Further to BP previous posts about WikiLeaks and Thai politics (US can’t trust Thailand on extraditions; Thai political elite are corrupt; Former Thai PM Samak on 2006 coup; and US Ambassador meets Thai coup leader, On PAD, the politicization of the monarchy, plot to kill Thaksin, and US Ambassador meets Prem and the Establishment),there is a cable from Tuesday that was going to be published this morning as a follow up to the earlier post on Samak’s view on the coup, but the new cable about the Ambassador meeting Prem was put up instead. Now, before it does, the only cable that BP hasn’t published yet which was released yesterday (mentioned in a post on Tuesday) is entitled “AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES WITH FORMER PM SAMAK HIS DOWNFALL”. The cable number is 002977. The date is from October 1, 2008. The cable is written by the US Ambassador. All redactions marked as “XXXXXX” have been done by The Guardian. Redactions by BP are through the use of square brackets. Again, due to the subject matter of the cable, no link can be provided.
1. (C) Summary: Former Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej resigned from his position as Party Leader of the People’s Power Party (PPP) September 30. He remains free on bail as he continues to appeal a years-old defamation conviction. Samak told the Ambassador September 26 that he believed [BP: Name and title removed], working through Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, supported the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest movement. Samak viewed himself as loyal to the [BP: title removed], but implied that the [BP: title removed] political agenda differened from [BP: words removed]. Separately, XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed to the Ambassador October 1 that he had begun direct negotiations with the PAD and suggested that he and the current Somchai administration had 90 days to produce results.
2. (C) Comment: XXXXXXXXXXXX’s expectation that his term in office may be short-lived tracks with a widespread view among Thais that the PPP will be fighting against the odds for its survival in upcoming party dissolution proceedings. Although XXXXXXXXXXXX provides proof that senior Thai politicians can often revive careers, we believe Samak has lost virtually all of his influence and has little prospect of staging a political comeback. PM Somchai Wongsawat appears likely to succeed Samak as PPP Party Leader. End Summary and Comment.
SAMAK QUITS PPP POST, HEADS TO DISNEY WORLD
3. (C) On September 30, a PPP official told the media that former PM Samak Sundaravej had formally resigned from his position of PPP Party Leader. This resignation followed an Appeals Court’s September 25 ruling upholding a previous conviction of Samak on defamation charges, and affirming the two-year prison sentence for Samak. In a September 26 lunch with the Ambassador, Samak explained that he expected to remain free on bail while continuing to appeal this case through other channels; he predicted his legal battle could continue for approximately two years before he might have to face incarceration. Samak planned to join unnamed associates for an extended North American vacation starting with Disney World, criss-crossing the United States and parts of Canada by car.
4. (C) Note: Once Samak lost face after PPP legislators signaled their unwillingness to support his reelection as Prime Minister (reftel), it would have been awkward for Samak to retain the position of Party Leader. PPP immediately named PM Somchai as acting party leader. Political parties typically nominate their Party Leaders for the position of Prime Minister; it would be logical to assume that Somchai will formally take the top job in PPP. Samak’s resignation will not protect Samak from a five-year loss of political rights in the event that PPP is dissolved. Party dissolution by the Constitutional Court entails sanctions against the executive board that was in place at the time of the dissolution-warranting offense.
SAMAK DISCUSSES HIS DOWNFALL, CRITICIZES THE [BP: title removed]
5. (C) Samak described to Ambassador the political pressure against him during his seven months in office. He showed disdain for [BP: Name and title removed], claiming that [BP: word removed] had been responsible for the 2006 coup d’etat as well as the ongoing turmoil generated by PAD protests. He alleged the [BP: title removed] operated through Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda who, along with others presenting themselves as royalists, worked with the PAD and other agitators. Citing his own regular meetings with [BP: Name and title removed], Samak claimed he — rather than his opponents — was sincerely loyal to the King and enjoyed the King’s support. In his discussion of the monarchy, Samak made no mention of the Crown Prince.
6. (C) Samak, a former journalist, lamented his opponents’ success in manipulating media coverage of his administration. Samak noted that jockeying for control over the media had often caused rifts within Thai Rak Thai and, subsequently, the People’s Power Party.
7. (C) Samak’s eyes became misty as he recalled that, when he was contemplating returning to the premiership after eviction from office by the Constitutional Court, his wife and one of his daughters had pressed him to abandon this quest. “I told them to get out,” he related. “I didn’t need to be betrayed by them.”
BP: If Samak was to be annoyed at anyone over his failure to continue as PM, it would be at Thaksin and factions within PPP, particularly Isan Pattana, but that is not who he is dishing the direct on here. Nevertheless, his anger is not directed at them. In response, The Nation published an article without referring to the “redacted parts”. Key excerpts:
The late prime minister Samak Sundaravej was known for his outspokenness. The publication of United States diplomatic cables by Wikileaks as printed in England’s Guardian newspaper has rekindled the controversy for Samak’s remarks made when he was alive in 2008.
It is general knowledge that Samak believed in a conspiracy theory behind the 2006 coup to oust the then prime minister Thaksin Shinwatra. A number of red-shirt leaders too subscribed to such theory.
BP: Samak’s views on this were common knowledge? (surely they mean common knowledge and not general knowledge?) BP wonders if The Nation can point to a single statement in any media outlet setting out Samak’s belief? What about web boards or blog posts? If not, how was this common knowledge? Interesting to see it labelled a conspiracy theory. We will just have to wait and see what other cables are out there particularly as other cables may refer to the position being taken by XXXXXX….
The cable continues:
Out with the Old, Out with the New?
8. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX indicated to Ambassador October 1 that he expected the Somchai administration to be short-lived, though he hoped it could be extended if it proved successful in addressing the serious challenges facing the country. XXXXXXXXXXXX If Somchai’s administration were to prove effective, he hoped the Constitutional Court might delay dissolution proceedings against various coalition parties to allow the government more time in office (note: the Attorney General announced later on October 1 that he had referred the first case, against Chat Thai, to the Constitution Court for review).
9. (C) On the ongoing PAD occupation of Government House, XXXXXXXXXXXX said he had twice spoken with PAD XXXXXXXXXXXX, most recently on the night of September 30. XXXXXXXXXXXX described his approach toward the PAD as similar to that which he had taken toward communist insurgents in the 1970s and 80s: he would initially stress commonalities while deemphasizing differences, which would be sorted out later. (Septel will report XXXXXXXXXXXX’s views on mediating the southern insurgency.) JOHN
BP: Wonder who XXXX in paras 8 and 9 is? It has to be someone fairly senior that the Ambassador met and reported the contents of the conversation and someone who had significant connections with the PAD. Clearly, a backroom player, but who?