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Cablegate: More Controversy with the Selection of The

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 006958

SIPDIS

INFO ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TH NCCC
SUBJECT: MORE CONTROVERSY WITH THE SELECTION OF THE
NATIONAL COUNTER CORRUPTION COMMISSION

REF: A. BANGKOK 3521
B. BANGKOK 3635
C. BANGKOK 5917
D. BANGKOK 6269

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. Thailand,s anti-corruption process
suffered a serious blow with the November 1 announcement of
the selection of nine potentially biased nominees to serve in
the government,s National Counter Corruption Commission
(NCCC). Critics allege that most of the nominees have close
ties with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the ruling
Thai Rak Thai (TRT) political party and will render legal
judgements accordingly. The fear expressed here is that the
continued delay in filling positions in the Thai
government,s anti-corruption agencies will allow the
seemingly endless parade of corruption allegations against
individuals connected to the TRT to continue unchecked. END
SUMMARY.

--------------------------------------------- ----
THE NCCC HAS BEEN SHUT DOWN FOR THE PAST 6 MONTHS
--------------------------------------------- ----

2. (SBU) The NCCC is the constitutionally mandated
government agency charged to investigate corrupt practices by
individuals in government. In May 2005, the NCCC shut down
completely after all 9 of its members resigned in disgrace
under charges of financial malfeasance (reftels A and B). In
the interim, accusations of corruption within the government
continue to accumulate. The increasing number of cases are
being buried in the avalanche of newer ones. The latest
tally is reportedly over 1,000 individual cases, and includes
candidates that are finalists for consideration for
membership in the NCCC.

3. (SBU) After several months of considering candidates,
on October 25th the NCCC Selection Committee *- a mixed
group of lawmakers, judges, academics, and politicians -*
presented the Senate a list of eighteen names for the
Senate,s consideration. The Senate is charged with
selecting the final nine commissioners from that list, which
is the final step in the appointment process, save the royal
endorsement from the King. Like the Senate that selects
them, the candidates are supposed to be non-political and
possess strong credentials in the field of public service.

--------------------------------------------- --
PERHAPS UNCONSTITUTIONAL, BUT THEY VOTED ANYWAY
--------------------------------------------- --

4. (SBU) The selection process was thrown into near chaos
on November 1st, when one of the candidates for the NCCC
unexpected announced he no longer wanted to be considered for
the posting. Former Army Commander-in-Chief General Prawit
Wongsuwan, considered by many to be a sure thing for one of
the nine positions due to his ties with the ruling party,
decided to withdraw his name from the process, citing that
with his age and health he did not believe he could fulfill
his nine year term. Although most political pundits agree
that General Prawit,s age and health are not the real reason
for his withdrawal, they are split as to what his real
motivations were. All agree that his move has thrown a
spanner into the process.

5. (SBU) The Thai Constitution requires that the Senate
select nine commissioners out of a group of eighteen
finalists. General Prawit,s 11th hour withdrawal reduced
the list to seventeen. Instead of meeting the Constitutional
requirement and finding an 18th finalist, the Senate -* amid
serious in-fighting -* ultimately chose to select the nine
members from the group of seventeen. The vote was called by
Senate Speaker Suchon, a TRT-leaning politician who had
previously come under fire for his role in forcing the issue
in the ongoing Auditor General affair (reftel C). Many
Senators walked out of the Senate to protest Suchon,s
decision, and encouraged by concurring views from the
opposition parties, are already preparing to file this case
with the Constitutional Court.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
COMBATANTS AGAINST CORRUPTION, OR PART OF THE PROBLEM?
--------------------------------------------- ---------

6. (SBU) After spending most of their time debating
whether or not they should vote at all, the Senate selected
the nine commissioners after two rounds of voting. Seven of
the nine candidates selected have very close and obvious ties
to the Prime Minister or the TRT. They include:

--A Deputy Secretary General to the PM, who is also the
relative of the PM,s wife;
--A Chairman of the Defense Ministry,s Advisory Board;
--A Deputy Chief of the National Intelligence Office;
--A former police academy classmate of the PM;
--A Provincial Administrator that defended the PM and TRT
after the Tak Bai incident;
--A former professor of the PM and advisor to the PM,s
office;
--A Supreme Court judge that has previously backed the TRT,
and who is also the brother of a TRT MP and the party,s
legal advisor

Although the Senate selected the new NCCC commissioners in
just two rounds, their quick vote has come under fire and
raises question as to whether they are truly non-partisan
(Comment: Thailand,s Senators are, by definition, supposed
to be non-political) or if they have TRT leanings. One
Senator, Jon Ungphakorn, accused the TRT outright of
organizing a bloc vote among TRT-friendly Senators to ensure
that nine people would be selected. The Senate has already
been accused of this practice in recent months with the
selection of the National Broadcast Committee (Reftel D).

---------------------------------------------
THE NEXT ROUND: JUDGES AND A ROYAL EVALUATION
---------------------------------------------

7. (SBU) Two obstacles remain before the nine members of
the NCCC can assume their posts. First, Thailand,s
Constitutional Court may be requested to decide whether or
not the selection of nine commissioners from a group of
seventeen is legal. Although this step hasn,t started yet,
it is all but certain to occur given the sharp criticism from
Senators and the opposition parties. If the Constitutional
Court declares the selection was illegal, it only delays the
inevitable, as the nomination committee need only nominate an
eighteenth person before they can proceed. The second step
is royal endorsement from the King, which is always the final
step for any national-level nomination process in Thailand.
It is difficult to guess how the King will react, but it more
likely will be negative if the nominees are forwarded without
a thorough constitutional review.

8. (SBU) Comment. Any controversy or setback that
further delays the implementation of an unbiased NCCC favors
the TRT. Although allegations against TRT officials will
continue to be raised during this impasse, the lack of legal
action could steadily diminish public confidence in the
ability of the system to punish government wrongdoing. End
Comment.
BOYCE

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