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Cablegate: Arrest of Anti-Coup Activists Raises Profile of Political

VZCZCXRO7792
PP RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHCHI #0124 1910921
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 100921Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0517
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK PRIORITY 0747
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 0566

UNCLAS CHIANG MAI 000124

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM OEXC TH
SUBJECT: ARREST OF ANTI-COUP ACTIVISTS RAISES PROFILE OF POLITICAL
PROTESTS


1. (U) The July 6 arrest in Chiang Rai of an anti-coup activist
provided pro-democracy campaigners new fuel to attack the
Council for National Security (CNS) and the continued use of
martial law in 35 provinces.

2. (U) Sombat Boonngarm-anong, a member of the Democratic
Alliance Against Dictatorship (DAAD) and leader of the human
rights NGO Mirror Foundation, was arrested July 6 while speaking
at a rally in Chiang Rai. Sombat was detained for 24 hours
along with Panithan Ayi, an Akha tribesman who works for the
same foundation. (The Mirror Foundation has received State
Department funding for anti-trafficking in persons programs;
Sombat traveled to the US as an International Visitor in 2002.)

3. (U) Taken to Chiang Rai's Meng Rai military camp, the two
were charged with violating martial law, still in effect
throughout Chiang Rai province, as well as Article 116 under the
Penal/Criminal Code for creating public disorder for the purpose
of unconstitutional political change. Both were released late
July 7, with no further legal action.

4. (SBU) Former Thai Rak Thai (TRT) Chiang Rai parliamentarian
Samart Kaewmechai (a 1998 International Visitor) said that the
Chiang Rai rally - including Sombat's successful effort to
provoke his own arrest -- was part of a campaign to lift martial
law and to oppose the draft constitution. Concerned that
previous rallies in the northeast were too identified with TRT
to have much impact, the organizers focused on opposition to
CNS.

5. (SBU) According to Samart, Sombat was well treated at Meng
Rai camp, but reported "unfriendly" treatment by officers from
3rd Army headquarters in Phitsanulok who interrogated him about
links with TRT and accused him of a one-sided critique of the
CNS and the new constitution. Sombat was allowed to receive a
telephone call from National Legislative Assembly (NLA) member
and former Chiang Rai senator Tuenjai Deetes, who offered to
negotiate his release with CNS Deputy Secretary General Gen
Saprang Kalayanamitra. Sombat turned down the offer, intending
to stay in military custody as long as possible to build
momentum against the military regime.

6. (U) The rally organizers were pleased with the outcome,
believing that the reaction from academics and NGOs discouraged
the military from getting tough with pro-democracy activists and
increased sentiment against the junta and the draft constitution.

7. (U) Both Samart and a contact from the National
Intelligence Agency (NIA) reported that DAAD is planning another
political rally on July 11 in Lamphun and that local military
leaders have made efforts to dissuade former TRT MPs and
community leaders from mobilizing for the rally.

CAMP

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