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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05BANGKOK4001
2005-06-17 08:59:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Bangkok
Cable title:  

THAKSIN RUNS INTO POLITICAL TURBULENCE

Tags:   ECON  PGOV  TH 
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						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 004001 

SIPDIS

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C O R R E C T E D C O P Y
CHANGING PARAGRAPH NUMBERING AND CLASSIFICATION MARKINGS
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SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON PGOV TH
SUBJECT: THAKSIN RUNS INTO POLITICAL TURBULENCE

REF: BANGKOK 3852



1. (SBU) Just over four months since his massive election
victory, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is looking much
less like the invincible politician who easily swept back
into power. The opposition is tenaciously pursuing
corruption questions regarding purchase of security equipment
for the massive new airport being constructed on Bangkok's
fringes and that story is in the Thai and English headlines
every day. Transport Minister and Thai Rak Thai (TRT)
financier Suriya Jungrungreangkit is headed for a bruising
Parliamentary debate over his management (although not his
personal involvement in corruption) which will reflect badly
on Thaksin. To make matters worse, long disgruntled TRT
faction leader Sanoh Thienthong is openly threatening to
leave the party, and angling for an expulsion (versus
voluntary withdrawal), which would protect his member of
Parliament (MP) status. It is a long way from that point
still, but if Sanoh can take enough people into the
opposition camp, then the Administration's debunkers would
have enough votes under the 1997 Constitution to force
Thaksin,s ministers to face embarrassing impeachment
hearings. End Summary.

TRANSPORT MINISTER DUE FOR A GRILLING



2. (U) Thaksin's administration continues to catch the
glare of public scrutiny over allegations of corrupt
practices. Opposition Democrat Party (DP) and Chart Thai
Party (CT) leaders Abhisit Vejjajiva and Barnharn Silpa-archa
have agreed to file a no-confidence motion against the
Transport Minister Suriya Chungrungruangkit over the CTX
scandal in the new international airport project. They
delivered the motion to the House Speaker on June 15. The
debate date has not been decided, but will likely be in the
last week of June.

SANOH POLITICAL THORN IN THAKSIN'S SIDE; WANG NAM YEN FACTION
IS RESTIVE



3. (U) TRT faction leader Sanoh Thienthong is continuing
his very public feuding with Thaksin Shinawatra, going out of
his way to provoke him. In a recent interview he derided
Thaksin's "fancy populist policies" as simply political
promises that will increase the personal debts of farmers and
villagers. In addition to slamming the Prime Minister's core
policies, Sanoh is making the extravagant claim that the 1997
Constitution "has enabled one single person to take over the
whole country." (Note: Sanoh has long bridled under the rule
that a candidate must be a member of a political party for a
minimum 90 days to be eligible to run for the Parliament. An
MP who voluntarily leaves a party loses his seat in
Parliament. However, if an MP is expelled from his party and
the Constitutional Court rules that the party was
"undemocratic" in taking that step, the MP retains their

seat. This accounts in part for Sanoh's strategy of baiting
Thaksin and for also associating himself with such popular
causes among Senators as an end to the one consecutive term
limit for Senators. End Note.) Thaksin, for his part, is
trying to appear above the fray, telling reporters that
governing the country is a higher priority than treating with
Sanoh.

TRT ROILED BY SANOH'S ACTIONS



4. (U) But Sanoh's antics are having their impact. A TRT
MP and Wang Nam Yen faction member from Ubon Ratchathani,
Sombat Ratno, vowed publicly last weekend to follow Sanoh to
another party if the latter is ejected from the TRT. Sombat
claimed that more than 40 other faction members would follow
suit. The faction will discuss its position this week.
Meanwhile, another Wang Nam Yen member from Ubon Ratchathani,
Kriang Kaltinan, has reportedly denied rumors that Sanoh
would resign from the TRT, pointing out that what Sanoh had
actually said to the public was he wouldn't care if the TRT
expelled him because of his acrimonious speech in the last
House meeting (Ref. A). Observers here speculate that Sanoh
could precipitate his expulsion by ordering his faction
members to vote against Transport Minister Suriya
Chungrungruankit in the censure debate.

CABINET SHUFFLE SOON?



5. (U) Government Whip Committee Spokesperson Watthana
Sengphairo said on June 13 that if Sano Thienthong and his
Wang Nam Yen faction members vote in the coming censure
motion against Transport Minister Suriya Chungrungruangkit in
defiance of the party's line, they will certainly face TRT
disciplinary punishment. The Deputy Interior Minister, who
is also Chairman of the TRT MPs, Somchai Sunthonwat has
stated that a cabinet reshuffle is likely soon, but denied it
is because of the pressure by the opposition, or the Wang Nam
///////////////////////////
//////////////////////////
Yen, or any corruption problem in the government. Somchai
optimistically predicted that Sanoh and his faction will not
vote against the TRT in the upcoming National Counter
Corruption Commission (NCCC) constitutional amendment
proceedings (Ref A.).

WHY THE TRT DOES NOT WANT TO FORCE SANOH OUT



6. (SBU) A source in the TRT leadership told the Embassy on
June 10 that the party does not want to expel Sanoh and his
faction members out of fear that if they keep their MP status
they would join the opposition. Currently the opposition
Democrat Party (DP) and Chart Thai (CT) hold 121 seats, just
short of the requisite 125 votes to formally request the
Senate to remove a cabinet member (section 304 of the
Constitution). The DP and CT command 121 votes. A move by
Sanoh and even a portion of his faction to the opposition (if
the opposition would accept the volatile Sanoh) would give it
the votes to bring potentially damaging impeachment
proceedings against Thaksin's ministers. According to the
TRT source, the plan now is to let Sanoh stew impotently
within the party, despite his attacks on Thaksin.



7. (SBU) Comment: Thaksin is looking his most
bedeviled at least since his assets concealment case in the
opening weeks of his administration. Apart from the ongoing
airport purchase scandal and Sanoh Thienthong's open
rebellion, Thailand has had a long drought, oil prices are up
and economic growth forecasts are being scaled back. The
recovery from the tsunami and news of an almost daily toll of
separatist violence in the Thai southern border provinces
have hit tourism numbers. The press seems emboldened by
Thaksin's troubles. From his recent image as a political
Midas set to shape Thailand's future for some years to come,
Thaksin for now is finding himself in the unfamiliar
situation of being on the defensive. End Comment.
BOYCE