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Cablegate: Governor's Promotion Sends Interesting Signals About

VZCZCXRO5138
PP RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHCHI #0143 2430305
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 310305Z AUG 07
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0549
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 0598

UNCLAS CHIANG MAI 000143

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PREL PHUM TH
SUBJECT: GOVERNOR'S PROMOTION SENDS INTERESTING SIGNALS ABOUT

REFERENDUM, SONTHI TIES

-----------
Summary
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1. (SBU) Chiang Mai Governor Vichai Srikwan's recent promotion
to head an important election administration body has caught
many observers by surprise. Some of Vichai's Interior Ministry
colleagues are reportedly grumbling that he is a bit junior for
the job. They, and the press, attribute his promotion to the
ties he developed with Council for National Security (CNS)
chairman General Sonthi during Vichai's earlier stint as
Governor of Lopburi, where Sonthi spent most of his army career.
Vichai's appointment belies speculation that senior officials
in provinces that rejected the draft constitution in the August
19 referendum - such as Chiang Mai -- would be demoted. End
Summary.

-------------------------------------------
Chiang Mai Governor Promoted . . .
-------------------------------------------

2. (SBU) On August 28 the Interior Ministry (MOI) announced a
surprise promotion for Chiang Mai Governor Vichai Srikwan.
Effective October 1, he will be Director General of the
Provincial Administration Department (PAD). Vichai was widely
expected to be promoted during this fall's reshuffle of senior
Interior portfolios (five other appointments were announced the
same day), but into a less influential position as Deputy
Permanent Secretary.

--------------------------------------------- --------
. . . To Important Role in December Election
--------------------------------------------- --------

3. (SBU) Instead, Vichai will head a body that plays an
important administrative role in the supervision of national
elections. Specifically, the PAD will assist the national
Election Commission by providing polling equipment and
dispatching officials to help administer the election. Sources
say the PAD is also instrumental in local officials' efforts to
mobilize voters.

----------------------------
Friends in High Places?
----------------------------

4. (SBU) According to a Deputy Governor in neighboring
Lamphun, some MOI insiders are grumbling over Vichai's surprise
promotion. They feel he is a relative novice, with the Chiang
Mai governorship having been his only previous "big" job -
whereas past PAD directors had typically previously held deputy
permanent secretary jobs. These insiders, and some press
reports, assert that Vichai was boosted into his new job by his
past connection to CNS Chairman Sonthi. Vichai recently served
as Governor in Lopburi, home of the Royal Thai Army's Special
Forces and the place where Sonthi has spent the bulk of his army
career. Moreover, Vichai was reportedly more than compliant
when Sonthi deployed the Special Forces from Lopburi to Bangkok
to spearhead last September's military coup that toppled the
Thaksin government.

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Comment
------------

5. (SBU) Chiang Mai province voted against the CNS-backed draft
constitution by a margin of 55% to 42% during the August 19
referendum - an ironic result for the man tapped for a position
of importance during the December parliamentary elections.
Vichai's promotion thus belies speculation that senior officials
in areas that rejected the draft would be demoted or otherwise
punished. The publicly discussed possibility of Sonthi running
for a parliamentary seat in Lopburi could be a factor in the
surprise appointment. Vichai's promotion might be intended to
solidify his loyalty to the CNS leader and in turn fuel his
willingness to deploy - for Sonthi's benefit - whatever network
Vichai retains in Lopburi.

MORROW

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