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06BANGKOK1539 DCM RECEIVES DEMARCHE – MYSTERY FLYERS IN LA

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“56239”,”3/13/2006 8:54″,”06BANGKOK1539″,

 

“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 001539

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR DS/OFM

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2016

TAGS: PGOV, ASEC, TH, Demarche

SUBJECT: DCM RECEIVES DEMARCHE – MYSTERY FLYERS IN LA

 

Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Alex A. Arvizu, reason 1.4 (b) (

d)

 

1. (C) On March 13, DCM Arvizu received a demarche from MFA

Director-General Nongnuth Phetcharatana related to the

distribution of flyers in Los Angeles that make

\”inappropriate references\” to the King and the Crown Prince.

According to DG Nongnuth, the 18-page flyer was distributed

in Los Angeles in September 2005 by an anonymous source. She

admitted not having seen the full text of the Thai-language

flyer, but noted that it appeared to be primarily a personal

attack on the Thai Consul General in Los Angeles. She said

that there were only one or two sentences that contained

inappropriate references to the monarchy.

 

2. (C) DG Nongnuth stated that the RTG would like the FBI to

assist the Consul General in Los Angeles in finding out who

is behind the production and distribution of these flyers.

DCM asked if the flyers contained any threats against the

Consul General or the royal family. DG Nongnuth stated that

she was uncertain, but believed that the document contained

no direct threats.

 

3. (C) DCM responded by assuring the DG that Post would

inform the Department, and in particular Diplomatic

Security\’s Office of Foreign Missions (DS/OFM). DCM noted,

however, that in the absence of any threat it is unclear what

action DS would be able to take.

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 5:13 am

05BANGKOK1774 OPPOSITION MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FACES LESE MAJESTE CHARGES

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“28486”,”3/10/2005 10:43″,”05BANGKOK1774″,”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 SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001774

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/10/2015

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, Political Parties

SUBJECT: OPPOSITION MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FACES LESE MAJESTE

CHARGES

 

Classified By: Political Counselor Robert J. Clarke, Reason: 1.4, (b)

 

1. (U) Summary. A respected opposition Member of Parliament

(MP), Khunying Kallaya Sophonpanich, has been summoned for

questioning by Thai police on charges of lese majeste. Four

others were questioned, including Democrat Party

parliamentary candidate Thanom Onkhetpol, who lost in the

February 6 general election, and three party workers. The

charges are based on a complaint filed by the government Thai

Rak Thai (TRT) Party candidate who opposed Thanom and who

reported to police in mid-January that Democrat Party (DP)

campaign stickers reportedly used by Thanom illegally quoted

Thailand\’s revered King and Queen. End Summary.

 

2. (U) On March 8, Khunying Kallaya Sophonpanich, Thanom

Onkhetpol and three Democrat Party workers appeared at the

Metropolitan Bangkok Police Division 1 at the request of the

police and public prosecutor, who are investigating lese

majeste charges filed against them by Thai Rak Thai MP Sita

Divari. The accused appeared with former DP Party Leader

Banyat Bantadtan, who recently stepped down following his

party\’s defeat in February 6 general elections. Also present

was DP MP and prominent defense attorney Phichet

Phanvichartkul. (Note: The DP won only 96 of the total 500

seats in the lower house of Thailand\’s Parliament. The

ruling TRT party won 377. End note.)

 

3. (U) Under the Penal Code of Thailand, \”Whoever defames,

insults or threatens the King, the Queen, the Heir-apparent

or the Regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to

fifteen years.\” The charges in this case are based on

campaign stickers (reportedly similar in size to a US style

bumper sticker) printed and paid for by the local office of

the DP in Bangkok\’s Klong Toey constituency. Three quotes are

used in the stickers, according to newspaper accounts. The

first is an excerpt from a speech given by Queen Sirikit,

\”Poverty is no disgrace, while evil and fraud are disgusting

and disgraceful.\” The other two excerpts are from speeches

given by King Bhumibol. \”The richer people are, the more they

cheat,\” and \”Anyone who cheats (or is corrupt), even just a

little bit, may that person be cursed.\” The complaint by MP

Sita apparently alleges that the DP did not receive

permission to print the quotes and that the DP is using the

revered words of the monarchy for political gain. Khunying

Kalaya is accused of ordering the printing and distribution

of the stickers in the role of senior politician assisting

the campaign of Thanom.

 

4. (U) It\’s unclear to most legal experts how this can be

construed as defaming the monarch as the quotes are taken

from public speeches and there is no prohibition on quoting

the King or Queen in public. Initial news reports indicated

that the stickers actually had no political party

identification, although Poloffs have never seen the stickers

or even pictures of them. In fact the stickers have never

been shown up close in public, since anyone who now shows the

stickers could also be accused of lese majeste. The police

stated they had already interviewed 18 witnesses before

questioning the accused. After taking statements of the 5

persons named in the complaint, the public prosecutor could

now decide whether to ask the police to issue arrest

warrants. In that case, Khunying Kalaya would be immune from

arrest during parliamentary sessions.

 

5. (U) Khunying Kalaya, who had the title of \”Khunying\”

bestowed on her over 10 years ago in part in recognition of

her philanthropic works through Royally-sponsored projects

for children\’s\’ books and encyclopedias, appears undeterred

in her efforts to fight the charges. During a local

television interview on the front steps of the police station

where she was interrogated, Khunying Kalaya stated, \”I will

be put in prison or even die in order to uphold justice and

the preservation of a true constitutional monarchy.\”

Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva earlier pledged to

cooperate with the investigation but expressed concern that

evidence used by the police had not been presented to the

Democrat Party or their lawyers in order to help them mount a

fair defense.

 

6. (C) Comment: Use of this arcane but very important tenet

of Thai criminal law by a government parliamentary candidate

for political retribution is disturbing. This tactic, which

likely had to be approved at the highest levels of TRT

leadership to proceed this far, seems unnecessary and

vindictive after the TRT electoral landslide and surprise

sweep of the MP constituency races in Bangkok. We are

watching closely as someone clearly dedicated to Thailand\’s

revered monarch and to public service is drawn into a legal

spectacle. Privately, many Thais have expressed to us their

hope that Khunying Kalaya\’s palace connections will find a

way to have the charges dropped. End comment.

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 6, 2011 at 7:48 am

09BANGKOK610 LESE MAJESTE DEBATE ENTERS PUBLIC DOMAIN; WEBSITE MODERATOR ARRESTED UNDER COMPUTER CRIME ACT

with one comment

“196042″,”3/10/2009 10:00″,

 

“09BANGKOK610″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN”,

 

“09BANGKOK140|09BANGKOK325|09BANGKOK520

 

“,”VZCZCXRO4950

 

PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

 

DE RUEHBK #0610/01 0691000

 

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

 

P 101000Z MAR 09

 

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

 

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6336

 

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

 

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 6833

 

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 9490

 

RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 5519

 

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 5322

 

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1439

 

RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 2626

 

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 6285

 

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

 

RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY

 

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

 

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

 

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

 

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

 

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01

 

OF 03 BANGKOK 000610

 

NOFORN

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP, DRL, IO; NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/09/2019

 

TAGS: PHUM, PGOV, KPAO, KJUS, TH

 

SUBJECT: THAILAND: LESE MAJESTE DEBATE ENTERS PUBLIC

 

DOMAIN; WEBSITE MODERATOR ARRESTED UNDER COMPUTER CRIME ACT

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 520 (PERMSEC RAISES LESE MAJESTE)

 

B. BANGKOK 325 (LESE MAJESTE ARRESTS)

 

C. BANGKOK 140 (THAI COURT SENTENCES)

 

BANGKOK 00000610 001.2 OF 003

 

Classified By: DCM James F. Entwistle, reason 1.4 (B) and (D)

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

 

——————-

 

1. (C) Issues associated with implementation of the lese

 

majeste (offense to the monarchy) provisions of the Thai

 

Criminal Code continue to generate headlines and controversy.

 

The police Crime Suppression Division (CSD) arrested

 

Executive Director Chiranuch Premchaiporn of Prachatai.com,

 

an online news website, on March 6 and charged her with

 

violating the 2007 Computer Crime Act, apparently due to

 

readers\’ comments posted to the site\’s Web board in 2008.

 

Australian writer Harry Nicolaides, convicted for lese

 

majeste in January, received a royal pardon February 18 and

 

returned to Australia. Dual national academic Giles

 

Ungpakorn fled Thailand for the U.K. February 9, fearing he

 

would face similar charges, and launched an overt

 

anti-monarchy, pro-republican campaign that would not have

 

been possible in Thailand. A group of 50 foreign scholars

 

called for open debate and reform of the lese majeste

 

provisions of the criminal code in a March 4 video conference

 

broadcast by a cautious Foreign Correspondents\’ Club of

 

Thailand (FCCT).

 

2. (C) Comment: The RTG\’s arrests of individuals under the

 

lese majeste provisions of the criminal code and the 2007

 

Computer Crime Act are intended to protect the monarchy.

 

Ironically, the heightened pace of arrests and charges,

 

especially those involving prominent figures, may cause

 

liberal-minded Thais to resent restrictions on speech and to

 

associate the monarchy with acts of repression, weakening

 

domestic support for the institution the legal actions seek

 

to protect. This issue and the controversy it generates will

 

likely continue through royal succession, as various parties

 

position themselves for the inevitable redefinition of the

 

institution of monarchy and its role in Thai society once the

 

revered King Bhumibol passes from the scene.

 

3. (C) Comment, cont: The RTG remains very sensitive to

 

characterization by foreigners of implementation of lese

 

majeste provisions as an issue of limiting freedom of speech,

 

as the complaint by a top MFA official about coverage in our

 

annual Country Report on Human Rights Practices indicates

 

(ref A). The RTG is unlikely to alter its stance merely due

 

to criticism or even well-meaning advice from abroad. We do

 

not recommend the USG make any public comment on the

 

application of the law or on individual cases, but will

 

continue to raise our concerns in private and include

 

relevant material in the annual Human Rights report. End

 

Summary and Comment.

 

WEB EDITOR ARRESTED, WEB COMMUNITY WARNED

 

—————————————–

 

4. (C) Police officers from the Crime Suppression Division

 

(CSD) arrested Executive Director Chiranuch Premchaiporn of

 

Prachatai.com, an online news site not associated with any

 

traditional media outlet, in a surprise raid on March 6 that

 

rattled the online news community. Chiranuch was released on

 

bail the same evening. The police cited Article 15 of the

 

Computer Crime Act (CCA), which states that any service

 

provider intentionally supporting or consenting to a number

 

of offenses related to dissemination of material, including

 

posting content harmful to national security, is subject to

 

imprisonment of up to five years or a fine of up to 100,000

 

baht ($2,777). The arrest featured prominently in

 

Thai-language media reports on March 7, with many print

 

editions featuring the story on the front-page. (Note:

 

BANGKOK 00000610 002.2 OF 003

 

Prachatai.com was created in 2004 to counter Thaksin-era

 

online censorship and perceived corporate and political bias

 

in the print media. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, the site has

 

daily averages of 20-30,000 readers and 300,000 page hits.

 

End Note.)

 

5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXX on March 9 that the Ministry of

 

Information and Communication Technology (MICT) had

 

previously warned XXXXXXX about specific reader comments

 

through a series of at least three formal letters — in

 

particular, if a posting had been permitted to remain online

 

for more than 15 days. XXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

6. (C) The exact source of the charge remained unclear, but

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

7. (SBU) Ironically, the raid on Prachatai.com took place on

 

the heels of PM Abhisit Vejjajiva\’s pledge to ensure media

 

freedom at Asia News Network\’s (ANN) 10th anniversary

 

celebration in Bangkok earlier on March 6. (Note: ANN is an

 

alliance of 20 newspapers in 17 countries, and claims to be

 

the biggest media alliance worldwide in terms of readership.

 

End Note.) Media coverage of the celebration quoted Abhisit

 

as acknowledging Thailand\’s decline in media freedom,

 

asserting the need to clarify standards for enforcement of

 

the lese majeste provision of law, and promising new laws and

 

regulations under consideration will protect media

 

professionals and increase information available to the

 

public.

 

AUSTRALIAN PARDONED, RETURNED HOME

 

———————————-

 

8. (C/NF) Australian author Harry Nicolaides received a royal

 

pardon on February 18, and he returned home to Australia on

 

February 21. The Thai Criminal Court had sentenced

 

Nicolaides on January 19 to three years\’ imprisonment for

 

lese majeste, based on his 2005 novel Verisimilitude, which

 

had a one paragraph account of personal shortcomings of a

 

fictional Crown Prince that closely tracked the life of the

 

current Crown Prince. Nicolaides was promoted by some

 

foreign commentators as a prisoner of conscience/free speech,

 

but the Australian embassy walked a fine line in quietly

 

working for his pardon, XXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

DUAL NATIONAL ACADEMIC FLEES, LAUNCHES RED SIAM MANIFESTO

 

—————————– —————————

 

9. (C) Chulalongkorn political science professor Giles \”Ji\”

 

Ungpakorn, charged with lese majeste on January 20 for his

 

2007 book \”A Coup for the Rich,\” fled for the U.K. on

 

February 9. XXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX\” Upon his arrival in the U.K.,

 

Ungpakorn released a political manifesto entitled \”Red Siam.\”

 

BANGKOK 00000610 003.2 OF 003

 

The manifesto attacked the historical role of the monarchy

 

and the King personally and called for the establishment of a

 

Thai republic; while the manifesto is in keeping with the

 

tenor of Ji\’s Marxist writings over three decades, he had not

 

previously attacked the monarchy so directly. Thai media

 

reported that Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya on March 9

 

indicated publicly that Abhisit may engage the British

 

government about the possibility of extraditing Ungpakorn on

 

the charge of lese majeste during his visit to London to

 

attend the G-20 summit on April 2.

 

INTERNATIONAL SCHOLARS CALL FOR OPEN DEBATE OF LAW

 

——————————————— —–

 

10. (C) The Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand (FCCT)

 

hosted its first web-based press conference on March 4,

 

featuring U.S.-based professor Thongchai Winichakul and

 

Australian professor Andrew Walker, who called for an open

 

debate about the lese majeste provision of the criminal code.

 

The video conference was accompanied by the release of a

 

draft letter from 50 international scholars/activists to

 

Abhisit that urged the RTG to reform the law that generated

 

\”heightened criticism of the monarchy\” and encouraged

 

\”frequent abuse… against political opponents.\” FCCT board

 

chairman and journalist Marwaan Macan-Markar told us on March

 

4 that he worried that the FCCT could be charged for helping

 

to disseminate views offensive to the monarchy.

 

KING\’S VIEWS IGNORED IN POSITIONING FOR FUTURE?

 

——————————————— –

 

11. (C) A number of international commentators, including a

 

landmark December 2008 edition of the Economist, have

 

criticized King Bhumibol for not intervening in the current

 

burst of lese majeste activity. In fact, the King\’s most

 

extensive comments on the matter, given during his annual

 

birthday speech in 2005, put him on the side of minimal use

 

of a tool that sources close to the palace claim that he and

 

his daughter Princess Sirindhorn do not support. (note: The

 

implied subtext of the December 2005 speech was that since

 

the King himself was open to criticism, the PM at the time,

 

Thaksin, should also be.)

 

12. (SBU) Select passages from the speech\’s lengthy discourse

 

on the issue follow: \”…when you say the King can do no

 

wrong, it is wrong. We should not say that…actually I want

 

them to criticize because whatever I do, I want to know that

 

people agree or disagree…Actually I must also be

 

criticized. I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I

 

do wrong, because then I know. Because if you say the King

 

cannot be criticized, it means that the King is not

 

human…If they criticize correctly, I have no problem.\”

 

13. (C) Others members of the royal family and those close to

 

it, however, appear to have a different view, particularly of

 

criticism not directed at the King but the institution itself

 

and the other two individuals covered by lese majeste: the

 

Queen and Crown Prince. While it has generally long been

 

understood that foreigners who show remorse will be pardoned

 

by the King, the standards for Thai citizens appear

 

different. When a U.S. businessman privately raised concerns

 

of how the cases against Nicolaides and Ji Ungpakorn were

 

damaging Thailand\’s image with members of the Privy Council

 

in early February, Privy Council President Prem replied:

 

\”There will be movement on Nicolaides soon. But Ji is Thai.\”

 

Thai citizen and United Front for Democracy Against

 

Dictatorship (UDD) supporter Bunyuen Prasoetying was

 

sentenced to six years\’ imprisonment in November 2008 after

 

committing lese majeste; there is no indication at this time

 

that a pardon is in the offing.

 

JOHN

 

 

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:12 pm

09BANGKOK520 THAI MFA PERMSEC RAISES LESE MAJESTE WITH AMBASSADOR MARCIEL AT ASEAN SUMMIT

with one comment

“194823”,”3/3/2009 3:15″,”09BANGKOK520″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

 

“VZCZCXRO7458

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #0520/01 0620315

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 030315Z MAR 09 ZDK

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 6237

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 6813

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 9472

RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 5507

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 5305

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1421

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 6259

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY”,

 

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 000520

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/02/2019

TAGS: PHUM, PREL, PGOV, KJUS, TH

SUBJECT: THAI MFA PERMSEC RAISES LESE MAJESTE WITH

AMBASSADOR MARCIEL AT ASEAN SUMMIT

 

BANGKOK 00000520 001.2 OF 002

 

Classified By: Charge d\’ Affaires James F. Entwistle, reason: 1.4 (b, d

)

 

1. (C) EAP Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Ambassador

for ASEAN Affairs Scot Marciel engaged Thai Ministry of

Foreign Affairs (MFA) Permanent Secretary Virasadki Futrakul

February 28 on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit in

Cha-am/Hua Hin regarding U.S.-bilateral relations and ASEAN

issues (septel). During the meeting, Virasadki provided

Ambassador Marciel a non-paper on lese majeste in response to

coverage of lese majeste-related developments in the

recently-released Country Report on Human Rights Practices.

Marciel gave no response to the non-paper but said that he

would carry it back to Washington.

 

2. (C) Virasadki expressed concern with the recently

released Human Rights Report. He explained that, under the

criminal code, anybody can bring charges of lese majeste, but

in the past King Bhumibol had been lenient and always granted

clemency to foreigners convicted of this offense. Virasakdi

stated that the RTG was very careful to ensure that this law

was not misused; currently the RTG was reviewing who amongst

the populace could bring charges of lese majeste. The RTG

was reviewing the practices of EU countries with monarchies

to see what types of reforms can be made.

 

3. (C) Virasadki urged that non-Thai should understand that

lese majeste is a defensive mechanism to protect the

institution of the monarchy, and that the institution of the

monarchy was part and parcel of the Thai identity. He

provided Ambassador Marciel with a note verbale on this

topic. The text follows, with grammatical errors reproduced

as in the original:

 

BEGIN TEXT

———-

 

Thailand\’s Comments on the U.S. State Department\’s 2008 Human

Rights Report

 

– We are greatly disappointed by the U.S. State Department,s

human rights report concerning lese-majeste provision, which

is part of Thailand,s Criminal Code.

 

– The U.S. State Department,s human rights report clearly

illustrates a great misunderstanding of lese-majeste law,

mainly its application, since it also contains general

provisions on defamation and libel of private individuals.

 

– The rational of the law is simple. The law is there to

protect Thailand,s national security because under the Thai

Constitution, the monarchy is one of Thailand,s principal

institutions. This is also necessary as the King and other

members of the Royal Family are above politics. The

Constitution does not allow them to comment or act in their

own defense. Therefore, this is the same rationale as the

law on contempt of court. These institutions should remain

above conflicts and not be drawn into one.

 

– Thailand upholds people,s rights to freedom of speech and

expression; such rights are guaranteed by the Thai

Constitution. The lese-majeste law is not aimed at curbing

neither these rights nor the the legitimate exercise of

academic freedom including the debates about the monarchy as

an institution. All cases mentioned in the report, including

the case of Giles Ungpakorn are under the due process of law

and are subject to further proof of evidences and facts.

 

– Given the Thai peoples, appreciation of the King,s

devotion to their well-being during his reign, most Thais are

deeply revernt and highly protective towards their King,

hence their low tolerance for those suspected for

lese-majeste. Such is part of the cultural or social values

that have shaped the Thai public,s views regarding the

lese-majeste law and the protection of the monarchy as a

principal national institution.

 

– Due to our countries, longstanding relationship of more

than 175 years, Thailand and the U.S. have formed a close

bond of friendship especially at the people-to-people level,

therefore the insensitivities of this report have had a

tremendous impact on the sentiments of the Thai people,

 

BANGKOK 00000520 002.2 OF 002

 

particularly when the U.S. is regarded as our closest friend.

 

– We urge the U.S. Department of State to properly address

and rectify the misunderstandings in this report in order to

prevent the further misinterpretation of Thailand,s

lese-majeste law, in which the Thai people abide by in their

daily lives.

 

END TEXT

——–

 

4. (U) Ambassador Marciel has cleared this cable.

ENTWISTLE

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm

09BANGKOK325 LESE MAJESTE ARRESTS AND ACTIONS AGAINST WEB CONTENTON THE RISE, BUT RISK BACKLASH

with 2 comments

“190767”,”2/6/2009 10:19″,”09BANGKOK325″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”SECRET//NOFORN”,

 

“08BANGKOK140|08BANGKOK3350|08BANGKOK3398″,”VZCZCXRO4701

PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

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ZNY SSSSS ZZH

P 061019Z FEB 09

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RUEKJCS/CJCS WASHDC PRIORITY

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY”,”S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 000325

 

NOFORN

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP, DRL, IO; NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/05/2019

TAGS: PHUM, PGOV, KPAO, KJUS, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: LESE MAJESTE ARRESTS AND ACTIONS AGAINST

WEB CONTENT ON THE RISE, BUT RISK BACKLASH

 

REF: A. 08 BANGKOK 00140 (THAI COURT)

B. 08 BANGKOK 003398 (UPDATE)

C. 08 BANGKOK 3350 (UPTICK IN ANGER)

 

BANGKOK 00000325 001.2 OF 004

 

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

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) Legal action in the courts and against websites on

grounds of lese majeste, or offense to the monarchy, have

seemingly increased under the new Democrat-led coalition

government, with both the Justice Minister and the

Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Minister

having stated publicly that combating lese majeste violations

is their top priority. Those recently charged, arrested, or

convicted include Marxist Professor Giles Ungpakorn, website

commentator Suwicha Thakor, and \”redshirt\” supporter Bunyuen

Prasoetying. For its part, the ICT Ministry has flagged over

10,000 URLs that contained content deemed offensive to the

monarchy, with 2,000 such URLs already blocked. The

Bangkok-based distributor of The Economist halted

distribution of an issue for the third time in two months due

to an article which touched on the alleged role of the

monarchy in politics.

 

2. (C) Comment: While the political crisis that gripped

Thailand the second half of 2008 has disappeared from the

streets for now, the deep gulf in Thai society and the body

politic remains, and the eventual fate of the monarchy is one

of the key cleavage lines. The struggle by many parties for

position and advantage in shaping public perceptions in

anticipation of the passing of the revered King, a potential

messy succession involving the far less respected Crown

Prince, and the almost certain redefinition of the role of

the institution of monarchy continues unabated.

 

3. (C) Comment, continued: Many of the Democrat Party leaders

who have moved into top government positions are

cosmopolitan, well-educated people who nevertheless appear to

be facilitating growing efforts to clamp down on forms of

speech critical of the monarchy. Whether that is primarily

out of personal conviction or political advantage, or both,

remains unclear. Thailand has a reasonably strong and active

civil society, however, that promotes changing societal

attitudes towards traditional institutions and behavioral

norms; this issue will not be easily swept under the carpet.

Broad-brushed efforts against all unflattering mention of the

institution, King, Queen, and Crown Prince through crude

application of the blunt instrument of lese majeste laws,

without distinction between those who actually intend ill

towards the monarchy and those expressing opinions which

otherwise would not find an audience, may end up undermining

the institution the law is meant to protect — an unintended

consequence akin to the People\’s Alliance for Democracy\’s

(PAD) extreme actions in 2008 and the Queen\’s ill-advised

patronage of the October 13 funeral of a PAD demonstrator.

End Summary and Comment.

 

LESE MAJESTE: A MATTER OF NATIONAL SECURITY?

——————————————–

 

4. (SBU) Justice Minister Pirapan stated to the press

January 14 that protecting the monarchy was his top priority.

He referred to the monarchy as \”the pillar of national

security,\” and explained that \”freedom of speech might have

to be compromised for the sake of national security.\”

Pirapan called on January 24 for the MFA to instruct

Thailand\’s diplomatic missions abroad to launch public

relations campaigns about lese majeste laws and the legal

repercussions for insults to the monarchy, according to the

media. In similar fashion, ICT Minister Ranongrak

Suwanchawee has said publicly that blocking websites with

 

BANGKOK 00000325 002.2 OF 004

 

content offensive to the monarchy is her top priority.

Ministry sweeps of the Internet had flagged over 10,000 URLs

that contained content offensive to the monarchy, and 2,000

such URLs had already been blocked.

 

5. (C) The Senate established the \”Special Senate Committee

to Follow-up on Enforcement of the Lese Majeste Law\” January

23 in a 90-17 vote. The committee, proposed by Senator

Khamnoon Sitthisamarn and headed by national police chief

Patcharawat Wongsuwan, is intended to ensure the enforcement

of laws and articles relating to the protection of the

monarchy, in a move that some human rights activists termed

as \”McCarthy-like.\” The committee appears to have already

established a Thai-language website, http://www.protecttheking.net,

which provides an online form for people to report lese

majeste.

 

6. (C) For its part, the Army maintains a special unit tasked

with tracking and identify lese majeste offenses through

24-hour sweeps of websites, according to a leading NGO

activist with close ties to security forces (see Ref C for an

earlier description of such a military effort). The Army

unit works closely with the Department of Special

Investigations (DSI), had superior surveillance technology

than the ICT Ministry, aimed to focus on \”high-profile\”

offenders with the highest audience reach, and was known to

visit them at their homes, according to the expert.

 

COMMENTS, PHOTO POSTED TO INTERNET LAND BLOGGER IN JAIL

——————————————— ———-

 

7. (S/NF) Department of Special Investigation (DSI) police

arrested oil rig engineer Suwicha Thakhor on January 14 after

seizing his computer equipment. Media reports alleged that

Suwicha\’s employer fired him following the arrest, and he

remained in prison without bail after police deemed him to be

at risk for repeating his online remarks. An NGO expert

familiar with the case told us on January 30 that Suwicha had

posted something \”really bad\” about the Crown Prince and had

included pornographic photos of the Crown Prince\’s consort,

Princess Srirasmi. (Note: two sets of nude photographs of

Srirasmi, believed to have been taken at the Crown Prince\’s

direction before being leaked, started circulating in

Thailand in 2007. Similar photos of the Crown Prince\’s latest

mistress have recently started circulating on the internet,

according to several contacts who claim to have seen them.)

 

8. (S/NF) Suwicha, similar to activists Bunyuen Prasoetying

(below) and Daranee Charnchansinlapakun (ref B), was denied

bail, denied immediate access to a lawyer, and confessed

before having such access, according to the NGO expert.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX told him that police had extracted a

confession from Suwicha after they threatened to bring the

Crown Prince to the jail for a face-to-face meeting.

 

9. (SBU) Widespread online and print media coverage of

Suwicha\’s arrest prompted Justice Minister Pirapan

Salirathavibhaga to request on January 15 that all lese

majeste-related arrests not be disclosed. Pirapan reportedly

instructed DSI to help stem media coverage of any radio

station closures, website censorship, or arrests related to

lese majeste.

 

MARXIST ACADEMIC CHARGED

————————

 

10. (C) Special Branch Police (SBP) charged Chulalongkorn

political science professor and self-proclaimed Marxist Giles

\”Ji\” Ungpakorn with lese majeste on January 20 based on

several paragraphs in his 2007 book \”Coup for the Rich,\”

publication of which Ungpakorn claims police attempted to

block through intervention with Chulalongkorn University.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX SBP had warned him that a quote

 

BANGKOK 00000325 003.2 OF 004

 

from Paul Handley\’s banned book \”The King Never Smiles\” was

problematic. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX cited the

Handley\’s text to refute it as hearsay, but it is well known

that restating material deemed to violate lese majeste is

treated as an offense in its own right. Giles XXXXXX has

traditionally attacked all elements of the traditional Thai

elite, including all political forces without distinction,

XXXXXXXXXX despite earlier pressure from Special Branch,

formal charges did not surface until the inauguration of a

Democrat-led government.

 

11. (C) XXXXXXX blamed the looming prospect of succession

within the monarchy for the surge in lese majeste cases,

believing that the authorities sought to stifle dissent that

might undermine support for the monarchy, even as quiet

public concern grew over the Crown Prince\’s possible

accession to the throne. XXXXX characterized lese majeste

charges as a fear tactic that left individuals with long-term

cases to manage and caused hardship for family members. XXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXe was willing to fight an open political

campaign against the criminalization of lese majeste and had

planned a world-wide public relations blitz. (note: U.S. and

UK professors have circulated a petition among academics

world-wide in support of Ungpakorn and started a website

intending to raise awareness of his and other cases. A human

rights expert told us February 4 that Giles\’ famous

surname–his father was one of the revered 20th giants of

Thai civil society–and connections made him ultimately

untouchable, in contrast to less influential and more

vulnerable critics such as Suwicha).

 

UNDER THE RADAR, UDD SUPPORTER SENTENCED TO SIX YEARS

——————————————— ——–

 

12. (C) United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD)

supporter Bunyuen Prasoetying was sentenced to six years\’

imprisonment on November 6, after having been held without

bail since August 15, for remarks made at a pro-Thaksin rally

earlier in 2008. However, media reports of the sentencing

did not surface until January 7, when online news media site

Prachatai.com reported the story. To our knowledge, no

Thai-language printed news source reported on the conviction;

online blogs and other websites provide links to the

Prachatai.com report.

 

\”THE ECONOMIST\” THAI DISTRIBUTOR SELF-CENSORS

———————————————

 

13. (C) XXXXXXXX the Thai distributor of The Economist,

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX had chosen not to distribute a third

issue in the last two months (December 6, January 24, and

January 31) due to sensitive content related to the role of

monarchy in politics. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

that Asia Books had to comply with Thai laws and thus had

withdrawn the controversial material. XXXXXX confirmed to us

that no political or law enforcement pressure influenced Asia

Book\’s decisions in this matter (note: the December 6

edition, with the King on the cover, aggressively questioned

the role of the monarchy; the January 24 edition republished

the passage which had led to the conviction of Australian

author Nicolaides (ref A); and the January 31 edition

referred to the Queen\’s intervention in politics).

 

THAI NETIZENS: REALITY DEFEATS PM\’S GOOD INTENTIONS

——————————————— ——

 

14. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX told us on January 23 XXXXXX

had initially felt optimistic about the new Democrat

Party-led government following a XXXXXXXX meeting with

Prime Minister Abhisit. She described Abhisit as \”diplomatic

and open,\” stating that he had \”no intention to amend\” the

Computer Crime Act. Abhisit reinforced this message at his

 

BANGKOK 00000325 004.2 OF 004

 

mid-January appearance at the Foreign Correspondent\’s Club

(FCCT), when he asserted the draft bill, promoted by the

Justice Minister with the support of other Democrat Party MPs

and intended to significantly strengthen lese majeste

provisions, was not his priority. Her organization intended

to find a \”non-confrontational\” way to address growing

concerns about civil liberties online, perhaps via a working

group of ministries and civil society groups. The charges

against Ungpakorn, the sentencing of Nicolaides, and the

arrest of Suwicha had tempered the initial optimism, XXXXX

added.

 

FRIENDLY FOREIGNERS FLAG CONCERNS TO PALACE INSIDERS

——————————————— ——-

 

15. (C) Several private Americans with long-term experience

in Thailand and good connections with palace insiders weighed

in \”as friends\” February 3-5 out of concern that the

increased application of lese majeste, without distinction

between those who mean ill towards the monarchy and those who

otherwise would be ignored, ran the risk of undermining the

very institution the law seeks to protect, and which they

feel has served Thailand well through the decades. The

reception to the message was mixed. Privy Councilors Prem

Tinsulanonda, Surayud Chulanont, and Siddhi Savetsila thanked

one U.S. businessman for the \”very good advice; we\’ll take it

seriously.\” The reaction from the Crown Property Bureau to a

similar approach by a second businessman was completely

negative; the self-described friend of the monarchy remarked

afterwords: \”these people live in an alternate reality.\”

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Posted in Lesse Majesty, Secret

08BANGKOK1879 FORMER CABINET MINISTER DISCUSSES LESE MAJESTE CHARGE, THAKSIN, AND ROYAL FAMILY

leave a comment »

“158655”,”6/18/2008 9:56″,”08BANGKOK1879″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN”,

 

“08BANGKOK1290|08BANGKOK1370|08BANGKOK1612

 

|08BANGKOK1613|08BANGKOK1662″,”VZCZCXRO2155

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #1879/01 1700956

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 180956Z JUN 08

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3423

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0837

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 6071

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 8810

RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 001879

 

SIPDIS

NOFORN

 

NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2018

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PINR, KDEM, KJUS, TH

SUBJECT: FORMER CABINET MINISTER DISCUSSES LESE MAJESTE

CHARGE, THAKSIN, AND ROYAL FAMILY

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 1662 (LESE MAJESTE)

B. BANGKOK 1613 (JAKRAPOB TAKES AXE TO MEDIA)

C. BANGKOK 1612 (HOW HOT IS IT?)

D. BANGKOK 1370 (THEIN SEIN VISIT)

E. BANGKOK 1290 (DINNER WITH THAKSIN)

 

Classified By: CDA James F. Entwistle, reason: 1.4 (b) and (d).

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Jakrapob Penkair, the former Minister Attached to the

Prime Minister\’s Office who resigned on May 30 after being

charged with lese majeste, told us on June 17 that he may be

prosecuted for this alleged offense, but he would expect to

be pardoned if convicted. He believed the police were likely

encouraged by the palace or its surrogates to pursue his

case, but he also fell victim to plotting by colleagues in

People\’s Power Party circles. Jakrapob claimed that former

Prime Minister Thaksin\’s lack of support for him, and for

Jakrapob\’s advocacy of a more democratic Thailand, showed

that Thaksin has withdrawn from political life — even though

Thaksin, in our view, remains involved in informal political

decisionmaking. Jakrapob also commented on King Bhumibol\’s

health and on the Queen\’s activities and her personal

connection to First Army Commander Prayut Chan-ocha (who has

featured prominently of late in coup rumors). End Summary.

 

LESE MAJESTE CASE

—————–

 

2. (C/NF) Deputy Political Counselor met on June 17 with

former Minister Attached to the Prime Minister\’s Office

Jakrapob Penkair (strictly protect throughout), who resigned

on May 30 after being charged by police with lese majeste

following media focus on his public description of a clash

between democracy and Thailand\’s traditional patronage system

(ref A). Jakrapob characterized the lese majeste charge

against him as weak. He said the investigating police

officers had admitted that a literal, word-by-word reading of

his public remarks presented no basis for the charge, but the

police nevertheless based their accusation on suspicion of a

\”hidden agenda\” against the monarchy that was revealed by the

overall tone of his statements. Speaking privately to us,

Jakrapob readily admitted that his goal was to help Thailand

to build a more modern political system, one in which the

structures of democratic governance would not be vulnerable

to interference by the palace.

 

3. (C) Jakrapob said he would provide the police with a

statement responding to the lese majeste charge on July 2.

His case would then undergo reviews by police officials at

two levels before it might be forwarded to public

prosecutors. Jakrapob doubted that those reviews would

result in the police dismissing his case, as such a move

would generate strong criticism of the police by royalists.

 

4. (C) Citing widespread public esteem for Thailand\’s

judicial system, Jakrapob told us he doubted prosecutors

would face similar criticism if they were to decline to

prosecute him. He claimed, however, that the high profile of

his case had led to widespread dissemination of a text of his

remarks, and this might make it more likely that this matter

would proceed to trial. He said he had recommended to

colleagues of his that they should use his case, and possibly

his imprisonment, to advance the public\’s interest (e.g.,

enlightening Thais about feudal elements of Thai politics,

including lese majeste provisions of law). Jakrapob said he

expected that he would receive a royal pardon if convicted,

as King Bhumibol has announced that he would pardon anyone

convicted of lese majeste.

 

STABBED IN THE BACK

——————-

 

5. (C) Jakrapob surmised that the police had been pressured

to pursue him by a loose cabal involving, possibly among

others, Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, the

People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), and the Democrat

 

BANGKOK 00001879 002 OF 003

 

Party. He also felt that enemies of his within the

pro-Thaksin People\’s Power Party (PPP) had deliberately

stoked the controversy in order to force him out of office.

He claimed that some figures — such as Newin Chidchob, a

former legislator and close associate of former PM Thaksin —

had taken note of his efforts to reform media management in

Thailand (see ref B) and wanted to displace him in order to

accrue for themselves the influence and fringe benefits that

such efforts could provide.

 

6. (C/NF) Jakrapob told us with dismay that Thaksin had

quickly decided not to support Jakrapob when he came under

fire. Jakrapob said Thaksin had likely worried that Jakrapob

would use his position to engage in a \”long war\” (Jakrapob\’s

term) against the palace, and this could affect Thaksin.

Implying that Thaksin\’s and his political views were not

dissimilar, Jakrapob said Thaksin\’s lack of political support

for him showed that Thaksin had truly withdrawn from

politics. Jakrapob then speculated that Thaksin might be

willing to make a deal with the palace or its surrogates

whereby the Democrat Party could run the government. If

Thaksin refused that deal, Jakrapob speculated that the

anti-Thaksin cabal would continue to place pressure on

Thaksin and his allies through PAD demonstrations and the

aggressive pursuit of legal cases against Thaksin.

 

7. (C/NF) Comment: In our discussion, Jakrapob did not

resolve the seeming contradiction between his assertion that

Thaksin was out of politics and his speculation that Thaksin

might make a deal that determines who governs Thailand. In

an early June lunch meeting, Thaksin told the Australian

Ambassador to Thailand that he was out of politics, although

Thaksin also characterized himself as directing political and

economic events — \”driving from the back seat,\” according to

an Australian diplomat present. This portrayal of Thaksin as

engaged in politics while formally uninvolved tracks with the

impression he conveyed to the U.S. Ambassador in late April

— see ref E. End Comment.

 

REMARKS ABOUT THE ROYAL FAMILY AND GENERAL PRAYUT

——————————————— —-

 

8. (C/NF) We also asked Jakrapob about the widespread rumors

that First Army Commander General Prayut Chan-ocha would have

a leading role in the event of a military coup d\’etat (ref

C). Jakrapob explained this view by referring to a close

personal bond that Prayut had reportedly formed with the

Queen during his service with the Queen\’s Regiment. Jakrapob

alleged that this close relationship had allowed Prayut to

maintain direct contact with the Queen, who is widely thought

to support a confrontational approach to the current

government. The Queen fueled this perception when,

accompanied by Army Commander Anupong Paojinda, she visited

the \”War Victory Temple\” (Wat Channa Songkram) on the May 19

Buddhist holiday. That temple is not the traditional venue

for the royal family on this holiday, but is normally a place

where people pray before going into a battle of one sort or

another.

 

9. (C/NF) In a tangential aside, Jakrapob noted that, prior

to his resignation, he had accompanied visiting Burmese Prime

Minister Thein Sein to an April 30 audience with the King

(ref D). Jakrapob said that, at that audience, the King had

appeared in excellent condition and was mentally sharp.

Jakrapob added, seemingly based on hearsay, that the King has

\”good days and bad days.\”

 

COMMENT

——-

 

10. (C/NF) The public portrayal of Jakrapob as disloyal to

the King helped to energize anti-government sentiment.

Jakrapob\’s resignation, combined with the government\’s

decision to postpone constitutional amendment procedures,

lowered tension somewhat, although the PAD continues its

rallies and appears eager to find new ways to attack the

Samak administration. While Jakrapob did not directly insult

the King in the remarks that led to the lese majeste charge,

he does believe it would be appropriate to diminish the

 

BANGKOK 00001879 003 OF 003

 

palace\’s stature and informal political role. In his mind,

the fact that voicing this view could land him in prison

illustrates clearly his point.

ENTWISTLE

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 2:57 am

09BANGKOK2903 UPPER NORTHEAST – THIS IS THAKSIN COUNTRY

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“234572”,”11/13/2009 12:08″,”09BANGKOK2903″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”09BANGKOK2418″,”VZCZCXRO7169

PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #2903/01 3171208

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

P 131208Z NOV 09

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8941

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 2103

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 7693

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 5972

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 0173

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 7289

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 002903

 

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR WALTON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/13/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: UPPER NORTHEAST – THIS IS THAKSIN COUNTRY

 

REF: BANGKOK 2418 (RUBBER SAPLING VERDICT)

 

BANGKOK 00002903 001.2 OF 004

 

Classified By: DCM JAMES F. ENTWISTLE, REASON 1.4 (B) AND (D)

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin

Shinawatra remains very popular in Thailand\’s upper

northeastern provinces, a recent traverse of three provinces

along the Mekong River revealed. Contacts consistently

asserted that the majority of eligible voters still support

Puea Thai and the United Front for Democracy Against

Dictatorship (UDD, or \”red-shirts\”), despite the fact that,

since April, Thaksin has provided minimal financial support

for their activities. Erstwhile red movement component but

current government coalition partner Phumjai Thai\’s efforts

to expand its footprint in this part of Isaan (the

Thai-language term for the northeast) have gained little

traction, damaged evidently by de facto leader Newin

Chidchop\’s behavior and his perceived lack of loyalty to

Thaksin. The return to politics of Isaan native son Chavalit

Yongchaiyut has apparently had minimal effect on red-shirt

activities in the region.

 

2. (SBU) COMMENT: Support for Thaksin is genuine and deeply

held. Despite red-shirt leaders\’ tendency to grossly

overstate the number of participants at various gatherings,

voters in Isaan do show a higher level of political

sophistication than often ascribed them by the pundits and

social elite in Bangkok. Such condescending

characterizations feed the discontent people in the Isaan

feel towards traditional elites and further fuel their

devotion for Thaksin, who they view as the one politician who

paid attention to them during his 2001-06 tenure in office.

END SUMMARY AND COMMENT.

 

WE AREN\’T IN BANGKOK ANYMORE, TOTO

———————————-

 

3. (SBU) PolOff traveled to the upper northeastern provinces

of Nong Khai, Sakon Nakhon, and Nakhon Phanom in early

October. Support for Thaksin–and by extension the Puea Thai

party and the UDD–remains robust in this part of Thailand.

Puea Thai holds all six of Nong Khai\’s seats in parliament,

four of Sakon Nakhon\’s six (Phumjai Thai won the other two),

and two of Nakhon Phanom\’s four seats (Phumjai Thai and Phuea

Phaendin have one seat each). Contacts in all three

provinces claimed that the Isaan is not as prone to heated

political confrontations as other parts of the country; our

interlocutors attributed this to the strong Buddhist

traditions of the region (Note: in fact, prior to the rise of

Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai movement which united the Isaan

politically for the first time, the region\’s politics were

noted for regional barons who battled each other for local

dominance. End note). Two other significant factors,

however, explaining current dynamics are the dearth of

support for the Democrat Party (DP) and the People\’s Alliance

for Democracy (PAD, or \”yellow-shirts\”), and the rural,

agrarian demographic that characterizes the majority of the

Isaan population.

 

4. (SBU) While Isaan is decidedly red–our interlocutors\’

estimated red-shirt support ranged between 70 and 90

percent–UDD organizers nevertheless tend to overstate

attendance at their events here. Most contacts also added

the caveat that the UDD supporters in Isaan tend to not be

devoted as their Bangkok counterparts (Note: since April, few

Isaan supporters have traveled to Bangkok for national

rallies, paralleling reports that Thaksin had cut funding for

transport and per diem payments to protesters. End note).

 

5. (SBU) Thanom Somphon, assistant to Puea Thai MP for Sakon

Nakhon Niyom Wachkama claimed that about two thousand people

regularly gather for red-shirt rallies in the province.

Chief of the Sakon Nakhon Provincial Administrative

Organization (PAO) Pitti Kaewsalupsri, on the other hand,

said that the UDD gatherings there generally attracted only

about four hundred people. While Nakhon Phanom is

undoubtedly the most red of the three provinces we visited,

provincial UDD leader and PAO member Manaporn Charoensri\’s

 

BANGKOK 00002903 002.2 OF 004

 

wildly optimistic claim that 50,000 red-shirts assembled in

September was countered by PAO chief Somboon Sonprapa, who

said there are never more than 10,000 at the provincial

rallies.

 

WHY IS THASKIN SO POPULAR HERE?

——————————-

 

6. (SBU) Three years after Thaksin\’s removal from power, the

popular support in the northeast that helped Thaksin become

the only prime minister in Thai history to complete a full

term and be reelected has not waned, and appears as strong as

ever. Chief among his virtues, from the Isaan perspective,

is that he listened and responded to the rural population,

with his populist planks delivering virtually free, universal

health care, village funds, limited farmer debt forgiveness,

and access to credit previously not enjoyed by poor rural

denizens. A sentiment commonly expressed in the northeast

and by many Bangkok cab drivers and housekeepers–many of

whom come from the northeast–is that while Thaksin was

corrupt, at least he gave some back to the poor.

 

7. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXX has conducted surveys throughout Isaan. He

told us that Thaksin, even overseas, retains a reputation of

being close to the grassroots; the people still appreciate

the results of his programs and policies. Sakon Nakhon PAO

chief Pitti separately concurred, adding that Isaan people

also appreciated how quickly his programs were implemented.

The PAO chief in Nong Khai said Thaksin\’s methods were so

effective that the Abhisit government continued them in an

effort to win over Isaan voters. Thongmar Balthaisong, the

UDD leader in Nong Khai Province and wife of Puea Thai MP

Somkkit Balthaisong, went one step further to claim that

while the DP was \”copying Thaksin\’s homework,\” the local

population could see right through it. Many people in Isaan

said the DP-sponsored programs would work much better if

Thaksin were in charge, according to Theerawat Champachaisri,

president of the Nakhon Phanom provincial assembly.

 

VOTE BUYING JUST AIN\’T WHAT IT USED TO BE

—————————————–

 

8. (SBU) One of the positive byproducts of Thaksin\’s

attention to Isaan is that voters have learned to expect

results from elected officials, according to our

interlocutors. This development has fundamentally altered

the concept of money politics in the northeast. Professor

Preecha said his research indicated that the view of

accepting money was often more sophisticated than it was

often portrayed by media and critics, something most of our

interlocutors confirmed. The traditional concept of vote

buying, in which villagers accept money from only one

candidate and then cast their ballot for that person, has

given way to a system where people can take money from

multiple politicians, but only vote for the person they

believed would provide the greatest benefits. Nakhon Phanom

UDD leader Manaporn summarized the Isaan attitude towards

money politics as, \”the sin is on the provider, not the

acceptor.\” (note: this cynical voter attitude of taking

inducements from all parties but voting one\’s conscience has

actually prevailed in southern Thailand for years).

 

9. (SBU) In Sakon Nakhon both XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX and Senator

Pradith Tanwatthanaphong cited the outcome of the June 2009

provincial by-election as proof of this new version of money

politics. Phumjai Thai far outspent Puea Thai in the

campaign trying to buy votes, they said, but the Puea Thai

candidate won. Pradith said the outcome showed the enduring

support for Thaksin and Puea Thai was based on results, not

just money thrown at voters. Red-shirt organizers in Sakon

Nakhon and Nakhon Phanom reinforced the sentiment that

neither party affiliation nor personal influence alone was

sufficient to guarantee election victory. On a cautionary

note, Manaporn Charoensri said Puea Thai needed to field

viable candidates that could produce tangible results,

otherwise the people would not vote for them (note: indeed,

 

BANGKOK 00002903 003.2 OF 004

 

Phumjai Thai bested Puea Thai in Isaan by-elections earlier

in 2009, when Puea Thai was having difficulty finding good

candidates).

 

NEWIN HURTS PHUMJAI THAI, CHAVALIT BOOSTS PUEA THAI?

——————————————— ——-

 

10. (SBU) Phumjai Thai\’s efforts to expand in upper Isaan

were evident by the numerous party signs along the highways.

A political science professor at the Sakon Nakhon Commercial

School said it was an indicator that the party was preparing

for elections, which he believed would be held in the coming

months. Pitti Kaewsalupsri in Sakon Nakhon told us the two

MPs from Phumjai Thai had won their seats because of their

prior affiliation with Thaksin and the Thai Rak Thai party.

Some of our contacts predicted Phumjai Thai could retain

those seats, while others said that Puea Thai would take

those seats, claiming de facto Phumjai Thai leader Newin

Chidchop was a liability to his party.

 

11. (SBU) XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

said that people in the upper northeast did not trust Newin.

Preecha said Newin\’s behavior revealed that he was looking

out only for himself. XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

told us that people in the Isaan valued loyalty, and

viewed Newin\’s alignment with the Democrat-led coalition as a

betrayal. The XXXXXXXXXX also related a recent incident in

which Newin publicly slapped a local Phumjai Thai figure,

damaging his reputation in the province. Many in Isaan also

believed that Newin benefited from a double-standard in the

Thai justice system, claimed XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX. He said many people

wondered why Newin has been allowed to be so openly involved

in politics, and noted that Newin\’s acquittal in the rubber

sapling case (REFTEL) only fuelled resentment against him.

 

12. (SBU) The return to politics of former Prime Minister and

Nakhon Phanom native son Chavalit Yongchaiyut has been

largely positive for Puea Thai in the upper northeast,

according to those we talked to, even though his net effect

nation-wide is debateable. Contacts in Nong Khai and Sakon

Nakhon indicated that Chavalit would have little impact

locally, but suggested his popularity in his home province

would be a boost to Puea Thai. UDD leader Manaporn said that

while Chavalit was an important figure, his return would not

be enough to guarantee Puea Thai would win all of the

regional parliamentary seats in the next election. Somboon

Sornprapha, Nakhon Phanom PAO Chief, said that Chavalit\’s

influence has already turned some local Phumjai Thai

supporters to Puea Thai. He predicted that this shift,

combined with local troubles for Puea Phaendin, meant Puea

Thai could easily win all four of the provincial parliament

seats in the next election.

 

KING STILL REIGNS SUPREME

————————-

 

13. (C) King Bhumibol remains very popular in the northeast.

All of our interlocutors said there was no truth to rumors

that residents in Isaan had removed pictures of the King from

their homes. XXXXXXXXXXXXXX said that if asked to choose

between Thaksin and King Bhumibol, the people of the

northeast would choose the King. We did note, however, that

there was not a portrait of the King visible at the coffee

shop owned by Nong Khai UDD leader Thongmar Balthaisong

(Note: not all commercial establishments and residences

nationwide have portraits of the current King. In many

areas, King Chulalongkorn\’s portrait occupies the place of

honor).

 

14. (C) Queen Sirikit and Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn clearly

do not command the same level respect in Isaan as King

Bhumibol, however. Senator Pradith from Sakon Nakhon said

the resentment many in the Isaan felt towards the Queen was

plainly evident in their discussions; it was not as harsh as

the criticism from neighboring Udon Thani Province, however,

where he said some of her portraits had been spray-painted.

 

BANGKOK 00002903 004.2 OF 004

 

According to XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX, the Crown Prince is not as

popular as his father, and the people would have a difficult

time accepting his current wife Princess Srirasmi as their

queen, based largely on a widely distributed salacious video

of the birthday celebration for the Crown Prince\’s white

poodle Fufu, in which Sirasmi appears wearing nothing more

than a G-string in front of other guests and still

photographers.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 2:51 am