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Cablegate: Thai Political Parties: Election Playbill

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SUBJECT: THAI POLITICAL PARTIES: ELECTION PLAYBILL

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Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, reason: 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (SBU/NF) As the December 23 election approaches, post
provides the following brief profiles of the most prominent
political parties in Thailand. We caution that the seat
projections are extremely unscientific, and the campaign
season is just beginning. They are provided to give a rough
idea of the relative strengths of the parties, as assessed by
a variety of contacts and media sources.

=================================

PARTY NAME: People's Power Party.

PARTY LEADER: Samak Sundaravej, former Bangkok Governor.

2007 PROJECTION (Conventional Wisdom): Likely to win a
plurality with 200 seats, plus or minus a few dozen.

GEOGRAPHIC STRONGHOLDS: Northern and Northeastern Thailand.

PARTY BACKGROUND: A previously obscure and insignificant
party, PPP became the new home for scores of leading Thai Rak
Thai (TRT) figures after the dissolution of TRT in May. PPP
currently is the sole party that has publicly shown its
loyalty to deposed PM Thaksin (Samak said publicly he was
Thaksin's "nominee"). It also advocates continuing TRT's
hallmark populist policies.

=================================

PARTY NAME: Democrat Party.

PARTY LEADER: Abhisit Vejjajiva, former legislator with a PhD
from Oxford.

2007 PROJECTION (Conventional Wisdom): Likely to place second
to PPP with 120 seats, plus or minus 20.

GEOGRAPHIC STRONGHOLDS: Southern Thailand, where the DP is
dominant, and Bangkok.

PARTY BACKGROUND: The DP is Thailand's oldest party, with
well established traditions. When the DP last held the reins
of government (from 1997-2001), a capable, technocratic team
helped Thailand to recover from the Asian financial crisis.
Some Thais view the DP as too rigid, bureaucratic, and
elitist.

=================================

PARTY NAME: Chart Thai (translates as "Thai Nation," but
invariably referred to by its Thai name in the English press).

PARTY LEADER: Banharn Silapa-Archa, former Prime Minister
(1995-1996).

2007 PROJECTION (Conventional Wisdom): 45 seats, plus or
minus 10.

GEOGRAPHIC STRONGHOLDS: Parts of central Thailand, with
inroads into the North and Northeast.

PARTY BACKGROUND: Chart Thai is known for reflecting the
notorious pragmatism of its Party Leader, on whom the party
depends for its continued viability. Chart Thai is currently
aligned with the Democrat Party and against PPP; Banharn has
been publicly supportive of the coup and critical of Thaksin.
In recent months, Chart Thai has picked up momentum by
absorbing the (very small) Mahachon Party and attracting some
high profile former Thai Rak Thai figures.

=================================

PARTY NAME: For the Motherland Party ("Peua Paendin").


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PARTY LEADER: Suwit Khunkitti, former Deputy Prime Minister
in the Thaksin, Chuan, and Chavalit administrations.

2007 PROJECTION (Conventional Wisdom): 35 seats, plus or
minus 15.

GEOGRAPHIC STRONGHOLDS: Principally in portions of the
Northeast.

PARTY BACKGROUND: The Motherland Party was formed with former
Thai Rak Thai figures at its core; their network provides the
bulk of the party's support in the Northeast. The group also
includes Bangkok-based former TRT celebrities, such as former
Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and former spokesman
Suranand Vejjajiva. However, the figures associated with
this party claim to represent neutrality in this coming
election, neither pro- nor anti-Thaksin. Although just
launched, the party is showing some momentum, and appears to
be well-funded. Other figures associated with the party
include:

- Retired General Pallop Pinmanee, controversial hardliner on
South issues. His colorful past includes participation in
several coups during the 1980's;

- Waemahadi Waedaoh, respected doctor from the far South who
was arrested in 2003 on suspicion of links to Jemaah
Islamiyah; charges were dismissed in 2005. He is a member of
the current interim legislature;

- Vatana Asavahame, whose reputation was damaged by public
revelations in the early 1990's that he was ineligible for a
U.S. visa because he had profited from the drug trade.

=================================

PARTY NAME: Matchima Thippathai.

PARTY LEADER: Thanaporn Sriyakul, a close aide to former TRT
Labor Minister Somsak Thepsutin.

2007 PROJECTION (Conventional Wisdom): 20 seats, plus or
minus 10.

GEOGRAPHIC STRONGHOLDS: Principally in portions of the
Northeast.

PARTY BACKGROUND: Matchima Thippathai has at its core a
faction of Thai Rak Thai politicians associated with Somsak
Thepsutin, who was banned from politics for five years after
the May 2007 dissolution of TRT. Some Somsak loyalists
appear to have deserted him to join the Motherland party,
however. Businessman Prachai Leophairatana, an ardent
Thaksin foe and supporter of last year's anti-Thaksin
demonstrations, has assumed a leading position in the party,
although the Election Commission has not yet recognized his
assumption of the formal position of Party Leader.

=================================

PARTY NAME: Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana.

PARTY LEADER: Former Army Commander Chettha Thanacharo.

2007 PROJECTION (Conventional Wisdom): 20 seats, plus or
minus 10.

GEOGRAPHIC STRONGHOLDS: Principally in Nakhon Ratchasima
(Khorat) province (in the Northeast), with inroads of
undetermined strength elsewhere.

PARTY BACKGROUND: Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana resulted from a
merger of two political groups, both headed by former Thai
Rak Thai figures banned from politics for five years after
the May 2007 dissolution of TRT: The "Ruam Jai Thai" group of
economic policymaker Somkid Jatusripitak, and the "Chart

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Pattana" group of Suwat Liptapanlop. (General Chettha also
served a stint as Thaksin's Defense Minister.) Somkid
provides a public image that appeals to some Bangkok
residents, while Suwat provides a strong group of former MPs
in Nakhon Ratchasima. Despite a stint as Thaksin's Defense
Minister, Chettha does not have strong experience in party
politics; he is assisted by his Secretary General, Pradit
Phataraprasit, a wealthy businessman and former Democrat
Party Secretary General.

=================================

PARTY NAME: Pracharaj Party.

PARTY LEADER: Veteran politician Sanoh Thienthong.

2007 PROJECTION (Conventional Wisdom): Five seats, plus or
minus two.

GEOGRAPHIC STRONGHOLDS: Sanoh's home province of Sa Kaeow, in
eastern Thailand.

PARTY BACKGROUND: Sanoh formed this party in 2006, prior to
the coup, after he split from Thai Rak Thai. He has been
unable to draw significant figures to his party and has
suffered from recent defections. The party currently has few
assets other than Sanoh's name and his family's prominence in
Sa Kaeow; however, it receives attention because Sanoh is a
longtime political deal-maker who credibly claims to have
played a kingmaker role in the past.

=================================

2. (U) There are about 65 registered parties in Thailand,
although many of these are inactive and will not field
candidates in this election. Eighteen parties registered on
November 7, the first day to register party list candidates.
The candidates will compete for 400 constituency seats, and
80 party list seats, (eight regions each electing 10 MPs).
BOYCE

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