wikileaks ico  Home papers ico  Cables mirror and Afghan War Diary privacy policy  Privacy
IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06BANGKOK4373 2006-07-20 09:57:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bangkok
Cable title:  

THAI POLITICAL UPDATE: SHUFFLING THE DECKS IN A

Tags:   PGOV PREL TH 
pdf how-to read a cable


1. (C) Summary. The liar's poker of Thai politics heated up
this week, with Army Chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin ordering his
own reshuffle of lower-level officers and Thaksin's caretaker
government preparing to shift around senior civil servants.
Speculation over possible senior-level defections from
Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party continues. The PM took
to the hustings to energize his grassroots base. The King
will undergo spinal surgery the evening of July 20. End
Summary.


YOU WANNA SHUFFLE? LET'S SHUFFLE BIG BOY!


--------------------------





2. (C) In an apparent response to rumors that Thaksin was
looking to push him out of his current job (ref), Army Chief
Sonthi Boonyaratglin released an order on July 17 shifting
129 officers at the Colonel and lower levels out of sensitive
positions in and around Bangkok. Many of these officers
serve in combat units commanded by Thaksin's classmates from
pre-cadet academy Class 10. Sonthi told reporters on July 19
that this reshuffle was free of political interference and
under his authority alone. (Note. Most transfers at this
level take place in December. End Note.) Thaksin repeated
this line with reporters on July 20, saying that the
transfers were "an internal affair...of the Army." Coming on
the heels of recent coup rumors (ref), Sonthi's move has
attracted a lot of attention. According to the English
language Nation newspaper (no fan of the PM's), when asked
about recent coup rumors "Thaksin appeared moody and replied:
'Your question is unconstructive.'"



3. (C) One Embassy military contact--in the "for what it's
worth category"--believes that the cool and careful Sonthi
would never have undertaken such a "provocative" move on his
own. According to this same source, it was the Queen--no fan
of Thaksin's--who directed the Army Chief to push back
against the PM's cronies in the military.

THAKSIN TRIES FOR A NEW DECK AT MINISTRIES


--------------------------





4. (C) Thaksin meanwhile, met with his cabinet on July 19 to
discuss a reshuffle of senior civil servants, including
Ministry Permanent Secretaries. According to press accounts,
the PM intends to finalize the civil service list by October.
Of these changes, the most high-profile has been the
reported move of Somchai Wongsawat--the PM's
brother-in-law--from the Ministry of Labor back to his
original position in the Ministry of Justice. Conspiracy
theorists have suggested that this move is designed to
strengthen the PM's control over ongoing investigations of
the opposition, deflect any investigations of Thaksin and his
party, and prepare Somchai to take over the Justice Minister
slot after new elections. Labor officials are reportedly
overjoyed to see Somchai move on.

BUT IS THE DINNER CROWD BLUFFING?


--------------------------





5. (C) Speculation about the dinner meeting of several
cabinet ministers last Sunday--widely rumored as a pow-wow of
ministers looking for an exit strategy from the Thaksin
camp--continues to mount (ref). Those in attendance are
publicly denying any conspiracy charges, instead claiming
that the gathering at a local restaurant was merely a
birthday dinner for Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce
Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. Minister in the Office of the
PM Suranand Vejjajiva--who has been rumored to be looking for
a way out of the cabinet--told reporters that the meeting was
a social occasion, but "naturally we had to discuss the
political situation...were not going into a huddle to do
anything." Press play of the meeting has prompted several
other factions of the PM's Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party to make
public pledges of allegiance to the besieged head of
government.

THAKSIN TALKS UP HIS ACES, ALL 80,000 OF 'EM


--------------------------



BANGKOK 00004373 002 OF 002





6. (C) On July 18, Thaksin met with nearly 80,000 local-level
village officials from around the country at a temple in
Pathum Thani in ostensible celebration of the King's 60 year
on the throne. The PM--who tried hard to not look like he
was campaigning for the next election--told the officials
that they, as representatives of the grass roots, are the
foundation of TRT, and blamed the current crisis on those
people in the opposition who fail to play by the rules.

THE KING SITS THIS HAND OUT


--------------------------





7. (SBU) According to local press, the King will undergo
surgery for his spinal condition (ref) the evening of July
20, and is expected to be in recovery for several days
afterwards. "Get Well" books and messages have been placed
at locations throughout the country.
ARVIZU