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06BANGKOK2391 INCHING TOWARD A PARLIAMENT

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“61632″,”4/25/2006 10:14″,”06BANGKOK2391″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L BANGKOK 002391

 

SIPDIS

 

C O R R E C T E D C O P Y – DATES CHANGED IN PARA 1 AND PARA 5

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/24/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, Elections – Thai,

Thai Political Updates, SNAP Elections

SUBJECT: INCHING TOWARD A PARLIAMENT

 

Classified By: Political Counselor Susan M. Sutton 1.4 (b) (d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The April 23 \”rerun\” of the elections for

MP gave 17 more seats to the ruling Thai Rak Thai party, 9

seats to \”microparties\” and left 13 seats unfilled when

single candidates did not meet the 20 percent minimum. In

one constituency, voting could not be held when the election

commission refused to work (reftel); results of the delayed

vote are expected by tomorrow. The key to winning was to

have an opponent – only 5 candidates running unopposed got

more than the 20 percent minimum. The Election Commission

has announced one more round of voting on April 29, and is

permitting new candidates to register on April 26 and 27.

Depending on how many more microparty candidates come out of

the woodwork, the EC may be able to whittle down the number

of empty seats still further. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) After another grueling round of elections, there are

still 13 unfilled seats in the Parliament. (All results are

based on press reports, since the EC has not announced

official results, but the numbers are probably basically

correct). TRT picked up 17 more seats. This included two

re-runs in the central part of the country; in both of these

districts, TRT narrowly outpolled the \”no\” vote. In 5

constituencies where it was running unopposed, including 4 in

the South, TRT got past the twenty percent minimum (just

barely in several cases) although it did not outpoll \”no

vote\” plus spoiled ballots. In the other constituencies, TRT

had opponents and so was able to win, but in many cases, with

low support. In Phukhet, for example, TRT won with 8,000

votes, but there were 30,000 \”no votes.\” In Songkhla, TRT

won one seat with 8,600 votes vs. 50,000 \”no votes.\” The key

to winning was to have an opponent, and thus evade the 20

percent minimum.

 

3. (C) The new parliament will also have an opposition. 9

microparties won seats in the second round, including all the

constituencies in Krabi and one seat each in Phetchaburi and

Prachuab Khiri Khan (the most northerly southern provinces.)

The Phlang Prachachon party won 5 seats (in Krabi and Trang);

The People\’s Party for Debt Forgiveness won three (in

Narathiwat, Phetchaburi and Phatthalung) and Prachakon Thai

won one (in Prachuab). They will join the one non-TRT member

to win in the first round, a \”Debt Forgiveness\” party member

from Nakhon Si Thammarat (who got less than 4,000 votes to

beat a TRT opponent.) The other parties\’ platforms are not

well-known yet, but the earlier winner from the \”Debt

Forgiveness\” party told the press that he wanted the

government to stop funding megaprojects and use the money to

pay off rural debt instead.

 

4. (C) This leaves 13 unfilled seats in the southern

provinces. TRT has taken taken most of the seats in the far

south (Narathiwat, Yala and Songkhla) in almost every case by

beating a microparty opponent. Two seats in Pattani will be

contested in the next round, with the rest of the 13

scattered around the South.

 

5. (C) The Election Commission announced Monday evening that

it would hold a final round of votes on Saturday April 29, and

it would re-open registration for new candidates on Wednesday

and Thursday. This last stroke from the EC might enable it

to fill all or almost all the constituency seats. There will

be almost no time for challenges to these candidates before

Sunday\’s vote. Even if the microparty candidates are later

disqualified, as hundreds of would-be candidates have been so

far, it may not matter much. Once the vote if over and the EC

has certified the results, the parliament can be seated and

proceed with business. Even if a candidate is subsequently

disqualified, the worst likely result is a by-election,

conducted safely after the Parliament is in session. The new

parliament will still come up short, as TRT won all the party

list seats, but is one person short of the 100 required,

after one candidate joined the monkhood. The Constitutional

Court will probably still have to rule on the opening of the

truncated parliament, but the fewer the vacant seats, the

more palatable it will be to allow the Parliament to open.

 

ARVIZU

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 7:58 am

06BANGKOK1208 PERSPECTIVES ON CURRENT POLITICAL STALEMATE

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“54603″,”2/28/2006 11:46″,”06BANGKOK1208″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“05BANGKOK7197|06BANGKOK1091|06BANGKOK538″,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001208

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, Thai Political Updates, Thai Prime Minister, Elections – Thai

SUBJECT: THAILAND: PERSPECTIVES ON CURRENT POLITICAL

STALEMATE

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 1091

B. BANGKOK 0538

C. 05 BANGKOK 7197

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary and Introduction: The Thai political system

is working through its biggest crisis since 1992. Prime

Minister Thaksin Shinawatra enjoyed a precipitous rise to

power in 2001. Since then, he has dominated all the elements

of government that were intended to balance the increased

powers given the PM in the 1997 constitution. This has

revealed weaknesses in the constitution and the political

system that Thaksin has no interest in fixing, since they

benefit him. Faced with a tilted playing field, the

opposition, at least for now, has resorted to a time-honored

tactic of minority parties: to boycott elections in order to

highlight their inherent unfairness. This move may force an

impasse that takes Thai politics into territory uncharted by

the constitution. At this point, we believe there is a

reasonably good chance the Thai will work through this

problem peacefully, and in a way that will be considered

generally acceptable and legitimate here. This may involve

some creative interpretations of their constitution; a role

for the King is entirely conceivable. Embassy recommends

that the USG message emphasize:

1) respect for democratic process;

2) importance of restraint and peaceful methods; and

3) resolution that reflects the will of the Thai people.

We are in a good position. We have frank communications with

the government, NGOs and the opposition parties. We have

used our contacts with police and military to caution against

the use of force against peaceful demonstrators, a coup, or

other illegal intervention by the security forces. We should

allow the players here to work through the problem, carefully

limiting our statements to avoid being seen as taking sides.

End Summary and Introduction

 

IVORY TOWER MEETS SMOKY BACK ROOM

———————————-

 

2. (C) Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has changed the

nature of Thai politics. The 1997 constitution sought to

strengthen the role of the Prime Minister in order to avoid

continuation of weak, short-lived and often ineffective

governments that had plagued Thailand under civilian rule.

The constitution also called for the creation of a range of

institutions to counterbalance that increased power. For

example, the state was supposed to divest itself of control

of broadcast media by allocating broadcast frequencies in a

transparent manner through an independent regulatory agency.

It was supposed to have strong anti-corruption watchdogs in

the National Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC) and the

Auditor General. A non-partisan Senate, composed of

respected and well-known leaders of society, was supposed to

be involved in the selection of the members of these

institutions, with the King approving them.

 

3. (C) The problem is, it didn\’t work. The Senate is not

an independent body. A large number of the senators are

unabashed TRT supporters, whether through conviction or out

of self-interest, in exchange for pay-offs or other favors.

In a cascade effect, one after another of the watchdog

institutions has either succumbed to TRT control or been

strangled at birth. The Election Commission and the

Constitutional Court are widely believed to be excessively

influenced by TRT. The NCCC and the National Broadcasting

Commission are not functioning, due to bureaucratic problems

in a Senate that lacks the commitment to push through

credible appointments to these important oversight bodies.

Money politics is nothing new here, but Thaksin is one of the

richest men in Thailand, and he has played the game expertly.

The drafters of the Constitution clearly underestimated that

ability of a strong, determined Prime Minister to turn these

institutions into toothless tigers.

 

4. (C) As we have reported (ref A, C), the opposition parties

see no way to break through the TRT\’s control of the media

and other institutions. Given only a month to organize a

electoral challenge, the main opposition parties have opted

– for the time being — not to lend legitimacy to this

process by participating in it. As they further point out,

the problem is not with the Parliament, the problem is with

Thaksin. Meanwhile, the demonstrators are not calling for

new elections, they are demanding Thaksin\’s removal,

primarily because they believe, with some justification, that

he violated the law with some aspects of his Shin Corp sale

(ref B), and that he will get away with it because no

institution is strong enough to hold him accountable.

 

HIT THE \’RESET\’ BUTTON

———————-

 

5. (C) What will happen now? It is possible that Thaksin and

the TRT will hang together and barrel forward to elections on

April 2, without the participation of the boycotters.

However, we think that this is an unlikely outcome at this

point. Without the three opposition parties, the elections

will clearly lack legitimacy.

 

6. (C) At one end of the spectrum, there are solutions to

the impasse that bring the opposition parties back to the

table. Thaksin may finally offer a compromise acceptable to

them. Yesterday, he announced he was willing to discuss

constitutional reform issues, but his offer fell so far short

of the opposition party demands that they could not accept

it. Today, he said he was willing to delay the elections to

give the opposition more time to prepare. Thaksin knows that

the opposition parties decided on the boycott strategy with

great reluctance, and may be open to compromise. The NGOs

that are leading the charge against the PM will keep the

pressure on the parties to hold the line, however.

 

7. (C) Or, the Thai ship of state may sail off into uncharted

territory for a while. Commentators are referring to the

constitution\’s Article 7: \”Whenever no provision under this

Constitution is applicable to any case, it shall be decided

in accordance with the constitutional practice in the

democratic regime of government with the King as Head of

State.\” This seems to be a very Thai provision that

essentially says, \”do whatever works as long as most everyone

can agree on it, and the King will approve it.\” Solutions at

this end of the spectrum could involve more direct pressure

on Thaksin to resign, the appointment of some kind of

interim, compromise government under the royal aegis to

oversee constitutional changes and new elections, or some

other option we haven\’t thought of yet.

 

OUR ROLE – DON\’T GET IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS

——————————————

 

8. (C) Our first interest is to use our influence to ward

off any move by the security forces to use force against

peaceful protesters or to intervene in the political process.

We have been emphasizing this concern with our RTG contacts.

So far, we believe that the police have made the decision to

behave responsibly in policing the demonstrations, and the

Army is reluctant to intervene. This is encouraging.

 

9. (C) Our next interest is to ensure that the U.S. is not

seen as taking sides in a political contest that needs to be

decided by the Thai people. Both sides have looked for ways

to drag the U.S. into this fight. Our FTA negotiations have

been used to whip up a frenzy of opposition to the Prime

Minister, who in turn likes to highlight his close

relationship with the U.S. In our statements, we should

emphasize the need for a peaceful outcome, but avoid getting

drawn into discussions about what is or is not constitutional

here. Because the TRT is attempting to paint the opposition

boycott as unconstitutional and illegal, we need to be

particularly careful about the words we choose.

 

SUGGESTED PRESS GUIDANCE

————————

 

10. (C) — We urge all parties in the current confrontation

in Thailand to refrain from the use of force and to find a

peaceful solution to the current impasse.

 

– Thailand has experienced a series of large demonstrations.

They have been peaceful. The police have behaved

responsibly. We believe that the Thai people have the

political maturity to continue to work toward a solution to

the political questions they are facing.

 

Q: Do we support the opposition\’s boycott of the elections?

A: — It is up to the Thai people to decide whether to

support the boycott or not.

 

Q: If the opposition parties don\’t participate in the

elections, are they free and fair?

A:– We are not going to speculate. We believe the Thai

people and their leadership can work through this problem.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:13 am

05BANGKOK6524 DEMOCRACY PROMOTION STRATEGIES FOR EAP FOCUS COUNTRIES – THAILAND

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“42631″,”10/14/2005 3:42″,”05BANGKOK6524″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”05BANGKOK6094|05SECSTATE169892″,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.”,

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 BANGKOK 006524

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/11/2015

TAGS: KDEM, PREL, TH, Democracy Promotion Strategies

SUBJECT: DEMOCRACY PROMOTION STRATEGIES FOR EAP FOCUS

COUNTRIES – THAILAND

 

REF: A) SECSTATE 169892 B) BANGKOK 006094

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR RALPH L.BOYCE, reasons 1.5 (b),(d)

 

1. (C) Summary and introduction: Thailand is the most

democratic country in the neighborhood, with a lively press

and fiercely competed elections. Thailand\’s remarkable

political development, after a long period of military rule,

progressed in tandem with its impressive economic

development, which gave its citizens greater access to

education and mass media, reinforcing the transition to

democracy. In 1997, Thailand adopted a new constitution,

meant to consolidate yet further the country\’s democratic

progress.

 

2. (C) Things have not gone quite as expected. The 1997

Asian financial crisis discredited the Democrat Party in

power during the initial recovery stages, and left the

population uncertain and eager for a strong leader. Thaksin

Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party took advantage

of the opening, winning a commanding majority in the 2001

elections and an even larger one in 2005. Thaksin is the

strongest Prime Minister in Thai history — the only one, in

fact, to serve out his full term and be re-elected. One of

the goals of the 1997 Constitution was to build a more stable

parliamentary system and stronger political parties by making

it more difficult for MPs to jockey for political advantage

by changing party affiliation. Thaksin has cleverly used

these provisions to increase the cohesion and clout of TRT

and expand his personal power. Thaksin also built his

personal stature with populist programs, like cheap credit

and cheap medical care, that won the enthusiastic support of

the poorer voters, especially in the rural areas. Thailand\’s

opposition parties and NGOs have never come up against

anything quite like Thaksin, and they are playing political

catch-up. Thailand remains a democracy, but one in which the

balance among the political and social forces is unhealthy.

 

3. (C) Post works on many levels to promote greater

democracy in Thailand. We are not optimistic that major

changes can occur here in the 6-8 month timeframe requested

in ref A, but we believe that post\’s interventions and

programs are already having effect here and will continue to

do so. The information below responds to the questions in ref

A. Specific suggestions for additional resources or other

Washington action are contained in paras 7,11,14,15,17 and

19. End summary and introduction.

 

4.(C) IDENTIFY THE KEY AREAS OF DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT

 

– Media Freedom. Thailand still has some of the most

lively and vibrant media in the region, but it is being

constricted. The government\’s use of libel suits and the

purchase of media outlets by \’Friends of Thaksin\’ have

limited the public\’s access to independent news. The

government is attempting to shut down many community radio

stations on weak, technical pretexts. Journalists have

questionable ethics and sensationalize stories to sell papers.

 

– Muslim unrest. In the South, the government lacks a smart

policy to combat anti-government violence, insurgency and

separatism. Society lacks mechanisms to promote

reconciliation and ethnic harmony. The security problem in

the South is a threat to democracy around the country, as the

government uses terrorism as an excuse for \”emergency\”

regulations that could limit individual freedoms, especially

press freedom. Security forces are implicated in human

rights abuses.

 

– Rule of law/law enforcement/transparency. Weak corporate

governance and transparency regulations foster money politics

and corrupt the political system. The poor performance by

police, due both to lack of training and lack of motivation,

contributes to human rights abuses. The security forces are

hampered by poor coordination and interagency distrust. In

the South, the lack of access to justice is one of the key

elements feeding anti-government feeling.

 

– Voter education/election monitoring. Given the lack of

opposition access to broadcast media, voters may have limited

information about their choices, or about criticisms of the

conduct of the elections. Vote buying and, in some areas,

voter intimidation, still occur.

 

– Weak institutions. The 1997 Constitution calls for a

range of independent institutions, starting with a

non-partisan Senate and including agencies to combat

corruption, oversee media, etc. These new institutions are

still too weak to accomplish their goals. In some cases, the

Senate has moved too slowly to establish these agencies; in

other cases, the government has effectively blocked the work

of agencies that might limit its power, or co-opted them.

The Senators are not the independent \”wise men\” foreseen in

the constitution; most are partisan, with the TRT faction

dominant.

 

5. (C) IDENTIFY THE 3-5 MOST IMPORTANT DESIRED OUTCOMES OVER

THE NEXT 6-8 MONTHS

 

– Media. Desired outcome: Journalists/civil society better

able to resist efforts by government and political interests

in limiting press freedom. Longer term goals: fewer threats

to independent media.

 

– Justice/South. Desired outcome: International interest

and raised RTG awareness lead to a decrease in security force

abuses in the South; government officials recognize that

overreaction only fuels insurgent, anti-government feeling.

Improved access to justice for Southern Muslims. Longer

term goals: improved administration of justice, improvements

in police and peaceful resolution of the conflict in the

South. Greater public confidence in the probity of government

institutions.

 

– Rule of Law/Law enforcement. Desired outcome: we cannot

expect to have any measurable impact in 6-8 months. In the

longer term, current embassy programs should contribute to

improved professional ethics by judges and lawyers. The most

important, and hardest, outcome to achieve is improved

performance by police and other security forces, both in

terms of competence and in terms of respect for human rights.

Making progress in this area would require a significant

increase in USG resources addressed towards the basic police

training academies and refresher training for working

officers.

 

– Elections. Desired outcome: effective engagement by civil

society on voter education and election monitoring, leading

to a free and fair election for the Senate in April/May 2006.

 

SIX MONTH DIPLOMATIC AND PROGRAMMATIC STRATEGY

——————————————— -

 

MEDIA

—–

 

6. (SBU) Post has a range of programs already in place to

support free and objective media

 

– We are about to begin a $500,000 project to expand and

improve objective media coverage of social and political

development throughout Thailand, with particular attention to

broader, accurate coverage of minority concerns, regional

developments and social conflict.

 

– Post regularly sends journalists on IV programs and

includes them in other PAO outreach activities.

 

7. (SBU) Post has several pending requests that would

contribute to strengthening independent media:

 

– Post has requested funding to support English-language

education for journalists. This is the fastest way to get

journalists access to a variety of viewpoints on political

issues.

 

– For journalism support particularly relevant to the

problems in the South, please see paras 10 and 12 below.

 

8. (C) Other measures to achieve desired outcomes:

 

– Post has highlighted the encroachments on press freedom in

our human rights report, and in conversations with Thai

officials.

 

– The Senate finally named the new National Broadcasting

Commission (NBC) just last week. PAO and POL intend to work

together to encourage the new NBC to act fairly and

objectively as it makes decisions on spectrum allocation. In

particular, we will emphasize the importance of a workable

system to permit community radio, one of the most promising

avenues to getting independent, relevant news to the voters.

 

MUSLIM UNREST/THE SOUTH

———————–

 

9. (C) The situation in the South is one of post\’s top

priorities. Security concerns make travel and programming in

the South difficult, but post has so far been able to

maintain a regular travel program. Post frequently raises

the problem of the South with Thai officials and civil

society at all levels. Widespread distrust of the US by

southern Muslims is one of the biggest obstacles post faces

in its outreach efforts.

 

– Post sends officers to the South regularly to meet with a

wide range of residents — officials, religious leaders, NGOs

and others from both Muslim and Buddhist communities.

 

– Post is monitoring the trial of police implicated in the

disappearance of a prominent Muslim lawyer. Post is

cooperating with a range of NGOs to follow the trial

proceedings and to underscore international concerns

regarding the case of this well-known Muslim leader and the

alleged role of police in his disappearance and presumed

death.

 

– Post maintains close contact with the National

Reconciliation Commission (NRC), the organization set up by

the government to prepare recommendations to end violence and

resolve the problems in the region. The NRC enjoys

considerable respect and credibility, and post underscores in

discussions at all levels the importance of taking the NRC

recommendations into account in setting government policy to

respond to the unrest in the area.

 

10. (C) Post has a vigorous outreach program in the South,

including three American corners at universities in the

region which have hosted DVCs and speaker programs. Through

the \”Shared Futures\” initiative, PAO has partnered with a

local Muslim organization to distribute \”branded\” backpack

kits to schoolchildren, and will work with a local vocational

institution to distribute 1,200 sewing machines to Muslim

villagers; this is aimed at empowering Muslim women

heads-of-household through micro-enterprise development.

Post involves members of the Muslim minority in the full

range of PAO programs, including IVs, and programs to promote

English-language study.

 

– Post also distributes information in the local Malay

dialect as well as Thai language, and has worked with the

broadcast media on programming, most recently supporting a TV

COOP project for a series of broadcasts on the American

Muslim community which will be airing over the next several

months. PAO is also using TV COOP programming from

Indonesia, which is has dubbed into local languages and is

currently being broadcast.

 

11. (SBU) We believe that several small steps could improve

Post\’s ability to reach out to this key community. First, we

could use publications geared to less-educated readers. Even

when translated, many Department publications are geared at

too high a level for these readers. Second, the local TV

stations in the Muslim area are hungry for additional

programming and we could place far more Department provided

broadcast programming if we had the English-language scripts

to facilitate translation.

 

12. (SBU) USAID is administering a $500,000 program for the

South implemented through Asia Foundation to help build

citizen engagement in and commitment to moderate democratic

values and institutions. The program, which is just getting

underway, focuses on efforts in three key areas –local

government, universities and Islamic schools. This

represents a major increase in USG resources directed toward

the problems in the South.

 

13. (C) Post has provided Department with a list of priority

projects for funding from the FY05 Supplemental Peacekeeping

Operations Allocations to Support the Global War on Terrorism

(ref B). One of post\’s top priorities for this funding is a

project to provide non-lethal weapons and civil disturbance

training for Thai military units deploying to the South. The

Thai military specifically requested this assistance, a sign

that its leaders are aware of the high cost of military

mistakes in responding to civil disturbances. Since late

2004, post has been cooperating with the Defense Institute of

International Legal Studies (DIILS) so that training through

the Joint Combined Exchanges and Training (JCET), Counterdrug

(Baker) and IMET programs include more comprehensive human

rights training for military forces before they deploy to the

South.

14. (C) If more resources were available: Post has also

requested support for conflict resolution and Muslim outreach

programs from the FY05 Supplemental PKO Allocations to

support the GWOT. We do not anticipate that all of these

projects can be funded with the available resources, but

believe that they all merit USG support (further details on

programs in ref B). These projects include:

 

– a program to study populist anti-terrorism movements and

to share other countries\’ approaches with Southern leaders

(cost: $29k)

 

– a program to promote journalistic responsibility and

investigative journalism in the South, in partnership with

the Association of Yala Journalists (cost: $25k)

 

– a program to support training for community radio

operators, in partnership with the Campaign for Popular Media

Reform (cost: $25k)

 

– a grant to a nascent NGO, \”Friends of Thai Muslim Women,\”

to help it establish itself and work to with Muslim women to

counter political extremism through development (cost: $7k)

 

15. (C) In addition, there are many Thai organizations

working to improve the administration of justice in the

South. Post would welcome the opportunity, for example, to

support the work of the legal aid alliance formed by the NRC,

the National Human Rights Commission and the Law Society,

which have set up legal aid centers in the South to provide

residents there with access to legal representation. There

would be many opportunities to work on projects like this

with good partners if additional funding were available.

 

RULE OF LAW/LAW ENFORCEMENT/TRANSPARENCY

—————————————-

 

16. (SBU) INL through the Narcotics Assistance Section (NAS)

takes the lead in these areas.

 

– NAS funds a ABA/CEELI program on judicial ethics; over

the next 8 months, this American Bar Association-conducted

program will hold seminars and training on Legal Ethics,

Judicial Ethics, and Prosecutor Ethics as well as a seminar

for the National Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC). It

will provide expertise for professional ethics curriculum

development, and support other public awareness/outreach

activities.

 

– INL supports a resident legal advisor from the Department

of Justice, who works on issues of legal and procedural

reform and anti-corruption measures.

 

– In designing upcoming police training through the

International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), NAS will

strengthen the human rights and professional responsibility

elements in its courses.

 

– For law enforcement training specifically oriented to the

situation in the South, please see para 13, above.

 

17. (C) If additional resources were available: Post

believes that increased resources for police training,

correctly used, could have an impact over the medium-to-long

term. INL currently restricts the training of provincial

police, in response to a series of extra-judicial killings

connected to an anti-drug campaign conducted in 2003.

Historically, the provincial police have had a poor record,

with cases of corruption, human rights abuses and ineffective

policing too common. Other elements of the security forces,

including National Police, have a somewhat better record,

although the lack of accountability is a pervasive problem

affecting all the security forces. There are officials

within the National Police who understand the need to

professionalize the force and who would work seriously with

us toward that goal. As an interim measure, post will review

the range of USG-sponsored training for security forces and

counter-terrorism, and look for ways to use existing programs

to also promote more responsible and accountable policing.

Following this review, post may advocate for a

carefully-considered expansion of USG police training,

perhaps along the model of ICITAP\’s Indonesia program.

 

VOTER EDUCATION/ELECTION MONITORING

————————————

 

18. (SBU) Post will monitor upcoming by-elections and the

Senate elections early next year.

– Post has regular contact with representatives of all the

main political parties and closely follows allegations of

unfair practices by the government to restrict their

activities, raising issues with RTG officials as appropriate.

 

– Post meets regularly with the main voter education and

monitoring organization, Pollwatch.

 

19. (C) If additional resources were available: Pollwatch

is underfunded and would benefit from additional support

through grants or collaboration with an appropriate US NGO,

such as NDI or IFES. Post will encourage Pollwatch to apply

for PAO-sponsored grants through the Democracy

Commission/small grants program, if funding for these is

available this year.

 

INSTITUTION BUILDING

——————–

 

20. (C) Post cannot expect to make much impact over the next

6-8 months on the building of stronger institutions. Many of

the agencies established in the 1997 Constitution to

safeguard civil liberties are appointed by the Senate, whose

term will end in March. Incumbents cannot run for

re-election, so all 200 seats will be open when the

elections are held in April or May 2006. Once we see the

composition of the new Senate, post will evaluate the

efficacy of possible programs, such as IV or speakers, that

might assist reformers. Given budget constraints, we will

probably be unable to do much programming with the new Senate

before the new fiscal year, but can begin outreach to the new

members immediately after the elections.

 

MAJOR NEEDS/MAJOR IMPEDIMENTS

—————————–

 

21. (C) Thailand is still significantly ahead of its

neighbors in its democratic development, and therefore it is

appropriate that the lion\’s share of democracy-building

resources are used elsewhere. Nonetheless, our strategy

outlined above shows that some additional resources could be

well-used to promote our democracy goals here.

 

SIGNIFICANT INFLUENCES

———————–

 

22. (C) The most significant influences contributing to

democratization here is Thailand\’s own civil society.

Thailand has a wealth of NGOs and advocacy groups, with

relatively few limits on their activities. Public awareness

of civil/human rights issues has grown with increased access

to media and education. Human rights NGOs maintain contacts

with international partners. Political parties campaign

vigorously. The push for more progress on democracy can and

must come from the Thai people. The US can provide support

by targeted diplomatic interventions and programs of the kind

outlined above.

 

CONSEQUENCES

————

 

23. (C) The US and Thailand enjoy an excellent relationship.

We have long and close ties to most sectors in Thai society,

from the political leaders of all parties, through the

military and up to the royal family. Thais and Americans are

connected by family ties, alumni associations, business

interests: we do not believe that there will be long-term

negative consequences to our efforts to support democracy

here. In the short term, we must recognize that the current

Prime Minister is famously sensitive to criticism and quick

to use nationalist and populist messages to build support for

his positions. Even though his soaring popularity has

sagged somewhat recently, he remains genuinely popular and

effective at using his office to rally support. Efforts

based on confrontation and direct public criticism of the PM

and his policies are unlikely, in our view, to be as

effective as those that build on the genuine progress

Thailand\’s other institutions have steadily built in recent

years.

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 7, 2011 at 6:07 am

05BANGKOK6524 DEMOCRACY PROMOTION STRATEGIES FOR EAP FOCUS COUNTRIES – THAILAND

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“42631″,”10/14/2005 3:42″,”05BANGKOK6524″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”05BANGKOK6094|05SECSTATE169892″

 

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

 

The full text of the original cable is not available.”,

 

 

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 BANGKOK 006524

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/11/2015

TAGS: KDEM, PREL, TH, Democracy Promotion Strategies

SUBJECT: DEMOCRACY PROMOTION STRATEGIES FOR EAP FOCUS

COUNTRIES – THAILAND

 

REF: A) SECSTATE 169892 B) BANGKOK 006094

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR RALPH L.BOYCE, reasons 1.5 (b),(d)

 

1. (C) Summary and introduction: Thailand is the most

democratic country in the neighborhood, with a lively press

and fiercely competed elections. Thailand\’s remarkable

political development, after a long period of military rule,

progressed in tandem with its impressive economic

development, which gave its citizens greater access to

education and mass media, reinforcing the transition to

democracy. In 1997, Thailand adopted a new constitution,

meant to consolidate yet further the country\’s democratic

progress.

 

2. (C) Things have not gone quite as expected. The 1997

Asian financial crisis discredited the Democrat Party in

power during the initial recovery stages, and left the

population uncertain and eager for a strong leader. Thaksin

Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party took advantage

of the opening, winning a commanding majority in the 2001

elections and an even larger one in 2005. Thaksin is the

strongest Prime Minister in Thai history — the only one, in

fact, to serve out his full term and be re-elected. One of

the goals of the 1997 Constitution was to build a more stable

parliamentary system and stronger political parties by making

it more difficult for MPs to jockey for political advantage

by changing party affiliation. Thaksin has cleverly used

these provisions to increase the cohesion and clout of TRT

and expand his personal power. Thaksin also built his

personal stature with populist programs, like cheap credit

and cheap medical care, that won the enthusiastic support of

the poorer voters, especially in the rural areas. Thailand\’s

opposition parties and NGOs have never come up against

anything quite like Thaksin, and they are playing political

catch-up. Thailand remains a democracy, but one in which the

balance among the political and social forces is unhealthy.

 

3. (C) Post works on many levels to promote greater

democracy in Thailand. We are not optimistic that major

changes can occur here in the 6-8 month timeframe requested

in ref A, but we believe that post\’s interventions and

programs are already having effect here and will continue to

do so. The information below responds to the questions in ref

A. Specific suggestions for additional resources or other

Washington action are contained in paras 7,11,14,15,17 and

19. End summary and introduction.

 

4.(C) IDENTIFY THE KEY AREAS OF DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT

 

– Media Freedom. Thailand still has some of the most

lively and vibrant media in the region, but it is being

constricted. The government\’s use of libel suits and the

purchase of media outlets by \’Friends of Thaksin\’ have

limited the public\’s access to independent news. The

government is attempting to shut down many community radio

stations on weak, technical pretexts. Journalists have

questionable ethics and sensationalize stories to sell papers.

 

– Muslim unrest. In the South, the government lacks a smart

policy to combat anti-government violence, insurgency and

separatism. Society lacks mechanisms to promote

reconciliation and ethnic harmony. The security problem in

the South is a threat to democracy around the country, as the

government uses terrorism as an excuse for \”emergency\”

regulations that could limit individual freedoms, especially

press freedom. Security forces are implicated in human

rights abuses.

 

– Rule of law/law enforcement/transparency. Weak corporate

governance and transparency regulations foster money politics

and corrupt the political system. The poor performance by

police, due both to lack of training and lack of motivation,

contributes to human rights abuses. The security forces are

hampered by poor coordination and interagency distrust. In

the South, the lack of access to justice is one of the key

elements feeding anti-government feeling.

 

– Voter education/election monitoring. Given the lack of

opposition access to broadcast media, voters may have limited

information about their choices, or about criticisms of the

conduct of the elections. Vote buying and, in some areas,

voter intimidation, still occur.

 

– Weak institutions. The 1997 Constitution calls for a

range of independent institutions, starting with a

non-partisan Senate and including agencies to combat

corruption, oversee media, etc. These new institutions are

still too weak to accomplish their goals. In some cases, the

Senate has moved too slowly to establish these agencies; in

other cases, the government has effectively blocked the work

of agencies that might limit its power, or co-opted them.

The Senators are not the independent \”wise men\” foreseen in

the constitution; most are partisan, with the TRT faction

dominant.

 

5. (C) IDENTIFY THE 3-5 MOST IMPORTANT DESIRED OUTCOMES OVER

THE NEXT 6-8 MONTHS

 

– Media. Desired outcome: Journalists/civil society better

able to resist efforts by government and political interests

in limiting press freedom. Longer term goals: fewer threats

to independent media.

 

– Justice/South. Desired outcome: International interest

and raised RTG awareness lead to a decrease in security force

abuses in the South; government officials recognize that

overreaction only fuels insurgent, anti-government feeling.

Improved access to justice for Southern Muslims. Longer

term goals: improved administration of justice, improvements

in police and peaceful resolution of the conflict in the

South. Greater public confidence in the probity of government

institutions.

 

– Rule of Law/Law enforcement. Desired outcome: we cannot

expect to have any measurable impact in 6-8 months. In the

longer term, current embassy programs should contribute to

improved professional ethics by judges and lawyers. The most

important, and hardest, outcome to achieve is improved

performance by police and other security forces, both in

terms of competence and in terms of respect for human rights.

Making progress in this area would require a significant

increase in USG resources addressed towards the basic police

training academies and refresher training for working

officers.

 

– Elections. Desired outcome: effective engagement by civil

society on voter education and election monitoring, leading

to a free and fair election for the Senate in April/May 2006.

 

SIX MONTH DIPLOMATIC AND PROGRAMMATIC STRATEGY

——————————————— -

 

MEDIA

—–

 

6. (SBU) Post has a range of programs already in place to

support free and objective media

 

– We are about to begin a $500,000 project to expand and

improve objective media coverage of social and political

development throughout Thailand, with particular attention to

broader, accurate coverage of minority concerns, regional

developments and social conflict.

 

– Post regularly sends journalists on IV programs and

includes them in other PAO outreach activities.

 

7. (SBU) Post has several pending requests that would

contribute to strengthening independent media:

 

– Post has requested funding to support English-language

education for journalists. This is the fastest way to get

journalists access to a variety of viewpoints on political

issues.

 

– For journalism support particularly relevant to the

problems in the South, please see paras 10 and 12 below.

 

8. (C) Other measures to achieve desired outcomes:

 

– Post has highlighted the encroachments on press freedom in

our human rights report, and in conversations with Thai

officials.

 

– The Senate finally named the new National Broadcasting

Commission (NBC) just last week. PAO and POL intend to work

together to encourage the new NBC to act fairly and

objectively as it makes decisions on spectrum allocation. In

particular, we will emphasize the importance of a workable

system to permit community radio, one of the most promising

avenues to getting independent, relevant news to the voters.

 

MUSLIM UNREST/THE SOUTH

———————–

 

9. (C) The situation in the South is one of post\’s top

priorities. Security concerns make travel and programming in

the South difficult, but post has so far been able to

maintain a regular travel program. Post frequently raises

the problem of the South with Thai officials and civil

society at all levels. Widespread distrust of the US by

southern Muslims is one of the biggest obstacles post faces

in its outreach efforts.

 

– Post sends officers to the South regularly to meet with a

wide range of residents — officials, religious leaders, NGOs

and others from both Muslim and Buddhist communities.

 

– Post is monitoring the trial of police implicated in the

disappearance of a prominent Muslim lawyer. Post is

cooperating with a range of NGOs to follow the trial

proceedings and to underscore international concerns

regarding the case of this well-known Muslim leader and the

alleged role of police in his disappearance and presumed

death.

 

– Post maintains close contact with the National

Reconciliation Commission (NRC), the organization set up by

the government to prepare recommendations to end violence and

resolve the problems in the region. The NRC enjoys

considerable respect and credibility, and post underscores in

discussions at all levels the importance of taking the NRC

recommendations into account in setting government policy to

respond to the unrest in the area.

 

10. (C) Post has a vigorous outreach program in the South,

including three American corners at universities in the

region which have hosted DVCs and speaker programs. Through

the \”Shared Futures\” initiative, PAO has partnered with a

local Muslim organization to distribute \”branded\” backpack

kits to schoolchildren, and will work with a local vocational

institution to distribute 1,200 sewing machines to Muslim

villagers; this is aimed at empowering Muslim women

heads-of-household through micro-enterprise development.

Post involves members of the Muslim minority in the full

range of PAO programs, including IVs, and programs to promote

English-language study.

 

– Post also distributes information in the local Malay

dialect as well as Thai language, and has worked with the

broadcast media on programming, most recently supporting a TV

COOP project for a series of broadcasts on the American

Muslim community which will be airing over the next several

months. PAO is also using TV COOP programming from

Indonesia, which is has dubbed into local languages and is

currently being broadcast.

 

11. (SBU) We believe that several small steps could improve

Post\’s ability to reach out to this key community. First, we

could use publications geared to less-educated readers. Even

when translated, many Department publications are geared at

too high a level for these readers. Second, the local TV

stations in the Muslim area are hungry for additional

programming and we could place far more Department provided

broadcast programming if we had the English-language scripts

to facilitate translation.

 

12. (SBU) USAID is administering a $500,000 program for the

South implemented through Asia Foundation to help build

citizen engagement in and commitment to moderate democratic

values and institutions. The program, which is just getting

underway, focuses on efforts in three key areas –local

government, universities and Islamic schools. This

represents a major increase in USG resources directed toward

the problems in the South.

 

13. (C) Post has provided Department with a list of priority

projects for funding from the FY05 Supplemental Peacekeeping

Operations Allocations to Support the Global War on Terrorism

(ref B). One of post\’s top priorities for this funding is a

project to provide non-lethal weapons and civil disturbance

training for Thai military units deploying to the South. The

Thai military specifically requested this assistance, a sign

that its leaders are aware of the high cost of military

mistakes in responding to civil disturbances. Since late

2004, post has been cooperating with the Defense Institute of

International Legal Studies (DIILS) so that training through

the Joint Combined Exchanges and Training (JCET), Counterdrug

(Baker) and IMET programs include more comprehensive human

rights training for military forces before they deploy to the

South.

14. (C) If more resources were available: Post has also

requested support for conflict resolution and Muslim outreach

programs from the FY05 Supplemental PKO Allocations to

support the GWOT. We do not anticipate that all of these

projects can be funded with the available resources, but

believe that they all merit USG support (further details on

programs in ref B). These projects include:

 

– a program to study populist anti-terrorism movements and

to share other countries\’ approaches with Southern leaders

(cost: $29k)

 

– a program to promote journalistic responsibility and

investigative journalism in the South, in partnership with

the Association of Yala Journalists (cost: $25k)

 

– a program to support training for community radio

operators, in partnership with the Campaign for Popular Media

Reform (cost: $25k)

 

– a grant to a nascent NGO, \”Friends of Thai Muslim Women,\”

to help it establish itself and work to with Muslim women to

counter political extremism through development (cost: $7k)

 

15. (C) In addition, there are many Thai organizations

working to improve the administration of justice in the

South. Post would welcome the opportunity, for example, to

support the work of the legal aid alliance formed by the NRC,

the National Human Rights Commission and the Law Society,

which have set up legal aid centers in the South to provide

residents there with access to legal representation. There

would be many opportunities to work on projects like this

with good partners if additional funding were available.

 

RULE OF LAW/LAW ENFORCEMENT/TRANSPARENCY

—————————————-

 

16. (SBU) INL through the Narcotics Assistance Section (NAS)

takes the lead in these areas.

 

– NAS funds a ABA/CEELI program on judicial ethics; over

the next 8 months, this American Bar Association-conducted

program will hold seminars and training on Legal Ethics,

Judicial Ethics, and Prosecutor Ethics as well as a seminar

for the National Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC). It

will provide expertise for professional ethics curriculum

development, and support other public awareness/outreach

activities.

 

– INL supports a resident legal advisor from the Department

of Justice, who works on issues of legal and procedural

reform and anti-corruption measures.

 

– In designing upcoming police training through the

International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), NAS will

strengthen the human rights and professional responsibility

elements in its courses.

 

– For law enforcement training specifically oriented to the

situation in the South, please see para 13, above.

 

17. (C) If additional resources were available: Post

believes that increased resources for police training,

correctly used, could have an impact over the medium-to-long

term. INL currently restricts the training of provincial

police, in response to a series of extra-judicial killings

connected to an anti-drug campaign conducted in 2003.

Historically, the provincial police have had a poor record,

with cases of corruption, human rights abuses and ineffective

policing too common. Other elements of the security forces,

including National Police, have a somewhat better record,

although the lack of accountability is a pervasive problem

affecting all the security forces. There are officials

within the National Police who understand the need to

professionalize the force and who would work seriously with

us toward that goal. As an interim measure, post will review

the range of USG-sponsored training for security forces and

counter-terrorism, and look for ways to use existing programs

to also promote more responsible and accountable policing.

Following this review, post may advocate for a

carefully-considered expansion of USG police training,

perhaps along the model of ICITAP\’s Indonesia program.

 

VOTER EDUCATION/ELECTION MONITORING

————————————

 

18. (SBU) Post will monitor upcoming by-elections and the

Senate elections early next year.

– Post has regular contact with representatives of all the

main political parties and closely follows allegations of

unfair practices by the government to restrict their

activities, raising issues with RTG officials as appropriate.

 

– Post meets regularly with the main voter education and

monitoring organization, Pollwatch.

 

19. (C) If additional resources were available: Pollwatch

is underfunded and would benefit from additional support

through grants or collaboration with an appropriate US NGO,

such as NDI or IFES. Post will encourage Pollwatch to apply

for PAO-sponsored grants through the Democracy

Commission/small grants program, if funding for these is

available this year.

 

INSTITUTION BUILDING

——————–

 

20. (C) Post cannot expect to make much impact over the next

6-8 months on the building of stronger institutions. Many of

the agencies established in the 1997 Constitution to

safeguard civil liberties are appointed by the Senate, whose

term will end in March. Incumbents cannot run for

re-election, so all 200 seats will be open when the

elections are held in April or May 2006. Once we see the

composition of the new Senate, post will evaluate the

efficacy of possible programs, such as IV or speakers, that

might assist reformers. Given budget constraints, we will

probably be unable to do much programming with the new Senate

before the new fiscal year, but can begin outreach to the new

members immediately after the elections.

 

MAJOR NEEDS/MAJOR IMPEDIMENTS

—————————–

 

21. (C) Thailand is still significantly ahead of its

neighbors in its democratic development, and therefore it is

appropriate that the lion\’s share of democracy-building

resources are used elsewhere. Nonetheless, our strategy

outlined above shows that some additional resources could be

well-used to promote our democracy goals here.

 

SIGNIFICANT INFLUENCES

———————–

 

22. (C) The most significant influences contributing to

democratization here is Thailand\’s own civil society.

Thailand has a wealth of NGOs and advocacy groups, with

relatively few limits on their activities. Public awareness

of civil/human rights issues has grown with increased access

to media and education. Human rights NGOs maintain contacts

with international partners. Political parties campaign

vigorously. The push for more progress on democracy can and

must come from the Thai people. The US can provide support

by targeted diplomatic interventions and programs of the kind

outlined above.

 

CONSEQUENCES

————

 

23. (C) The US and Thailand enjoy an excellent relationship.

We have long and close ties to most sectors in Thai society,

from the political leaders of all parties, through the

military and up to the royal family. Thais and Americans are

connected by family ties, alumni associations, business

interests: we do not believe that there will be long-term

negative consequences to our efforts to support democracy

here. In the short term, we must recognize that the current

Prime Minister is famously sensitive to criticism and quick

to use nationalist and populist messages to build support for

his positions. Even though his soaring popularity has

sagged somewhat recently, he remains genuinely popular and

effective at using his office to rally support. Efforts

based on confrontation and direct public criticism of the PM

and his policies are unlikely, in our view, to be as

effective as those that build on the genuine progress

Thailand\’s other institutions have steadily built in recent

years.

 

BOYCE

 

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:28 pm

08BANGKOK1293 THAI DEMOCRACY ABROGATED AND RESTORED: LESSONS LEARNED

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“151519″,”4/28/2008 8:31″,”08BANGKOK1293″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“CONFIDENTIAL”,”07BANGKOK5718″,”VZCZCXRO9460

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #1293/01 1190831

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 280831Z APR 08

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 2813

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 5878

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 4520

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 8628

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0650

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 5146

RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05 BANGKOK 001293

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/28/2018

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PHUM, KDEM, TH

SUBJECT: THAI DEMOCRACY ABROGATED AND RESTORED: LESSONS

LEARNED

 

REF: 07 BANGKOK 5718 (SUCCESSION MECHANICS)

 

BANGKOK 00001293 001.2 OF 005

 

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

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Despite Thailand\’s peaceful transition back to an

elected government, underlying tensions between certain

social groups remain unresolved. Many Thais initially

accepted the September 2006 coup because it offered a way out

of a grueling political crisis and appeared to have the

King\’s support. Thais increasingly soured on the

military-appointed interim administration as it proved

incapable of dealing with difficult problems, but the Army

preserved some of its credibility by allowing elections to

take place. We do not rule out the possibility of the

military taking sides in a continuing conflict between

representatives of different social classes; based on the

2006-2007 experience, Thais may trust the military to return

to the barracks after political interventions of limited

duration. It is unclear how changes in the role of the

monarchy would affect the likelihood or dynamics of any

potential future coups. Some informed observers speculate

that the King\’s death might spark extra-constitutional action

of some sort by the military. The formation of a pro-Thaksin

administration in February 2008 reveals limitations on the

Palace\’s power. Foreign pressure contributed to the return

to democratically-elected government but did not appear

decisive; most Thais in the governing class seemed to accept

USG restrictions on assistance as a reasonable response to

the 2006 coup, and the fact that these restrictions were

grounded in law helped to preserve good will toward the U.S.

End Summary.

 

WHAT PROMPTED THE COUP?

———————–

 

2. (SBU) Military leaders launched the 2006 coup d\’etat

during a time of protracted political crisis. In 2005, Prime

Minister Thaksin Shinawatra\’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party,

using a combination of populist appeal and money politics,

won an overwhelming majority in the parliament. Thaksin

absorbed into TRT the most successful power brokers in the

North and Northeast, as well as their political machines and

networks. As it looked increasingly improbable that existing

mechanisms could check Thaksin\’s power, protestors concerned

by allegations of corruption and autocratic practices took to

the streets, and some prominent figures called

(unsuccessfully) for King Bhumibol to intervene under the

cover of a vague constitutional provision. Army Commander

Sonthi Boonyaratglin and his colleagues launched their coup

only after months of widespread angst, periods of mass

protests in Bangkok, and when faced with upcoming elections

that appeared certain to reinforce Thaksin\’s political

position. In the immediate aftermath, many in Bangkok\’s

middle and upper classes welcomed the coup, and few prominent

figures denounced it.

 

WHY SUCH TEPID OPPOSITION TO THE COUP?

————————————–

 

3. (C) The coup leaders benefited from an appearance of

Palace endorsement. King Bhumibol publicly signaled his

acquiescence (if not support) when granting an audience to

Sonthi and the other coupmakers involved on the night of

their coup. Like many of their predecessors, the leaders of

the 2006 coup portrayed themselves as forced to act to

protect the King, highlighting their allegiance when

identifying themselves as (roughly translated) \”the Council

for Democratic Reform under the Monarchy\” (CDRM), and

receiving the King\’s imprimatur in the form of a Royal

Command appointing Sonthi as the head of the CDRM. We

believe signals of Palace support — or, at a minimum,

acceptance — played an important role in promoting the

public\’s acceptance of the coup, although other key factors

included widespread frustration with the ongoing political

crisis and faith in the coup leaders\’ promise to hold

 

BANGKOK 00001293 002.2 OF 005

 

elections in approximately one year.

 

4. (C) Politicians, with their lucrative livelihood at stake,

were the primary figures pressing publicly for a quick return

to a democratically-elected government. Even before the

coup, established Thai NGOs — which traditionally focus on

rural development — for the most part stayed away from

debates about national politics. After the coup, few NGOs

appeared to contribute meaningfully to pro-/anti-coup

discourse; the most visible and active NGOs were newly-formed

partisan organizations clearly linked to Thaksin, while even

smaller anti-coup groups that emerged were suspected to be

mere fronts established by the deposed PM\’s allies.

 

5. (C) Some student groups adopted positions toward the coup,

but students did not mobilize demonstrations, and their

collective opinion did not become a meaningful factor, unlike

in prior eras. In recent years, political issues generally

have not energized Thai students, especially at Bangkok\’s

most prestigious universities; student groups for the most

part were not involved in the pre-coup anti-Thaksin protests.

It appears that, under contemporary conditions, the

authorities would have to egregiously affront the

sensibilities of the elite and middle class in order to

generate a widespread student response.

 

FOREIGN PRESSURE NOT DECISIVE

—————————–

 

6. (C) The coup leaders and the interim administration had

many concerns influencing their willingness to proceed with

December\’s election, including their physical safety and

prospects for retaining political influence. The stakes for

the coup leaders were enormous; they had overthrown one of

Thailand\’s most powerful and vindictive Prime Ministers.

Thus, we find it difficult to imagine any set of foreign

sanctions that could have had a decisive impact while also

being compatible with the longstanding friendship between

Thailand and the West.

 

7. (C) The interim authorities at times demonstrated a

willingness to treat foreign attitudes as peripheral. For

example, the authorities were slow to rescind martial law in

much of the country, even though Surayud offered us his

assurance he would proceed rapidly on this oft-raised issue.

Nevertheless, the Thai did indicate sensitivity to foreign

opinion. When the interim cabinet was inaugurated in October

2006, King Bhumibol specified that repairing Thailand\’s

international image should be a top priority, along with

helping flood victims.

 

8. (C) While we believe USG restrictions on assistance to the

post-coup regime did not place decisive pressure on the

interim administration, our actions clearly registered our

view with the Thai public, and especially with those people

with ties to the Thaksin administration. The Ambassador has

received grateful thanks for the USG\’s advocacy for democracy

from leading PPP figures, including the current Foreign

Minister, as well as from leaders of the opposition Democrat

Party. The fact that our restrictions on assistance to the

interim administration were required by Section 508 of the

Foreign Operations Appropriation Act allowed us to convey

clearly that our actions constituted a direct response to the

coup and were mandated by U.S. law; they were not driven by

any agenda to favor any particular political faction (as

Thais might otherwise have suspected) and did not imply

renunciation of our alliance and friendship with Thailand.

Even General Sonthi in July 2007 told the Ambassador and a

visiting U.S. Congressman that he understood and accepted our

imposition of restrictions.

 

9. (C) The greatest confluence between foreign and domestic

interests may have lain in the economic realm. The interim

authorities set economic policies that imposed costs on

Thailand\’s foreign investors and trade partners. The Thai

business community and other opinion-makers realized that

economic conditions would continue to stagnate or deteriorate

until Thailand returned to traditional political practices

 

BANGKOK 00001293 003.2 OF 005

 

and restored a sense of stability and predictability,

necessary for both foreign and domestic investors.

 

WHAT WENT WRONG?

—————-

 

10. (C) Within weeks of the coup, the military leadership

fulfilled a commitment to hand governance over to a civilian

cabinet. While the public had high expectations for interim

Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont when he was appointed, many

in the political class questioned Surayud\’s appointment of a

cabinet consisting predominantly of senior or retired

bureaucrats, 20 of whom were at least 60 years old. With few

exceptions (such as controversial efforts at the Health

Ministry), Surayud and his cabinet were not inclined to use

their authority to push through bold reforms. Rather, most

interim administration members seemed content just to keep

the government functioning until they could hand the reins

over to elected officials. The Ministers who did take

energetic action seemed to do so without guidance or control

from the Prime Minister. Surayud\’s administration appeared

particularly inept at managing the economy. Moreover,

neither prosecutors nor independent corruption investigators

proved able to build a compelling legal case against deposed

Prime Minister Thaksin.

 

11. (C) Despite government attempts to discredit and

marginalize him, Thaksin remained popular, especially in some

rural areas. Political figures overtly loyal to him appeared

to have access to ample funds for their activities, and they

received a fair amount of media coverage. As the December

election approached, numerous polls and analyses indicated

that the pro-Thaksin People\’s Power Party (PPP) was likely to

win a plurality. Some pro-coup figures appeared reluctant to

return to democracy in that environment, but they were unable

to roll back the legal and public commitments to elections,

which enjoyed widespread support, including from Prime

Minister Surayud and the general public.

 

ROYALISTS COULDN\’T BLOCK THAKSIN BUT AREN\’T VANQUISHED

——————————————— ———

 

12. (C) The 2007 election provided a useful indicator of the

limits of Palace influence. Plausible rumors in the period

leading up to the election claimed that Queen Sirikit sought

actively to block the return to power of pro-Thaksin forces.

We may attribute the failure of such efforts to divisions

within the royal family, or to the lack of mechanisms to

effectively convey Palace views to the public while

maintaining plausible claims that the Chakri dynasty plays an

appropriately apolitical role. Whatever the reason, it is

clear that the monarchy carries enormous influence but, even

when some of its core interests are at stake, lacks full

control over the course of events. While the King likely

could send blunt signals to achieve virtually any short-term

outcome he desires (as in 1992, when he pushed General

Suchinda from power), such intervention could transform the

role of the royal family in ways that open it up to criticism

and, over the long run, jeopardize its current lofty standing.

 

13. (C) PPP\’s victory in the election marked a setback for

the coup leaders. But the failure to block Thaksin\’s

political comeback did not represent capitulation by or

marginalization of the royalist oligarchy. With the return

to power of a pro-Thaksin government, we may once again see a

situation in which a party championing populism and drawing

its strength from the countryside moves to accumulate power

and prestige at the expense of the Palace and its

Bangkok-based blue-blood allies. A fundamental tension

between these two camps remains, and it could lead to further

bitter conflict, prompting public or private calls for

military intervention.

 

WHAT THE FUTURE MAY HOLD

————————

 

14. (C) The factors affecting the likelihood and denouement

of future potential coups will change significantly with the

 

BANGKOK 00001293 004.2 OF 005

 

eventual passing of King Bhumibol. As noted above, by

claiming the support of the King, the 2006 coup leaders

likely preempted criticism if not outright rejection from

some mainstream sectors of society. Bhumibol\’s currently

designated successor, Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, lacks the

current King\’s extraordinary moral authority, however.

Future military leaders may be less inclined to launch a

coup, knowing they cannot count on a similarly effective

royal blessing to inhibit critics. On the other hand, a

weakened monarchy could imply that future coup leaders,

without an effective check on their power or an imposing

advocate for returning to democracy, would aim to assume the

role of the country\’s supreme authority, resulting in a more

assertive (and harder to dislodge) junta.

 

15. (C) We do not rule out the possibility of a palace

succession crisis sparking some type of unusual or

extra-constitutional action by the military, which could be

drawn into disputes between potential royal heirs. That

said, we consider it most probable that the King\’s death

would be followed — at least initially — by a period of

genuine, widespread grief and an orderly succession. (Reftel

provides post\’s understanding of succession mechanics.)

 

16. (C) For the royalist segment of the Bangkok-based

political class, however, there is no clear path to

perpetuating the monarchy\’s preeminence after the King\’s

death. The 2007 constitution appeared designed to keep

political parties weak and divided; some of the drafters

likely hoped that this would not only preclude the

reemergence of TRT in the near term but also prevent any

civilian politician from rivaling the King\’s leadership.

Nevertheless, PPP\’s success in 2007 signals that Thaksin –

with his network, funds, and popularity in rural areas –

remains the dominant force in party politics. And with Thai

contacts often acknowledging that they feel significantly

more devotion to King Bhumibol than to the institution of the

royal family, it is not unreasonable for royalists to view

Thaksin as an existential threat to the monarchy,

particularly if he is in a position to fill the vacuum that

will appear after Bhumibol\’s death.

 

COMMENT: COUP DISAPPOINTED BUT DID NOT TRAUMATIZE

——————————————— —-

 

17. (C) Even many critics of Thaksin appeared to lose their

initial enthusiasm for the interim administration. The coup

leaders and their clique relinquished power peacefully,

however, when the time they allotted themselves ran out.

They did not attempt to perpetuate their hold on power,

unlike General Suchinda more than a decade earlier. Members

of the political class retain fresh memories of Suchinda, and

these influenced post-coup developments — for example,

prompting widespread demands that the 2007 Constitution

require that the Prime Minister be an elected legislator, to

preclude repetition of the scheme that led to a bloody,

traumatizing clash in 1992.

 

18. (C) With the passage of time, the coup leaders and the

interim administration may be remembered primarily not for

their failings and discord, but rather for offering a

solution, imperfect though it was, to the 2005-06 political

crisis. The Army provided the means to force Thaksin to

\”take a break,\” as many of his critics had urged, and,

through the 2007 election, to allow a referendum on his

governance under conditions that were more balanced than the

(subsequently nullified) elections that took place in the

spring of 2006. The return to power of a pro-Thaksin party

showed that the coup leaders failed to achieve their

fundamental goal of ridding the country of Thaksin\’s

influence — or, indeed, to achieve much at all. But the

willingness of the authorities to allow a pro-Thaksin party

to return to power in democratic elections may reinforce the

notion that the Thai military is suited to play a special

role in difficult times, and that it can be trusted to return

to the barracks after calming troubled waters. In the Thai

collective mind, the 2006-07 experience neither inspired

accolades for military intervention nor established it as

 

BANGKOK 00001293 005.2 OF 005

 

inevitably disastrous.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:24 pm

05BANGKOK6524 DEMOCRACY PROMOTION STRATEGIES FOR EAP FOCUS COUNTRIES – THAILAND

leave a comment »

“42631″,”10/14/2005 3:42″,”05BANGKOK6524″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”05BANGKOK6094|05SECSTATE169892″,

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.”,

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 06 BANGKOK 006524

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/11/2015

TAGS: KDEM, PREL, TH, Democracy Promotion Strategies

SUBJECT: DEMOCRACY PROMOTION STRATEGIES FOR EAP FOCUS

COUNTRIES – THAILAND

 

REF: A) SECSTATE 169892 B) BANGKOK 006094

 

Classified By: AMBASSADOR RALPH L.BOYCE, reasons 1.5 (b),(d)

 

1. (C) Summary and introduction: Thailand is the most

democratic country in the neighborhood, with a lively press

and fiercely competed elections. Thailand\’s remarkable

political development, after a long period of military rule,

progressed in tandem with its impressive economic

development, which gave its citizens greater access to

education and mass media, reinforcing the transition to

democracy. In 1997, Thailand adopted a new constitution,

meant to consolidate yet further the country\’s democratic

progress.

 

2. (C) Things have not gone quite as expected. The 1997

Asian financial crisis discredited the Democrat Party in

power during the initial recovery stages, and left the

population uncertain and eager for a strong leader. Thaksin

Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party took advantage

of the opening, winning a commanding majority in the 2001

elections and an even larger one in 2005. Thaksin is the

strongest Prime Minister in Thai history — the only one, in

fact, to serve out his full term and be re-elected. One of

the goals of the 1997 Constitution was to build a more stable

parliamentary system and stronger political parties by making

it more difficult for MPs to jockey for political advantage

by changing party affiliation. Thaksin has cleverly used

these provisions to increase the cohesion and clout of TRT

and expand his personal power. Thaksin also built his

personal stature with populist programs, like cheap credit

and cheap medical care, that won the enthusiastic support of

the poorer voters, especially in the rural areas. Thailand\’s

opposition parties and NGOs have never come up against

anything quite like Thaksin, and they are playing political

catch-up. Thailand remains a democracy, but one in which the

balance among the political and social forces is unhealthy.

 

3. (C) Post works on many levels to promote greater

democracy in Thailand. We are not optimistic that major

changes can occur here in the 6-8 month timeframe requested

in ref A, but we believe that post\’s interventions and

programs are already having effect here and will continue to

do so. The information below responds to the questions in ref

A. Specific suggestions for additional resources or other

Washington action are contained in paras 7,11,14,15,17 and

19. End summary and introduction.

 

4.(C) IDENTIFY THE KEY AREAS OF DEMOCRATIC DEFICIT

 

– Media Freedom. Thailand still has some of the most

lively and vibrant media in the region, but it is being

constricted. The government\’s use of libel suits and the

purchase of media outlets by \’Friends of Thaksin\’ have

limited the public\’s access to independent news. The

government is attempting to shut down many community radio

stations on weak, technical pretexts. Journalists have

questionable ethics and sensationalize stories to sell papers.

 

– Muslim unrest. In the South, the government lacks a smart

policy to combat anti-government violence, insurgency and

separatism. Society lacks mechanisms to promote

reconciliation and ethnic harmony. The security problem in

the South is a threat to democracy around the country, as the

government uses terrorism as an excuse for \”emergency\”

regulations that could limit individual freedoms, especially

press freedom. Security forces are implicated in human

rights abuses.

 

– Rule of law/law enforcement/transparency. Weak corporate

governance and transparency regulations foster money politics

and corrupt the political system. The poor performance by

police, due both to lack of training and lack of motivation,

contributes to human rights abuses. The security forces are

hampered by poor coordination and interagency distrust. In

the South, the lack of access to justice is one of the key

elements feeding anti-government feeling.

 

– Voter education/election monitoring. Given the lack of

opposition access to broadcast media, voters may have limited

information about their choices, or about criticisms of the

conduct of the elections. Vote buying and, in some areas,

voter intimidation, still occur.

 

– Weak institutions. The 1997 Constitution calls for a

range of independent institutions, starting with a

non-partisan Senate and including agencies to combat

corruption, oversee media, etc. These new institutions are

still too weak to accomplish their goals. In some cases, the

Senate has moved too slowly to establish these agencies; in

other cases, the government has effectively blocked the work

of agencies that might limit its power, or co-opted them.

The Senators are not the independent \”wise men\” foreseen in

the constitution; most are partisan, with the TRT faction

dominant.

 

5. (C) IDENTIFY THE 3-5 MOST IMPORTANT DESIRED OUTCOMES OVER

THE NEXT 6-8 MONTHS

 

– Media. Desired outcome: Journalists/civil society better

able to resist efforts by government and political interests

in limiting press freedom. Longer term goals: fewer threats

to independent media.

 

– Justice/South. Desired outcome: International interest

and raised RTG awareness lead to a decrease in security force

abuses in the South; government officials recognize that

overreaction only fuels insurgent, anti-government feeling.

Improved access to justice for Southern Muslims. Longer

term goals: improved administration of justice, improvements

in police and peaceful resolution of the conflict in the

South. Greater public confidence in the probity of government

institutions.

 

– Rule of Law/Law enforcement. Desired outcome: we cannot

expect to have any measurable impact in 6-8 months. In the

longer term, current embassy programs should contribute to

improved professional ethics by judges and lawyers. The most

important, and hardest, outcome to achieve is improved

performance by police and other security forces, both in

terms of competence and in terms of respect for human rights.

Making progress in this area would require a significant

increase in USG resources addressed towards the basic police

training academies and refresher training for working

officers.

 

– Elections. Desired outcome: effective engagement by civil

society on voter education and election monitoring, leading

to a free and fair election for the Senate in April/May 2006.

 

SIX MONTH DIPLOMATIC AND PROGRAMMATIC STRATEGY

——————————————— -

 

MEDIA

—–

 

6. (SBU) Post has a range of programs already in place to

support free and objective media

 

– We are about to begin a $500,000 project to expand and

improve objective media coverage of social and political

development throughout Thailand, with particular attention to

broader, accurate coverage of minority concerns, regional

developments and social conflict.

 

– Post regularly sends journalists on IV programs and

includes them in other PAO outreach activities.

 

7. (SBU) Post has several pending requests that would

contribute to strengthening independent media:

 

– Post has requested funding to support English-language

education for journalists. This is the fastest way to get

journalists access to a variety of viewpoints on political

issues.

 

– For journalism support particularly relevant to the

problems in the South, please see paras 10 and 12 below.

 

8. (C) Other measures to achieve desired outcomes:

 

– Post has highlighted the encroachments on press freedom in

our human rights report, and in conversations with Thai

officials.

 

– The Senate finally named the new National Broadcasting

Commission (NBC) just last week. PAO and POL intend to work

together to encourage the new NBC to act fairly and

objectively as it makes decisions on spectrum allocation. In

particular, we will emphasize the importance of a workable

system to permit community radio, one of the most promising

avenues to getting independent, relevant news to the voters.

 

MUSLIM UNREST/THE SOUTH

———————–

 

9. (C) The situation in the South is one of post\’s top

priorities. Security concerns make travel and programming in

the South difficult, but post has so far been able to

maintain a regular travel program. Post frequently raises

the problem of the South with Thai officials and civil

society at all levels. Widespread distrust of the US by

southern Muslims is one of the biggest obstacles post faces

in its outreach efforts.

 

– Post sends officers to the South regularly to meet with a

wide range of residents — officials, religious leaders, NGOs

and others from both Muslim and Buddhist communities.

 

– Post is monitoring the trial of police implicated in the

disappearance of a prominent Muslim lawyer. Post is

cooperating with a range of NGOs to follow the trial

proceedings and to underscore international concerns

regarding the case of this well-known Muslim leader and the

alleged role of police in his disappearance and presumed

death.

 

– Post maintains close contact with the National

Reconciliation Commission (NRC), the organization set up by

the government to prepare recommendations to end violence and

resolve the problems in the region. The NRC enjoys

considerable respect and credibility, and post underscores in

discussions at all levels the importance of taking the NRC

recommendations into account in setting government policy to

respond to the unrest in the area.

 

10. (C) Post has a vigorous outreach program in the South,

including three American corners at universities in the

region which have hosted DVCs and speaker programs. Through

the \”Shared Futures\” initiative, PAO has partnered with a

local Muslim organization to distribute \”branded\” backpack

kits to schoolchildren, and will work with a local vocational

institution to distribute 1,200 sewing machines to Muslim

villagers; this is aimed at empowering Muslim women

heads-of-household through micro-enterprise development.

Post involves members of the Muslim minority in the full

range of PAO programs, including IVs, and programs to promote

English-language study.

 

– Post also distributes information in the local Malay

dialect as well as Thai language, and has worked with the

broadcast media on programming, most recently supporting a TV

COOP project for a series of broadcasts on the American

Muslim community which will be airing over the next several

months. PAO is also using TV COOP programming from

Indonesia, which is has dubbed into local languages and is

currently being broadcast.

 

11. (SBU) We believe that several small steps could improve

Post\’s ability to reach out to this key community. First, we

could use publications geared to less-educated readers. Even

when translated, many Department publications are geared at

too high a level for these readers. Second, the local TV

stations in the Muslim area are hungry for additional

programming and we could place far more Department provided

broadcast programming if we had the English-language scripts

to facilitate translation.

 

12. (SBU) USAID is administering a $500,000 program for the

South implemented through Asia Foundation to help build

citizen engagement in and commitment to moderate democratic

values and institutions. The program, which is just getting

underway, focuses on efforts in three key areas –local

government, universities and Islamic schools. This

represents a major increase in USG resources directed toward

the problems in the South.

 

13. (C) Post has provided Department with a list of priority

projects for funding from the FY05 Supplemental Peacekeeping

Operations Allocations to Support the Global War on Terrorism

(ref B). One of post\’s top priorities for this funding is a

project to provide non-lethal weapons and civil disturbance

training for Thai military units deploying to the South. The

Thai military specifically requested this assistance, a sign

that its leaders are aware of the high cost of military

mistakes in responding to civil disturbances. Since late

2004, post has been cooperating with the Defense Institute of

International Legal Studies (DIILS) so that training through

the Joint Combined Exchanges and Training (JCET), Counterdrug

(Baker) and IMET programs include more comprehensive human

rights training for military forces before they deploy to the

South.

14. (C) If more resources were available: Post has also

requested support for conflict resolution and Muslim outreach

programs from the FY05 Supplemental PKO Allocations to

support the GWOT. We do not anticipate that all of these

projects can be funded with the available resources, but

believe that they all merit USG support (further details on

programs in ref B). These projects include:

 

– a program to study populist anti-terrorism movements and

to share other countries\’ approaches with Southern leaders

(cost: $29k)

 

– a program to promote journalistic responsibility and

investigative journalism in the South, in partnership with

the Association of Yala Journalists (cost: $25k)

 

– a program to support training for community radio

operators, in partnership with the Campaign for Popular Media

Reform (cost: $25k)

 

– a grant to a nascent NGO, \”Friends of Thai Muslim Women,\”

to help it establish itself and work to with Muslim women to

counter political extremism through development (cost: $7k)

 

15. (C) In addition, there are many Thai organizations

working to improve the administration of justice in the

South. Post would welcome the opportunity, for example, to

support the work of the legal aid alliance formed by the NRC,

the National Human Rights Commission and the Law Society,

which have set up legal aid centers in the South to provide

residents there with access to legal representation. There

would be many opportunities to work on projects like this

with good partners if additional funding were available.

 

RULE OF LAW/LAW ENFORCEMENT/TRANSPARENCY

—————————————-

 

16. (SBU) INL through the Narcotics Assistance Section (NAS)

takes the lead in these areas.

 

– NAS funds a ABA/CEELI program on judicial ethics; over

the next 8 months, this American Bar Association-conducted

program will hold seminars and training on Legal Ethics,

Judicial Ethics, and Prosecutor Ethics as well as a seminar

for the National Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC). It

will provide expertise for professional ethics curriculum

development, and support other public awareness/outreach

activities.

 

– INL supports a resident legal advisor from the Department

of Justice, who works on issues of legal and procedural

reform and anti-corruption measures.

 

– In designing upcoming police training through the

International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA), NAS will

strengthen the human rights and professional responsibility

elements in its courses.

 

– For law enforcement training specifically oriented to the

situation in the South, please see para 13, above.

 

17. (C) If additional resources were available: Post

believes that increased resources for police training,

correctly used, could have an impact over the medium-to-long

term. INL currently restricts the training of provincial

police, in response to a series of extra-judicial killings

connected to an anti-drug campaign conducted in 2003.

Historically, the provincial police have had a poor record,

with cases of corruption, human rights abuses and ineffective

policing too common. Other elements of the security forces,

including National Police, have a somewhat better record,

although the lack of accountability is a pervasive problem

affecting all the security forces. There are officials

within the National Police who understand the need to

professionalize the force and who would work seriously with

us toward that goal. As an interim measure, post will review

the range of USG-sponsored training for security forces and

counter-terrorism, and look for ways to use existing programs

to also promote more responsible and accountable policing.

Following this review, post may advocate for a

carefully-considered expansion of USG police training,

perhaps along the model of ICITAP\’s Indonesia program.

 

VOTER EDUCATION/ELECTION MONITORING

————————————

 

18. (SBU) Post will monitor upcoming by-elections and the

Senate elections early next year.

– Post has regular contact with representatives of all the

main political parties and closely follows allegations of

unfair practices by the government to restrict their

activities, raising issues with RTG officials as appropriate.

 

– Post meets regularly with the main voter education and

monitoring organization, Pollwatch.

 

19. (C) If additional resources were available: Pollwatch

is underfunded and would benefit from additional support

through grants or collaboration with an appropriate US NGO,

such as NDI or IFES. Post will encourage Pollwatch to apply

for PAO-sponsored grants through the Democracy

Commission/small grants program, if funding for these is

available this year.

 

INSTITUTION BUILDING

——————–

 

20. (C) Post cannot expect to make much impact over the next

6-8 months on the building of stronger institutions. Many of

the agencies established in the 1997 Constitution to

safeguard civil liberties are appointed by the Senate, whose

term will end in March. Incumbents cannot run for

re-election, so all 200 seats will be open when the

elections are held in April or May 2006. Once we see the

composition of the new Senate, post will evaluate the

efficacy of possible programs, such as IV or speakers, that

might assist reformers. Given budget constraints, we will

probably be unable to do much programming with the new Senate

before the new fiscal year, but can begin outreach to the new

members immediately after the elections.

 

MAJOR NEEDS/MAJOR IMPEDIMENTS

—————————–

 

21. (C) Thailand is still significantly ahead of its

neighbors in its democratic development, and therefore it is

appropriate that the lion\’s share of democracy-building

resources are used elsewhere. Nonetheless, our strategy

outlined above shows that some additional resources could be

well-used to promote our democracy goals here.

 

SIGNIFICANT INFLUENCES

———————–

 

22. (C) The most significant influences contributing to

democratization here is Thailand\’s own civil society.

Thailand has a wealth of NGOs and advocacy groups, with

relatively few limits on their activities. Public awareness

of civil/human rights issues has grown with increased access

to media and education. Human rights NGOs maintain contacts

with international partners. Political parties campaign

vigorously. The push for more progress on democracy can and

must come from the Thai people. The US can provide support

by targeted diplomatic interventions and programs of the kind

outlined above.

 

CONSEQUENCES

————

 

23. (C) The US and Thailand enjoy an excellent relationship.

We have long and close ties to most sectors in Thai society,

from the political leaders of all parties, through the

military and up to the royal family. Thais and Americans are

connected by family ties, alumni associations, business

interests: we do not believe that there will be long-term

negative consequences to our efforts to support democracy

here. In the short term, we must recognize that the current

Prime Minister is famously sensitive to criticism and quick

to use nationalist and populist messages to build support for

his positions. Even though his soaring popularity has

sagged somewhat recently, he remains genuinely popular and

effective at using his office to rally support. Efforts

based on confrontation and direct public criticism of the PM

and his policies are unlikely, in our view, to be as

effective as those that build on the genuine progress

Thailand\’s other institutions have steadily built in recent

years.

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 21, 2011 at 4:26 am

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