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04BANGKOK7216 THAILAND: PM THAKSIN KICKS OFF HIS RE-ELECTION CAMPAIGN WITH PROMISES APLENTY

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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 007216

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, EAP/BCLTV

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV ECON TH TRT

SUBJECT: THAILAND: PM THAKSIN KICKS OFF HIS RE-ELECTION

CAMPAIGN WITH PROMISES APLENTY

 

REF: (A) BANGKOK 7186 (B) BANGKOK 6995

 

¶1. (U) Summary. In a live nationally-televised Bangkok

rally on October 17, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

officially opened his run for re-election with a flurry of

“populist” promises to the Thai voters. From job training

programs and new housing projects to expanded transportation

systems and river basin development, Thaksin promised to

eradicate poverty in Thailand within his next term if his

government is given another four year lease in office.

Thaksin was in rare form, alternately boasting of his ability

to deliver while lambasting the main opposition Democrat

Party (DP) for its inability to do so. In a calculated ploy

to humanize his image, Thaksin admitted to a tendency to lose

his temper with critics and bemoaned the effect of being

Prime Minister on his sex life. DP Leader Banyat Bantadtan,

not surprisingly, criticized Thaksin for holding a gaudy

campaign inauguration while providing no answers to the

issues of Avian Flu and southern violence. Despite — or

perhaps because of — recent polls showing a softening in

voter support, the Prime Minister is mounting a pronouncedly

populist political campaign that offers something for

everyone in Thai society. End Summary.

 

GRAND OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF THAKSIN’S SECOND BID

 

¶2. (U) PM Thaksin formally launched his bid for a second

four year term before thousands of loyalists from his Thai

Rak Thai (TRT) party in a nationally televised extravaganza

on October 17. The Hua Mark indoor Stadium venue in Bangkok

was connected through a teleconferencing link to thousands

more TRT supporters at eight locations throughout Thailand,

including Samut Sakhon, Chon Buri, Chiang Mai, Nakhon

Ratchasima, Khon Kaen, Nakhon Phanom, Saraburi and

Phattalung. The Prime Minister came with a full bag of

trademark “populist” promises for his next term, designed to

appeal especially to voters in the nation’s 74,000 villages.

Vowing to the national audience that he will eradicate

poverty in Thailand over the next four years, Thaksin

promised his crucial rural constituency that his earlier

rotating village fund scheme will evolve into a system of

village “banks” offering easy access to loans for farmers.

Thaksin also announced that his government will form a

organization to take out loans for poor farmers that the

recipients will be able to repay with produce and livestock.

 

¶3. (U) Thaksin declared that his second administration will

also dispatch “poverty eradication caravans” throughout

Thailand to provide job training for the unemployed, who

would also be given a 100 baht daily allowance (approx. 41

baht equals 1 US dollar) for participating. Thaksin also

promised that land right papers will be issued to squatting

farmers who are now occupying and using public land. In

another nod to the nation’s lower income group, Thaksin

announced that he will expand his 30 baht medical care

program through increased levies on tobacco, alcohol and

other “vices.” The poor will also be given more low cost

housing and slums will be eradicated (though no one will be

forced to leave them, he reassuringly added).

 

¶4. (U) Thaksin also provided for Thailand’s middle class in

his package of promises. Addressing a subject dear to the

heart of every Bangkok commuter — the city’s massive traffic

jams — Thaksin vowed to spend 1.1 trillion baht to improve

traffic flow in and around the capital. He promised to build

more “sky train” (elevated tracked transport) and subway

routes — while keeping fares low for the ridership. Tax

deductions up to 60,000 baht will be offered to those caring

for elderly parents. Small business will be granted a higher

tax deductible income base on their revenue. Thaksin told

his supporters and the nationwide audience that that his

second administration also will develop the country’s river

basins and construct more reservoirs to combat drought.

Bureaucratic performance will be improved and corruption

addressed.

 

“I CAN DELIVER”

 

¶5. (U) Thaksin, casually dressed in his TRT party jacket

and clearly dominating his enthusiastic, flag-waving crowd,

repeatedly pumped on the theme of TRT’s ability to deliver on

its promises. He outlined his own successes and also made

repeated references to the opposition Democrat Party’s

“failures.” Referring to the question of how he will fund

all of his promised programs, Thaksin — the country’s most

successful businessman — declared that “we have the money

because I know how to make money. And when I promise to do

something, you can be sure I can deliver, unlike the other

party that failed because they promised but couldn’t

deliver.” Thaksin referred proudly to his record as prime

minister over the past four years, pointing out that during

this period Thailand came out of the economic crisis that had

plagued it since 1997. (Note: Thaksin emphasized how his

government has performed for the nation’s economy. For

example, he pointedly noted to his audience in the DP

stronghold southern city of Phattalung that under his

administration rubber and palm oil prices are good, as are

tourist numbers)

 

THAKSIN MAKES SOME INTERESTING ADMISSIONS

 

¶6. (U) Thaksin told the assembled faithful that, though

weary from his four years in office, he believed he had

successfully addressed many of the country’s problems. In a

moment of introspection, Thaksin admitted that he had been

“rash and hot headed at times” with his critics, but vowed to

“keep cool.” (Note: This is not the first time the Prime

Minister has vowed to curb his famous temper.) Oddly, after

ruing that his duties as Prime Minister has given him little

time to spend with his family, he volunteered that “my sex

life also suffers.” The two-hour show concluded with

displays of cheering crowds, balloons and fireworks.

 

TRT TARNISHED IN RECENT MONTHS

 

¶7. (SBU) Comment: Thaksin has come out with a strong

populist platform that will undoubtedly excite his rural vote

base, if not the more skeptical Bangkok electorate. He is

anxious to shore up a widely perceived sag in his party’s

popularity since last summer’s win of the Bangkok

governorship by the Democrat Party. Troubled by an inability

thus far to stem chronic violence in the south and a recent

revival of the Avian Flu scare, Thaksin is talking more

defensively. His public comments scale back his earlier

predictions of a massive Thai Rak Thai win in the next

general election. In recent remarks, Thaksin appeared to

back away from his earlier call for 400 out of 500

parliamentary seats. On October 12, Thaksin told the

“Nation” newspaper that the TRT is “certain” to win 200 seats

and to take a proportionate number of the 100 party list

seats given automatic appointments in ratio to their parties’

total vote. Apart from the latest reshuffle (ref b), Thaksin

has been rolling out a number of public initiatives recently

to buttress his popularity. These include the recent

inauguration of a campaign against corruption, salary hikes

for low-level government employees and minimum wage

increases.

 

CAMPAIGNING TO ACCELERATE

 

¶8. (SBU) Comment continued: Election campaign-related

activities will continue to pick up. So will the exchange

between the opponents. DP Leader Banyat Bantadtan criticized

Thaksin for holding a gaudy campaign inauguration while

providing no answers to the issues of reemergence of Avian

Flu and southern violence. Thaksin, for his part, will

likely repeat his characterization of the DP as weak, out of

touch and unable to deliver on campaign promises. Thaksin

appears confident that his hold is secure on the vote-rich

north and northeast regions of the country. He is preparing,

however, for a battle with the DP for the much less certain

south and central regions. His campaign kickoff suggests

that Thaksin will rely on a re-election strategy of direct

appeal to voters over the head of local power brokers,

something similar to the method that served him so well in

2000-01. He is again prepared to offer the electorate as

many blandishments as it takes to win, whether they are

financially sound and fully realizable or not. End

Comment.

 

Written by thaicables

August 26, 2011 at 4:23 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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