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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
07BANGKOK1914 2007-04-02 09:23:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bangkok
Cable title:  

THAILAND: MARCH 30 ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS

Tags:   PGOV PREL KDEM ASEC TH 
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OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHBK #1914/01 0920923
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 020923Z APR 07 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5984
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 4026
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 6986
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 2970
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001914 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP, EAP/MLS
NSC FOR MORROW
PACOM FOR FPA (HUSO)

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/02/2017
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM ASEC TH
SUBJECT: THAILAND: MARCH 30 ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS
PEACEFUL

REF: A. BANGKOK 01875 (WILL HE OR WON'T HE?: DEBATE ON

EMERGENCY DECREE)

B. BANGKOK 01871 (EMERGENCY DECREE)

C. BANGKOK 01869 (OUR LATEST CHALLENGE)

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



1. (C) Summary. The anti-government protests in Bangkok that
inspired proposals by some RTG leaders to declare a "state of
emergency" went off peacefully on the evening of March 30.
Polcouns and poloff joined an estimated 2000 people gathered
in front of City Hall to hear People's Television (PTV)
leaders complain about the interim government and praise
ousted PM Thaksin. The crowd was energetically pro-Thaksin.
PTV leaders have called for a repeat rally to be held on
April 8. Despite government efforts to close Sanam
Luang--Thailand's National Mall downtown--local media
reported that 100-300 people gathered there in a separate,
peaceful protest against the interim government. End
Summary.

PROTEST SEASON RETURNS TO BANGKOK


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





2. (C) Polcouns and poloff joined at least 2000 people
gathered in front of Bangkok City Hall on March 30 to hear
leaders from the pro-Thaksin People's Television (PTV)
excoriate the current government and praise the deposed Prime
Minister. The rally--which was originally to be held at
Sanam Luang, leading authorities to close that space and post
police there--was the second organized by PTV. The crowd was
a solid mix of lower and middle class Thai, in contrast to
the overwhelmingly upper and middle class crowd that
protested against Thaksin in 2005 and 2006. Volunteers from
the "Thai Say No" group handed out flyers calling for voters
to reject the draft constitution. A separate group of
volunteers circulated a petition calling on the King to
dismiss Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda (Note: a
rather direct challenge to Prem that has not been widely
reported in local news. End Note.)



3. (C) PTV leaders Veera Musigapong, Chakrapop Penkae,
Nathawuth Saikua, among others, took turns attacking the
interim government on a range of issues, from the junta's
unwillingness to grant PTV a satellite concession (necessary
for broadcasting) to efforts to force through a new,
"undemocratic" constitution. While the crowd offered
applause and scattered cheers on these points, any mention of
deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was greeted with
effusive crowd reaction. Chakrapop, who was photographed
meeting with Thaksin in Beijing recently--a story that
grabbed front-page coverage in local papers--proudly
confirmed his meeting with the former PM, saying that he
"loves" him and wanted to make sure that Thaksin was OK.
Several bystanders engaged poloff in conversation throughout
the evening, with all of them expressing strong opposition to
the coup and equally strong support for Thaksin. As one
older businessman from a rural background put it, "Thaksin
was the best Prime Minister...he will return, definitely."



4. (C) Notably absent from the City Hall rally were activists
from the "pure democracy" camp, (i.e. those opposed to both
Thaksin and the current government.) Meanwhile, local press
reported that 100-300 members of the "White Dove 2006" and
"Saturday People Objecting to the Dictatorship" groups--which
mirror PTV activists in their opposition to the current
government and support for Thaksin--defied the ban on
gatherings at Sanam Luang and held their own, albeit smaller,
rally there. Police contacts confirmed that no protesters
from any political group were arrested over the weekend,
though the front page of the English-language "Nation"
newspaper showed a protester being forcibly pushed to the
ground as police dismantled a tent on Sanam Luang.

WHERE WAS THE BEEF?


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





5. (C) Despite much public angst by RTG leaders over the
threat of violent clashes stemming from the rally--which

BANGKOK 00001914 002 OF 002


inspired reftel debate over declaring a state of emergency in
Bangkok--the protest was conducted peacefully. While police
officers from a variety of units were stationed at the rally,
no military personnel were visible. The only notable
incident of the evening occurred shortly after 2100 hours,
when Bangkok Metropolitan Police Chief Adisorn Nonsi tried to
move from the outside, gated perimeter of the protest to the
back of the stage area. A scrum of journalists and cameramen
surrounding Adisorn were soon joined by a more boisterous
group of 30-50 protesters shouting "get out." Adisorn was
quickly pushed back to the safety of the City Hall steps
directly behind the stage, where a phalanx of policemen
stepped in to peacefully, yet firmly, dissuade the crowd from
pursuing. The brief incident failed to interrupt the PTV
speaker on stage, but produced a number of rumors in the
crowd, with several people erroneously telling poloff (who
witnessed the event) that the police had arrested a number of
protesters.


HOPING THAT LIGHTNING WILL STRIKE TWICE


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





6. (C) The rally was eerily similar to those led by
anti-Thaksin media mogul Sonthi Limthongul last year, which
helped lay the groundwork for the September 19 coup. A large
stage, complete with drum kit and flanked by large projection
screens, provided the platform for PTV executives to speak.
An impressive, motorized camera crane and series of cameramen
provided crowd shots and footage for the soon to be produced
DVD film of the event. According to a journalist contact,
PTV leaders are consciously copying Sonthi Limthongul's
model, in the hopes that a sustained series of protests,
complete with streaming video coverage on the internet, will
continue to grow in size and force the current government out
of office.
ARVIZU