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05BANGKOK3471 THAILAND: TRT FACTIONAL TENSIONS FLARE OVER AUDITOR-GENERAL CONTROVERSY

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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 003471

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV. HQ USPACOM FOR FPA HUSO.

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV TH TRT

SUBJECT: THAILAND: TRT FACTIONAL TENSIONS FLARE OVER

AUDITOR-GENERAL CONTROVERSY

 

REF: (A) BANGKOK 3381 (B) BANGKOK 2347

 

¶1. (SBU) Summary: Opposition to Thai Senate efforts to

replace popular Auditor-General Charuvan — up to now led by

the Democrat Party (DP) — has been taken up by one of the

ruling Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party’s key factions. Powerful

TRT faction leader Sanoh Thienthong has drawn Prime Minister

Thaksin’s ire by spearheading a petition by some 60 TRT MPs

to the Senate against submitting to the King the nomination

of former Finance Ministry Deputy Permanent Secretary Wisut

Montriwat as Charuvan’s replacement. Prime Minister Thaksin,

whose administration may be vulnerable to Charuvan’s drive to

root out government malfeasance, has reportedly retorted that

MPs should not meddle in actions by the Senate. The bold

move by Sanoh in an atmosphere of heightened attention to

allegations of bribe-taking by politicians in the awarding of

new airport construction contracts cracks the facade of unity

that the TRT had hoped to present to its critics in academia,

the press, political opposition and the general public. End

Summary.

 

MOVE TO REPLACE CRUSADING AUDITOR-GENERAL SPARKS CRITICISM

 

¶2. (U) As noted in ref. A, a decision in 2003 by the

Constitutional Court that Khunying Charuvan Methanaka’s

appointment as Auditor-General was unconstitutional led the

Senate on May 12 to name a successor, former Finance Ministry

Deputy Permanent Secretary Wisut Montriwat. This decision

sparked accusations — largely from opposition DP officials

— that the Thaksin administration influenced the nominally

non-political Senate to get rid of a troublesomely efficient

corruption investigator. Critics of efforts to replace

Charuvan say that the upper body has no constitutional

grounds on which to remove her and appoint a new successor.

Wisut’s supporters disagree.

 

THAI RAK THAI FACTION LEADER GETS INVOLVED IN CASE

 

¶3. (U) On May 26, reportedly up to 60 TRT MPs (of 377 total

TRT congresspersons in the 500 seat lower house of

Parliament), headed by disgruntled TRT Wang Nam Yen faction

leader Sanoh Thienthong, appealed for Senate Speaker Suchon

Chaleekrua not to submit Wisut’s name to the King as

replacement for Charuvan. In their letter to the Deputy

Speaker’s office, the MPs reasoned that the Constitutional

Court,s ruling, which declared the unconstitutionality of

the Senate’s earlier selection of Charuwan as the

Auditor-General, did not stipulate that she be removed from

the office. Therefore, they argued, the royal appointment of

Charuvan as the Auditor-General was still in effect, and that

presenting Wisut to the King as new Auditor-General would be

both unconstitutional and disrespectful to the King by

involving him in the controversy.

 

¶4. (U) Thaksin has reportedly scathingly rebuked some of

the MPs, telling a group on May 26 that the Senate’s actions

are not the business of the lower house and that they have to

follow the rules. Thaksin has had tense relations with Sanoh

Thienthong from the period of his first administration

(2001-5), when Sanoh regularly complained that he and his

faction were being eclipsed by a rival faction headed by

Thaksin’s sister Yaowapha Wongsawasdi and not receiving

sufficient senior appointments in the Thaksin government.

The complaints of ill-treatment became louder following onset

of Thaksin’s second term earlier this year and selection of

Thaksin’s new cabinet.

 

POLITICS IN THE BACKGROUND

 

¶5. (U) Sanoh has not attempted to conceal his unhappiness

over what he considers the slighting treatment that he and

his faction members and allies have received from Thaksin in

the awarding of offices following February’s election (ref.

B). Sanoh’s Wang Nam Yen, and allied Wang Nam Yom and the

Suchart factions, feel that they were

“awarded” a relatively small number of cabinet posts compared

to Yaowapha Wongsawasdi’s Wang Buam Ban faction and the

Bangkok faction headed by Agriculture Minister Sudarat

Keyuraphun. Sanoh’s public show of support for Charuvan, a

bureaucrat considered potentially embarrassing to Thaksin’s

government, strongly reflects factional fissures and

jockeying for position and leverage within TRT.

 

POTENTIAL PROBLEM FOR THAKSIN

 

¶6. (SBU) Comment. No one is predicting the collapse of

Thaksin’s coalition. However, the bold move by Sanoh amidst

the furor over the allegations of bribe-taking by politicians

in the awarding of new airport construction contracts damages

any show of unity the TRT hoped to present to its critics in

academia, the press, its political opposition and the general

public. Sanoh is hardly the ideal champion for

anti-corruption. He has never enjoyed an untainted

reputation and his public support for Charuvan, and by

extension her campaign to uncover government malfeasance, is

a clear shot by Sanoh across Thaksin’s bows for his own

political reasons. It is a strong signal to the Prime

Minister that Sanoh and his allies can cause trouble if they

do not receive more generous treatment in the next Thaksin

cabinet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ARVIZU

Written by thaicables

August 28, 2011 at 6:13 am

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