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05BANGKOK954 ON THE EVE OF THAILAND’S GENERAL ELECTION: THE MAJOR PARTIES

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 000954

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP, EAP/BCLTV; PACOM FOR FPA HUSO.

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV TH

SUBJECT: ON THE EVE OF THAILAND’S GENERAL ELECTION: THE

MAJOR PARTIES

 

REF: BANGKOK 673

 

¶1. (SBU) At first glance the Thai political landscape on the

eve of the February 6, 2005 parliamentary elections looks

cluttered. Thailand still has 39 registered political

parties. Twenty parties have fielded “party list” candidates

and 24 parties are entered in some of the 400 contests for

“constituency” seats in the Lower House of Parliament. The

reality, however, is that four major political parties hold

virtually all seats in Parliament, and the ballots cast this

Sunday won’t radically alter that distribution. Prime

Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party

are tipped for a large scale victory, perhaps one that will

allow them to govern without forming a coalition. Most

observers predict that the TRT will win well over 300 party

list and constituency seats in Parliament. The Democrat

Party (DP) will remain the main opposition party but will

fall far short of the 201 seats it has publicly set its

sights on. The Chat Thai (CT) and Mahachon parties, the

other two credible parties, could pick up between 50 – 65

seats according to the latest polls. If TRT does not gain a

sufficiently large margin on its own to reach PM Thaksin’s

comfort level, the Chat Thai and/or Mahachon parties are

presumed to be available to join the TRT in a stronger

governing coalition. As described in reftel, The CT has been

in the coalition of Thaksin’s first government, and Mahachon

has made clear its readiness to ally with whomever best

satisfies the interests of its key members. A primer on the

four main Thai political parties follows:

 

THAI RAK THAI (TRT) PARTY

 

¶2. (U) TRT’s dominant leader is Prime Minister Thaksin

Shinawatra, with TRT Secretary-General (and Transportation

Minister) Suriya Jungrungruengkit in the role of key

political operative. TRT has more registered members, 14.4

million, then any other party and its current parliamentary

strength — 329 MPs (266 Constituency and 63 Party-List MPs)

— overshadows all of its coalition partner and opponent

parties. Regionally, TRT members of Parliament (MP) are

found in the great urban center of Bangkok, and the

voter-rich rural provinces of the North and Northeast.

 

¶3. (U) In his first term, Thaksin,s strong leadership and

the TRT,s decisive majority in Parliament allowed him to

implement the “populist” policies he articulated in his

campaign for victory in 2001. These policies — especially

the 30 baht Health Care scheme, the Farmers, Debt Suspension

and Revitalization program, and the 1 million baht revolving

Village and Community Fund — have cemented his popularity

with the rural electorate. Despite opposition accusations of

conflict-of-interest and corruption, and some setbacks from

the avian flu scare and continuing violence in Thailand’s

south, Thaksin has maintained a high level of popular

approval. For this election, Thaksin has come up with new

populist policies to run on, such as the so-called Small,

Medium, Large village fund (SML) village improvement fund

program, a large public works transportation project, and

expansion of the country’s irrigation water network in the

rural areas. As noted in earlier reporting, winning TRT

parliamentary candidates are expected to return Thaksin to

office handily. Many observers believe the election is not

about which party will win, but how wide the TRT majority

will be after the votes are counted.

 

¶4. (U) Thaksin like to project an image of TRT, the party he

founded, as modern and policy-oriented. However, despite his

clear dominance of TRT, he still has to balance off the

interests of party factions to keep winning candidates in his

corner and stay in fullest control of the party and national

politics. There are currently five major factions within the

TRT:

 

— Wang Buaban is currently the largest and most influential

faction. It is led by Yowvapa Wongsawat, an MP from Chiang

Mai and Thaksin’s sister. Other key Wang Buaban figures are

Suriya Jungrungruengkit, TRT secretary-general, and Somsak

Thepsutin, the TRT deputy leader. Most faction members are

MPs from the North, with some MPs from the Northeast.

 

— Wang Namyen is led by Sanoh Thienthong, a veteran

politician and financier, who earned an unsavory reputation

as an influential New Aspiration Party (NAP) figure. He is

chairman of the TRT advisory board. Sanoh’s faction is the

second largest group with most, if not all, members coming

from the Northeast. It was once the most influential

faction, but its influence has waned with the emergence of

the Wang Buaban group. Other leading figures in this

faction are Sora-at Klinpratoom, the TRT deputy leader, and

Chuchip Hansawat, an executive member and former Minister of

Agriculture and Cooperatives.

 

— Wang Phayanak is the faction of mainly former Seritham

party MPs who merged with the TRT in July 2001. Pinij

Jarusombat, the former leader of the Seritham party, now a

TRT deputy leader, is the faction leader. Prachuap

Chaiyasan, a Thai trade representative, and Ekkaphap Polsue,

TRT deputy secretary-general, are other key figures. This

faction has good relations with the Wang Buaban faction and

been supportive in intra-party maneuvering.

 

— The “Chart Pattana” faction become part of TRT in an

official merger between the Chart Pattana party (CP) into TRT

in September 2004. Suwat Liptapanlop, the wealthy former

leader of CP, is this faction’s leader. Suwat’s electoral

stronghold is in the Northeast, especially in Nakhon

Ratchasima, where his influence permeates every political

level.

 

— The “Bangkok faction,” comprised of TRT MPs from the

capital city, is led by Sudarat Keyuraphun, the deputy

leader. This faction’s influence also extends to some

neighboring provinces. PM Thaksin prizes Public Health

Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan, the faction leader, for her

political expertise and her opinion carries much weight in

TRT councils. Other key members are Suranand Vejjajiva, the

clever and articulate TRT party spokesman, and Pimuk Simaroj,

TRT deputy spokesman.

 

¶5. (SBU) Major financial backers of TRT include the Shin Corp

(owned by the Shinawatra family), the CP Corporation, and

corporations run by Secretary General Suriya Chunrungruengkit

and Deputy Leader Adisai Photharamik.

 

DEMOCRAT PARTY (DP)

 

¶6. (U) The Democrat Party (DP), under the leadership of

Banyat Bantadtan and DP Secretary General Pradit

Phaktharaprasit, will likely remain as the main opposition

party after the election. DP has deep roots in modern Thai

democratic history, a current registered membership of 3.8

million, and a parliamentary strength of 128 MPs. Its

regional strength is in Bangkok and southern province

constituencies. In the last four years, the DP has had a

decidedly difficult role – partly because the TRT-led

majority coalition in the House of Representatives prevented

DP from ever censuring the Prime Minister directly and even

hampered its ability to open “no confidence” debates against

ministers.

 

¶7. (SBU) The DP has struggled to come up with new approaches

to better confront Thaksin and the TRT, which seems to

outflank and humiliate the Democrats at every term, which has

given the DP an air of ineptitude. Persistence of the bitter

party rifts which have historically plagued DP have not

helped. A party split widened in 2003 when power broker MG

Sanan Khachonprasat, who was banned in August 2000 from

holding political posts himself for 5 years for asset

concealment, collided with then DP party leader Chuan Leekpai

over Chuan’s successor. Sanan,s faction won this conflict

and put veteran southern politician Banyat Banthatthan in as

the new DP leader, marginalizing Chuan’s preferred heir, the

young and charismatic Bangkokian Aphisit Vejjajiva. In July

2004, reportedly disgruntled over his failure to sufficiently

influence Banyat, Sanan led several MPs out of the DP and

established Mahachon, a new political party built on the

remnants of the Rassadon (People’s) Party of Watthana

Atsawahem, a notoriously “dirty” politician.

 

¶8. (SBU) The DP will probably be able to hang on to most of

its traditional parliamentary seats in Thailand’s South, and

few constituencies elsewhere. However, under the stodgy and

uninspired leadership of Banyat, it has no chance of

extending its base or beating TRT nationwide.

 

CHAT THAI (CT) PARTY

 

¶9. (SBU) The Chat Thai (CT) leader is Banharn Silapa-archa, a

veteran Thai politician and former prime minister whose

political savvy and money hold the party together. CT has

registered 2,340,000 members. Its current parliamentary

strength is 41 MPs (35 Constituency and 6 Party-List), with

the core of its regional strength located in Thailand’s

Central region, especially in Suphan Buri province.

 

¶10. (SBU) Chat Thai has downsized considerably since the

Banharn-led administration left power in November 1996. The

almost immediate departure of most members of the Sanoh

Thienthong faction (which later joined TRT) and other

groupings of parliamentarians reduced the CT voting bloc

significantly. For a time, CT political influence was based

on MPs from Suphan Buri and Chon Buri provinces. Shortly

before the January 6, 2001 parliamentary election, Newin

Chidchob, an up-and-coming (some say “infamous”) MP from

Buriram, brought four MPs from the defunct Solidarity Party

(SP) into CT. But most of this Buriram faction, including

Newin, succumbed to the blandishments of a persistent TRT

courtship in 2004 of MPs from other parties. Banharn also

lost heavily from the Chon Buri faction and now presides over

a CT that seems really only to have a safe hold on

parliamentary constituencies in Supan Buri province. That

said, Banharn remains one of Thailand’s most tenacious

traditional politicians, a survivor who seems to know which

wheels to grease to keep a political machine rolling

effectively.

 

MAHACHON PARTY (MCP)

 

¶11. (U) The only other party with prospects for winning a

bloc of parliamentary seats is one of the newest, Mahachon

(MCP), established in July 2004. Mahachon began essentially

as a breakaway faction of the Democrat Party (see para 7

above). Its nominal leader is Dr. Anek Laothammathat, a

former Dean of Political Science at Thammasat University and

ex-Deputy DP Leader. Several other well-regarded DP MPs —

ex-Deputy DP Secretary General Akkhaphon Sorasuchat and ex-DP

financier Phonthep Techaphaibun — joined Mahachon as deputy

party leaders. Mahachon’s chief financial backer is ex-DP

Secretary General MG Sanan Khachonprasat, who plays a major

 

SIPDIS

behind the scenes role. Other financial support reportedly

is supplied by Chaliaw Yuwitthaya of the Red Guar Beverage

Company, with some also coming from business tycoon Charoen

Siriwatthanaphakdi of the giant CP group of companies, who

generously bankrolls several parties and political power

brokers.

 

¶12. (U) One improbable theory circulating is that Mahachon

was deliberately created as a branch of the DP, with a new

name in order to improve the chances of regaining

Northeastern voters, support. Under this theory Mahachon

candidates taking TRT districts in the Northeast will reunite

with the DP in forming a new government. The more realistic

way of understanding Mahachon is that MG Sanan, unable to

control Banyat, wanted to run a political party of his own

for the wider political “opportunities” that could open. He

wishes to be in a position to be of value to any political

party able to form a coalition government, in particular the

ruling TRT of Thaksin.

 

¶13. (U) Voters on February 6 will select 400 members of

Parliament from constituencies throughout Thailand. They

will also indicate their preferences for parties in a

separate “party list” vote. All parties gaining 5 percent of

the national party list vote will be eligible for a number of

the 100 party list seats in the next Parliament, allocated on

a proportional basis according to the votes received.

 

¶14. (U) The latest polls indicate that TRT could win 260-280

constituency seats, and up to 70 party list seats, or

potentially close to 350 total seats in the 500 seat

Parliament. This indicates that TRT might be able to form a

single-party government, one with no coalition partners. The

DP, with some support throughout Thailand, and retaining core

constituencies in the South, should remain the main

opposition party with just over 100 total MPs, including some

75-80 constituency seats. Chat Thai, surprisingly, appears to

heading for 30-35 constituency seats and maybe the minimum 5

party list seats. Mahachon could win between 10-16

constituency seats, but is not expected to qualify for any

party list seats. Some polls indicate that a sitting

candidate from the New Aspiration Party (NAP), the only

holdout when NAP merged into TRT, will win his constituency.

Candidates from two very small parties, the Social Action

Party (SAP) and Labor Party, might also manage to win one

constituency seat each.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

August 26, 2011 at 4:47 am

05BANGKOK801 THAILAND: PRE-ELECTION VIOLENCE AND ELECTION FRAUD DISQUALIFICATIONS

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 000801

 

SIPDIS

 

SENSITIVE

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: PGOV PHUM TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: PRE-ELECTION VIOLENCE AND ELECTION

FRAUD DISQUALIFICATIONS

 

REF: BANGKOK 0673

 

¶1. (SBU) Summary: As the February 6 date for national

parliamentary elections in Thailand draws closer we are

seeing frequent allegations of vote buying and even some

reports of poll-related killings. These activities have

never been absent from the Thai electoral process in the

past, but the degree to which authorities are able and

willing to prosecute and punish political cheaters and to

guarantee the security of campaign workers and candidates is

one key measure of Thailand’s current level of political

maturity. With just over a week to go before the election,

there have been over 70 election law violation-related

disqualifications, according to the Election Commission (EC).

Violence has also been reported, with 9 incidents of attacks

on party canvassers (several resulting in deaths) and in one

case on a parliamentary candidate. A Mahachon Party

candidate for Parliament has been charged with one of the

murders. Over the final campaign week the allegations of

fraud – and the incidences of violence – could grow. End

Summary.

 

ACCUSATIONS OF CAMPAIGN FRAUD RISING

 

¶2. (U) The most prominent allegations of vote buying so far

have been those against Deputy Agriculture Minister Newin

Chidchob — who is heading up the Thai Rak Thai (TRT)

electoral campaign in the South, and against Barnharn

Silpa-archa, the veteran Chart Thai (CP) leader and former

Thai prime minister. In each case these high profile

political figures have been accused (though in the case of

Barnharn no formal complaint has been filed – yet) of

offering money for votes. Both Newin and Barnharn are under

threat of being “red carded” (i.e. disqualified from the

elections) by the National Election Commission, but as noted

in reftel, an outcome where the full weight of the electoral

law is applied to them seems unlikely at the moment.

 

COMPLAINTS THAT CANVASSERS AND CANDIDATES OFFERING VOTERS

“INCENTIVES”

 

¶3. (U) According to the Election Commission in Bangkok, by

January 26, over 70 election law violation-related

disqualifications have been made. Democrat Party, Mahachon

Party and Chart Thai Party candidates were among those

disqualified (along with a number of smaller party

candidates. So far no TRT candidates have been barred for

violations. Of those disqualified, 42 were party list

candidates and 32 were contesting constituencies. In most

cases, the complaints involve allegations that candidates had

violated election laws by promising cash for votes,

distributing goods such as bags of rice to prospective

voters, or offering free trips to popular vacation spots.

According to electoral law procedures, complaints of election

violations are submitted to the Provincial Election

Commission offices and, if verified at this level, are

forwarded to the Central Election Commission in Bangkok for

further investigation.

 

POLITICAL VIOLENCE

 

¶4. (U) Since November last year, there have been 9 cases of

violent attacks on canvassers and candidates throughout the

country.

 

First incident – Shooting at the residence of a TRT candidate

in Constituency 9, Nakhon Ratchasima on November 1, 2004.

 

Second incident – Shooting and killing of a canvasser of a

TRT candidate in Constituency 9, Nakhon Ratchasima on

November 24, 2004.

 

Third incident – Shooting and killing of a canvasser of a

Democrat Party (DP) candidate in Constituency 2, Phrae, on

December 04, 2004.

 

Fourth incident – Shooting and killing of a canvasser of a

TRT candidate in Constituency 1, Ayutthaya on January 10,

¶2005. (The Mahachon Party’s Ayutthaya candidate, Surachet

Chaikosol, has been charged with the murder.)

 

Fifth incident – Shooting at the residence of a political

aide to a DP candidate in Constituency 2, Phrae on January

12, 2005.

 

Sixth incident – Shooting and killing of a canvasser of a DP

candidate in Constituency 2, Phichit on January 14, 2005.

 

Seventh incident – Shooting and killing of a canvasser of a

Mahachon Party (MCN) candidate in Constituency 3, Chiang Rai

on January 18, 2005.

 

Eighth incident – Attempted killing of a CT candidate in

Constituency 3, Narathiwat on January 21, 2005 (the candidate

was slightly injured but his aide remains in critical

condition from the shooting).

 

Ninth incident – Gun attack on the residence of a canvasser

of a DP candidate in Constituency 2, Rayong on January 21,

¶2005.

 

CLOSING DAYS COULD SEE MORE VIOLENCE AND FRAUD ALLEGATIONS

 

¶4. (SBU) Comment: If past electoral experience is an

accurate guide, the violence and charges of vote buying and

fraud will intensify over coming days as the February 6

polling date grows closer.

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

August 26, 2011 at 4:41 am

06BANGKOK5568 NEW ELECTION COMMISSION CHOSEN; ELECTION DATE WILL BE SET SHORTLY

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“77880”,”9/11/2006 11:13″,”06BANGKOK5568″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO6692

OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #5568 2541113

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 111113Z SEP 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1535

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RHFJSCC/COMMARFORPAC

RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC

RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L BANGKOK 005568

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

TREASURY PASS TO FRB SAN FRANCISCO/TERESA CURRAN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/10/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH

SUBJECT: NEW ELECTION COMMISSION CHOSEN; ELECTION DATE WILL

BE SET SHORTLY

 

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

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The new election commissioners have been

chosen and are expected to meet soon to set an early date for

the new election, which will most likely be held in November.

Overall, the five new EC members are viewed as appropriately

non-partisan. Opposition complaints that the openly

anti-government candidates lost seem to us inappropriate —

after all, the commission is supposed to neutral. The

selection of the Election Commission brings us one important

step closer to the long-awaited new elections. End summary.

 

2. (C) The outgoing Senate has chosen five new members of

the Election Commission, taking another important step toward

resolution of the political impasse here. The Commissioners

will meet later this week to choose a Chairman and are

expected to propose a new election date shortly. While some

opposition groups are campaigning for a top to bottom review

of Election Commission officials in the provinces — which

could take months — most people are expecting the date to be

set for sometime in November.

 

3. (C) The five commissioners were selected from 10

candidates nominated by the Supreme Court, and most of our

opposition contacts said that all were acceptable. One

outspoken government opponent told us that one of the

candidates was extremely corrupt (he lost) and another was a

\”womanizer\” (apparently not a problem — he won a seat.) The

opposition press complained that there was \”block voting\” by

a group of senators who are covert supporters of the Prime

Minister\’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT). (Note: Senators are supposed

to be non-partisan, but a large number were reportedly

co-opted to support TRT — and a smaller number to support

the opposition. End note.) Further demonstrating the new

independence of the high courts, three of the 10 candidates

seemed, if anything, to be inclined against the Prime

Minister\’s party. These included the judge who researched

the case against TRT (for hiring small parties to run in the

April election) and who recommended that the party be

dissolved. None of these \”anti-government\” candidates won.

 

4. (C) Comment: Although there is some kvetching from the

opposition that none of \”their\” three candidates made the

cut, it seems to us fair enough that that candidates with a

track record of opposing TRT were not chosen for the

politically-neutral Election Commission. The new

commissioners were more eagerly awaited that Tom Cruise\’s

baby; they will enjoy at least a brief honeymoon while

everyone rejoices that we are one important step closer to

the new elections.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:44 am

Posted in Confidential, Election

06BANGKOK5565 THAKSIN LOYALIST SEES LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

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“77853”,”9/11/2006 9:32″,”06BANGKOK5565″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO6549

PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #5565/01 2540932

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 110932Z SEP 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1529

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 6052

RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 1511

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI PRIORITY”,

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 005565

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/11/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PHUM, MOPS, ASEC, TH

SUBJECT: THAKSIN LOYALIST SEES LIGHT AT THE END OF THE

TUNNEL

 

Classified By: DCM Alex Arvizu, reason: 1.4 (d).

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Former House of Representatives Speaker Bhokin

Bhalakula claimed the upcoming legislative election would

reaffirm majority support for Thai Rak Thai (TRT), although

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra likely would not seek to

remain as Prime Minister. In a September 8 lunch with the

Ambassador, Bhokin — a Deputy Leader of TRT rumored as a

potential successor to Thaksin — claimed the King also

wanted elections as soon as possible and would refrain from

undemocratic political intervention. Upcoming elections

would further deflate the challenge from Thaksin\’s opponents,

and an upcoming reshuffle of top military, police, and civil

service positions would ensure the complete loyalty to the

administration of state bureaucracies and the security

forces. End Summary.

 

OPTIMISTIC ABOUT ELECTIONS

————————–

 

2. (C) In a September 8 lunch at the Ambassador\’s residence,

former House of Representatives Speaker Bhokin Bhalakula

expressed optimism about upcoming legislative elections. The

northern and northeastern regions of Thailand — which

together accounted for a majority of the constituency-based

seats in the House — remained solidly pro-TRT, he asserted.

Reviewing the background behind TRT\’s populist policies,

Bhokin noted TRT would continue the programs that had

generated enthusiasm among the lower and middle class; future

government grants under the small, medium, and large-scale

(SML) village fund program would increase by at least 50

percent. Other political parties could not compete with

TRT\’s proven approach of delivering benefits. Rival Democrat

Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva was too young to challenge TRT

effectively; Abhisit knew only how to criticize, and he did

so in a long-winded manner that most Thai found unappealing,

according to Bhokin.

 

THE KING\’S POSITION

——————-

 

3. (C) Bhokin said the King wanted elections as soon as

possible, highlighting that the King had quickly signed the

Royal Decree (issued on September 6) calling for an

extraordinary session of the Senate (September 8-10) to

select Election Commission members. Prior to receiving the

decree for approval, Bhokin related, the King had signaled

his eagerness by asking unspecified persons about the

decree\’s disposition. The King respected democracy and

viewed elections as a source of legitimacy; he would continue

to refuse to take drastic steps affecting political

processes. However, the King did not want to speak out

publicly on this matter, according to Bhokin, because his

words often created controversy as various sides offered

rival interpretations.

 

SONDHI WENT TOO FAR, PEOPLE ARE WEARY

————————————-

 

4. (C) Thaksin was a victim of his own success, Bhokin

lamented. Democrat Party leaders had come to realize that it

would take at least 15 years before they could hope to regain

power through elections. Meanwhile, the armed forces had

become split, partly because soldiers benefiting from illegal

activities, such as the drug trade, had suffered under TRT\’s

policies. And academics found their status diminished under

Thaksin, as TRT had sufficient human resources that the party

did not need to rely on ivory tower experts. It became easy

for those upset with Thaksin to generate negative publicity,

as they could easily pay off journalists to write negative

stories.

 

5. (C) Media mogul Sondhi Limthongkul proved able to unite

disgruntled members of the elite. Bhokin noted Sondhi had

successfully installed various associates in key government

positions, but his influence began to wane; the final blow

pushing Sondhi into opposition was the dismissal of crony

Viroj Nualkhair from his position as CEO of state-owned Krung

Thai Bank. However, although Sondhi benefited from the

support of royalist oligarchs, he had gone too far in

projecting himself as a representative of the King\’s

interests. The public did not appreciate Sondhi\’s approach,

and it led to diminished participation in the rallies of

 

BANGKOK 00005565 002 OF 002

 

Sondhi\’s People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). In a recent

survey (NFI), 60 percent of respondents blamed the PAD for

the current turmoil, Bhokin claimed, and he predicted further

tapering off of PAD support after the upcoming election\’s

reaffirmation of TRT\’s majority support.

 

RESHUFFLE

———

 

6. (C) Bhokin predicted an upcoming reshuffle of top

military, police, and civil service positions would ensure

that government and security forces officials would \”totally

obey\” the administration. Comparing the government to a

ship, Bhokin said there currently were some holes in the

hull, but after the election, it would be smooth sailing.

The King would endorse the reshuffle plan as received from

the government, Bhokin said, noting parenthetically that, if

the King did not, \”the whole country will blow up.\”

 

THAKSIN TO STEP DOWN

——————–

 

7. (C) The Ambassador asked whether Thaksin might try to

return as Prime Minister after the next election. Bhokin

believed Thaksin had already made a decision not to do so,

irrespective of the election results. Citing Thaksin\’s early

April audience with the King, Bhokin said Thaksin would

likely opt not to be Prime Minister, in order to lessen the

degree of tension in the country. Bhokin observed that

Thaksin nevertheless wanted to remain TRT Party Leader,

claiming Thaksin was motivated not by a desire to protect

himself and his assets, but rather by patriotism and his

longstanding interest in politics.

 

MORE ON PALACE INFLUENCE

————————

 

8. (C) When the Ambassador asked about the wisdom of

Thaksin\’s decision to dissolve the parliament in February,

Bhokin replied that Thaksin had received advice to do so from

Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda as well as

then-Cabinet Secretary Borwornsak Uwanno. Bhokin then

confided that Thaksin had discussed the matter directly with

the King; when Thaksin had presented various alternatives to

resolve growing political tension, the King had said it would

be better to dissolve the parliament.

 

9. (C) The Ambassador also asked about the June resignations

of Borwornsak and then-Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu

Krea-ngam. Bhokin claimed that the two came under pressure

from an individual named Meechai, who was close to Prem and

presumably reflected Palace views. (We presume the reference

was to law professor Meechai Ruchupan, a former cabinet

minister in Prem\’s administration.)

 

COMMENT

——-

 

10. (C) Bhokin made a persuasive but hardly unbiased case

that TRT has reason for optimism as elections approach. His

claim that Thaksin is inclined not to remain as Prime

Minister tracks with a relatively common perception among the

political class, although we noted Bhokin stopped short of

offering categorical assurance on this point. We believe

Thaksin has not yet made a firm decision on this matter.

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:43 am

06BANGKOK5430 ELECTION COMMISSION SAYS: ELECTIONS SOON

leave a comment »

“77146”,”9/5/2006 10:54″,”06BANGKOK5430″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO1015

OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

DE RUEHBK #5430/01 2481054

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 051054Z SEP 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1390

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 2389

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RULSDMK/NSA US WASHDC

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L

SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 005430

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/04/2016

TAGS: PGOV, TH

SUBJECT: ELECTION COMMISSION SAYS: ELECTIONS SOON

 

REF: BANGKOK 5072 – THAI POL UPDATE: SCHISMS AND

 

UNCERTAINTIES

 

BANGKOK 00005430 001.2 OF 002

 

Classified By: Political Counselor Susan M. Sutton, Reasons 1.4 (B) (D)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY. In a meeting with Deputy Secretary-General

Prawing and Director Bunyakiat of the Election Commission of

Thailand (ECT), they predicted that the October 15 election

will not take place until the third week of November, at the

earliest, due to the delay in new Election Commissioners (EC)

selection. The two top-ranking ECT bureaucrats did not

defend the actions of the former EC in the previous April 2

election, and admitted that the Thai people may lack

confidence in the election process. They stipulated that

though there may not be any technical problems in the

upcoming elections, factors such as whether Thaksin will

declare his intentions to be PM again and the PAD\’s reaction

to it will complicate the process. They revealed that while

the Constitutional Court is currently facing pressure to hand

down a decision on whether the TRT and Democrat Party would

be dissolved before the election, they do not believe this

will take place because it would cause \”too big of a mess.\”

End summary.

 

ELECTION ADMINISTRATION 101

—————————

 

2. (SBU) PolCouns met with Deputy Secretary-General Prawing

and Director Bunyakiat of the ECT on September 5, 2006

regarding the status of the upcoming elections currently

scheduled for October 15 (Ref A). They confirmed that the

schedule for the new election would likely be changed by the

soon-to-be-selected Election Commissioners (EC). A special

Senate session to select the new EC expected for September

8-11, and a new commission could be in place by

mid-September. The two bureaucrats said that the re-election

may be delayed for at least a month in order to meet all the

administrative requirements. Prawing and Bunyakiat estimated

that the new elections will have to be postponed until the

third week of November, at the earliest. (Note:

Time-sensitive logistics such as candidate registration and

budget allocation cannot take place until the new EC is

formed. End note.)

 

A CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE

———————-

 

3. (C) While speaking about the April 2 elections and the

controversies that followed, the two bureaucrats made no

attempt to defend the actions of the old EC. They

distinguished that the EC is responsible for interpreting the

election laws and formulate policies while they, the

administrative side, only carry out the policies and \”oversee

the everyday management of the elections.\” They admitted

that some Thai may have lost faith in the election process

because of what happened in the last election. Prawing and

Bunyakiat agreed that this is why though they would like to

see the new election held as soon as possible to address the

current political impasse. At the same time, it would

necessarily have to be delayed if it were to hold any

legitimacy in the people\’s eyes.

 

COMPLICATING FACTORS

——————–

 

4. (C) Prawing and Bunyakiat indicated that, although they

foresee no technical issues to become a problem, two factors

may complicate the upcoming election: the question over

whether caretaker PM Thaksin will announce his intentions to

become prime minister again, and the People\’s Alliance for

Democracy (PAD)\’s reaction to Thaksin\’s decision. If Thaksin

remains coy on his future plans, the PAD may ramp up

anti-Thaksin activities leading up to the elections. When

asked about the court cases to dissolve both the

Thai-Rak-Thai (TRT) and Democrat Party for violating election

laws in the April 2 election, the two ECT officials admitted

that it would be a \”major problem\” if the parties were

dissolved prior to the elections. Technically, it would not

be difficult to handle, as the EC could just delay the

elections to give the homeless party members time to join

another party. (Note: Thai law demands that an individual

must be a member of a party for at least 90 days before he or

she can run on that party\’s ticket. End note.) However,

they both reiterated that elections should be held soon for

the sake of political and economic stability. They also

revealed that there is currently \”political pressure\” on the

 

BANGKOK 00005430 002.2 OF 002

 

Constitutional Court to hand down a decision on the party

dissolution cases prior to the elections, but they concluded

that this will not happen because it would create \”too big of

a mess\” for the EC.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:37 am

Posted in Confidential, Election

06BANGKOK5072 THAILAND POLITICAL UPDATE: SCHISMS AND UNCERTAINTIES

leave a comment »

“75346”,”8/18/2006 10:21″,”06BANGKOK5072″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO4201

OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #5072/01 2301021

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 181021Z AUG 06

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1044

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RHFJSCC/COMMARFORPAC”,

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 005072

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE PASS TO USTR

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/17/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND POLITICAL UPDATE: SCHISMS AND

UNCERTAINTIES

 

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

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The caretaker Senate formed a Background

Investigation Committee on August to look into the ten EC

candidates for the next twenty days, after which the Senate

will vote to select five winners. If the committee takes the

full twenty days, it will likely lead to a delay of the

elections scheduled for October 15. This is probably

generally acceptable here if it is necessary. Meanwhile,

factional schisms within the TRT are becoming more apparent,

with rumors of various party leaders considering leaving

politics — perhaps as a ploy to pressure Thaksin to step

aside. Commerce Minister Somkid is the latest rumored

deserter. Thaksin dismissed the rumors, saying that, in any

case, all his ministers were \”just his helpers\” and he is the

main force in government. End Summary.

 

TO DELAY OR NOT DELAY?

———————-

 

2. (C) The caretaker Senate voted August 15 to form a

Background Investigation Committee to examine the ten

Election Commission (EC) candidates, setting a twenty day

deadline to complete their investigation and bring the

candidates to a vote. Although the committee could

conceivably conclude their investigation prior to the

twenty-day deadline, it appears unlikely that the new EC

would be formed by August 24, when the royal decree calling

for the election becomes effective. If August 24 passes

without an existing EC, several possibilities arise —

 

SCENARIO ONE

 

3. (C) If the new EC is elected by the beginning of

September, it could perhaps stick to scheduled October 15

election date. This, however, may be logistically

problematic. The previous election commissioners already set

September 5 as the date to begin candidate registration, so

the new EC really must be formed by that date to either

receive registrations or officially announce a delay. Even if

the final EC members are selected and confirmed before

September 5, they would need time to organize their

administration in order to run a credible election. The new

EC may try to stick to the election date set by the royal

decree, since this has already been signed by the King (still

recovering from his surgery last month.) However, this

appears more and more difficult.

 

SCENARIO TWO

 

4. (SBU) The new EC could delay the candidate registration

date and election date by means of requesting a new royal

decree. (Note: By law, candidate registration occurs within

twenty days of the royal decree\’s effective date, and the

election within sixty days, so any delay beyond October 22

will require the King to sign a new decree. End note.) The

EC would then have more time to prepare and run the election.

The results of a delayed, but better-prepared election may

also be better-received by the country.

 

LOVE HURTS

———-

 

5. (SBU) Members of Thai Rak Thai (TRT) outside the party\’s

strongholds are reportedly concerned that they could face a

backlash in the election contests for constituency seats. We

hear that many are trying to get more secure spots on the

party list ballot. Traditionally, some important TRT figures

are not MPs at all, but serve in ministerial or other

political appointments. Elected MPs are secure in their

positions, in most circumstances, until the next election,

but Thaksin\’s ministers do not appear to have much job

security. Thaksin is said to plan on divvying up these jobs

in a way to benefit those closest to him, slating TRT

factional leaders and some other key figures for political

appointments rather than MP slots, and thereby \”depriving\”

these individuals of the relative independence and security

of MP status.

 

6. (C) Not surprisingly, rumors of more discontent within

TRT are increasing. Newspapers reported this week that

Commerce Minister Somkid, a founding member of TRT who is

 

BANGKOK 00005072 002 OF 002

 

well regarded particularly by business leaders, is said to be

considering taking a break from politics after the elections.

(Somkid\’s concerns about Thaksin have been evident from our

contacts with him as well.) This may just be part of a plan

to put pressure on Thaksin to step aside, rather than drag

TRT down with him. If so, it doesn\’t appear to be working so

far. In reaction to the possible departure of Somkid,

Thaksin told reporters that \”today, I am the major force (in

the government) and everybody else is just my helper.\”

(Comment: another morale boost for the embattled TRT

members. End comment.)

 

COMMENT

——-

 

7. (C) Opposition parties such as the Democrats and Chart

Thai may appreciate extra time on the campaign trail;

delaying the election probably disadvantages Thaksin and the

TRT. The already apparent schism within the TRT may deepen

with passing time, and the ceaseless attacks targeting the PM

may also weaken Thaksin\’s popularity, despite his continued

strength in the North and Northeast. Leaving aside partisan

issues, there is a compelling interest in getting a

functioning, legitimate parliament and government in place

without unnecessary delay. Nonetheless, Thaksin conceded

today that the elections might slip until the end of October,

and we expect that such a delay would be broadly acceptable

if it were necessary. Once the new EC is in place —

hopefully in very early September — we should finally get an

election date we can count on.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:23 am

Posted in Confidential, Election

06BANGKOK4610 MORE ON MILITARY RESHUFFLE — THAI ARMY PUTS APOLITICAL OFFICERS IN CHARGE OF KEY UNITS

with 2 comments

“72904”,”7/28/2006 9:55″,”06BANGKOK4610″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“06BANGKOK4211|06BANGKOK4277|06BANGKOK4373|06CHIANGMAI120”,

“VZCZCXRO3743

PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

DE RUEHBK #4610/01 2090955

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 280955Z JUL 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0558

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

RUEKJCS/JCS WASHDC

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 004610

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

PACOM FOR FPA HUSO

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/28/2015

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, MARR, MASS, TH

SUBJECT: MORE ON MILITARY RESHUFFLE — THAI ARMY PUTS

APOLITICAL OFFICERS IN CHARGE OF KEY UNITS

 

REF: A. CHIANG MAI 120

B. BANGKOK 4373

C. BANGKOK 4277

D. BANGKOK 4211

 

Classified By: Charge Alex A. Arvizu. Reason 1.4 (a and d)

 

1. (C) Summary. Thai Army officers, civilian defense

analysts and other observers almost uniformly view the July

17 Army reshuffle as a deft move by Royal Thai Army (RTA)

CINC GEN Sonthi Boonyaratglin to ensure that key

battalion-level commanders and their subordinates in the

capital environs are loyal to the King and to RTA HQ, i.e. to

GEN Sonthi. Clearly the reshuffle was designed by GEN Sonthi

to preempt possible power plays by some Army elements close

to beleaguered caretaker PM Thaksin. By virtue of his

identification as a protector of the Palace, GEN Sonthi is

widely viewed as one of the \”good guys\” in the political

spectrum, and the July 17 Army appointments are generally

seen as contributing to a positive resolution of the ongoing

political drama rather than aggravating it. Even so, it is

remarkable that in 2006 the military — and the institution

of the monarchy, for that matter — remain for better or for

worse critical determinants in Thai politics. End Summary.

 

BACKGROUND

 

2. (C) Due to Thailand\’s history of military intervention

in the political process, analysts have been watching the RTA

closely for any signs of it stepping in to resolve the

present political stalemate. During the last such

interventions in 1991 and 1992, RTA units based near Bangkok,

particularly the 1st Infantry Division and the 4th Cavalry

Division, led a coup and violently put down protests.

Critics of PM Thaksin Shinawatra have long expressed concern

that the commanding generals of key Divisions near Bangkok

are Thaksin loyalists. For instance, MG Prin Suwanathat, the

commanding general of the First Infantry Division, is a

well-known Thaksin loyalist and pre-cadet prep school

classmate of the Prime Minister. Analysts point out that

patronage is important in the RTA. Flag officers loyal to

Thaksin, like Prin, have had several years to groom battalion

commanders who are presumably loyal directly to their

commanding general and indirectly to the Prime Minister.

 

3. (C) In Thailand, military and police officers are

extremely loyal to their pre-cadet preparatory school

classmates. These high-school groupings usually engender

closer ties than an officer holds towards his military or

police academy class. Regular prep class reunions are prime

networking events (For instance, on July 27 — Thaksin\’s

birthday — his class held a party in the Prime Minister\’s

honor). Throughout their careers, classmates help each other

in countless ways. In fact, previous coups have generally

involved officers from the same class. Thaksin, while

preparing for a career as a National Police officer, was a

member of Prep Class Ten. Many — although not all — of

Thaksin\’s RTA classmates are loyal to the Prime Minister and

are grateful for his patronage which has allowed them to be

promoted ahead of graduates from earlier classes. In a

country where a military officer can generally expect to be

promoted according to seniority, this patronage has caused a

great deal of resentment among members of more senior prep

classes who believe that Thaksin has \”broken the rules\” by

favoring his cronies. During the ongoing political turmoil,

this resentment between Class Ten Thaksin supporters and

others has led to speculation that pro-Thaksin officers might

step in to salvage their advantaged position.

 

4. (C) Most RTA officers who will express an opinion

dislike the Prime Minister. Notably, Thai officers pledge

allegiance to the Monarchy, not the Constitution, when they

are commissioned. Further exacerbating tensions between the

majority in the RTA and the pro PM minority is the perception

that Thaksin and his loyalists are insulting esteemed former

military officers like Privy Councillor and former RTA CINC

GEN Surayud Chulanont and Privy Councillor and former Prime

Minister GEN Prem Tinsulanond. It is widely speculated that

Surayud and Prem were instrumental in shaping the King\’s

unfavorable view of Thaksin.

 

DEFANGING THE DRAGON

 

BANGKOK 00004610 002 OF 002

 

5. (C) Thailand\’s defense establishment has been abuzz

analyzing what many describe as a master stroke by the

Commander in Chief of the Army, GEN Sonthi Boonyaratglin, to

reduce the likelihood that Thaksin supporters in the RTA

might make a move orchestrated by the Prime Minister. On

July 17, by using his administrative power to shuffle

mid-level officers, Sonthi transferred 129 RTA Lieutenant

Colonels and Colonels to new assignments. Included among

those officers were five battalion commanders from the First

Army Region which includes the area around Bangkok. Reftel A

discusses how this reshuffle was also used in the Third Army

Region, in Northwest Thailand, to reduce the influence of

Thaksin loyalists there. Sonthi\’s move was likely approved

by Prem who, on July 14 in a speech to military cadets,

likened Thaksin\’s government to a jockey who simply rides the

horse of state which is owned by the country and the King

(ref C).

 

6. (C) A senior RTA contact described the reshuffle as one

which \”defangs the dragon.\” According to the officer, even

though several Thaksin loyalists are Division commanders in

or around Bangkok, by shuffling the officers who actually

command combat units and ensuring that key battalion

commanders are known to Sonthi and the mainstream of the RTA,

Sonthi has made it virtually impossible for a commanding

general to be sure his subordinate would obey any order to

move in support of the Prime Minister.

 

STILL NO LOVE LOST BETWEEN THE OLD GUARD AND THE PM

 

7. (C) The tension between Thaksin and senior and retired

RTA officers is significant. A senior RTA officer in the

Royal Thai Supreme Command (RTSC) recently told us

confidentially that he and others are convinced that Thaksin

 

SIPDIS

and his supporters monitor the electronic communications of

Prem, Surayud and others. Our source also suggested that

anti-Thaksin members of the RTA are monitoring the Prime

Minister as well.

 

COMMENT: WHAT WOULD CAUSE THE MILITARY TO INTERVENE?

 

8. (C) \”What would cause the Army to step in?\” When asking

this question, Embassy officers have emphasized the

importance of the Army staying out of politics and allowing

the democratic process to play out. We have not hesitated to

point out how Army intervention could damage Thailand\’s

relationship with the United States. Uniformly, senior

officers from Sonthi on down have told us that the RTA has

come a long way since 1991 and would be extremely unlikely to

stage a coup. However, one RTSC general officer — a very

reliable U.S. contact whose professional sense of duty has

impressed us over the years — told us in a moment of candor

that if Thaksin made a move that was interpreted as disloyal

to the King, then the Army might have little choice but to

intervene by removing Thaksin from the political scene, and

quickly call for a new government to be appointed or elected.

Our contact stressed that he viewed such a scenario as

remote, especially in light of recent developments, i.e. the

royal decree announcing a general election on October 15, and

the guilty verdict returned by the Criminal Court against the

three members of the Election Commission, which many

interpret as a necessary step toward increasing the chances

of a fair election.

 

9. (C) Much of the recent intra-Army wrangling has been

aggravated by the uncertain political climate, including by

Thaksin\’s efforts to politicize the military during his time

in office. The good news is that the prospects for a decent

political outcome have improved considerably in light of

recent developments, including GEN Sonthi\’s preemptive

reshuffle of July 17. All the same, for all the real

progress made in strengthening Thailand\’s democratic

institutions since 1991-92, the Army is still a major factor

in the political scene.

ARVIZU

Written by thaicables

July 12, 2011 at 5:12 am