Cablegate: U.S. Election Watch in Thailand Draws Record Crowd

R 101030Z NOV 08




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: Bangkok 3298


1. Summary: U.S. Mission Thailand directly engaged over 2,000
members of the public through three simultaneous Election Watch
events held in Bangkok and Chiang Mai on November 5. Media interest
was intense and Post estimates that approximately 25-35 million
Thais were reached through the widespread coverage of the three
events. Ambassador John hosted Embassy Bangkok's seven-hour
Election Watch extravaganza during which 1,800 invited guests,
including Prime Minster Somchai Wongsawat (see reftel), Bangkok
Governor Apirak Kosayothin, key contacts and over 1,000 students,
joined in the excitement. The Ambassador gave interviews to all six
national television networks, which covered the event live, as well
as local cable stations, radio, and major print dailies. Consulate
General Chiang Mai held two simultaneous election events, one on
Consulate grounds for 80 close contacts and a second broader event
held offsite for 130 university students and faculty. These
celebrations offered the Thai public, key Mission contacts, and Thai
young people an opportunity to witness and get greater insight into
this historic and exciting election. End summary.

2. Comment: Guest feedback on the U.S. Mission's Election Watch
events was resoundingly positive, as was the news coverage. Guests
and commentators drew comparisons between America's peaceful and
celebratory democratic transition and recent tumultuous events in
Bangkok, including clashes between the government and opposition.
The election and Election Watch events, which dominated the news on
November 5, provided a unique opportunity for us to highlight key
policy messages on the importance of democracy. In a Bangkok Post
article entitled, "U.S. Election - Some Lessons for Thailand," the
Ambassador was quoted as saying, "The rule of law and the
Constitution are very important and the most important thing is
(that) it's perfectly appropriate that people along opposite
sides...disagree about issues and resolve them peacefully." This
was a clear underlying theme throughout the day and the Election
Watch events an outstanding vehicle to convey this message to Thais.
End Comment.

Bangkok Election Watch Attracts Record Numbers

3. On November 5, Ambassador Eric John hosted a record crowd at the
U.S. Embassy's Bangkok Election Watch 2008, organized by Public
Affairs with support from over 80 Embassy volunteers. Around 1,800
guests including government leaders and officials, academics, media,
business leaders, diplomats, civil society, students and politicians
from across Thailand attended this highly-anticipated election event
that featured a wide range of informational activities designed to
showcase the U.S. democratic system in action.

4. Guests were already lined up to enter the event when the doors
opened at 7:00 a.m. and the grand ballroom -- decked out in red,
white and blue Americana decor -- was packed as the first vote
tallies came trickling in shortly thereafter. Ambassador John
opened the event with welcome remarks to a crowded ballroom in which
he highlighted the longevity, resilience and tenacity of the U.S.
system of democracy. Thailand's Prime Minister and Bangkok's
Governor (and deputy leader of the opposition Democrat Party) both
made special appearances at the event to congratulate the United
States on a successful election, demonstrating that American
democracy in action could even bring Thailand's political
adversaries together for the same cause, at least for one day.

Continuous "Edutainment"

5. Additional highlights of the Bangkok event included live
discussions via satellite with the Voice of America Thai Service,
dozens of informative posters designed and produced by Embassy
Bangkok's own Information Resource Center (IRC), a mock election,
and plenty of photo-ops for guests with cardboard cutouts of the
presidential candidates and a live "Uncle Sam." The IRC's "election
reference desk," complete with a collection of election-related
resources and giveaways, received significant traffic.

6. In addition, the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) in
Thailand and representatives from Democrats Abroad and Republicans
Abroad also participated actively in the event manning busy
information tables and engaging guests in interactive
election-focused activities. (Note: The Chair of Republicans Abroad
Thailand remarked to one PA staff member that the event "was a great
opportunity to dispel many myths about the Republican Party" for the
students. End Note.) With four jumbo screens displaying non-stop
coverage of election results and analysis combined with well-timed
stage announcements and a special "election music playlist," the
room was imbued with excitement throughout the entire seven-hour

Focus on Youth

7. Embassy Bangkok made a special push to engage youth in its
Election Watch event, reaching out to thousands of students in
advance of the November 5 party. The effort paid off and more than
1,000 students from across 32 educational institutions in Thailand
attended the Bangkok event during which they were actively engaged
in a series of specially-designed interactive activities, including
election-related quizzes, a digital video conference with students
at four American Corners (Khon Kaen, Pattani, Yala, and Nakhon Si
Thammarat), an "info-scavenger hunt," and special election briefings
by senior Embassy officers. Guests also enjoyed watching dynamic
home videos made by Thai AFS students currently in the United
States, in which they interviewed host family and friends for their
views on this historic election.

Lights, Camera, Democracy in Action!

8. Bangkok's Election Watch 2008 attracted every one of Thailand's
six national television stations, all of whom reported live
throughout the day from the event. Thai cable and international
Bangkok-based news agencies, including TNN (TrueVision), The Nation
Channel, NHK, NPR and VOA also did reporting from the venue. Five
national daily papers (Naew Na, Daily News, Krungthep Thurakit and
the English-language Bangkok Post and The Nation) sent reporters and
photographers. More than 100 press passes were distributed to the

9. Broadcast media coverage began in advance of the program with the
IO granting a pre-event interview the evening before the party.
Event day coverage began at 7:00 a.m. local time and continued
non-stop until 1:15 p.m. when the Ambassador concluded his final, 30
minute interview with local cable operator TNN. The Ambassador, as
well as senior Embassy officers, gave several dozen interviews to
the assembled media, including many that were broadcast live from
the ballroom. The Ambassador granted interviews to each television
network and a handful of print outlets in attendance, fielding
questions on a wide range of issues including: implications of the
election outcome on U.S.-Thai relations, free trade, and the global
financial crisis. The DCM answered questions about what an Obama
presidency would mean for America and the world; the Commercial,
Economic and Political Counselors discussed trade and political
issues respectively; and the IO explained why U.S. embassies around
the world were hosting election watch events.

10. Over 30 clips totaling more than 200 minutes of total airtime
were broadcast from the Election Watch event throughout the day, and
ranged from 30-second live spots to 20-minute features that included
interviews, in-depth analyses from local political experts, and
reactions from both the Thai and American public. (Note: Several
local Thai broadcast outlets sent reporters to the United States to
provide on-the-ground coverage of the elections. With the help of
the Foreign Press Center, the Embassy assisted three separate teams
of television reporters from Channel 3, Channel 9, and TPBS in
reporting from the United States. End Note.) Post estimates that
approximately 20-25 million Thais viewers saw at least one report
about Election Watch 2008, and several million more heard coverage
on Radio Thailand (estimated listenership of 12 million

11. Print media coverage was also widespread. Combined circulation
numbers for the newspapers is more than six million readers. The
day after the election, every national paper mentioned the Election
Watch party in their reporting on the U.S. election results.
"Citizen journalists" and bloggers were also present, including The
Nation senior editor Kavi Chongkittavorn who, with his handheld
video recorder, captured several key moments of the event for his
blogspot, including the first interview of the day with Ambassador
John. Student journalists from Thammasat University also joined
their professional colleagues in lining up to interview the
Ambassador and others.

12. An online news summary of coverage from the Bangkok Election
Watch Event is available on OpenNet at:
pdweb/internal/news/2008/elections08/ m.

CG Chiang Mai Brings the Celebration to the North

13. Not to be left out of the fun, Consulate General Chiang Mai
held two simultaneous Election Watch events for Mission contacts and
friends in Northern Thailand. First, there was an Election Watch
event hosted at the Consulate for approximately 80 Thai, Burmese,
and American contacts. Prominent guests included the Vice Governor,
Mayor, Chairman of the Election Commission of Thailand's (ECT)
Chiang Mai provincial office, and Commanding General of the Royal
Thai Army 33rd Military Circle. Several electronic and print
journalists were also in attendance. NBT aired two slots of its
coverage of the event on its national news broadcast. The
six-minute piece included an interview with Consul General Morrow on
the U.S. presidential electoral process. Coverage also included
commentary from the provincial ECT Chairman. Radio MCOT and Channel
7 also conducted interviews with the Consul General from the event
for later broadcast.

14. ConGen Chiang Mai hosted a second event at Payap University the
morning of Election Day for university students in the Chiang Mai
area. More than 130 students, faculty, and staff from Chiang Mai
University, Payap University, and Far Eastern University attended,
as well as some American students currently on exchange programs in
Thailand. The event featured a panel debate, mock election, trivia
contests, and a live performance of American patriotic music by
visiting Oklahoma violinist Kyle Dillingham.

15. Special kudos to IIP, GPS Manila, IBB/VOA, the Diplomatic Pouch
and Mail Division for going above and beyond the call in support of
Mission Thailand's Election Watch events.


© Scoop Media

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