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Cablegate: Violent Clash Between Pro and Anti-Thaksin Groups in Chiang

VZCZCXRO3766
PP RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHCHI #0145 2731032
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 291032Z SEP 08
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0850
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RHEHAAA/NSC WASHINGTON DC
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 0922

UNCLAS CHIANG MAI 000145

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

NSC FOR PHU

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM TH
SUBJECT: VIOLENT CLASH BETWEEN PRO AND ANTI-THAKSIN GROUPS IN CHIANG
MAI

REF: A. BANGKOK 2856 (PAD DEFIANCE)
B. BANGKOK 2810 (SOMCHAI WONGSAWAT ELECTED)
C. CHIANG MAI 133 (NORTHERN LABOR UNIONS)

Sensitive but unclassified; please handle accordingly.

------------------------------------
Summary and Comment
------------------------------------

1. (SBU) A violent clash in Chiang Mai between members of the
anti-government People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and the
pro-government United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship
(UDD) resulted in two injuries on the evening of Sunday,
September 28. Police response was initially slow, but they
restored order, and the situation remained calm on September 29.
We have no indication that this clash signaled a new
national-level UDD policy of violence; it may have been a local
initiative. However, we cannot rule out future similar
confrontations in Chiang Mai or other outlying provinces as the
PAD intensifies its campaign against newly-elected Prime
Minister Somchai Wongsawat. Chiang Rai, Lamphun and Lampang
Provinces, where the PAD is reportedly mobilizing its members
through community radio, mobile phones, and the internet are key
potential flashpoints to watch in northern Thailand. End
Summary and Comment.

-------------------------
What Happened?
-------------------------

2. (SBU) According to a contact in the National Intelligence
Agency and two journalists, both of whom are former IV grantees,
about 200 PAD supporters gathered at the local PAD community
radio station on the afternoon of Sept. 28 to listen to two
speakers, MP Pichanmeth Muangmanee of the Democrat Party, and
former Bangkok Deputy Governor Samart Ritchapolasit. (Note:
Ritchapolasit recently won his libel suit against former Prime
Minister Samak, with the verdict handed down on Sept. 25.)
After the assembly disbanded in the late afternoon, a number of
its participants took to the streets on motorcycles and in cars
around 5:00 or 6:00 pm to express their disapproval of PM
Somchai, and to ask the citizens of Chiang Mai to join them in
their hand-clapping campaign against his upcoming visit to
Chiang Mai to pay homage to his wife's ancestors.

3. (SBU) UDD members, apparently insulted by the PAD's actions,
used the local pro-Thaksin community radio station to mobilize
at the local pro-PAD radio station. The UDD also called for its
members to halt the PAD's broadcast via community radio of the
PAD's rally at Government House in Bangkok. With hardly any
resistance from the police, 200-300 UDD supporters were able to
take up residence just over 10 yards away from the PAD radio
station. Our contacts told us that the vast majority of the PAD
supporters on site were women, while many of the UDD members
were males armed with slingshots, stones, and crude clubs. Some
of the UDD members threw stones and used their slingshots
against the PAD supporters, injuring two of them in the head.
(Note: We understand that both have been released from the
hospital.) Our contacts told us the police were able to restore
order between 7:00-8:30 pm, and that they proactively did so
after receiving orders from Bangkok to control the situation.

4. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Bangkok.

MORROW

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