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Cablegate: Update On Auditor-General Controversy

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

UNCLAS BANGKOK 006240

SIPDIS

INFO ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TH
SUBJECT: UPDATE ON AUDITOR-GENERAL CONTROVERSY

REF: BANGKOK 5917

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The embattled Senate President announced
on Friday, September 23rd that the nominee for the position
of Auditor-General, Mr. Wisut Montriwat, had withdrawn his
nomination for the position. The King, who stood silent
rather than endorse the nomination, accepted the withdrawal.
This breaks the stalemate that has existed between a small
group of Senators perceived as loyal to the Thai Rak Thai
(TRT) and supporters of the current Auditor-General, Khunying
Jaruwan Maintaka. It is unlikely that the fight will end
anytime soon. END SUMMARY.

ONE STALEMATE IS BROKEN . . .

2. (SBU) The Senate,s unexpected nomination of a new
Auditor-General became a lightning rod of controversy for the
Thai Rak Thai, and most notably for Senate Speaker Suchon
Chaleekrua (reftel). The Thai public has shown an unusual
amount of anger towards the Senate because the move to
replace the current Auditor-General without the King,s
endorsement has been seen as a challenge to the King,s
authority. Although the King saves his direct involvement in
political affairs for the most serious of issues, his silence
on a proposal or a nominee almost always indicates his
disapproval, and that he wants the parties to resolve it on
their own. As more time continued to pass after this
nomination was submitted to the King, the more it came to be
seen as challenging the King to do something*not something
customarily done in Thailand. By withdrawing the nomination,
any perceived pressure for the King to make a statement on
the matter*and thus any offense against the King*has ended.
The King accepted the withdrawal for consideration to the
post, but did not say anything more about the fate of the
current Auditor-General, Jaruwan.

. . . WHILE ANOTHER LOOMS LARGE

3. (SBU) The withdrawal breaks the stalemate but does
not solve the ultimate problem: who is the rightful
Auditor-General of Thailand? Under the law, the ball is back
in the hands of the Auditor-Committee of the Senate. Each of
the many options has a drawback. It might be easiest to
allow the current Auditor-General to serve until the end of
her term, but that does not solve the constitutional question
(her appointment may have been improperly done) or the
political question (she is perceived as a scrupulous official
who may embarrass Thai Rak Thai by uncovering and publicizing
corruption.) Any option that involves sending a new name to
the King risks the repeating the cycle just completed ) a
nomination met by a stony and accusatory silence.

WHAT,S NEXT?

4. (SBU) The Auditor-General committee announced on
Tuesday, September 27th, that they will take 10 days to study
the situation more thoroughly before announcing what action
they will take. This announcement comes as an unexpected
change that reflects growing rifts between members of the
committee. Prior to this issue turning into a controversy,
the members were all firmly united in their demand that
Jaruwan had to step down. However, the committee has taken
special note of the public outrage over the attempt to
replace Jaruwan, as she is seen as someone whose untimely
replacement was caused by her doing her job a little too
well. In the interim, the Senate has announced that they
will meet on Monday, October 3rd to discuss the issue. For
now, Jaruwan is still the Auditor-General but remains on the
sidelines, and there are continued calls for Senate Speaker
Suchon to resign for mishandling the issue from the beginning.

5. (SBU) Comment. The crisis has subsided for now, but it
is not resolved. Although the controversy slightly
embarrassed the TRT, the party has also benefited--Jaruwan
remains, for now, effectively sidelined from doing her job.
No matter what the Auditor-General Committee decides, it will
be some time before a fully-functioning Auditor-General is in
operation, allowing Thailand,s many issues involving
corruption to remain unaddressed. End Comment.
BOYCE

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