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Cablegate: Thailand: Trt Factional Tensions Flare Over

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 003471

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPARTMENT FOR EAP/BCLTV. HQ USPACOM FOR FPA HUSO.

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TH TRT
SUBJECT: THAILAND: TRT FACTIONAL TENSIONS FLARE OVER
AUDITOR-GENERAL CONTROVERSY

REF: (A) BANGKOK 3381 (B) BANGKOK 2347

1. (SBU) Summary: Opposition to Thai Senate efforts to
replace popular Auditor-General Charuvan -- up to now led by
the Democrat Party (DP) -- has been taken up by one of the
ruling Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party's key factions. Powerful
TRT faction leader Sanoh Thienthong has drawn Prime Minister
Thaksin's ire by spearheading a petition by some 60 TRT MPs
to the Senate against submitting to the King the nomination
of former Finance Ministry Deputy Permanent Secretary Wisut
Montriwat as Charuvan's replacement. Prime Minister Thaksin,
whose administration may be vulnerable to Charuvan's drive to
root out government malfeasance, has reportedly retorted that
MPs should not meddle in actions by the Senate. The bold
move by Sanoh in an atmosphere of heightened attention to
allegations of bribe-taking by politicians in the awarding of
new airport construction contracts cracks the facade of unity
that the TRT had hoped to present to its critics in academia,
the press, political opposition and the general public. End
Summary.

MOVE TO REPLACE CRUSADING AUDITOR-GENERAL SPARKS CRITICISM

2. (U) As noted in ref. A, a decision in 2003 by the
Constitutional Court that Khunying Charuvan Methanaka's
appointment as Auditor-General was unconstitutional led the
Senate on May 12 to name a successor, former Finance Ministry
Deputy Permanent Secretary Wisut Montriwat. This decision
sparked accusations -- largely from opposition DP officials
-- that the Thaksin administration influenced the nominally
non-political Senate to get rid of a troublesomely efficient
corruption investigator. Critics of efforts to replace
Charuvan say that the upper body has no constitutional
grounds on which to remove her and appoint a new successor.
Wisut's supporters disagree.

THAI RAK THAI FACTION LEADER GETS INVOLVED IN CASE

3. (U) On May 26, reportedly up to 60 TRT MPs (of 377 total
TRT congresspersons in the 500 seat lower house of
Parliament), headed by disgruntled TRT Wang Nam Yen faction
leader Sanoh Thienthong, appealed for Senate Speaker Suchon
Chaleekrua not to submit Wisut's name to the King as
replacement for Charuvan. In their letter to the Deputy
Speaker's office, the MPs reasoned that the Constitutional
Court,s ruling, which declared the unconstitutionality of
the Senate's earlier selection of Charuwan as the
Auditor-General, did not stipulate that she be removed from
the office. Therefore, they argued, the royal appointment of
Charuvan as the Auditor-General was still in effect, and that
presenting Wisut to the King as new Auditor-General would be
both unconstitutional and disrespectful to the King by
involving him in the controversy.

4. (U) Thaksin has reportedly scathingly rebuked some of
the MPs, telling a group on May 26 that the Senate's actions
are not the business of the lower house and that they have to
follow the rules. Thaksin has had tense relations with Sanoh
Thienthong from the period of his first administration
(2001-5), when Sanoh regularly complained that he and his
faction were being eclipsed by a rival faction headed by
Thaksin's sister Yaowapha Wongsawasdi and not receiving
sufficient senior appointments in the Thaksin government.
The complaints of ill-treatment became louder following onset
of Thaksin's second term earlier this year and selection of
Thaksin's new cabinet.

POLITICS IN THE BACKGROUND

5. (U) Sanoh has not attempted to conceal his unhappiness
over what he considers the slighting treatment that he and
his faction members and allies have received from Thaksin in
the awarding of offices following February's election (ref.
B). Sanoh's Wang Nam Yen, and allied Wang Nam Yom and the
Suchart factions, feel that they were
"awarded" a relatively small number of cabinet posts compared
to Yaowapha Wongsawasdi's Wang Buam Ban faction and the
Bangkok faction headed by Agriculture Minister Sudarat
Keyuraphun. Sanoh's public show of support for Charuvan, a
bureaucrat considered potentially embarrassing to Thaksin's
government, strongly reflects factional fissures and
jockeying for position and leverage within TRT.

POTENTIAL PROBLEM FOR THAKSIN

6. (SBU) Comment. No one is predicting the collapse of
Thaksin's coalition. However, the bold move by Sanoh amidst
the furor over the allegations of bribe-taking by politicians
in the awarding of new airport construction contracts damages
any show of unity the TRT hoped to present to its critics in
academia, the press, its political opposition and the general
public. Sanoh is hardly the ideal champion for
anti-corruption. He has never enjoyed an untainted
reputation and his public support for Charuvan, and by
extension her campaign to uncover government malfeasance, is
a clear shot by Sanoh across Thaksin's bows for his own
political reasons. It is a strong signal to the Prime
Minister that Sanoh and his allies can cause trouble if they
do not receive more generous treatment in the next Thaksin
cabinet.

ARVIZU

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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