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08BANGKOK2856 PAD DEFIANCE CONTINUES AS THE PAD HIGHLIGHTS PM-ELECT SOMCHAI\’S TIES TO THAKSIN

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“170580”,”9/19/2008 10:01″,”08BANGKOK2856″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“CONFIDENTIAL”,”08BANGKOK2592″,”VZCZCXRO6648

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SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/19/2018

TAGS: PGOV, PINR, KDEM, TH

SUBJECT: PAD DEFIANCE CONTINUES AS THE PAD HIGHLIGHTS

PM-ELECT SOMCHAI\’S TIES TO THAKSIN

 

REF: BANGKOK 2592 (PAD PRIMER)

 

BANGKOK 00002856 001.2 OF 003

 

Classified By: Ambassador Eric G. John, reason: 1.4 (b) and (d).

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) The People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) — the group

currently occupying and befouling the formal seat of

government — has shown no sign it intends to end its protest

in the near future, despite having achieved its initial

rationale for occupying the Government House compound in the

first place: the departure of former PM Samak from office.

Leading PAD figures reiterated their opposition to Prime

Minister-elect Somchai Wongsawat, worrying he will advance

the interests of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin, and have

forged a new agenda. The police remain unwilling to storm

the protest site but reportedly are poised to arrest PAD

leaders once they leave Government House. An Appeals Court

has decided to consider (at a date uncertain) an appeal of

the arrest warrants for nine PAD leaders, offering a

potential way out of the impasse. A pro-government group

affiliated with the People\’s Power Party (PPP) plans to hold

a rally on the evening of September 19 to mark the second

anniversary of the 2006 coup d\’etat.

 

2. (C) Comment: If the court were to dismiss the arrest

warrants for PAD leaders, the protestors might be able to

declare victory and safely vacate Government House; Senator

Lertrat Ratanavanich suggested to us September 17 this might

prove a way of escaping the current political standoff.

Alternatively, the PAD might await Thaksin\’s conviction on

abuse of power charges, although the verdict in that case is

not scheduled for delivery until October 21. We have no

basis to dismiss the PAD\’s suspicion that the incoming

administration will continue to advance the interests of

former Prime Minister Thaksin, although, unlike his

predecessor, Somchai has not publicly touted his loyalty to

Thaksin. If Somchai maintains an earnest and

non-confrontational persona, the PAD may find the Thai public

increasingly unsupportive of its rabble-rousing ways; numbers

of supporters at the Government House compound dropped

dramatically in the week after Samak\’s departure, though

heavy rains also played a role. Although Somchai\’s leeway to

select his cabinet members is surely constrained by

commitments to the leaders of PPP factions and other parties,

his appointments could help to stoke or deflate popular

support for the PAD. End Summary and Comment.

 

PAD COMMENTS ON SOMCHAI\’S ELECTION

———————————-

 

3. (U) King Bhumibol on September 18 signed a royal command

endorsing Somchai Wongsawat\’s election as Prime Minister.

The Palace has not announced the date for the inauguration of

Somchai and his yet-to-be-named cabinet, but public

speculation indicates it could be as early as September 22.

Leading PAD figures have publicly rejected the notion of

ending their continuing protest at Government House, the

formal seat of government. PAD spokesman Suriyasai Katasila

announced several steps that he felt Somchai should take,

including:

 

– Dispelling suspicions (based on Somchai\’s wife Yaowapa

being former PM Thaksin\’s sister) that Somchai would further

Thaksin\’s interests;

 

– Committing to continued prosecution of Thaksin for abuses

committed during his time in office;

 

– Addressing concerns raised by the inscription of the Preah

Vihear temple on the UNESCO World Heritage List; and

 

– Explaining his intentions regarding possible amendment of

the constitution (which many suspect would be pursued with an

eye toward promoting Thaksin\’s interests).

 

BANGKOK 00002856 002.2 OF 003

 

4. (U) Separately, PAD co-leader Chamlong Srimuang echoed

elements of Suriyasai\’s agenda, noting that the Samak

administration (in which Somchai held a deputy premiership)

had engaged in corrupt practices. Chamlong added a call for

the revocation of the diplomatic passport that Thaksin holds

by virtue of his status as a former Prime Ministers.

 

RISKING ARREST

————–

 

5. (U) The PAD\’s protest continues at Government House,

though with significantly fewer supporters on hand. Press

reports indicate that the police are waiting for the PAD

leaders to leave the compound before arresting them.

 

6. (U) A Court of Appeals on September 17 decided to accept

for consideration a petition from PAD leaders that requested

review of the warrants issued for their arrest. It is

unclear when the Court might rule on the warrants. PAD\’s

core leaders are charged with violating the following

articles of the Criminal Code:

 

– Article 113, which provides for capital punishment or life

imprisonment for those engaging in insurrection, defined as a

threatened or actual act of violence aiming to \”overthrow or

change the constitution,\” or to undermine the legislative,

executive or judicial branches.

 

– Article 114, which provides for punishment of three to 15

years\’ imprisonment for those who plot or contribute to

insurrection, as defined above.

 

– Article 116, which provides for up to seven years\’

imprisonment for anyone who publicly incites disturbances;

encourages illegal actions; or encourages the use of violence

to change the laws or government.

 

– Article 215, which provides for varying degrees of

punishment (potentially as minor as a small fine) for members

of any group of 10 or more people who \”cause a breach of the

peace\” or commit or threaten violence.

 

– Article 216, which imposes additional penalties (again,

potentially as minor as a small fine) for members of a group

in violation of Article 215 if they fail to disperse when the

authorities order them to do so.

 

HOPES FOR A POSSIBLE WAY OUT?

—————————–

 

7. (SBU) GEN Lertrat Ratanavanich, an appointed Senator whom

the Senate Chair had tapped to try to facilitate dialogue

between the Army and the PAD, told us September 17 that he

hoped Somchai\’s non-confrontational manner and the Appeals

Court decision to accept the PAD appeal of the arrest

warrants, several weeks after having rejected the appeal,

offered a possible way out of the impasse. Lertrat suggested

Somchai could send signals of his willingness to meet several

PAD demands, such as pledging not to push forward

Constitutional amendments that would help Thaksin. However,

the key to resolving the PAD occupation, in his view, was the

possible court appeal – to allow the PAD leaders to save face

by exiting the Government House compound without being

arrested.

 

PALACE TIES OF THE PAD?

———————–

 

8. (C) While criticizing Somchai as a likely proxy for

Thaksin, PAD\’s leaders are themselves seen as acting on

behalf of figures at the Palace. Reftel noted rumors of

Queen Sirikit\’s support for the PAD. In late August,

Princess Sirindhorn instructed the Thai Red Cross, for which

she holds the title of Executive Vice President, to prepare

medical teams and supplies to assist in the event of clashes

between PAD and the authorities. An expatriate with close

ties to the Queen\’s circle assured us on September 17 that

 

BANGKOK 00002856 003.2 OF 003

 

the PAD had \”handlers\” (presumably people with royalist

sympathies) who, with relative ease, would be able to direct

an end the PAD\’s rallies at the appropriate time.

 

UDD COUNTER-DEMONSTRATORS TO MARK COUP ANNIVERSARY

——————————————— —–

 

9. (U) The United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship

(UDD) announced it would hold a demonstration at the Royal

Grounds (Sanam Luang) in the evening of September 19 to mark

the second year anniversary of the September 19, 2006 coup

that deposed ex-PM Thaksin. Army Commander Anupong Paojinda

publicly reminded demonstrators they should not carry weapons

to their rally.

 

10. (SBU) UDD co-founder Veera Muskiapong claimed to us

September 10 that the September 2 street violence

precipitated by pro-government toughs and attributed to UDD

was unplanned and not under UDD direction. His hope for UDD

rallies in Bangkok had been for UDD to draw more supporters

than PAD and show that they were more peaceful and law

abiding than the PAD; the result was the opposite, tarnishing

UDD\’s reputation.

 

11. (SBU) In comparison to the post-coup period, in which

Veera and several other veterans of the pro-Thaksin \”People\’s

Television\” station (PTV) took over coordination of a

wide-range of anti-coup groups and provided centralized

leadership, the pro-government street efforts since August 26

had a more decentralized structure, Veera stated. Veera, who

claimed he was sick the night of September 1 and not at Sanam

Luang when the pro-government mob moved towards the PAD

encampment, said that PPP MP Pracha Prasobdee, who openly

admitted helping orchestrate the pro-government demonstration

under the \”People\’s Group for the Protection of Democracy\”

banner, now leans more toward violent confrontation.

JOHN

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Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 5:51 am

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