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06BANGKOK5972 DEMOCRAT PARTY LEADER DISCUSSES COUP AFTERMATH

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“79986″,”9/28/2006 10:57″,”06BANGKOK5972″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”06BANGKOK5949″,”VZCZCXRO2940

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“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 005972

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

TREASURY PASS TO FRB SAN FRANCISCO/TERESA CURRAN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/26/2016

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

SUBJECT: DEMOCRAT PARTY LEADER DISCUSSES COUP AFTERMATH

 

REF: BANGKOK 5949 (SEPT 27 UPDATE)

 

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

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Democrat Party (DP) leader Abhisit Vejjajiva expressed

confidence that Council for Democratic Reform (CDR) leader

General Sonthi would happily relinquish power, but Abhisit

thought the CDR would have difficulty restoring full civil

liberties until taking measures against key Thaksin

administration figures. In a September 28 discussion with

the Ambassador, Abhisit said the prospective selection of

Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont would best enable the

withdrawal of the military from political life. Abhisit

expressed confidence that his party\’s image had improved in

recent months, but he did not foresee the disintegration of

Thaksin\’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party. Nevertheless, Abhisit

felt that any significant realignment of politicians would

await the promulgation of the interim constitution and the

formation of the interim civilian administration. Abhisit

also pressed on USG interest in restarting negotiation of a

free trade agreement with the interim civilian

administration, and he noted former Foreign Minister Surin

Pitsuwan\’s availability for the position of UN Secretary

General. End Summary.

 

CONCERNED ABOUT THAKSIN\’S SIDE, NOT SONTHI

——————————————

 

2. (C) Receiving the Ambassador at Democrat Party

headquarters, Abhisit opened the meeting characterizing

himself as \”concerned\” about the current political situation.

Abhisit said that, based on his knowledge of General

Sonthi\’s character, he was confident Sonthi had not carried

out the September 19 coup in order to put himself in a

position of power. However, Abhisit worried that Thaksin

loyalists would try reasserting themselves in political life,

and this possibility would make it difficult for the CDR to

restore full civil liberties. Thaksin\’s wife, Potjaman, had

recently withdrawn 20 million Baht (approximately 540,000

USD) in cash, and some of this money would surely be used to

gain influence with members of the interim government, if not

members of the CDR itself. Abhisit surmised that Thaksin

loyalists likely had instigated the September 26 burning of

schools in Kamphengphet (reftel).

 

3. (C) Abhisit said that it probably would be necessary for

the government to prosecute corrupt Thaksin administration

figures, in order to calm the situation sufficiently to allow

full restoration of civil liberties. Toward that end,

Abhisit requested that the Ambassador provide the CDR with

further information about potential irregularities involved

in the RTG\’s purchase from General Electric of CTX explosives

detection equipment. If the USG could provide the names of

corrupt politicians connected to that purchase, this could

provide a basis for further RTG investigation, with a

salutary effect on the political environment.

 

BULLISH ON SURAYUD

——————

 

4. (C) Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont probably represented

the best candidate for interim Prime Minister, Abhisit

averred, even though one of the other potential candidates,

UN Conference on Trade and Development Secretary General

Supachai Panitchpakdi, had longstanding ties to the Democrat

Party. Contrasting Supachai\’s training in economics with

Surayud\’s Army career, Abhisit said that the military

probably could not soon \”return to the barracks\” under an

interim Prime Minister with a purely civilian background,

like Supachai.

 

5. (C) Abhisit observed that there was substantial wrangling

 

BANGKOK 00005972 002 OF 003

 

over key elements of the interim constitution. Early drafts

had included provisions that would bar members of the CDR,

the interim legislature, and the constitutional drafting

assembly from seeking political positions for a two-year

period. Abhisit thought such provisions would send the right

signal. However, lead interim constitution drafter Meechai

Ruchuphan had altered those provisions so as to remove any

restriction on members of the CDR and most others in the

interim government. The Ambassador expressed the importance

of the CDR transitioning to a civilian-led government as soon

as possible, and doing so in a way that would reassure the

international community that the CDR members were not intent

on remaining in power.

 

TRT LIKELY TO REMAIN, BUT DP LOOKING GOOD

—————————————–

 

6. (C) The Ambassador asked Abhisit\’s view of the future of

TRT. Abhisit believed Thaksin\’s party would remain part of

the political landscape. Pending lawsuits that might have

resulted in the dissolution of TRT and the Democrat Party

(for improprieties in the April 2006 election) would likely

become moot now that the CDR had scrapped the 1997

Constitution and the associated legal framework. Some in TRT

would be tempted to use the referendum on the next

constitution to try to demonstrate popular opposition to the

September 19 coup, thereby regaining some political momentum,

Abhisit commented.

 

7. (C) When asked whether he expected an influx of TRT

figures into the Democrat Party, Abhisit said most

politicians were waiting to see how the constitution and

other aspects of the political system would look before

making a move. He had been in contact with some TRT figures

prior to the coup, and there were some people (NFI) he would

like to bring over to the DP if the CDR did not include them

in the interim cabinet. But Abhisit was reluctant to sully

the DP\’s image by recruiting TRT figures with tainted

reputations, and those who were clean lacked the influence to

boost the DP\’s prospects in a meaningful way.

 

8. (C) Even before the coup, DP research had shown the

party\’s image was improving, and not simply because the DP

was the principal alternative to TRT. Polling showed the gap

between the DP and TRT narrowing from 32 percent to 13

percent. Abhisit claimed a \”massive shift\” in public

perception of the Democrats, who were increasingly seen as

having meaningful policies and ideas, caring for the poor,

and being responsive to the people\’s needs. However, Abhisit

acknowledged the DP had trailed TRT in terms of projecting

strong leadership and an ability to achieve its goals.

 

9. (C) Abhisit lamented the success of the Chavalit

administration (in the mid 1990\’s) in painting the DP as a

party of the South and the wealthy. This image persisted to

the present day in the Northeast, Thailand\’s most populous

region. Abhisit was more optimistic about gaining strength

in central and northern Thailand, noting that, had elections

been held in late 2006, he would have anticipated winning

four of ten seats in Chiang Mai, Thaksin\’s home province

(where the DP won 18 percent of the vote in 2005). In the

northern province of Mae Hong Son, the DP could have won a

majority of the seats at stake, Abhisit projected.

 

10. (C) Even assuming TRT\’s continued existence, it would not

be impossible for the DP to win a plurality in the next

national election, Abhisit said. The key would be for the

vote in the Northeast to be split. Abhisit noted that the

Chart Thai party, or even the newly-formed Pracharat Party of

former Interior Minister Sanoh Thienthong, might pull a

meaningful number of votes from TRT in the Northeast.

 

FTA

 

BANGKOK 00005972 003 OF 003

 

11. (C) Abhisit pressed the Ambassador on whether the USG

would be able to negotiate a free trade agreement with the

interim government. When the Ambassador noted that

negotiations had effectively ended once Thaksin dissolved

parliament and became caretaker Prime Minister, Abhisit

indicated his focus was not on political optics but on legal

restrictions. The DP was watching closely the prospects of a

U.S.-Thai FTA, Abhisit said, implying that the party might

reconsider its previous opposition now that Thaksin\’s

administration would no longer be positioned to profit from

the agreement.

 

SURIN PITSUWAN\’S OPTIONS

————————

 

12. (C) Abhisit noted that former Foreign Minister Surin

Pitsuwan had been rumored as a potential candidate for

Foreign Minister in the soon-to-be-formed interim government.

One possible scenario involved the inclusion of both Surin

Pitsuwan and former TRT Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce

Minister Somkid Jatusripitak in the interim cabinet; this

scenario included Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda

becoming interim Prime Minister, Abhisit relayed, since Prem

had extensive experience dealing with political party

figures. Other scenarios even included Surin heading the

interim government, Abhisit said, while Surin also had made

it clear that he was available for the position of UN

Secretary General. Abhisit joked that, while ASEAN candidate

 

SIPDIS

Surakiart Sathirathai might appear opportunistic in having

jumped from Thaksin\’s camp to the CDR\’s, this quick shift

might demonstrate Surakiart\’s suitability to become UNSYG,

because it showed he could work with all sides in a dispute.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

13. (C) Abhisit appears to be among the many in Bangkok who

see the September 19 coup as a necessary step to rid the

country of Thaksin. He did not appear particularly troubled

by the current limitations on civil liberties and political

party activities, but he clearly anticipated that these would

be relaxed in the near future, especially if the CDR were to

install an interim Prime Minister capable of controlling the

security environment and containing the lingering influence

of Thaksin\’s loyalists.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 6:13 am

Posted in Confidential, Coup 2006

2 Responses

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  1. […] years after the 2006 coup, this Wikileaks cable of 28 September 2006, featuring Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva seems worthy of attention. In it, U.S. […]

  2. […] อ่านรายงานวิกิลีกส์เคเบิลเพิ่มที่ ไทยเคเบิลส์ […]


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