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Cablegate: Official Bias and Voter Indecision

VZCZCXRO6296
PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHBK #6077/01 3411158
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 071158Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1000
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0139
RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 3997
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 5256
RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 2033
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 8045
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 006077

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MLS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KDEM TH
SUBJECT: OFFICIAL BIAS AND VOTER INDECISION

REF: A. BANGKOK 6007 (ARMY INTERFERENCE)
B. BANGKOK 5914 (DISQUALIFICATIONS)
C. BANGKOK 5881 (OATHS AND INSULTS)
D. BANGKOK 5740 (CANDIDATE REGISTRATION)
E. BANGKOK 5600 (MILITARY INTERFERENCE)

SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) Coup leaders have reportedly claimed immunity from
prosecution after an Election Commission of Thailand (ECT)
panel concluded that the Council for National Security (CNS)
was biased against the pro-Thaksin People's Power Party
(PPP). The CNS plans to send a prominent coup leader to
testify before the ECT on December 11 to respond to
allegations that leaked CNS documents purportedly prove the
military planned to "interfere in politics," although
credible observers predict the ECT would ultimately
acknowledge the "non-neutrality" of the CNS and urge it to
cease political activity. A Democrat Party canvasser and
minor party candidate were killed, although the murders do
not appear politically motivated. The ECT asked a government
ministry to ban a pro-Thaksin web site after it posted a
video clip advocating the return of deposed PM Thaksin, while
polls continue to predict a strong showing for the PPP, but
with many voters still undecided. End summary.

ELECTION COMMISSION SUMMONS COUP LEADERS
----------------------------------------

2. (U) After an Election Commission of Thailand (ECT)
committee concluded that coup leaders in the Council for
National Security (CNS) were "biased" against the pro-Thaksin
People's Power Party (PPP) (reftel A), a senior CNS general
reportedly wrote to the ECT to defend the coup leaders'
actions. The press said that the CNS letter asked the ECT to
cease its investigation into claims that leaked CNS documents
(reftel E) allegedly prove the military planned to subvert
the PPP. The CNS general argued the CNS is immune from
prosecution under provisions in the new constitution.

3. (SBU) On December 3, the ECT announced it had invited Air
Chief Marshal and acting CNS Chairman Chalit Phukpasuk to
testify on the matter before the commission. The CNS said it
would send CNS Secretary General Winai Phatthiyakul instead
to testify for the CNS. An ECT commissioner said the ECT
would issue a final ruling on the matter on December 12,
although outspoken commissioner Sodsri Sattayatham publicly
called for the ECT to refer the matter to the Constitutional
Court. Media sources believed the ECT ruling would
ultimately acknowledge the "non-neutrality" of the CNS and
urge it to cease political activity ahead of Thailand's
December 23 election, while also absolving the PPP of the
need to prove the alleged incriminating CNS documents are
authentic.

CANDIDATE KILLED
----------------

4. (SBU) On December 2, a minor party candidate was stabbed
to death in a guesthouse in Prachuap Khiri Khan, south of
Bangkok. The victim's wallet and car were stolen, and the
police subsequently arrested an 18 year old woman who
admitted to the killing, claiming that the deceased planned
to rape her, so she blindfolded him during acts of foreplay,
bludgeoned him with a hammer, and stabbed him repeatedly.
Despite this scenario, a representative of the party told the
press that he suspected a political motive. Also on December
2, a Democrat Party canvasser in Patthalung Province was
reportedly killed by a gunman on a motorcycle in broad
daylight. Police suspected the canvasser was killed as a
result of a personal disagreement, although they said
political motives could not be ruled out. (Comment: Being a
canvasser is traditionally a dangerous business in Thailand,
with 10 killed in the run up to the 2005 elections, and more
than twice that many before the Parliamentary elections in
2000/2001. Then as now, it was not clear how many of these
were politically motivated, and how many due to business or
personal disputes. End comment.)

BANGKOK 00006077 002 OF 002

MINISTRY ASKED TO BAN PRO-THAKSIN WEB SITE
------------------------------------------

5. (SBU) On December 6, the press reported that ECT
Commissioner Sodsri would ask the Ministry of Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) to shut down the pro-Thaksin
web site hi-thaksin.net. The ECT claimed the web site causes
"divides in society," as a recently posted video clip implied
that a vote for the PPP would facilitate the return of
deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The ICT
reportedly confirmed it would review the ECT request and
would exercise its authority to close the web site if it
breached election laws.

POLLS: PRO-THAKSIN PARTY IN THE LEAD
------------------------------------

6. (SBU) Polling in advance of the December 23 elections
continues to predict a plurality for the PPP and at least a
70% voter turnout, although many voters appear to still be
undecided. A recent ABAC poll of approximately 10,000 voters
in 33 provinces conducted between November 20 and December 5
found that 47% had yet to decide which party to support for
80 party list seats in the 480-seat House of Representatives.
39% indicated they had yet to decide which candidate to
support for 400 constituency seats. The poll results
indicated 73% would vote on election day, and that the PPP
would win 39 of the party list seats. The poll also found
that the Democrat Party would win 33 of these party list
seats, while other parties would receive less support.

7. (SBU) A November 25 - 28 Daily News poll found that the
PPP would win 181 total seats in the parliament, while the
Democrat, Chart Thai and Motherland Parties would receive
132, 56, and 51 seats respectively. An anti-vote buying
panel chaired by retired General and Deputy Prime Minister
Sonthi Boonyaratglin reportedly conducted its own poll, which
predicted a voter turnout of 71%. (Comment: Relatively few
polling institutions in Thailand are considered to adhere to
the highest standards of professionalism, and all poll
statistics should be considered with skepticism.
Nevertheless, our contacts unanimously agree with the current
conventional wisdom, consistent with the aforementioned
polls, that PPP will place first in the election, well ahead
of the Democrat Party. End comment.)
BOYCE

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