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Cablegate: Northern Red-Yellow Dialogue Expands to Include Government,

VZCZCXRO2322
PP RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHCHI #0173/01 3230808
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P R 190808Z NOV 09
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1212
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 1303

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 CHIANG MAI 000173

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PHUM KDEM TH
SUBJECT: NORTHERN RED-YELLOW DIALOGUE EXPANDS TO INCLUDE GOVERNMENT,
BUSINESS LEADERS

REF: A. CHIANG MAI 160 (DIALOGUE AT SLOWER PACE)
B. CHIANG MAI 138 (BEGIN DIALOGUE)
C. CHIANG MAI 132 (DOWNPLAY RECONCILIATION CALL)
D. CHIANG MAI 3 (RED-SHIRTS FLEX)

CHIANG MAI 00000173 001.2 OF 002


Sensitive but unclassified; please handle accordingly.

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

1. (SBU) The low-key dialogue launched in recent months by
local red-shirt and yellow-shirt groups, aimed at lowering the
political temperature in Chiang Mai, continues to gain legs.
Spurred on by positive media coverage and the constructive roles
in the process played by academics and business leaders, the
Provincial Government is now involved, providing the dialogue
some new momentum. Progress is tentative, however, as the
participants have backed away from plans to publicly launch a
"Coalition for a Peaceful and Livable Chiang Mai" to coincide
with the onset of the tourist high season (Ref C).

2. (SBU) Comment: The Provincial Government has a vested
interest in seeing this process succeed, and its involvement at
this time is no coincidence. PM Abhisit Vejjajiva is scheduled
to be in Chiang Mai on November 29 for a national gathering of
Thai Chambers of Commerce. A rude reception by red-shirts,
similar to their harassment of Democrat Party Advisor Chuan
Leekpai and other politicians earlier this year (Ref D), is an
optic that local officials hope can be avoided through the
dialogue process. We are encouraged by the fact that the
dialogue is gaining momentum despite opposition by Chiang Mai's
most hard-core red-shirt group, and little evident support from
national red-shirt and yellow-shirt leaders in Bangkok. End
Summary and Comment.

--------------------------------------------- -
Provincial Government Gets Involved
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (SBU) Representatives of local yellow-shirt and red-shirt
camps, along with business leaders and academics, have been
working on an initiative to reduce the political temperature in
Chiang Mai , seeking to create the conditions that will allow
the city to reap the full economic benefits of the high tourist
season, which runs from November through February (Refs A-C).
The loose grouping, which calls itself the Coalition for a
Peaceful and Livable Chiang Mai, last met on November 10 at the
request of Chiang Mai's Vice Governor, who presided over the
gathering. This meeting marked the first time that the
government played a direct mediating role. Others in attendance
included key local businessmen, and a university Vice President.

4. (SBU) The two-hour long meeting reaffirmed that although
the red-shirt and yellow-shirt camps are not prepared to put
their political differences aside, they, along with local
community representatives, are willing to work together to
convince tourists that Chiang Mai is ready to receive them
peacefully and with open arms as in the past. The two sides
have reportedly agreed on three critical ground rules for
achieving this goal: observe the rule of law; respect the right
of freedom of expression and peaceful political activity; and
refrain from intimidation or using violence. The parties
realize this can be accomplished without compromising political
ideology, and that if successful, their efforts could help
revive Chiang Mai's economy, which still lags from the global
economic downturn.

---------------------
Obstacles Ahead
---------------------

5. (SBU) Despite the progress made to date, and the involvement
of the Provincial Government, all sides realize that the road
ahead will not be entirely smooth. The region's most hardcore
red-shirt group, Rak Chiang Mai 51, has already lashed out
publicly at the coalition, and its leader said that he would not
be seen on the same stage as the yellow-shirt figures involved
in the effort. (Comment: Rak Chiang Mai 51 has the most violent
tendencies of any of Chiang Mai's red-shirt groups. See Ref D
and previous.) Concerned over this type of backlash,
participants at the November 10 red-yellow meeting agreed it was
premature to publicly announce some sort of joint activity in
which both red-shirts and yellow-shirts would participate.
Attendees therefore concluded that the Coalition should keep its
low profile for now, with an eye toward ultimately attracting
greater support from the general public and isolating extremists
who would prefer to see the process scuttled.

--------------------------------------
So What Can the Coalition Do?
--------------------------------------

CHIANG MAI 00000173 002.2 OF 002

6. (SBU) For now, Coalition participants are pursuing a more
modest and less politically loaded goal of organizing joint
cultural activities as a confidence-building measure. The
Provincial Government expressed its willingness to support this
effort by securing a venue, coordinating participants, and
financing the activity. Chiang Mai's Vice Governor told us he
sees as indispensible the participation of both red-shirt and
yellow-shirt leaders (without their colored shirts) for such an
event to succeed. However, with arrangements for PM Abhisit's
upcoming visit preoccupying the Provincial Government and
business leaders, the attendees agreed to put off planning the
cultural activity until after November 29.

7. (U) This cable was coordinated with Embassy Bangkok.
MORROW

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