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09BANGKOK2902 REDS AND YELLOWS SET TO CONGREGATE (SEPARATELY) THIS WEEKEND

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“234558”,”11/13/2009 11:06″,”09BANGKOK2902″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“09BANGKOK2405|09BANGKOK2746|09BANGKOK2855|

09BANGKOK2875|09BANGKOK2887”,

“VZCZCXRO7091

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RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 2101

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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002902

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR WALTON

 

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

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: REDS AND YELLOWS SET TO CONGREGATE

(SEPARATELY) THIS WEEKEND

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 2887 (THAKSIN EXTRADTION REJECTED)

B. BANGKOK 2855 (COLOR ME GREEN)

C. BANGKOK 2875 (THAKSIN PUTS HIS FOOT IN HIS MOUTH)

D. BANGKOK 2746 (THAKSIN MOVES PROMISE TURBULENT

NOVEMBER)

E. BANGKOK 2405 (BRAWL NEAR BORDER)

 

BANGKOK 00002902 001.2 OF 002

 

Classified By: POL Counselor George Kent, REASON 1.4 (B) AND (D)

 

1. (U) SUMMARY: The upcoming weekend will see red and yellow

political rallies, though on different days and different

parts of the country. On Saturday, November 14, the United

Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD), aka

\”red-shirts,\” will hold a fundraising concert in Khao Yai

National Park, two hours outside of Bangkok. On Sunday,

November 15 the yellow-shirted People\’s Alliance for

Democracy (PAD) plans to hold a demonstration in downtown

Bangkok protesting recent moves by fugitive former Prime

Minister Thaksin Shinawatra (REFS A and C). The rally will

be PAD\’s first major public event since its Bangkok airport

sieges ended December 2, 2008; over 10,000 \”yellow-shirt\”

supporters are expected to attend. The PAD shifted the date

of its rally from Saturday to Sunday so that it would not run

concurrently with the red-shirt gathering; the PAD also

shifted locations in Bangkok because the military is running

a practice session for the December 2 King\’s birthday parade.

The RTG announced that it would not invoke the Internal

Security Act (ISA) for either gathering; all indications are

that both rallies will be peaceful affairs.

 

2. (C) COMMENT: This weekend,s twin red and yellow events

both seem poised to unfold without incident, which is welcome

news after a turbulent week; we have used meetings with

national red and yellow leaders in the past two weeks to

underscore the need to stick to peaceful measures as they

express their political views. With the diplomatic spat with

Cambodia over fugitive former PM Thaksin\’s visit dominating

headlines and PM Abhisit in Singapore for the APEC and

US-ASEAN Leaders\’ Meetings, the rallies have not attracted as

much attention as they otherwise might have. End Summary and

Comment

 

REDS HEAD TO THE HILLS, FOR ONE DAY, EYE ON LATE NOV.

———————————— —————-

 

3. (C) The UDD have directed supporters to converge on Khao

Yai National Park on November 14. Located two hours from

Bangkok in Nakhon Ratchasima Province, Khao Yai is the

gateway to Thaksin\’s traditional stronghold in the northeast.

Red-shirt leader Vira Musikapong told us the gathering would

be a concert and fund-raiser with an eye on bringing in

funding for the next big UDD protest (note: in early November

call-ins to red rallies, Thaksin urged supporters to hold

more sustained rallies in greater numbers. See ref D).

 

4. (C) When Vira suggested to us that next full fledged

red-shirt rally was likely to begin November 28 or 29 and

span three-five days, we asked how such a prolonged rally

would affect the King\’s birthday celebration, which begins

December 2 with the annual parade in which the military

renews its oath of allegiance to King Bhumibol, in the same

public space that red-shirts usually use for Bangkok rallies.

Vira conceded the UDD was aware of the potential conflict,

impishly acknowledged some red-shirts would relish the

opportunity to \”bash\” the military, but said leaders would

hold a meeting on November 20 to determine the best strategy

to reconcile UDD plans with the King,s birthday. We urged

Vira to ensure that the red-shirts stick to peaceful means to

express their opposition to the government and avoid the

escalation of street action which culminated in the red riots

of April in Pattaya and Bangkok.

 

PAD TO GATHER FOR FIRST TIME IN ALMOST A YEAR

———————————————

 

5. (C) The PAD on November 10 announced it would gather

supporters on Sunday, November 15 for the group\’s first

national rally since December 2008; the national PAD

leadership did not sanction the Preah Vihear border adventure

 

BANGKOK 00002902 002.2 OF 002

 

on September 19 (REF A). PAD coordinator and Secretary

General of the New Politics Party Suriyasai Katasila publicly

stated the purpose of the rally to be held at Sanam Luang

would be to protest Thaksin and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun

Sen (REFS B, C). The Manager newspaper quoted Suriyasai

saying that 100,000 people would attend the gathering;

privately, however, he told us November 11 that he expected

between 30,000 and 50,000 people would show up. (note: the

police are predicting 10,000).

 

6. (C) The PAD movement is in transition to forming a new

political party to promote its core ideas within the formal

parliamentary system, as Suriyasai detailed to us November 4

(ref B). At the time, Suriyasai delineated the focus of the

two vehicles in this way: the PAD would retain a focus on

countering Thaksin\’s influence, while the New Politics Party

would focus on reforming the political system and increasing

transparency from within (note: there is currently complete

overlap between the leadership of the PAD and the NPP).

 

ISA: DOUBLE STANDARDS, OR DIFFERING INTENT?

——————————————-

 

7. (U) Deputy Prime Minister for security Suthep Thuagsuban

on November 12 announced that the ISA would not be invoked

for the PAD rally, which is not directed against the Thai

government but against Thaksin and Hun Sen. Likewise there

were no indications that the government planned to have

security forces in any state of visible readiness for the PAD

demonstration. Red-shirt netizens lit up the Internet in

both Thai and English after hearing the news, accusing the

RTG of employing a double-standard, given the seemingly

automatic imposition of ISA for UDD rallies in the post

Songkhran riot period.

 

8. (C) RTG contacts, including Deputy Secretary General Isra

Sunthornvut, readily admitted in private conversations that

the RTG employed double standards for crowd control. That

said, rally intent is a key factor; at this point, red-shirts

are calling for the current government to fall, yellow shirts

not. Isra told us that while the PAD and the RTG did not see

eye to eye on everything–as evidenced by the fact that the

PAD felt compelled to create its own political vehicle–in

general they shared similar perspectives on many core issues.

JOHN

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Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:26 am

09PHNOMPENH815 HUN SEN MANEUVERS OVER POSSIBLE THAKSIN VISIT

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“232209”,”10/30/2009 9:09″,”09PHNOMPENH815″,

“Embassy Phnom Penh”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

“09BANGKOK2746|09PHNOMPENH811″,”VZCZCXRO4499

PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

DE RUEHPF #0815/01 3030909

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P 300909Z OCT 09

FM AMEMBASSY PHNOM PENH

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1325

INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY”,

“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 PHNOM PENH 000815

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, IO

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/30/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MOPS, CB

SUBJECT: HUN SEN MANEUVERS OVER POSSIBLE THAKSIN VISIT

 

REF: A. PHNOM PENH 811

B. BANGKOK 2746

 

Classified By: DCM THEODORE ALLEGRA FOR REASONS 1.4 (B, D)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Cambodian officials cite personal relations

as justification for a possible visit by former Thai Prime

Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in November. Some also cite the

Preah Vihear situation, which has seen no diplomatic movement

since April. Prime Minister Hun Sen appears to be taking a

longer view of Cambodian-Thai relations — maneuvering to

keep the current government attentive to Cambodia\’s needs

while cozying up to a potential future (read Pheua Thai)

government in Bangkok grateful for Cambodia\’s strong support.

Hun Sen\’s bottom line seems to be a deal on Preah Vihear

that both countries can live with, even if one Thai party

cannot. In the meantime, Thai and Cambodian regional

military commanders reinforced October 27 the message that

armed confrontation should be avoided. Although units on

both sides remain on alert, peaceful intentions were

reiterated by line commanders at Preah Vihear on October 29,

who voiced support for the bilateral Joint Border Committee.

END SUMMARY.

 

No Official Confirmation?

————————-

 

2. (C) Noun Chivorn, Deputy Director-General of the MFA

ASEAN Department confirmed October 29 that no official

messages had been received regarding a visit by Thaksin.

Noting the heavy media speculation, he said that the story

was being driven by the newspapers since Hun Sen\’s remarks on

October 21 inviting Thaksin to Cambodia and offering to

appoint him as an economic advisor. Phay Siphan, Secretary

of State and Spokesperson in the Council of Ministers, echoed

the view that a media frenzy had stirred up a hornet\’s nest

but noted that so far, there had been only one personal

message delivered to Hun Sen from Thaksin expressing

gratitude for Hun Sen\’s personal support. On October 30 MFA

spokesperson Koy Kuong repeated there were no official

indications of a visit but added that reports from the press

of an impending Thaksin visit appeared to be \”credible.\”

 

Only a Personal Relationship?

—————————–

 

3. (C) Phay Siphan acknowledged that a visit may indeed be

possible and that it would \”present difficulties\” for

Cambodia. He nevertheless emphasized that if Thaksin chose

to visit it would be the personal visit of a long-term

friend. Sry Thamarong, close foreign affairs advisor to Hun

Sen, said that the whole matter should be viewed as \”only

personal\” with no connection to official relations between

Cambodia and Thailand. He nonetheless hinted that a short

visit was in the works. \”Thaksin has no business here,\” he

said. \”He has billions to look after elsewhere,\” he

emphasized, \”so even if Thaksin came for a visit to Cambodia,

he would have no reason to stay.\” When asked about the

extradition of Thaksin from Cambodia to Thailand, Phay Siphan

said that Cambodia reserved the right to interpret its treaty

obligations consistent with international law. (NOTE: On

October 23, a hastily issued MFA press release stated that

Cambodia would not extradite Thaksin to Thailand. END NOTE.)

Phay Siphan emphasized that he was speaking only about a

possible visit, \”if\” Thaksin chose to make it. That said, a

senior minister advisor to Hun Sen has confirmed that

Thaksin\’s people have been on the ground in Cambodia for some

time, and that Hun Sen already signed the order appointing

Thaksin an economic advisor.

 

Mind Boggling!

————-

 

4. (C) An ASEAN embassy official commented that it \”boggles

the mind\” to think about what Hun Sen intended when he \”stuck

it to the Thai\” at the ASEAN summit October 23 by his

statements inviting the fugitive from Thai justice and to

appoint him as an economic advisor. It was embarrassing to

the hosts and not in the interests of Cambodia, he noted. He

speculated that Hun Sen was mad about something the Thai had

done behind the scenes but noted that it \”was a case of Hun

Sen saying what he says and everybody scrambling to explain

it.\”

 

A Diplomatic Feint and Maneuver?

——————————–

 

5. (C) That Preah Vihear was uppermost on Hun Sen\’s mind

before the ASEAN summit was obvious after the Cambodian

Ministry of Foreign Affairs had seized on an article quoting

the Thai foreign minister as favoring a neutral third party

 

PHNOM PENH 00000815 002 OF 002

 

to take up the border dispute. The RGC slyly suggested that

ASEAN might be considered, causing the Thai FM to quickly

clarify the record and reassert that Preah Vihear should be

solved bilaterally. That Hun Sen deliberately repeated his

\”personal\” support for Thaksin on the opening day of the

ASEAN summit made it abundantly clear that he is not happy

with the current Thai government and that he is not convinced

the Thai government has the willingness or even the ability

to resolve the Preah Vihear dispute anytime soon.

 

Border Meetings Ease Tensions

—————————–

 

6. (SBU) In the meantime, Cambodian and Thai military and

border officials continue to meet. Siem Reap governor Sou

Phirin told embassy staff that an October 27 meeting focused

on avoiding military confrontation and maintaining border

security. Cambodian Military Region 4 commander Gen. Chea

Mon and newly installed Thai Military Region 2 commander LTG

Wiwalit Chonsamrit were in attendance, as were the three

Cambodian governors from Preah Vihear, Siem Reap, and Banteay

Meanchey and four deputy governors from the adjacent Thai

provinces. \”The meeting was unofficial\” Sou Phirin said.

\”Both sides agreed to avoid armed confrontation and respect

law and order to make the disputed border as peaceful as

before that of last July. The two sides agreed to facilitate

the work of the Border Committees of the two countries to

implement their duty.\”

 

7. (SBU) On October 29, the line commanders at Preah Vihear

met once again and Cambodian press reports indicate that

although units on both sides of the border remain on high

alert, their commanders repeated their joint desire for

avoiding armed clashes. Cambodian Commander Srey Deuk and

his Thai counterpart (identified as Gen. Suvatchai) also

pledged to leave the resolution of border issues to the

bilateral Joint Border Committee (JBC) (Ref A).

 

COMMENT

——-

 

8. (C) Hun Sen wants to deal with a Thai counterpart who can

deliver on Preah Vihear. It seems clear to the RGC that the

current Thai government has placed the border issue well down

on the Parliamentary agenda and the lack of diplomatic

movement (Ref A) reflects that low priority. By establishing

informal party-to-party relations between CPP and Pheua Thai

(Hun Sen met former Thai PM Chavalit October 21 as vice

chairman of the CPP) Hun Sen is betting on Pheua Thai\’s

ascendancy and is taking first steps to cement what he may

view as a more productive bilateral relationship. This

remains true notwithstanding the statements of other RGC

officials, who have been out in force repeating the message

that Thai-Cambodian relations on all fronts remain positive

and friendly.

 

9. (C) But this reserved approach — especially in view of

protracted and incremental diplomatic activity on the border

issue — has clearly made Hun Sen impatient. He is playing

to a rambunctious domestic polity fed up with perceived Thai

dissembling and unable to shoulder the cost of a huge army

stationed at the border. Some RGC officials have referred to

the provocations of Thai yellow shirts regarding Preah

Vihear, and to a general state of Thai \”anarchy\” as

negatively affecting Cambodia (through lower numbers of

tourist visits, for example). In addition, recent shootings

of Cambodian civilians by Thai militia (Tahan Prahn) along

the Thai border have been a festering popular grievance that

was reportedly aired in the October 27 civilian-military

meeting in Siem Reap. Hun Sen\’s flamboyant performance at

Hua Hin may have had some subtle nuances after all, with a

cathartic effect at home and a wake-up call for a little more

respect — and action — from his neighbor.

RODLEY

Written by thaicables

July 22, 2011 at 9:10 am

08BANGKOK1933 THE PARLIAMENT’S TURN – NO CONFIDENCE DEBATE SCHEDULED

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“159242”,”6/23/2008 11:02″,”08BANGKOK1933″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

“VZCZCXRO0938

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RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

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SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/22/2018

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PREL, KDEM, TH

SUBJECT: THE PARLIAMENT\’S TURN – NO CONFIDENCE DEBATE

SCHEDULED

 

REF: BANGKOK 1917 (ANTI-GOVERNMENT DEMONSTRATORS)

 

Classified By: A/DCM Anne Casper, reason 1.4 (b) and (d).

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: While peaceful demonstrators continue to

surround Government House, the government has agreed to send

the affected ministers to participate in the no-confidence

debate requested by the opposition Democrat Party on June

24-25, and to appear before the Senate to answer questions on

June 23. The Democrats have little expectation that the

no-confidence motion will pass, but in the wake of weeks of

street demonstrations, they want to bring the political

process back to the Parliament. It is not clear how the

demonstrators will respond to the no-confidence vote. It is

possible that further concessions by the government —

particularly pledges not to interfere in the court cases

against former PM Thaksin — could be enough to end the

demonstrations. However, a PAD supporter told us that the

protests might also escalate, if the demonstrators viewed the

Parliament\’s action as ineffectual. The government will take

a pounding from the Parliament this week, but it still

appears to have the votes to weather the no confidence

debate. END SUMMARY.

 

2. (C) With the People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD)

demonstration surrounding the Government House and calling

for the PM\’s resignation, the government agreed to put the

opposition request for a no-confidence debate on the

Parliament\’s schedule for this week. The government also

agreed to accede to the request by a group of senators who

wanted to debate the government\’s performance. The Senate

action is taking place on Monday, June 23, while the

no-confidence debate in the lower house will be held on

Tuesday and Wednesday.

 

3. (C) The Democrats — the sole opposition party — say that

there is little expectation that the government coalition

will crack as a result of the no-confidence debate or the

current level of protests. The party\’s Secretary-General

told us on Friday that there was no coordination between the

Democrats and the PAD about the timing of the motion, which

he did not expect to pass. Former Ambassador to the US

Kasit, who is both a Democrat party advisor and a frequent

speaker at PAD rallies, told us much the same thing today.

He did add that the strong emotions evoked by the

Thai-Cambodian negotiations over the inscription of the

ancient Khmer Preah Vihear temple could sway some of the

coalition parties and even some of the ruling People\’s Power

Party (PPP) MPs, particularly those from the Northeastern

provinces close to the temple. Amb. Kasit said, as had the

Party\’s SecGen, that the Democrats did not want to bring down

the government of PM Samak. In fact, as the Dems are broke,

they really do not want to face new elections too soon.

 

4. (C) The Democrats, according to Kasit, are holding the

debate because they want to bring the political process back

into the Parliament. The Democrats and the PAD share some

goals, but differ widely on tactics; the PAD reflects the

views of much of Thai civil society in disdaining and

distrusting political parties and politicians. Kasit was

unsure how the PAD would respond if the no-confidence motion

failed and PM Samak continued to resist stepping down. On

the one hand, the PAD leaders might agree to end their

demonstration if the government agreed to certain conditions,

including a promise not to interfere with the judicial

process in any of the cases against former PM Thaksin, a

pledge not to harass or transfer officials who had cooperated

with the post-coup government on those investigations, and

agreement to drop support for inscribing the Preah Vihear

site, at least without significant modifications to the

agreement with Cambodia. On the other hand, Kasit was

concerned that the failure of the no-confidence motion would

only confirm in the mind of the PAD leaders that the

Parliament was largely irrelevant to the political process,

and encourage PAD to escalate their protests. One possible

next step would be for the state-owned enterprise leaders to

make good on their threat to start cutting water and

electrical service to some areas. Kasit said some union

leaders had met with him and told him they were prepared to

take that step.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

5. (C) The government has probably made the right call in

permitting the debates in the Parliament, but we will see how

 

BANGKOK 00001933 002 OF 002

 

the excitable PM Samak handles the grilling he and his

ministers are likely to receive. There is a lot of buzz

about the possible resignation of the PM, but the governing

coalition still has more than enough seats to weather the

no-confidence vote. Samak is embattled, but not defeated.

 

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 21, 2011 at 5:49 am

09BANGKOK263 SCENESETTER FOR SENIOR MILITARY VISITORS TO THAILAND DURING COBRA GOLD

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“189850”,”2/2/2009 8:00″,”09BANGKOK263″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

“VZCZCXRO0479

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“C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 05

BANGKOK 000263

 

SIPDIS

 

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

TAGS: PGOV, PTER, MARR, MOPS, PINS, PHUM, TH

SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR SENIOR MILITARY VISITORS TO

THAILAND DURING COBRA GOLD

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary. Coming visits by component commanders, and

other senior leaders of various U.S. military commands will

afford a chance to affirm the United States Government\’s

commitment to working with a democratically elected Thai

government, to promoting a continued strong bilateral

relationship, and to affirming our support for important

areas of our mil-mil relationship such as the Defense Reform

Management Study (DRMS), Cobra Gold, and Thailand\’s

deployment of peacekeepers to Darfur. End Summary.

 

ENDURING BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

——————————-

 

2. (SBU) The Thai public closely watched our recent

Presidential election, and the results received much scrutiny

regarding the potential impact on U.S.-Thai relations. Thai

government officials have expressed strong interest in

hearing assessments of the transition to a new administration

and U.S. policy towards Southeast Asia. We have stressed to

the Thai we do not anticipate significant changes in our

bilateral relationship due to the history and strength of our

alliance and the nature of long-standing U.S.-Thai security,

economic, and cultural bonds. However, the changing

generations in both Thailand and the U.S. require both sides

work hard to maintain the vibrancy in the relationship.

 

THAI POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT – YELLOW AND RED

——————————————-

 

3. (C) The December dissolution of the People\’s Power Party

(PPP), which led to the fall of the government of former PM

Somchai and installation of the Democrat-led coalition

government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejajjiva, has appeared

to quiet, at least temporarily, the political situation.

Gone are the street protests by the anti-government People\’s

Alliance for Democracy (PAD) which shut down Bangkok\’s

airports for a week and occupied the formal seat of

government for over three months. But the basic deep split

in society and the body politic remains, with the traditional

royalist elite, urban middle class, Bangkok, and the south on

one side (\”yellow\” in shorthand) and the political allies of

ex-PM Thaksin, currently a fugitive abroad, along with

largely rural supporters in the North and Northeast (\”red\”)

on the other.

 

4. (C) Prime Minister Abhisit is off to a reasonably good

start in his first month in office, but his government faces

significant policy challenges given the current economic

situation in Thailand and globally. Abhisit and the

Democrats also have to contend with former Prime Minister

Thaksin Shinawatra\’s continued attempts to influence the

political environment from abroad and to recover assets of

his that were seized by the government. Moreover,

demonstrations by United Front of Democracy for Dictatorship

\”redshirts\” loyal to the former PM will test the new

government.

 

5. (C) Calling for new elections would not appear to be a

viable solution to political divide, and political turmoil

could very well persist for years. The steadiest figure on

the political stage over the past months has been Army

Commander Anupong Paochinda, who steadfastly rejected

pressure from both sides for the army to intervene in the

political stalemate, either to conduct a coup d\’etat or to

clear the streets of protesters. We continue to stress to

Thai interlocutors the negative ramifications of a coup and

the need for all parties to avoid violence and respect

democratic norms within the framework of the constitution and

rule of law.

 

6. (C) King Bhumibol turned 81 on December 5. Many had

anticipated his commentary for his annual address to the

nation on the eve of his birthday; his address was canceled,

 

BANGKOK 00000263 002 OF 005

 

however, after he fell ill with bronchitis. (Note: The King

was hospitalized for a period of weeks in late 2007 for

appeared to be a minor stroke. End note.) The Palace has

since announced the King\’s recovery; as of late, he has been

shown on television more frequently in meetings with both

foreigners and Thais. The King\’s passing, whenever that may

be, will shock Thailand. Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is the

King\’s designated heir. However, the current King\’s enormous

personal prestige, the lack of a precedent for royal

succession during the modern era (King Bhumibol has been on

the throne since 1946), and changing sentiment about the

proper role of the institution in the 21st century suggest

that the transition will be difficult.

 

THAI ECONOMY STRUGGLES TO OVERCOME CHALLENGES

———————————————

 

7. (SBU) Over the past few years, Thailand\’s economy has been

growing at a moderate pace, though the long-running political

uncertainty has stifled domestic investment, hamstrung

government stimulus programs, and kept Thailand from keeping

up with other ASEAN nations. The worldwide economic slowdown

of recent months has hit Thailand particularly hard as

exports, the one bright spot in GDP growth, have fallen,

causing growth forecasts for 2009 to be ratcheted down from

4% to less than 2%. This dreary scenario was made much worse

by the November airport closures, which devastated Thailand\’s

large tourism and convention industries just at the beginning

of the high season.

 

8. (SBU) Historically, Thailand\’s economy has hummed along

unaffected by frequent political squabbling, but the recent

willingness of political actors to take actions that clearly

damage the economy and the nation\’s international image is

changing that tenet. Thailand\’s largest foreign investors,

Japanese in particular, have expressed dismay at the new turn

in events. The full effect of the airport closures has not

yet shown up in the data, but FDI (especially from the U.S.)

was already trending down for 2008. The new government is

well aware of these challenges, has made an extraordinary

effort to put together an economically reasonable and

politically savvy economic stimulus package, and is reaching

out to the foreign business community to re-built Thailand\’s

image as a good place to do business.

 

IMPORTANT MILITARY ENGAGEMENT PROGRAM, ACCESS

———————————————

 

9. (SBU) The long-standing U.S.-Thai military partnership

provides the U.S. with unique benefits. These include

distinctive force projection options, the possibility to

conduct training exercises that are nearly impossible to

match elsewhere in Asia, the opportunity to advance U.S.

strategic goals, access to military leaders in a nation that

is trying to strengthen democratic institutions, a willing

participant in international peacekeeping operations, and a

partner in medical research which has produced widely-used

vaccines.

 

10. (C) Thailand\’s willingness to allow the United States to

use Utapao Naval Air Station as the hub for our regional

assistance program was key to making the 2004 tsunami and the

2008 Cyclone Nargis relief operations successful. While

those high-profile relief operations highlighted publicly the

value of access to Utapao, the air base is used regularly for

flights in support of critical U.S. military operations to

strategic areas of the world. Thailand also provides valued

port access with U.S. naval vessels making calls, primarily

at Laem Chabang and Sattahip, over forty times per year for

exercises and visits.

 

COBRA GOLD AND THE MILITARY EXERCISE PROGRAM

——————————————–

 

11. (C) By means of access to good military base

 

BANGKOK 00000263 003 OF 005

 

infrastructure and large areas to conduct unrestricted

operations, Thailand gives the U.S. military a platform for

exercises unique in Asia. Thai leaders are far more willing

to host multinational exercises than are other countries in

Asia. Unlike Japan, which only hosts annual bilateral

exercises due to legal prohibitions over collective security,

or the Philippines, where planning for multinational

exercises has been difficult, or Australia, which refuses to

multilateralize Tandem Thrust, the Thai government encourages

multinational exercises as a way to show regional leadership.

This has allowed us to use exercises in Thailand to further

key U.S. objectives, such as supporting Japan\’s growing

military role in Asia and engaging the Indonesian and

Singaporean militaries.

 

12. (C) Cobra Gold, the capstone event of our exercise

program, is PACOM\’s largest annual multi-lateral exercise and

for 28 years has served to strengthen our relations with

Thailand, highlight our commitment to Southeast Asia, and

provide exceptional training opportunities for our troops.

The event has evolved over the years and now facilitates

important objectives such as promoting a greater role in the

Asian Pacific region for Japan and Singapore and

re-establishing a partner role with Indonesia. Cobra Gold is

key to building partner nation capacity in humanitarian

assistance and disaster relief, especially at a time when

U.S. forces face other global commitments. We have also been

able to incorporate into Cobra Gold a robust Global

Peacekeeping Operations Initiative (GPOI) event with active

participation of Indonesia and Singapore. Our other primary

exercises with the Thai military are CARAT and COPE TIGER.

 

DEFENSE REFORM

————–

 

13. (C) We have been working closely with the Royal Thai

Armed Forces Headquarters (RTARF) on the U.S.-funded Defense

Resource Management System (DRMS) project which will help

rationalize the Thai military\’s procurement and other

resource needs. We use every appropriate opportunity to

emphasize our desire to work closely with the Thai military

leadership to accelerate DRMS process. Phase II of this

process will begin the first week of March following the

ASEAN summit scheduled for Thailand.

 

PEACEKEEPING EFFORTS

——————–

 

14. (C) Thailand has been an active contributor in

peacekeeping missions, best known for leading forces in the

UNTAET mission in East Timor. The RTARF has been a close

partner for us as the Thai government continues preparations

to deploy a battalion of peacekeeping troops to Darfur as

UNAMID. With deployment currently scheduled for mid-2009, we

have continued to underscore to the leadership of the Thai

military that we stand ready to assist the Thai again where

possible.

 

SOUTHERN THAILAND: SECURITY AND JUSTICE

—————————————

 

15. (C) The Thai military, since General Anupong became Army

Commander, has taken a more assertive role in trying to quell

the ethnic Malay Muslim ethno-nationalist insurgency in

southern Thailand, a region that has witnessed episodic

violence since its incorporation into Siam/Thailand in 1902.

Regional violence has claimed more than 3000 lives since

January 2004, when the violence began to escalate. The root

causes of the insurgency — government neglect, human rights

abuses, and a lack of social justice, combined with a desire

for some form of self-determination, have not been addressed

by any Thai government to this point.

 

16. (C) While the Thai military has so far focused mostly on

trying to resolve the difficult security situation in the

 

BANGKOK 00000263 004 OF 005

 

South, with increased tactical success in security sweeps,

occasional abuses by security forces have added to the sense

of grievance and lack of justice by the local populace.

Efforts by civilian government ministries to solve the root

causes of injustice and the feeling of disenfranchisement by

the Thai-Malay majority in the three southern provinces have

so far lagged. While the Abhisit government appears set to

adopt an integrated government approach to solving the

insurgency with budgetary and policy decision making

responsibility possibly transferred to the Office of the

Prime Minister, it remains unclear how the civil-military

dynamic will change.

 

17. (C) The RTG has made clear its hesitancy in accepting any

direct USG role in the South. The Embassy maintains a

three-pronged focus to improve our military cooperation in

order to address the violence in the South:

1) Using our exercise and training program to improve the

professional and operational skills of the Royal Thai Armed

Forces, especially the Thai Army;

2) Helping the Thai break down stovepipes between the Thai

military, police forces, and civilian agencies;

3) Doing everything we can to ensure the Thai respect

international human rights norms as they counter the violence.

 

BORDER CONFLICT WITH CAMBODIA

—————————–

 

18. (C) Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya\’s January 26

visit to Phnom Penh produced encouraging statements by all

sides regarding the border dispute that is centered on

overlapping claims to territory adjacent to Preah Vihear

temple. The next round of talks under the auspices of the

Foreign Ministry-led Joint Border Commission (JBC) are

scheduled for February 2, and the two nations\’ defense

ministers are scheduled to meet February 6 to discuss the

redeployment of soldiers stationed at the temple. Despite

continued talks between Thailand and Cambodia, we are not

optimistic for quick resolution to the dispute. Difficult

issues lay at the heart of the matter, and political conflict

in Bangkok may make tough decisions more difficult for the

Thai government. We continue to stress to the Thai

interlocutors that the dispute should be resolved peacefully

and bilaterally.

 

REFUGEE/MIGRANT CONCERNS: LAO HMONG AND ROHINGYA

——————————————— —

 

19. (C) Thailand has hosted millions of refugees since the

IndoChina wars and currently has more than 150,000 refugees

from Burma in camps along the Thai-Burma border. The RTARF

has the lead on resolving the difficult problem of the

thousands of Hmong from Laos who arrived in 2006-2007 seeking

resettlement in the U.S.; many of them likely would not

qualify for refugee status and will be returned to Laos.

However, the Thai government has so far failed to set up a

transparent screening process for the Hmong currently in a

camp in Petchaboon province; we believe that a portion of the

group may have a legitimate claim to refugee status and could

face harsh treatment by the Lao government if returned. Some

are former fighters (or their descendants) allied with the

U.S. against the communist Pathet Lao during the IndoChina

wars. We want to take every opportunity to underscore to the

RTARF the importance of transparently handling the Lao Hmong

cases.

 

20. (C) Media reports in recent weeks over Thai actions

regarding Rohingya \”boat people\” have resulted in strong

criticism of the RTG and its policy toward groups that

attempt to enter Thailand, primarily from Burma. Rohingya

typically cross from Burma\’s Northern Rakhine state into

Bangladesh to board vessels bound for Malaysia. This year

many have instead found their way to the Ranong area in

Thailand, the Andaman Islands of India, and Aceh Province,

Indonesia. According to various reports, several hundred

 

BANGKOK 00000263 005 OF 005

 

Rohingya went missing from at least one vessel encountered by

the Indian coast guard off Port Blair in the Andaman Islands

in early January. Survivors have alleged being towed out to

sea and being abandoned by Thai military or marine police

vessels.

 

21. (C) A recent visit to the Ranong area by Embassy RefCoord

suggests to us that two loosely defined groupings of unpaid

civilian defense volunteers drawn from fishing villages were

involved in the alleged mistreatment of the Rohingya, but

that they received general policy direction and some

financial support from the Thai Army-led local Internal

Security Operations Center. It remains unclear what boats

may have been involved in towing the Rohingya back out to

sea. We continue to stress to our contacts in the Thai

government that Thailand should provide access for UNHCR to

Rohingya boat people who reach Thai shores, and that

push-outs to sea are not consistent with basic humanitarian

principles.

 

THE INCREASING ROLE OF CHINA

—————————-

 

22. (C) Thai leaders continue to develop closer relations

with China while simultaneously emphasizing the vital role of

the U.S. in the region. While Thai military links with the

United States are deeper and far more apparent than Sino-Thai

links, China\’s growing influence in Thailand and Southeast

Asia is evident in business, the arts, the media, and the

military. The Thai military has a range of Chinese weapons

systems in its arsenal; the PLA Navy is interested in closer

links with the Thai navy, and China has worked with Thailand

to improve air defense equipment provided to Thailand in the

late 1980\’s. In 2007 and 2008, Thai and Chinese special

forces conducted joint exercises, and other mil-to-mil

exchanges have expanded in recent years, as has the number of

bilateral military VIP visits. A yet to be disclosed marine

corps exercise between China and Thailand near the eastern

seaboard port of Sattahip in the April-May timeframe

highlights the continuing push by China to expand their

mil-to-mil relations with Thailand\’s military.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 6:32 am

09BANGKOK209 THAI-CAMBODIAN BORDER DISPUTE: THAI FM KASIT’S VISIT TO CAMBODIA PRODUCES OPTIMISTIC STATEMENTS

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“188955”,”1/27/2009 10:28″,”09BANGKOK209″,

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SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/27/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PBTS, TH, CB

SUBJECT: THAI-CAMBODIAN BORDER DISPUTE: THAI FM KASIT\’S

VISIT TO CAMBODIA PRODUCES OPTIMISTIC STATEMENTS

 

Classified By: DCM James F. Entwistle, reasons 1.4 (b, d).

 

1. (U) Summary: A January 26 visit to Cambodia by Thai FM

Kasit Piromya produced positive statements by both sides

regarding the ongoing border dispute centered on territory

around the Preah Vihear temple. Kasit met Cambodian Prime

Minister Hun Sen and Foreign Minister Hor Namhong; press

reports indicated that the two sides agreed to hold Joint

Border Commission (JBC) talks to discuss border demarcation

and Defense Minister meetings to discuss the number of troops

stationed along the border in early February. The two sides

also agreed to hold talks in March regarding overlapping

maritime claims in the Gulf of Thailand.

 

2. (C) Comment: Before his appointment as Foreign Minister in

late 2008, Kasit had made critical comments concerning

previous Thai governments\’ actions regarding the Preah Vihear

border dispute during rallies by the then anti-government

People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). Kasit had also been

critical of Hun Sen personally. Because of these comments,

many observers were skeptical of Kasit\’s ability to work well

with Cambodian leaders to solve the border dispute. FM

Kasit\’s apparently productive introductory visit appears to

have addressed these concerns, and demonstrated that the

relationship Kasit developed with Hun Sen during the 1989-91

Paris Peace Conference as fellow negotiators remains an asset

that could prove useful during coming border talks. End

Summary and Comment.

 

FM KASIT TO PHNOM PENH – BETTER THAN EXPECTED?

——————————————— –

 

3. (U) Media reports indicated that Thai Foreign Minister

Kasit Piromya\’s January 26 visit to Phnom Penh resulted in

positive developments in the ongoing Thai-Cambodian border

dispute. Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and Kasit

reportedly agreed that Thailand and Cambodia would resolve

the border dispute \”quickly through peaceful means.\” The

Foreign Ministers were also reported to have agreed that Thai

Defense Minister Prawit Wongsuwan would visit Cambodia

February 6 to discuss with Cambodian Defense Minister Tea

Banh the redeployment of soldiers stationed at the temple.

The Foreign Ministers reportedly also agreed that the JBC

would meet February 2-4 to discuss the border dispute and to

have a technical commission look at a maritime dispute. The

maritime talks are planned for March. Kasit publicly quoted

Hun Sen as saying it was the two countries\’ joint duty and

responsibility to move Thai-Cambodian relations forward for

the well-being of ASEAN.

 

4. (C) Note: Agreement to work out the Thai-Cambodian

maritime dispute in the Gulf of Thailand could be important,

since significant gas and oil reserves reportedly may be

found in the area of the overlapping claims. Joint

exploration by Thailand and Malaysia of an analogous area in

the Gulf of Thailand, setting aside previously acrimonious

debate over fixing the Thai-Malay maritime boundary, has been

mutually beneficial to both countries. End note.

 

5. (C) MFA East Asian Affairs Department Deputy

Director-General Pisanu Suvanajata, who accompanied Kasit,

told us January 27 that the visit had been much more

productive than the Thai had expected. Cambodian leaders

appeared to focus on creating an atmosphere for constructive

engagement between the two countries, rather than resorting

to the often fiery rhetoric that characterized public

statements in 2008. Cambodian officials had also

demonstrated flexible positions on all issues, and

discussions at all levels had been smooth and fruitful,

Pisanu said. Cambodian leaders had discounted Kasit\’s

rhetorical attacks on Hun Sen during a PAD rally last year

and had shown diplomatic acumen in working to further

relationships with Thailand\’s new government.

 

NO QUICK SOLUTIONS

——————

 

6. (C) Pisanu expressed confidence in Kasit\’s ability to

handle the bilateral talks effectively due to his long

 

BANGKOK 00000209 002 OF 002

 

history of working with Cambodian leaders. On the other

hand, Pisanu was tempered in his assessment over prospects

for quick resolution of the contentious issues. Talks could

go on for quite some time, Pisanu predicted; the success of

negotiations would likely depend more on the Thai government

than on Cambodia, because Thai domestic political conflicts

could prove to be an obstacle in resolving the issues.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 6:26 am

08BANGKOK3227 AMBASSADOR ENGAGES THAI FM SOMPONG ON CAMBODIA, BURMA, ASEAN, APEC, VIKTOR BOUT, HMONG, AND THE PAD

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“175493”,”10/28/2008 8:42″,”08BANGKOK3227″,

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SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR PHU, STATE FOR EAP/MLS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/28/2018

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PREF, BMGT, CB, TH

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR ENGAGES THAI FM SOMPONG ON CAMBODIA,

BURMA, ASEAN, APEC, VIKTOR BOUT, HMONG, AND THE PAD

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary: Ambassador, accompanied by DCM and

PolCounselor, met with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign

Minister Sompong Amornvivat late October 27. Fresh from the

ASEM meetings in Beijing October 23-25, FM Sompong described

the positive atmosphere of Thai-Cambodian meetings and

highlighted hopes that the Thai parliament would approve the

interim arrangement October 28, allowing the Joint Border

Committee (JBC) to proceed with negotiations. PM Somchai and

Sompong will attend APEC meetings in Peru in late November;

with Thailand currently serving as ASEAN Chair, Sompong

welcomed the opportunity for another ASEAN 7 meeting with the

President.

 

2. (C) Ambassador raised U.S. concerns on Burma, Viktor

Bout\’s extradition, and Lao Hmong. On Burma, Sompong said he

would look for indirect ways of promoting democratic

development, such as offering Thai assistance/training on

local administration elections, since pressing anything

labeled \”democracy\” on the Burmese would be rejected. On

Bout, Sompong acknowledged our interest but noted the Thai

justice system would need to finish its review. On Hmong,

Sompong stressed the importance of proceeding with returns to

Laos on a voluntary basis, and noted that third country

resettlement would require Lao agreement. Sompong confirmed

the Thai are scouting logistics to hold the ASEAN Summit

meetings in Chiang Mai rather than Bangkok in December, and

joked that accommodating the People\’s Alliance for Democracy

(PAD) anti-government protests had become a normal part of

daily life. End Summary

 

Cambodia – back to talking

————————–

3. (C) FM Sompong launched into an animated account of what

he characterized as calm and fruitful meetings with Cambodian

PM Hun Sen and FM Hor Namhong in Beijing October 24, on the

margins of the ASEM summit. The Thai and Cambodians agreed

to proceed on the basis of bilateral mechanisms; while the

Thai had braced for more contentious meetings, Hun Sen had

framed the issues in a way that matched the Thai approach,

according to Sompong. Both sides agreed to try to avoid

another confrontation similar to the armed clash on October

15.

 

4, (C) Ambassador noted media accounts of Cambodian

allegations that the Preah Vihear temple had suffered damage

in the Oct. 15 clash. Sompong claimed that Cambodian troops

on the grounds of the temple had fired on Thai troops,

acknowledged Thai soldiers returning fire with small arms may

have caused some limited damage, but stressed the Thai had

not employed RPGs (Note: Separately on October 27, MFA

PermSec Virasak Futrakul claimed to the media that Cambodia

may have violated the terms of the UNESCO World Heritage

listing of Preah Vihear by stationing soldiers/heavy weapons

on site at the temple).

 

5. (C) Sompong noted Cambodian irritation at the delays on

the Thai side in moving forward with the interim agreement.

He hoped the problem would be rectified October 28, when the

Thai parliament was scheduled to review the interim agreement

(note: negotiated in September by then-FM Tej Bunnag). As

soon as the parliament acted, Sompong would call his

counterpart to relaunch JBC negotiations; a Ministerial would

follow. Hor Namhong had told him in Beijing that, of the

73-odd border posts along the Thai-Cambodian border, 50 were

set; negotiations would focus on the remaining 20-25.

Sompong said he was working closely with Royal Thai Army

Commander Anupong Paojinda to coordinate Thai positions.

 

APEC – ASEAN 7 in Lima, ASEAN in Chiang Mai

——————————————-

6. (SBU) Sompong confirmed that PM Somchai and he planned to

attend the APEC summit in Lima, Peru in late November. There

would be follow-on meetings between ASEAN and MERCOSUR in

Brasilia, he added. Since Thailand currently served as ASEAN

Chair, Thailand would be very interested in another ASEAN 7

meeting with the President; Sompong noted that MFA PermSec

Virsakdi Futrakul had previously raised Thai interest in such

a meeting with EAP DAS Marciel.

 

BANGKOK 00003227 002 OF 002

 

7. (SBU) Sompong also confirmed that the Thai were now

planning to host the series of ASEAN-related summit meetings

in December in Chiang Mai rather than Bangkok and had sent

logistics teams to Chiang Mai to scout out appropriate

venues. Sompong joked that Chiang Mai\’s lovely cool season

weather, not Bangkok\’s hot politics or his own Chiang Mai

roots, was the driving factor.

 

8. (SBU) Rounding out discussion of regional meetings,

Sompong said that Finance Ministers and Central Bank

Governors of Asian countries would meet in the Philippines

November 12 to discuss coordinated policy responses to the

financial crisis, building on meetings in Beijing. Sompong

foresaw that a slowdown in Thai exports due to economic

difficulties elsewhere could drive up unemployment.

 

Burma – taking an indirect approach

———————————–

9. (C) Ambassador noted that October 24 marked a total of 13

years of house arrest for Aung San Suu Kyi and pressed FM

Sompong to use every opportunity to advocate for the release

of all Burmese political prisoners and to foster a more open

political atmosphere. Sompong pledged to try to raise the

\”concerns of friends\” when he met with Burmese officials.

Sompong suggested that the reaction of the international

community after Cyclone Nargis had changed Burma a little

bit.

 

10. (C) In the Beijing meeting with FM Nyan Win, Win had

asked Sompong for Thai support; Sompong said he replied that

such actions needed to be reciprocal. He had told Win that

Thailand was ready to help, suggesting that Thailand could

share valuable experience with local administration

development/elections. This indirect approach avoided the

word \”democracy,\” since the Burmese stiffened at the mere

mention of it. Win had thanked Sompong, and replied that if

Burma needed assistance, they would ask. Sompong said that

he would travel to Burma soon; he solicited ideas/indirect

phrases that might help nudge Burmese thinking in the right

direction.

 

Viktor Bout – under judicial review

———————————–

11. (C) Ambassador raised U.S. interest in the eventual

successful extradition of notorious Russians arms trafficker

Viktor Bout once the Thai judicial review was complete, an

issue he and Sompong had discussed when Sompong was Justice

Minister. Sompong acknowledged U.S. interest but stressed

that Thai ministers could do little as long as the matter

remained under judicial review.

 

Lao Hmong – only voluntary returns

———————————-

12. (C) Ambassador noted recent progress made with engaging

the Thai military on Lao Hmong in Thailand but stressed the

importance of adequate third-party monitoring and

transparency; there was heightened interest on the part of

U.S. relatives and Congress in this matter. Sompong related

his recent trip to Laos, claimed that the Thai would not send

back any Hmong against their will, only on a voluntary basis,

and stated that Thailand would take care of them in the

meanwhile. Third-country resettlement would need to be

arranged with the Lao, he added. Sompong noted that a number

of NGOs had raised Hmong-related issues when meeting with him.

 

Domestic politics: living with PAD

———————————-

13. (C) Sompong chortled when Ambassador raised the road

forward domestically given the ongoing People\’s Alliance for

Democracy\’s (PAD) occupation of Government House: \”we feel

much easier now; the PAD has become part of our daily lives.\”

Sompong suggested the Thai government should not take any

drastic steps, while needing to maintain law and order. \”One

day they will move out (of Government House), though who

knows when.\” Sompong said he had assured all of his

bilateral interlocutors in Beijing that the PAD action did

not prevent the Thai government from working and would have

no affect on ASEAN summit plans for December.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 6:11 am

08BANGKOK2856 PAD DEFIANCE CONTINUES AS THE PAD HIGHLIGHTS PM-ELECT SOMCHAI\’S TIES TO THAKSIN

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“170580”,”9/19/2008 10:01″,”08BANGKOK2856″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

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RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 002856

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/19/2018

TAGS: PGOV, PINR, KDEM, TH

SUBJECT: PAD DEFIANCE CONTINUES AS THE PAD HIGHLIGHTS

PM-ELECT SOMCHAI\’S TIES TO THAKSIN

 

REF: BANGKOK 2592 (PAD PRIMER)

 

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

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) The People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) — the group

currently occupying and befouling the formal seat of

government — has shown no sign it intends to end its protest

in the near future, despite having achieved its initial

rationale for occupying the Government House compound in the

first place: the departure of former PM Samak from office.

Leading PAD figures reiterated their opposition to Prime

Minister-elect Somchai Wongsawat, worrying he will advance

the interests of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin, and have

forged a new agenda. The police remain unwilling to storm

the protest site but reportedly are poised to arrest PAD

leaders once they leave Government House. An Appeals Court

has decided to consider (at a date uncertain) an appeal of

the arrest warrants for nine PAD leaders, offering a

potential way out of the impasse. A pro-government group

affiliated with the People\’s Power Party (PPP) plans to hold

a rally on the evening of September 19 to mark the second

anniversary of the 2006 coup d\’etat.

 

2. (C) Comment: If the court were to dismiss the arrest

warrants for PAD leaders, the protestors might be able to

declare victory and safely vacate Government House; Senator

Lertrat Ratanavanich suggested to us September 17 this might

prove a way of escaping the current political standoff.

Alternatively, the PAD might await Thaksin\’s conviction on

abuse of power charges, although the verdict in that case is

not scheduled for delivery until October 21. We have no

basis to dismiss the PAD\’s suspicion that the incoming

administration will continue to advance the interests of

former Prime Minister Thaksin, although, unlike his

predecessor, Somchai has not publicly touted his loyalty to

Thaksin. If Somchai maintains an earnest and

non-confrontational persona, the PAD may find the Thai public

increasingly unsupportive of its rabble-rousing ways; numbers

of supporters at the Government House compound dropped

dramatically in the week after Samak\’s departure, though

heavy rains also played a role. Although Somchai\’s leeway to

select his cabinet members is surely constrained by

commitments to the leaders of PPP factions and other parties,

his appointments could help to stoke or deflate popular

support for the PAD. End Summary and Comment.

 

PAD COMMENTS ON SOMCHAI\’S ELECTION

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3. (U) King Bhumibol on September 18 signed a royal command

endorsing Somchai Wongsawat\’s election as Prime Minister.

The Palace has not announced the date for the inauguration of

Somchai and his yet-to-be-named cabinet, but public

speculation indicates it could be as early as September 22.

Leading PAD figures have publicly rejected the notion of

ending their continuing protest at Government House, the

formal seat of government. PAD spokesman Suriyasai Katasila

announced several steps that he felt Somchai should take,

including:

 

– Dispelling suspicions (based on Somchai\’s wife Yaowapa

being former PM Thaksin\’s sister) that Somchai would further

Thaksin\’s interests;

 

– Committing to continued prosecution of Thaksin for abuses

committed during his time in office;

 

– Addressing concerns raised by the inscription of the Preah

Vihear temple on the UNESCO World Heritage List; and

 

– Explaining his intentions regarding possible amendment of

the constitution (which many suspect would be pursued with an

eye toward promoting Thaksin\’s interests).

 

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4. (U) Separately, PAD co-leader Chamlong Srimuang echoed

elements of Suriyasai\’s agenda, noting that the Samak

administration (in which Somchai held a deputy premiership)

had engaged in corrupt practices. Chamlong added a call for

the revocation of the diplomatic passport that Thaksin holds

by virtue of his status as a former Prime Ministers.

 

RISKING ARREST

————–

 

5. (U) The PAD\’s protest continues at Government House,

though with significantly fewer supporters on hand. Press

reports indicate that the police are waiting for the PAD

leaders to leave the compound before arresting them.

 

6. (U) A Court of Appeals on September 17 decided to accept

for consideration a petition from PAD leaders that requested

review of the warrants issued for their arrest. It is

unclear when the Court might rule on the warrants. PAD\’s

core leaders are charged with violating the following

articles of the Criminal Code:

 

– Article 113, which provides for capital punishment or life

imprisonment for those engaging in insurrection, defined as a

threatened or actual act of violence aiming to \”overthrow or

change the constitution,\” or to undermine the legislative,

executive or judicial branches.

 

– Article 114, which provides for punishment of three to 15

years\’ imprisonment for those who plot or contribute to

insurrection, as defined above.

 

– Article 116, which provides for up to seven years\’

imprisonment for anyone who publicly incites disturbances;

encourages illegal actions; or encourages the use of violence

to change the laws or government.

 

– Article 215, which provides for varying degrees of

punishment (potentially as minor as a small fine) for members

of any group of 10 or more people who \”cause a breach of the

peace\” or commit or threaten violence.

 

– Article 216, which imposes additional penalties (again,

potentially as minor as a small fine) for members of a group

in violation of Article 215 if they fail to disperse when the

authorities order them to do so.

 

HOPES FOR A POSSIBLE WAY OUT?

—————————–

 

7. (SBU) GEN Lertrat Ratanavanich, an appointed Senator whom

the Senate Chair had tapped to try to facilitate dialogue

between the Army and the PAD, told us September 17 that he

hoped Somchai\’s non-confrontational manner and the Appeals

Court decision to accept the PAD appeal of the arrest

warrants, several weeks after having rejected the appeal,

offered a possible way out of the impasse. Lertrat suggested

Somchai could send signals of his willingness to meet several

PAD demands, such as pledging not to push forward

Constitutional amendments that would help Thaksin. However,

the key to resolving the PAD occupation, in his view, was the

possible court appeal – to allow the PAD leaders to save face

by exiting the Government House compound without being

arrested.

 

PALACE TIES OF THE PAD?

———————–

 

8. (C) While criticizing Somchai as a likely proxy for

Thaksin, PAD\’s leaders are themselves seen as acting on

behalf of figures at the Palace. Reftel noted rumors of

Queen Sirikit\’s support for the PAD. In late August,

Princess Sirindhorn instructed the Thai Red Cross, for which

she holds the title of Executive Vice President, to prepare

medical teams and supplies to assist in the event of clashes

between PAD and the authorities. An expatriate with close

ties to the Queen\’s circle assured us on September 17 that

 

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the PAD had \”handlers\” (presumably people with royalist

sympathies) who, with relative ease, would be able to direct

an end the PAD\’s rallies at the appropriate time.

 

UDD COUNTER-DEMONSTRATORS TO MARK COUP ANNIVERSARY

——————————————— —–

 

9. (U) The United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship

(UDD) announced it would hold a demonstration at the Royal

Grounds (Sanam Luang) in the evening of September 19 to mark

the second year anniversary of the September 19, 2006 coup

that deposed ex-PM Thaksin. Army Commander Anupong Paojinda

publicly reminded demonstrators they should not carry weapons

to their rally.

 

10. (SBU) UDD co-founder Veera Muskiapong claimed to us

September 10 that the September 2 street violence

precipitated by pro-government toughs and attributed to UDD

was unplanned and not under UDD direction. His hope for UDD

rallies in Bangkok had been for UDD to draw more supporters

than PAD and show that they were more peaceful and law

abiding than the PAD; the result was the opposite, tarnishing

UDD\’s reputation.

 

11. (SBU) In comparison to the post-coup period, in which

Veera and several other veterans of the pro-Thaksin \”People\’s

Television\” station (PTV) took over coordination of a

wide-range of anti-coup groups and provided centralized

leadership, the pro-government street efforts since August 26

had a more decentralized structure, Veera stated. Veera, who

claimed he was sick the night of September 1 and not at Sanam

Luang when the pro-government mob moved towards the PAD

encampment, said that PPP MP Pracha Prasobdee, who openly

admitted helping orchestrate the pro-government demonstration

under the \”People\’s Group for the Protection of Democracy\”

banner, now leans more toward violent confrontation.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 5:51 am