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Cablegate: Pridiyathorn Reveals a Cabinet in Confusion

VZCZCXRO9671
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHBK #1634/01 0790157
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 200157Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 5683
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001634

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE PASS TO USTR

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON ENIV ETRD TH
SUBJECT: PRIDIYATHORN REVEALS A CABINET IN CONFUSION

REF: A. A. BANGKOK 1036
B. B. BANGKOK 1520

SENSTIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED HANDLE ACCORDINGLY

1. (SBU) Summary. Recently-resigned government economic czar
Pridiyathorn told the Ambassador that the current government
is weakly led, faction-ridden, and under threat of being
replaced. While mindful of the self-serving nature, and some
contradictions, in his remarks, this is more evidence of the
internal problems the current government is experiencing. End
Summary.

2. (SBU) On March 15, Ambassador Boyce hosted
recently-resigned former Deputy Prime Minister Pridiyathorn
Devakula to lunch. Pridiyathorn was extremely frank in his
assessment of his former cabinet colleagues and the Byzantine
politics which he claims required him to resign on February
28 (reftels).

Can,t Anyone But Me Do This Job?
--------------------------------

3. (SBU) He began by relating the dysfunctional nature of the
cabinet, due largely to PM Surayud,s reluctance to stamp his
authority on issues except those related to problems in the
South or police reform. On all other issues, Pridiyathorn
says, he left each minister to decide for himself how to
proceed, resulting in fragmented overall policy, including
the issuing of compulsory licenses by the Health Minister
without consulting the rest of the cabinet. (Comment: This
corresponds to what other insiders have told us. These
sources cited Pridiyathorn as one of the worst offenders of
non-coordination. End comment.) &I would have been more
dictatorial8 as PM, Pridiyathorn exclaimed, &we needed
complete peace of mind for a year.8

4. (SBU) When Pridiyathorn was asked to join the cabinet, he
apparently expected to be able to appoint all the other
economic ministers in his role as overall coordinator of
government economic policy. Instead, he claims that he was
able to name only the ministers of commerce and energy, with
others apparently named directly by Surayud at the direction
of Privy Council President Prem. This lack of a
well-coordinated and crafted team, the majority of whom
Pridiyathorn believes were not up to the tasks at hand, is a
major factor in the ineffectiveness of this government, a
description Pridiyathorn readily accepted.

5. (SBU) From the earliest stages of his time in office,
Pridiyathorn said, he saw signs of weakness in the appointed
government. Specifically, he mentioned that once the
National Legislative Assembly (NLA) voted against passage of
a new lottery law (presented by Pridiyathorn) it was evidence
that the NLA &had an opposition party.8 This grouping was
led by Prasong Sonsiri, who had lost out in the race to
become President of the NLA. Pridiyathorn blamed Surayud for
not trying to stifle this opposition and for not attempting
to play politics. Pridiyathorn noted that &politics were
never discussed in cabinet.8

The Resignation
---------------

6. (SBU) When asked about the events that led to his
resignation, Pridiyathorn said he had &facts and
assumptions8 but seemed fairly certain he knew what had
happened. As he related the story, a group led by media
personality Sondhi Limthongkul, CNS General Saprang and
former owner of Thai Petrochemical Industries Prachai decided
to replace the current appointed government with the PM slot
going to the head of the CNS, General Sonthi. Pridiyathorn
described Sonthi as having been a modest soldier when the
coup occurred, but with the power of his new position and
with the cabal &whispering in his ear,8 he began to believe
that perhaps he should replace Surayud. This cabal organized
the entire Somkid affair (reftels) to create sufficient
political turmoil to set the stage for a new government. This
goal was furthered by Sondhi,s on-air tirades against
Pridiyathorn. Pridiyathorn was chosen as the scapegoat by the
cabal because of the controversy surrounding his decisions on
capital controls and Foreign Business Act amendments. In the
end, the plot failed because Somkid resigned too soon for the
plotters to act. Despite Somkid leaving, Pridiyathorn
resigned because he felt that Surayud had not properly
supported him and went back on a promise to keep Sondhi off
the airwaves.

Capital Controls

BANGKOK 00001634 002 OF 002


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

7. (SBU) Pridiyathorn related his reasons for imposing harsh
capital controls: a baht rising uncontrollably threatening
the ability of exporters to maintain markets at a time when
other policy instruments would not work.

8. (SBU) Looking to the future, Pridiyathorn believes a
successful referendum on the constitution is dependent on
ensuring the PM post is an elected, not appointed, position.
He believes there is no other issue that will compel people
to vote against a new constitution. As for his future,
Pridiyathorn says he plans to run his boutique hotel in
Chiang Rai. While he still admires PM Surayud, he believes
that his weak leadership has upset even the King, and as a
result Surayud will never become Privy Council President as
had been expected prior to the coup.

9. (SBU) Comment: We take everything Pridiyathorn says with
a generous serving of salt. It is not just that it is mostly
self-serving but at times does not correspond to what he told
us before. A small example: shortly after he took office he
said that the coup leaders had asked him to be, first, PM,
then when he declined because he felt he was not up to the
national security aspects of the job, the generals offered
and he accepted the post of Deputy PM. This time he said that
Surayud was the one who invited him to join the cabinet.

10. (SBU) Comment continued. Despite this caveat, the picture
he paints of a weak, politically confused government riven
with factions in cabinet, in the CNS, and in the NLA
corresponds to what is evident in the lack of results.
Pridiyathorn several times expressed longing for a leader
like former (appointed) PM Anand, &someone with brains to
unite the people.8 He clearly does not see any of the
current government as fitting that description. End Comment.
BOYCE

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