled

his eagerness by asking unspecified persons about the

decree\’s disposition. The King respected democracy and

viewed elections as a source of legitimacy; he would continue

to refuse to take drastic steps affecting political

processes. However, the King did not want to speak out

publicly on this matter, according to Bhokin, because his

words often created controversy as various sides offered

rival interpretations.

 

SONDHI WENT TOO FAR, PEOPLE ARE WEARY

————————————-

 

4. (C) Thaksin was a victim of his own success, Bhokin

lamented. Democrat Party leaders had come to realize that it

would take at least 15 years before they could hope to regain

power through elections. Meanwhile, the armed forces had

become split, partly because soldiers benefiting from illegal

activities, such as the drug trade, had suffered under TRT\’s

policies. And academics found their status diminished under

Thaksin, as TRT had sufficient human resources that the party

did not need to rely on ivory tower experts. It became easy

for those upset with Thaksin to generate negative publicity,

as they could easily pay off journalists to write negative

stories.

 

5. (C) Media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul proved able to unite

disgruntled members of the elite. Bhokin noted Sondhi had

successfully installed various associates in key government

positions, but his influence began to wane; the final blow

pushing Sondhi into opposition was the dismissal of crony

Viroj Nualkhair from his position as CEO of state-owned Krung

Thai Bank. However, although Sondhi benefited from the

support of royalist oligarchs, he had gone too far in

projecting himself as a representative of the King\’s

interests. The public did not appreciate Sondhi\’s approach,

and it led to diminished participation in the rallies of

 

BANGKOK 00005565 002 OF 002

 

Sondhi\’s People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). In a recent

survey (NFI), 60 percent of respondents blamed the PAD for

the current turmoil, Bhokin claimed, and he predicted further

tapering off of PAD support after the upcoming election\’s

reaffirmation of TRT\’s majority support.

 

RESHUFFLE

———

 

6. (C) Bhokin predicted an upcoming reshuffle of top

military, police, and civil service positions would ensure

that government and security forces officials would \”totally

obey\” the administration. Comparing the government to a

ship, Bhokin said there currently were some holes in the

hull, but after the election, it would be smooth sailing.

The King would endorse the reshuffle plan as received from

the government, Bhokin said, noting parenthetically that, if

the King did not, \”the whole country will blow up.\”

 

THAKSIN TO STEP DOWN

——————–

 

7. (C) The Ambassador asked whether Thaksin might try to

return as Prime Minister after the next election. Bhokin

believed Thaksin had already made a decision not to do so,

irrespective of the election results. Citing Thaksin\’s early

April audience with the King, Bhokin said Thaksin would

likely opt not to be Prime Minister, in order to lessen the

degree of tension in the country. Bhokin observed that

Thaksin nevertheless wanted to remain TRT Party Leader,

claiming Thaksin was motivated not by a desire to protect

himself and his assets, but rather by patriotism and his

longstanding interest in politics.

 

MORE ON PALACE INFLUENCE

————————

 

8. (C) When the Ambassador asked about the wisdom of

Thaksin\’s decision to dissolve the parliament in February,

Bhokin replied that Thaksin had received advice to do so from

Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda as well as

then-Cabinet Secretary Borwornsak Uwanno. Bhokin then

confided that Thaksin had discussed the matter directly with

the King; when Thaksin had presented various alternatives to

resolve growing political tension, the King had said it would

be better to dissolve the parliament.

 

9. (C) The Ambassador also asked about the June resignations

of Borwornsak and then-Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu

Krea-ngam. Bhokin claimed that the two came under pressure

from an individual named Meechai, who was close to Prem and

presumably reflected Palace views. (We presume the reference

was to law professor Meechai Ruchupan, a former cabinet

minister in Prem\’s administration.)

 

COMMENT

——-

 

10. (C) Bhokin made a persuasive but hardly unbiased case

that TRT has reason for optimism as elections approach. His

claim that Thaksin is inclined not to remain as Prime

Minister tracks with a relatively common perception among the

political class, although we noted Bhokin stopped short of

offering categorical assurance on this point. We believe

Thaksin has not yet made a firm decision on this matter.

 

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:43 am

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