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06BANGKOK2596 LIMBO, LAWSUITS, AND LUMPINI PARK – HOW MUCH LONGER??

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“62608”,”5/3/2006 9:21″,”06BANGKOK2596″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

“CONFIDENTIAL”,”06BANGKOK2370|06BANGKOK2567″,

“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 002596

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/04/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, Thai Political Updates

SUBJECT: LIMBO, LAWSUITS, AND LUMPINI PARK – HOW MUCH

LONGER??

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 2567

B. BANGKOK 2370

 

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

 

1. (U) SUMMARY. On May 2, The People,s Alliance for

Democracy (PAD) returned to Bangkok,s Lumpini Park to hold

another demonstration. The rally was peaceful but turnout

was much smaller in comparison to previous PAD-led events.

PAD leader Sondhi Limthongkul announced the return of his

weekly political talk show which he plans to stage from

various cities around the country in the coming weeks. For

the past several weeks, the PAD has been reaching out to the

provinces to spread its anti-Thaksin message. Meanwhile, a

plethora of lawsuits have been filed against the core

leadership of the PAD who all remain free on bail. End

Summary

 

PAD GATHERS IN LUMPINI PARK

—————————

 

2. (U) Last night,s PAD rally attracted only a core group of

the movement,s following. Estimates of crowd size vary from

4,000 – 5,000. As usual, the demonstration was spirited, but

peaceful. Speakers warned that if Thaksin reverses his

decision to \”take a break from politics\” (as some TRT members

have hinted he might) the political crisis would worsen and

PAD would have to return to the streets in force. PAD vowed

to continue its efforts until the \”Thaksin regime\” is fully

dismantled. At the same time, the PAD made it clear that it

respects the wishes of the King to have the matter of

April,s snap election resolved by the Thai court system.

 

3. (U) PAD-leader and media firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul

announced the return of his weekly political talk show to be

held every Saturday starting on May 20. The break between

now and May 20 would presumably provide enough time for the

courts to rule on the various key cases regarding the snap

election (see Reftel A). Prior to the formation of the PAD,

Sondhi,s staged his weekly anti-Thaksin talk show before a

live audience at Lumpini Park to crowds ranging from 4,000 up

to 30,000. The May 20 program will be held at Lumpini Park

and broadcast live via Sondhi,s ASTV television channel.

After that, Sondhi plans to take the show on the road,

broadcasting from different cities around the country.

 

4. (U) For the past several weeks, the PAD leadership has

been traveling the country in an attempt to promote its

anti-Thaksin message in the provinces. Most of these visits

have gone smoothly, with the exception of Udon Thani where

PAD members were met by an angry crowd of rock throwing

Thaksin supporters (see Reftel B). In addition to Udon

Thani, the PAD has held gatherings recently in Nakhon

Ratchasima, Trang, Phuket, and Nakon Sri Thammarat.

 

THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW…

————————

 

5. (U) The list of lawsuits and countersuits continues to

grow. On May 1, the Royal Thai Police (RTP) filed charges

against the five core leaders of the PAD for a wide variety

of offenses. The charges run the gamut from attempting to

overthrow the democratic government and inciting unrest to

violating traffic laws and illegal use of loudspeakers.

 

6. (U) Naturally, the five PAD leaders (Sondhi Limthongkul,

Chamlong Srimuang, Somsak Kosaisuk, Somkiat Pongpaiboon and

Pipop Thongchai) denied all of the charges insisting that

they are politically motivated. The accused leaders went

together to the RTP,s Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok

to surrender themselves on May 1. They were all released

after about two hours of questioning and were told to report

again to the RTP on May 8.

 

7. (C) These latest charges come on top of the lese majeste

charges filed against Sondhi Limthgnkul. Sondhi initially

refused to adhere to two police summons related to the

charge. Only after an arrest warrant was issued did he agree

to turn himself in to police on April 28. He was released

the same day on bail of roughly USD 7,500. (COMMENT: The

charge of lese majeste, which essentially means insulting the

King, is often used as a political tool to intimidate

opponents and influence pubic opinion against the target of

the charge. Few of these cases ever actually reach court and

even fewer actually result in a guilty verdict. End comment.)

 

8. (C) COMMENT: The temperature of the political crisis is

decidedly cooler in the wake of the King,s speech.

Nevertheless, in the lingering limbo of awaiting court

rulings drags on, it appears that the only thing the

protagonists in this drama have to do is file more and more

lawsuits against each other. So far, the Supreme Court alone

has received a record number of cases (414 to date) of

alleged electoral violations related to the April 2 election.

While we doubt that any of the charges filed against the PAD

leaders (or other key individuals involved in this crisis)

will result in any serious punitive actions, we will continue

to monitor developments closely. End Comment.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 11, 2011 at 8:05 am

Posted in Confidential, PAD, Sonthi

06BANGKOK1302 THE THAI ARMY COMES TO DINNER

with one comment

“54989”,”3/2/2006 11:34″,”06BANGKOK1302″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”06BANGKOK1214″,

“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 001302

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

PACOM FOR FPA HUSO

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/02/2016

TAGS: ASEC, PGOV, PREL, MARR, TH, TRT – Thai Rak Thai, Thai Prime Minister,

Thai Political Updates, SNAP Elections, Protest/Demonstration

SUBJECT: THE THAI ARMY COMES TO DINNER

 

REF: BANGKOK 1214

 

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce. Reason 1.4 (a and d)

 

1. (C) Summary. During a March 2 dinner hosted by the

Ambassador, Royal Thai Army (RTA) CINC, GEN Sonthi

Boonyaratglin and his senior staff appeared relaxed and gave

no indication that the Army plans to involve itself in the

ongoing political crisis. Sonthi told the Ambassador that he

had recently urged PM Thaksin Shinawatra to show restraint,

make concessions to his critics, and avoid antagonizing

opponents in order to defuse tensions but seemed skeptical

that Thaksin would do so. Sonthi believes that the present

situation is much different than that of 1992, the last time

the Army intervened in Thai politics, and suggested that the

only way the Army would intervene would be to protect the

monarchy and restore order. Although Sonthi and his senior

staff officers were surprisingly candid in telling Embassy

officials about their dissatisfaction with Thaksin\’s

leadership — to the point of making jokes at his expense —

they took pains to demonstrate their intention to remain on

the sidelines. Sonthi hopes that anti-Thaksin rallies

continue to remain peaceful but acknowledged that his biggest

worry is that they will not. END SUMMARY.

 

SONTHI ASKS THE PM TO SHOW RESTRAINT

 

2. (C) On March 2, the Ambassador hosted RTA CINC Sonthi

and seven senior RTA officers to dinner at the residence. In

a pull-aside before dinner, Sonthi briefed the Ambassador on

his February 28 meeting with PM Thaksin. Sonthi said that,

contrary to press reports claiming he had urged to PM to step

down, he had simply urged Thaksin to back away from

confrontation, show a willingness to make concessions, and

generally take the high road when commenting on the political

situation. He was quick to note, however, that given the

PM\’s personality, it was unlikely Thaksin would heed such

advice.

 

THIS IS NOT 1992

 

3. (C) Sonthi believes that the current crisis differs

significantly from 1992 — when segments of the RTA fired on

protesters opposing General Suchinda Krayprayoon\’s assumption

of the Prime Ministry. In 1992, Sonthi explained, the RTA

had a vested interest in Suchinda remaining in power. Today,

the RTA has no similar stake for or against Thaksin. Sonthi

said that his biggest concern was that an unforeseen act

might cause one of the protests to become violent. He

underscored the need to be on the watch for agitators who

might try to provoke violence. Sonthi indicated that the

only circumstance under which the RTA would intervene would

be to protect the monarchy.

 

WHAT ABOUT SURAYUD?

 

4. (C) Sonthi is a protege of retired Army Commander and

current Privy Councilor General Surayud Chulanont. Sonthi

told the Ambassador that Surayud is uncomfortable with press

speculation that he might be appointed as an interim Prime

Minister should Thaksin step down. Nonetheless, Sonthi was

keenly interested in hearing about the Ambassador\’s February

28 meeting with Surayud and asked whether the Ambassador\’s

impression of Surayud corresponded with his own (reftel).

 

NOT CRITICAL OF CHAMLONG

 

5. (C) The Ambassador invited Sonthi to comment on the new

dynamic presented by the involvement of retired GEN Chamlong

Srimuang in the anti-Thaksin rallies. Sonthi refrained from

endorsing or criticizing Chamlong\’s role in the protests.

 

ARMY SUPPORT FOR THAKSIN NOTICEABLY LUKEWARM

 

6. (C) Sonthi and his staff appeared very relaxed throughout

the evening. The officers freely expressed their opinions

about the political situation and some even made jokes at

Thaksin\’s expense. GEN Chirapong Vanarat, Chief of Staff for

GEN Sonthi\’s inner office, went so far as to predict that

Thaksin would have to step down within the next three days.

That said, these same officers gave numerous examples of

steps they were taking to avoid giving any impression that

the military intends to intervene. Overall, we were struck

by how tepid the senior Army leadership\’s support for Thaksin

seemed to be.

 

MOLES IN OUR MIDST?

 

7. (C) Interestingly, the only wall flower during dinner

was Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence LTG Chatchai

Thavaraputta. His reticence was probably due to his having

been an Armed Forces Prep School classmate of Thaksin\’s. In

Thailand, police and military officer candidates attend prep

school together for two years prior to moving on to their

respective service academy. Members of the same class meet

annually and form close bonds. An officer is frequently more

loyal to his prep school classmates than he is to any other

group. Thaksin has been criticized by many within the RTA

for promoting his classmates, graduates of Prep School Class

10, ahead of more senior officers. During dinner, GEN

Chirapong laughingly said within earshot of LTG Chatchai that

the only reason Chatchai was present was to watch the others.

 

8. (C) Officers at post had been concerned that the last

minute addition to the Thai delegation of MAJ Saravudh

Shinawatra, nephew of the Prime Minister, might inhibit

conversation. However, Saravudh and the other aides waited

outside the dining room throughout dinner. Several of the

aides spoke openly with PolOff while the senior officers

dined in the residence. Whenever Saravudh would approach,

however, the other aides would stop talking about the crisis

and turn the conversation to something more innocuous.

Saravudh otherwise spent most of dinner on a cell phone

talking with two of his girlfriends.

 

COMMENT

 

9. (C) Sonthi gave every appearance of being a measured

professional who is committed to keeping the Army on the

sidelines of the unfolding political situation. We also

believe that he and his senior staff have a good grip on the

Army rank-and-file.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:24 am

06BANGOK1209 UPDATE OF THAI POLITICAL SITUATION: OPPOSITION BOYCOTTS, OTHERS JOIN IN

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“54604”,”2/28/2006 11:50″,”06BANGKOK1209″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

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

 

281150Z Feb 06

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001209

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

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

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, ELAB, TH, Thai Political Updates

SUBJECT: UPDATE OF THAI POLITICAL SITUATION: OPPOSITION

BOYCOTTS, OTHERS JOIN IN

 

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

d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Buoyed by news that the opposition will

boycott the April 2 election, the demonstrators at Sanam

Luang disbanded about 1:30 in the morning on February 28.

They gave Prime Minister Thaksin five days to resign, and

vowed to return with an even bigger demonstration on March 5,

if necessary. Thaksin has tried a more conciliatory tone

today to tempt the opposition back into the electoral race,

so far without luck. Several labor unions announced that

they would join in the next anti-Thaksin demonstrations. TRT

is accusing the opposition of \’unconstitutional\’ actions.

End Summary.

 

2. (U) Early Monday evening, the Democrat, Chart Thai and

Mahachon parties finally announced that they would boycott

the upcoming snap elections. (These are the three parties

besides the ruling Thai Rak Thai (TRT) in the just-dissolved

Parliament.) Leaders of the three parties had announced

early in the day that they would back away from their threat

to boycott if the Prime Minister would commit to their plan

for amending the constitution: A special committee of wise

and neutral experts, chosen primarily by the Royal Privy

Council, would draft a set of constitutional amendments in

the six months after the election. These changes would be

considered in the Senate and House, and, if approved put to a

national referendum. If the PM agreed to this plan, the

three opposition leaders and Thaksin would sit down that

evening to sign the deal.

 

3. (SBU) On Monday afternoon, Thaksin gave a half-hearted

response, saying that all the political parties, not just

those three, should join TRT in discussing this issue. (There

are about 30 registered political parties, most of them small

organizations). He declined to sign any firm agreement with

the opposition, but invited all the parties to send

representatives that evening to discuss the reform issue. In

all, his proposal fell far short of agreement with

opposition\’s fairly modest demands. Although the three

parties were reluctant to boycott, the PM\’s statement was

clearly not an acceptable response.

 

4. (U) The crowds at Sanan Luang cheered the boycott

decision. After an evening of rousing speeches condemning,

among other things, the US-Thai Free Trade Agreement

negotiations, the protesters marched to the Democracy

Monument, to pay tribute to the democracy martyrs. They

gave Thaksin a deadline of five days to resign, and they

disbanded the demonstration around 1:30 in the morning on

Tuesday, with the announcement that they would return on

March 5 to continue demonstrating if he had not resigned by

then.

 

5. (U) The two senior-most labor leaders in the country,

Somsak Kosaisook and Sirichair Maignam, have urged their

supporters to turn out en masse at Sanam Luang on March 5.

The Thai Labor Solidarity Committee, which represents the

majority of private sector unions, has also called for

supporters to rally. The labor leaders did not support the

anti-Thaksin movement earlier because of wariness about the

motives of media firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul, who led the

initial demonstrations. Now that the movement has grown so

far beyond Sondhi, they are ready to join. A number of labor

unions and NGO have taken rooms in a hotel near Sanam Luang,

so that demonstrators can have a place to shower and eat

before returning to the field. A spokesman for the Teachers\’

Union has said that they would boycott and they would refuse

to provide poll workers to assist with the vote.

 

5. (U) Thaksin has responded to the boycott threat

uncharacteristically, by offering some compromise. He

proposed delaying the date of the snap election, to give the

opposition parties more time. \”I\’m willing to cooperate, but

we all need to work under the constitution,\” he told the

press on Tuesday. \”I am ready to do anything, just tell me

what you want,\” he said in an appeal to the boycotters. The

opposition parties rejected the offer.

 

6. (SBU) So far, the opposition\’s boycott is popular with

the anti-Thaksin activists, but not doing well in the first

polling information available. According to one polling

organization, 45 percent of those surveyed in and around

Bangkok do not agree with the boycott, 28 percent agree, and

26 percent are neutral. The opposition parties say that they

will meet with their constituencies to explain their decision.

 

7. (C) TRT members are making threatening noise about the

boycott, trying to label it as unconstitutional or illegal.

They have implied that that it might be grounds to dissolve

the parties. There does not appear to be any basis in law

for these threats, however,

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:14 am

06BANGKOK1180 MASSIVE PROTEST IN SANAM LUANG – POLITICAL OPPOSITION ADRIFT

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“54552”,”2/28/2006 0:05″,”06BANGKOK1180″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”06BANGKOK1091″,

“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 001180

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/28/2016

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

SUBJECT: MASSIVE PROTEST IN SANAM LUANG – POLITICAL

OPPOSITION ADRIFT

 

REF: BANGKOK 1091 AND PREVIOUS

 

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

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Late on Friday, February 24, Prime

Minister Thaksin dissolved the Lower House of Parliament and

announced snap elections to take place on April 2. While the

opposition political parties vacillate in their response to

Thaksin\’s latest maneuver, the demonstration led by the

People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) drew well over 100,000

peaceful protesters to Bangkok\’s massive Sanam Luang two days

later. Thaksin, sensing weakness on the part of the

opposition parties, will try to drive a wedge between them

and the street demonstrators. The protesters vow to remain

in Sanam Luang until Thaksin resigns, with or without the

help of the political parties. End Summary.

 

OUT OF MY HOUSE! AND PLEASE COME AGAIN.

 

2. (SBU) On Friday evening, February 24, after an audience

with the King, PM Thaksin announced that he was dissolving

the lower House of Parliament and calling snap elections for

April 2. Thaksin is confident that he retains enough support

in the provinces to go to the polls in April and return

victorious and with a renewed mandate – thus silencing the

critics who have been emboldened by his clumsy actions in the

Ample Rich controversy.

 

3. (U) Not taking victory for granted, Thaksin was out

campaigning over the weekend promoting his latest populist

programs. On Sunday, Thaksin traveled to Lat Krabang to hand

over housing units to low-income families. At the same time,

he continues to promote his latest initiatives to cut taxes

and raise salaries for government workers. Nevertheless,

tensions within the ruling Thai Rak Thai (TRT) are evident.

Disaffected former political \”kingmaker\” Sanoh Thienthong

finally announced his resignation from TRT, citing Thaksin\’s

decision to dissolve Parliament as an effort to evade real

reform. Sanoh and three other of his \”Wang Nam Yen\” faction

members (all relatives of Sanoh) announced their resignation

on Saturday. They will not participate in the April 2 snap

election.

 

100,000 PLUS DESCEND ON SANAM LUANG

 

4. (U) The People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) continues to

gather steam in its effort to drive Thaksin out of office.

Sunday, February 26 saw the largest crowd yet assemble in the

historically significant Sanam Luang – site of

anti-government rallies that ushered out unpopular

governments in the 1970s and 1990s. As has become customary,

estimates of crowd size varied dramatically. By our

estimates, more than 100,000 were almost certainly in

attendance at the evening\’s high point. Highlighting the

disparity between reality and what is being reported via the

Thai mass media, one TV channel reported that a mere

5,000-10,000 were in attendance.

 

5. (U) A long list of speakers took the stage to harangue

Thaksin with the usual laundry list of complaints – the Shin

Corp. sell-off, allegations of tax evasion, the US-Thai FTA,

corruption in mega-projects, and now the decision to dissolve

Parliament. Though nothing much new was said, the list of

groups and influential persons joining the movement continues

to grow. Chamlong Srimuang, a former military officer and

spiritual leader of the 1992 movement, and his Santi

Asoke/Dharma Army were highly visible with their blue

uniforms, setting up tents and facilities for the long-haul.

The protesters vow to remain in Sanam Luang until Thaksin

resigns from office. As the first night\’s activities drew to

a close at around 2:00am, The Nation newspaper estimated that

about 10,000 people remained camped out.

 

OPPOSITION PARTIES ADRIFT IN INDECISION

 

6. (SBU) Though the dissolution of Parliament was one widely

anticipated option for Thaksin, the political opposition

parties were caught without a clear, much less coordinated

response. The Democrats initially announced that they would

boycott the snap election, but when Chat Thai Party declined

to follow suit, the Democrats reversed their decision.

(Note: Democrat Party elder Chuan Leekpai was reportedly

opposed to a boycott and pressed Democrat leader Abhisit

Vejjajiva to reverse the Democrat\’s initial position. End

note.) After two days of meetings between the major

opposition parties (the Democrats, Chat Thai and the much

smaller Mahachon), the opposition finally came out with a

joint response that seemed to please no one. The political

parties now say that they will participate in the snap

elections as long as Thaksin agrees to sign a pact promising,

in ambiguous terms, to amend the Constitution.

7. (C) Reaction to this \”decision by committee\” was

predictable. The opposition parties\’ proposal infuriated the

protest leaders whose pressure tactics had forced Thaksin to

call snap elections in the first place. Key PAD leader

Suriyasai Katasila accused the opposition parties of

abandoning the people and siding with Thaksin for their own

benefit. Another leader, Phittaya Wongkul stated that the

protest movement could no longer rely on politicians or the

\”political sector\” to accomplish its goal. (Comment: Many

will view the politicians as driven first by their desire to

hang on to their salaries and perks as MPs. One hundred of

the 500 seats are awarded on a \”party list\” basis, which

means that the top members of the major parties are virtually

guaranteed a seat. And they\’re the ones making the decision.

End comment.)

 

8. (C) Thaksin initially ruled out the opposition\’s proposal

for a pact to cover political reform, noting that he had

already asked the country\’s university rectors to review the

Constitution and suggest amendments. However, Thaksin

quickly sensed an opportunity to drive a wedge between his

opponents; on Monday, February 27, Thaksin announced his

agreement to go along with a variation of the pact proposed

by the opposition parties.

 

9. (C) COMMENT: Thaksin has regrouped momentarily and chosen

the path that offers the best prospects for his political

survival. The popular movement to oust the Prime Minister

that started with Sondhi in Lumpini Park, has broadened and

may still be gaining momentum. For their part, the political

opposition parties have effectively remained on the sidelines

throughout the mounting crisis. By reversing their original

inclination to boycott the April 2 election and giving

Thaksin an escape hatch, the opposition parties undermine the

popular movement that has posed a serious threat to Thaksin\’s

administration. In ensuing days, we will likely see renewed

pressure by the protesters (led by prominent veterans of the

dissident movement) on the opposition parties to rectract

their \”sell out.\” Thaksin will likely try to seize the high

ground by promising vague reforms, all the while gearing up

the TRT machinery for the election campaign ahead. Although

the protesters in Sanam Luang are maintaining their peaceful

vigil for now, they may find that circumstances compel them

to take a more confrontational stance vis-a-vis Thaksin.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:10 am

06BANGKOK1093 OPPOSITION PLANS FOR THAKSIN\’S OUSTER, TRANSITION

leave a comment »

“54003”,”2/23/2006 11:12″,”06BANGKOK1093″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”06BANGKOK1034|06BANGKOK538″,

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

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001093

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/22/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, TRT – Thai Rak Thai, Thai Prime Minister

SUBJECT: OPPOSITION PLANS FOR THAKSIN\’S OUSTER, TRANSITION

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 1034

B. BANGKOK 0538

 

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

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The NGO alliance organizing Sunday\’s massive

protest against Prime Minister Thaksin predicts a peaceful

and successful rally which will unseat the PM. They expect

the PM\’s ruling Thai Rak Thai party to crumble within several

months, leading to new elections before the end of the year.

This is a \”best-case\” scenario for the opposition, but it is

not an unrealistic prediction. Thaksin is in real trouble.

END SUMMARY

 

2. (C) Polcouns met February 22 with Pittaya Wongkul, head

of one of the NGOs in the \”Alliance to Defend the Country,\”

which is organizing Sunday\’s big protest rally against Prime

Minister Thaksin Shinnawatra. Pittaya reviewed the reason

why growing numbers of the public are opposed to Thaksin.

Like other observers, he recognized that the issues that had

animated NGO opposition to the PM, like press freedom, were

not so important to the general public. The Shin Corp sale

was the issue that was mobilizing the masses. They were

concerned about selling off a key asset to foreigners, and

they were angry about that Thaksin did not have to pay any

taxes on his enormous gains. Pittaya pointed out that the

authorities count the shirts for sale on the street vendor\’s

table, and the number of bowls of soup the noodle shop sells

in order to assess their taxes, but Thaksin will pay nothing

on his 1.8 billion dollar deal.

 

3. (C) Pittaya outlined the opposition plans for the

demonstration on Sunday. The Alliance members planned to

meet on February 23 to elect a steering committee for the

rally. Media firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul, whose weekly

protests started the ball rolling, and \”Dharma Army\” General

Chamlong had pledged to work as part of a coalition with the

lesser-known NGOs in the Alliance. The steering committee

will make all the decisions on the rally, including a

determination on who would speak on Sunday. This rally

would not repeat the format of the previous protests, in

which Sondhi essentially did a version of his talk show,

dishing dirt on the PM and his family. Who turns up and who

speaks will be an important indicator of the scope of

opposition to Thaksin. We do not expect a final decision to

be made until the last minute.

 

4. (C) Pittaya confirmed that the opposition would not be

satisfied with the dissolution of Parliament; they would

insist on Thaksin\’s resignation. Pittaya expected Sunday\’s

demonstration to be very effective. A small part of the

demonstrators would camp out at the site (presumably led by

Chamlong, whose \”Dharma Army\” organization has experience in

staging days-long protests). Other participants would go to

their jobs during the day and return to the protest rally in

the evenings. He said that \”if they could get 200,000 to

300,000 people to turn out on Sunday\” then \”Thaksin would

resign within a couple of days.\” He predicted that other

members of Thaksin\’s Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party would not

support the dissolution of Parliament for their own selfish

reasons — they don\’t want to be out of a job and have to

campaign again in an uncertain environment. They will be

prepared to sacrifice Thaksin.

 

5. (C) Pittaya aid that the opposition was not terribly

concerned about who would step in as Prime Minister after

that. They presumed that one of the prominent TRT members

would take on the job. In any case, he predicted, TRT would

fall apart once Thaksin was gone. The Parliament would

remain for a couple of months, focusing on making some

changes to the Constitution as called for by many academics

and political figures, and would head into new elections

within six months. (Note: It is not yet clear exactly what

changes to the Constitution have broad support. However,

Pittaya probably has in mind measures to strengthen the

independence of institutions like the National

Counter-Corruption Commission, and changes to provisions that

make it virtually impossible for MPs to change parties. end

note.)

 

6. (C) Pittaya emphasized that the organizers do not expect

violence. They think that Thaksin supporters are

contributing to rumors of possible trouble in order to scare

people away from the protest. He said that the group was

working with local officials and would stay in touch with

police to avoid misunderstandings. The government

understand, Pittaya said, that the use of violence by

security forces would only galvanize opposition to Thaksin.

 

7. (C) Comment: Septel provides our analysis of the serious

challenge Thaksin faces. Pittaya\’s scenario reflects a

\”best-case\” outcome for the opposition, but it is not

completely unrealistic. It is notable that the plan does not

require any intervention by the King — it would simply allow

the legal and constitutional mechanisms to play out. End

Comment

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:05 am

05BANGKOK7732 THAKSIN ALLY PAINTS GLOOMY PICTURE OF PM\’S STANDING

leave a comment »

“48039”,”12/19/2005 9:46″,”05BANGKOK7732″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”05BANGKOK6978|05BANGKOK7317|05BANGKOK75

 

“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 007732

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/15/2015

TAGS: PGOV, TH, Thai Prime Minister, TRT – Thai Rak Thai

SUBJECT: THAKSIN ALLY PAINTS GLOOMY PICTURE OF PM\’S STANDING

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 07529 (LUNCH WITH THAKSIN)

B. BANGKOK 07317 (COURT VICTORIES FOR

RABBLE-ROUSING JOURNALIST SONDHI)

C. BANGKOK 06978 (FORMER PRIME MINISTER ANAND

CRITICIZES SURAKIART RUN FOR UN

SECRETARY GENERAL POST)

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary and Introduction: I met with Deputy Prime

Minister Surakiart Sathirathai on December 16, expecting to

hear another campaign speech from the would-be UN Secretary

General (ref C). Instead, Surakiart unexpectedly delivered a

downbeat analysis of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra\’s

standing in the wake of the King\’s speech (ref A). Surakiart

contradicted Thaksin\’s rosy view of the speech completely,

reinforcing the view that the palace remains unhappy with the

PM. Surakiart recognized that Thai Rak Thai (TRT) is still

strong, particularly in the countryside, but repeated the

adage that \”Prime Ministers are elected in the countryside

but deposed in Bangkok.\” He said that rabble-rousing

journalist/businessman Sondhi Limthongkhul (ref B) is not the

man to lead a successful opposition to Thaksin, but he may

continue to plague TRT with his (accurate) revelations of

government corruption. Although Surakiart is an opportunist

who has hitched his wagon to Thaksin\’s star, he is also a

member of the Bangkok elite, tied into the palace through his

wife, the daughter of the King\’s former principal private

secretary and current Privy Counsellor. His personal

 

SIPDIS

interests give him a keen concern for the PM\’s fortunes. End

Summary and Introduction.

 

2. (C) At the very outset of our meeting, Deputy Prime

Minister Surakiart dismissed Thaksin\’s contention that the

King and the PM had discussed the issues in the King\’s

December 4 speech beforehand and reached an understanding.

Surakiart explained that, if the King thought that Thaksin

would listen to his private advice, then he would have given

it privately. The King had 60 years of experience dealing

with prime ministers, and he knew how to handle them. The

problem was that Thaksin simply doesn\’t listen, so the King

felt compelled to make his points in a public, albeit

typically veiled way. Surakiart also refuted Thaksin\’s claim

that the Queen urged the PM to meet the King regularly to

\”cheer him up,\” maintaining that the Queen was also no fan of

Thaksin. Overall, Surakiart\’s view tallied with what we\’ve

heard from other sources, that the palace, including the

King, still has issues with the Prime Minister. Surakiart

leaned toward the view that Thaksin had convinced himself

that this was not so, and was just refusing to acknowledge

the signs to the contrary.

 

3. (C) I pointed out that Thaksin and TRT still have strong

support, especially in the countryside. I noted also that

the general populace were probably only dimly aware, if at

all, of tensions between the beloved monarch and the popular

PM, and did not see any need to choose between them.

Surakiart acknowledged this, and added that TRT is the first

political party to have \”two legs\” — support both upcountry

and in Bangkok. Nevertheless, Surakiart assessed that the

Bangkok elite were now really engaged in opposing Thaksin.

He cited the saying, \”Prime Ministers are elected in the

countryside but deposed in Bangkok,\” to illustrate the

dangers that this development posed for Thaksin.

 

4. (C) Surakiart said that the steady opposition to the PM

demonstrated by the crowds who turn out to hear Sondhi each

week was significant, but that Sondhi himself was not the man

to spearhead a successful campaign against Thaksin. However,

the King\’s speech had implicitly absolved Sondhi of any

wrongdoing, and forced the PM to drop the lawsuits against

him. Sondhi would have to tone down one of him most saleable

themes — defending the \”King\’s prerogatives\” — but he was

doing a good business in exposing and highlighting corruption

scandals. According to Surakiart, it was clear that Sondhi

had excellent sources for these stories, since \”everything

he\’s said is true.\” Given the high levels of corruption in

the government, this could be a deep well to draw from, and

there was apparently no shortage of sources to dish dirt on

the government. For the next few weeks, Surakiart

predicted, political activity would quiet down somewhat as

people would be busy with vacations and the new year holiday,

but things might pick up around mid-January. (Note: Sondhi

announced last Friday that he was taking a break and would be

back in mid-January. End note.)

 

Comment

——-

 

5. (C) Surakiart\’s insistent, unequivocal contradiction of

Thaksin\’s upbeat claims about his relationship with the

palace was striking. Surakiart is not above manipulation,

and his comments need to be taken with the proverbial grain

of salt. But their basic thrust is consistent with other

soundings we\’re detecting. Surakiart has the contacts to

speak with authority about both the palace and TRT. Like many

other prognostications of trouble for Thaksin, Surakiart\’s

account was short on details of where Thaksin, with his 375

seat parliamentary majority, could be vulnerable. However,

TRT is not a political party unified around a set of

principles; it is a loose confederation held together by

networks of favor and self-interest. There continue to be

rumors that some of the marginalized factions within the

party are disgruntled and looking for options, but no real

indications to date of serious or significant defections from

TRT. Still Surakiart\’s final question shows that even some

of the TRT stalwarts are worried. If Thaksin goes down, he

asked, \”how will it affect my bid to be UN Secretary

General?\”

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 2:24 pm

05BANGKOK7345 SONDHI’S TENTH AND LARGEST RALLY TO DATE ATTRACTS 50,000

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“46169”,”11/28/2005 10:29″,”05BANGKOK7345″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”05A:BANGKOK7317″,

 

“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 007345

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/28/2015

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, KPAO, PINS, PROP, TH, Media/Freedom of the Press

SUBJECT: SONDHI\’S TENTH AND LARGEST RALLY TO DATE ATTRACTS

50,000

 

REF: A. A: BANGKOK 7317

 

B. B: BANGKOK 7253

C. C: BANGKOK 7197

 

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

 

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Government critic Sondhi Limthongkul hosted

his tenth \”mobile talk show\” from a monastery in Udon Thani.

A crowd of approximately 50,000 gathered in Bangkok\’s Lumpini

Park to listen to Sondhi offer revelations of new scandals

concerning the Thai Rak Thai government. In the two-hour

program, Sondhi alleged that shadowy \”powers that be\” had

threatened his life. He also criticized the 2004 decision to

appoint an \”acting Supreme Patriarch\” and offered a scathing

rebuttal to Deputy Transport Minister Phumtham\’s accusations

of disloyalty. He also slammed the RTG for trying to cover up

the scandal involving PM Thaksin\’s younger sister Montathip

and the C-130. Sondhi ended the rally with a call for 500,000

people to attend his next show on December 9 to \”show the

government that it no longer has legitimacy to run this

country\”. Barring any unforeseen developments, it appears

unlikely that they could possibly attract an audience that

size. END SUMMARY.

 

NEW SCANDALS TARGET THAI FIRST LADY; DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER A

\”SHAMEFUL LIAR\”

 

2. (U) With Bangkok still abuzz with last week\’s scandalous

revelations and passionate appeals for the general public to

\”fight for the King\”, Sondhi Limthongkul\’s \”mobile talk show\”

in Bangkok\’s Lumpini Park has emerged as the place to be on

Friday evenings. Political activists have been joined by

curious onlookers, picnicking families and entrepreneurs

selling unofficial paraphernalia. While the majority of

people were clearly interested in hearing what Sondhi had to

say, many in the crowd were clearly there to be entertained.

Poloff remarked more \”coming and going\” compared to the

previous week\’s show and many people left before the end.

Better weather helped the rally achieve its largest numbers

yet- Thai Police estimated that 50,000 people showed up.

Sondhi\’s \”Manager\” newspaper reported a hopelessly

exaggerated figure of 150,000, with a 150,000 more listening

to the speech via the web. The speech is also broadcast via

92.25 radio and a number of satellite cable TV stations.

Police presence was beefed up considerably, and some in the

audience were subject to seemingly random searches. As with

previous events, the rally went on peacefully and without

incident.

 

3. (U) Sondhi himself did not attend the rally. Instead, he

and his co-host Sarocha Pornudomsak did the show via

satellite from the monastery of controversial monk Luangta

Maha Bua in Udon Thani Province. The monk had invited Sondhi

and PM Thaksin to a meeting at his monastery the previous

day, although the PM declined citing other engagements.

Sondhi\’s first scandal of the night consisted of allegations

that the \”powers-that-be\”, led by an unnamed \”Master Lady\”,

were seeking to silence him through threats of imprisonment,

intimidation, harassment and unspecified attempts on his

life. The \”Master Lady\” is widely suspected to be a reference

to the Thai First Lady, Khunying Potjaman Shinawatra, who is

widely known to be an influential adviser and confidante to

her husband, PM Thaksin. Sondhi alleged that the \”Master

Lady\” had verbally given the order to the 3rd Region

Provincial Police Command to file lese majeste charges

against him and his co-host. (Reftel A) Sondhi also alleged

that police authorities in several Northeastern provinces had

been ordered by Regional Commander (and former classmate of

Thaksin) to file libel suits against him for publicly

discussing the monarchy.

 

4. (U) Sondhi called Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Kruangam a

\”shameful liar\” for his move in January 2004 to appoint

Somdet Phra Phuthajarn as acting Supreme Patriarch (more or

less the \”Pope\” of Thai Buddhism). (Reftel C) Wissanu had

stated that the incumbent Supreme Patriarch was ill and only

able to work occasionally. Sondhi showed a video of the

incumbent Supreme Patriarch, supposedly taken the day he was

replaced, looking perfectly active and healthy. (NOTE: One of

Thaksin\’s lawsuits against Sondhi involves the publication of

a sermon by Luangta Maha Bua which touches on the

controversy. END NOTE) Sondhi alleged that the real reason

for the appointment was an attempt by Thaksin to put

supporters in high-level positions, including the sacred

Buddhist clergy.

 

5. (U) Sondhi also hit back at Deputy Transport Minister

Phumtham Wechayachai, who had publicly made allegations that

Sondhi\’s rallies were \”practice\” for a future coup d\’etat.

(Reftel A) Sondhi made a number of stinging accusations

revolving around Phumtham\’s past activities as a member of

the Communist Party in the 1970s, saying \”(Phumtham) is so

arrogant to think he can teach me about democracy, and can

accuse me of dragging down the Monarchy for my own selfish

purposes. I dare you to explain why you joined the Communist

Party of Thailand if you really have any respect for the

Monarchy.\” He also made references to Thai Rak Thai being

committed only to a \”4-second democracy\” in which they buy

votes in order to win democratic elections, and then rule

essentially undemocratically.

 

UPDATING OLD SCANDALS

 

6. (U) Sondhi also offered new information on the two big

scandals from last week. In response to charges that

Thaksin\’s younger sister had used a Thai Army aircraft to fly

her and her guests to a housewarming party (Reftel B), the

RTG responded that the party had been allowed to tag along on

an aircraft which was doing a routine mail run. At Friday\’s

rally, Sondhi dismissed this as a cover-up noting that the

only regular mail flights scheduled for that day were going

to Udon Thani, not Chiang Mai. Sondhi also charged that the

party had been flown to Chiang Mai on a plane with VIP seats,

which were not available on planes doing routine mail

flights. Sondhi also repeated charges made by an opposition

MP earlier this year which question whether Thaksin had used

state aircraft to fly home to Chiang Mai to celebrate Thai

New Year with his family. Sondhi challenged Thaksin to

release travel logs of Thai Koo Fah, the Thai equivalent of

Air Force One.

 

SETTING EXPECTATIONS TOO HIGH? SONDHI ASKS FOR 500,000 TO

SHOW UP AT NEXT RALLY

 

7. (C) Sondhi ended his show with an appeal to the Thai

people to \”show the government that it no longer has

legitimacy to run this country\” by having 500,000 people

attend his December 9 rally. (NOTE: Sondhi announced that he

is taking December 2 off in honor of the King\’s birthday. END

NOTE) One English-language newspaper is claiming the December

9 rally will be a \”final showdown\” between the PM and the

pundit. This is a dangerous gamble for the opposition. If

they can turn out 500,000 people, it would shake the

government and have major repercussions for Thaksin. Barring

some extraordinary new factor between now and then, we don\’t

think they can do it.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 24, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Confidential, Sonthi