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Cablegate: Thai Rak Thai Tests Strength in the North

VZCZCXRO0475
PP RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHCHI #0126 1931052
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 121052Z JUL 07
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0520
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK PRIORITY 0748
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 0569

UNCLAS CHIANG MAI 000126

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM TH
SUBJECT: THAI RAK THAI TESTS STRENGTH IN THE NORTH

REF: CHIANG MAI 124 (ARREST OF ANTI-COUP ACTIVISTS)

1. Summary. A July 11 rally in Lamphun province against the
draft constitution appeared aimed at testing the popularity of
deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai
(TRT) party in provincial areas. With over 50 TRT former
Members of Parliament in attendance, the party also had a chance
to gauge the loyalty of its future candidates and their ability
to mobilize supporters. End summary

2. Organized by the Democratic Alliance Against Dictatorship
(DAAD) with the PTV group led by veteran politician Veera
Musikpong on center stage, the evening rally lambasted the coup
group for taking the country backward and urged a vote against
the draft constitution.

3. An estimated 3,000-4,000 protestors assembled at a tobacco
curing factory owned by a former TRT parliamentarian, despite
road blocks set up by the military that created traffic jams
along the Chiang Mai-Lampang Superhighway. Some MPs who brought
protesters to the rally told Consulate political specialist that
they videotaped checkpoints, threatening possible lawsuits for
illegally stopping travelers in areas not under martial law. At
a military stop in front of Mae Jo University north of Chiang
Mai, organizers reportedly asked female rally-goers to distract
soldiers with hugs, allowing vehicles to get around the
obstacles and drive on.

4. The former TRT MPs, including 30 from the northeast, did not
take the stage. Although happy over the number of protestors,
one former MP from the northeast complained that most left
before the end of the rally, displaying less fighting spirit
than that of northeastern people.

5. According to a National Intelligence Agency (NIA) source,
attendees received 300 to 500 baht a piece, depending on the
distance they traveled. He sourced the budget to former TRT
parliamentarians from Chiang Mai and Lamphun and drew a
connection with the July 2 TRT party meeting in Bangkok
co-chaired by Thaksin's sister, Yaowapa Wongsawat, that resolved
to oppose the draft constitution.

6. DAAD planned a similar rally July 12 in Phrae while DAAD
member Sombat Boonngarm-anong (reftel) has announced a July 14
protest in Phitsanulok, headquarters of the 3rd Army.

7. Comment. The 50-plus former TRT MPs at the Lamphun rally
is likely the largest such group to gather outside of Bangkok
since the coup. The rally presumably aimed to boost the morale
of TRT supporters while also measuring the strength of the
Council for National Security (CNS) and the continued popularity
of Thaksin. With this kickoff for TRT-sponsored protests
against the constitution and CNS, the party proclaimed it is
back in the game.

CAMP

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