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09BANGKOK2405 THAILAND’S MARCHING SEASON: BRAWL NEAR BORDER CONTRASTS WITH PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION IN BANGKOK

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“226127”,”9/21/2009 11:23″,”09BANGKOK2405″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“08BANGKOK3032|09BANGKOK2369|09BANGKOK2386|09BANGKOK983”,

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“C O N F I D E N T I A L

SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002405

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR BADER, WALTON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/21/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND\’S MARCHING SEASON: BRAWL NEAR BORDER

CONTRASTS WITH PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION IN BANGKOK

 

REF: A. 08 BANGKOK 3032 (POLITICAL CRISIS RETURNS TO THE

STREETS)

B. BANGKOK 983 (THAI PM ABHISIT BRIEFS AMBASSADORS)

C. BANGKOK 2386 (RED SHIRTS PREPARE TO MARCH )

D. BANGKOK 2369 (THAI-CAMBODIAN BORDER DISPUTE)

 

BANGKOK 00002405 001.2 OF 002

 

Classified By: POL Counselor George Kent, reason 1.4 (b,d)

 

1. (SBU) Summary: September 19 proved to be a day of dueling

political rallies in Thailand. The United Front for

Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), aka \”the red-shirt\”

supporters of fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin

Shinawatra, gathered in Bangkok to mark the third anniversary

of the military coup which removed Thaksin from office. The

rally, which featured a phone-in from the fugitive

billionaire, was peaceful; the crowd dispersed shortly after

midnight. Members of the People\’s Alliance for Democracy

(PAD), aka \”the yellow-shirts,\” marched in Sisaket Province

near the disputed Preah Vihear temple on the Cambodian border

to protest what they see as Cambodian encroachment on Thai

territory. A reported twenty people were injured in clashes

between PAD supporters and local red-sympathetic villagers

before officials negotiated a compromise which allowed PAD

leaders to issue a statement from a hilltop near the Preah

Vihear temple. The main column never reached closer than

three kilometers to the Thai-Cambodian border.

 

2. (C) Comment: In marked contrast to the violent

demonstrations that rattled Thailand from August-December

2008 and March-April 2009 (REF B), security forces in Bangkok

and Sisaket held their lines and prevented protesters from

both the red and yellow camps from reaching their stated

destinations (General Prem\’s residence and the border

hilltop, respectively). While Bangkok braced for possible

trouble from red-shirts that ultimately failed to

materialize, the real action this past weekend took place in

Sisaket, with the first red-yellow direct clashes since late

2008. In addition, elements of the so-called \”blue shirt\”

supporters of coalition party de facto leader Newin Chidchob

played an ambiguous and potentially provocative role, and the

police failed to keep locals and PAD marchers separate, but

the military eventually ensured the PAD march stopped well

short of the border. End summary and comment.

 

ALL QUIET ON THE BANGKOK FRONT…

———————————

 

3. (SBU) The red rally in Bangkok was peaceful as advertised

(REF C). An afternoon rainstorm scattered the early

arrivals, but by 9:00 p.m., when Thaksin addressed the crowd

by videolink, Bangkok police estimated there were about

32,000 people at Sanam Luang. Speeches by Thaksin and other

UDD leaders addressed the usual litany of red-shirt

grievances: the economy was doing worse; the judiciary was

politicized; Prime Minister Abhisit was feckless; and Privy

Council chair Prem was to blame for all of it, often-times

characterized in crude and profane terms. Thaksin again

played coy about his eventual return, concluding: see you in

Thailand, though I don\’t know when.

 

4. (SBU) The rally continued for several hours after Thaksin

spoke, breaking up at around 12:30 a.m. Thanks to concerted

police action to block the streets leading to Prem\’s

residence nearby, the red-shirts did not follow-through on

their previously stated intent to march to Prem\’s home.

 

…BUT A HOT TIME IN SISAKET NEAR PREAH VIHEAR

——————————————— –

 

5. (SBU) In contrast, the PAD march in Sisaket province near

the Preah Vihear temple and Cambodian border turned nasty.

PAD secondary leader Veera Somkwamkid led an estimate 4,000

PAD supporters (note: none wearing yellow; they were clad in

either the black of the self-styled \”Sri Vichaya warriors\” or

the blue of the civilian followers of the Santi Asoke sect,

end note) to demand Cambodia withdraw its presence from the

disputed territory around the Preah Vihear temple site and to

protest Thai government and army inaction in the face of

Cambodian actions.

 

BANGKOK 00002405 002.2 OF 002

 

6. (SBU) Local authorities and up to 2000 red-sympathetic

villagers were in no mood to facilitate the march, however,

and formed a blockade in a town roughly 10 km from Pha Mo I

Daeng hill, the PAD intended destination. At about 1320, the

PAD marchers broke through the police line, and the PAD

marchers and villagers began a rolling brawl which lasted on

and off for three hours. Veera subsequently claimed to us

the local authorities paid the intoxicated villagers 300 baht

each.

 

7. (C) As captured on film and published in the next day\’s

papers, both sides were armed with rudimentary weapons:

sticks, rocks, clubs, machetes, and slingshots — the most

dramatic shot showed a machete-ared villager looking to

slash a barefoot PAD marcer sprawled on his back in a field;

twenty peopl were injured in the melee. XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX said that \”blue shirt\” brawlrs

associated with Newin, the political godfathe of Sisaket

province, played a role in sparking he clash, as they

allegedly did in Pattaya with ed-shirts in April (note:

Newin\’s faction was allied with Thaksin and part of the

red-shirt movemet until December. End note). Sisaket

Governor aphi Phongbunphakit, a political ally of Newin,

old us that five of those injuries warranted an ovrnight

stay in the hospital, without specifying to which faction

they belonged. PAD leader Veera nsisted that 15 of those

wounded were PAD supporers.

 

8. (SBU) Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thuasuban authorized

acting National Police Chief Thnee Sombounsap to negotiate

with the PAD on behalf of the government. Thanee

participated via phoe, while Governor Raphi, the second area

army comander and Sisaket deputy police chief, negotiated

face-to-face with Veera and the PAD. Raphi toldus the

resulting agreement permitted a limited group of PAD members

to climb Pha Mo I Daeng hill o Sunday, September 20 to read

the PAD statement.The army steadfastly refused to let the

main PADcolumn get within three kilometers of the border.

The reading of the PAD statement took place without incident

September 21, and the PAD protesters dispersed.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:58 am

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