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Cablegate: Northern Assignments Show Strong Hand of Thaksin

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



E.O. 12958: N/A


CHIANG MAI 00000216 001.2 OF 002

1. (sbu) Summary. October 1 brought the annual promotions and
reassignments of officials in Northern Thailand, as well as the
rest of the country (reftel). Although civil service, police,
and military promotions are officially based on seniority and merit, politics played perhaps an even stronger role than usual
this year. end summary

It's not easy being Chiang Mai Governor under Thaksin
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2. (sbu) In the annual resuffle of governors and military officers that became effective October 1, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra showed his disappointment with Chiang Mai Governor Suwat Tantipat's performance by leaving him in place rather than approving his expected promotion to either Director-General of the Provincial Administration Department, Director-General of the Lands Department, or Deputy Permanent Secretary for Interior.

3. (sbu) The Prime Minister has made his home town of Chiang Mai a priority development area, lavishing funds on projects such as the Night Safari, a convention center, science park, world horticulture fair, airport expansion and new roads linking Chiang Mai with Chiang Rai, Lampang and Mae Hong Son. Even before a series of devastating floods in the last six weeks, Suwat's performance as a CEO Governor did not measure up to the
Prime Minister's high expectations. Suwat has faced criticism
over growing youth problems, an issue that the PM is starting to
bring to the fore nationwide. In particular the Governor is on
the line for failing to restrict licenses for places serving alcoholic drinks, which are blamed for contributing to the
corruption of young people. Governor Suwat also had to
publicly disassociate himself from a company owned by his daughter that was awarded a Provincial Government-supervised bid to organize an IT fair, which failed badly.

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4. (sbu) Perhaps most crucially, Governor Suwat was held responsible for the poor governmental response to severe
flooding that hit Chiang Mai August 14-15. When a second
flood September 20 threatened to disrupt high-level Thai-Chinese trade talks, the Prime Minister sent Deputy Interior Minister
Sermsak Pongpanit to direct relief and recovery. When
flooding hit a third time September 30, Thaksin dispatched Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop to supervise the work of the provincial and local authorities.

5. (sbu) In the end, however, Governor Suwat was saved in this round by his helpful role in the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party's sweep of all ten Chiang Mai seats in the February parliamentary elections and by his having been a classmate of Thaksin's sister's husband, Permanent Secretary for Justice Somchai Wongsawat.

A little help from the police goes a long way
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6. (sbu) Region 5 Police Commissioner Pol Lt Gen Panupong Singhara Na Ayudhya was also passed over for promotion, reportedly because of his suspected involvement in the abduction of the well-known human rights attorney Somchai Nilapaichit, which occurred when Panupong was in Bangkok as deputy chief of the Central Investigation Bureau. Because of concern over a likely outcry from NGO and human rights groups, Panupong must
remain in the north until public attention has faded. In this
way Thaksin can protect Panupong, who reportedly helped ensure the TRT victory in February by using police to stop rival canvassers.

7. (sbu) In another example of the old boys network at work, Thaksin's former police academy classmate Border Patrol Police
(BPP) Region 3 chief Pol Maj Gen Suradet Saengpradit retained his position despite a lackluster performance in the counter-narcotics area. Suradet was reportedly more successful with the BPP's civic action programs, considered helpful in consolidating TRT's popular base.

Military tensions over Burma
8. (sbu) Strong speculation that Lt Gen Saprang Kalanamit would be passed over as 3rd army chief in favor of the more junior Maj Gen Manat Paorik proved wrong; in the end Saprang got the job he was in line for as 3rd Army Commander thanks to the intervention of Defense Minister General Thammarak Issarankun Na
Ayudhya. However, Saprang's tenure is considered insecure
because of his hardline approach to Burma, which is not compatible with his predecessor Gen Pichanmet's joint border development initiative or Thaksin's engagement policy. In order to get the Prime Minister to name Saprang to the job, Defense Minister Thammarak reportedly agreed to remove Saprang in six months should he fail to meet the PM's expectations.
Thaksin's classmate Maj Gen Manat Paorik, earlier thought to have a shot at the 3d Army command job, is now positioned as the most senior among the three deputies.

9. (sbu) Comment: Although Thaksin apparently made some

CHIANG MAI 00000216 002.2 OF 002

compromises with military concerns over politicizing the promotion list, our contacts from the Ministry of Interior and the 3rd Army had no trouble supplying examples in which cronyism
and nepotism prevailed. To no one's surprise, the advantage
went to those with personal, business and/or political connections with the Prime Minister, his family, and key party members.

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