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Cable reference id: #08BANGKOK3712
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Reference id aka Wikileaks id #184243  ? 
SubjectNew Thai Cabinet Appointed, Faces Criticism
OriginEmbassy Bangkok (Thailand)
Cable timeMon, 22 Dec 2008 09:42 UTC
ClassificationCONFIDENTIAL
Sourcehttp://wikileaks.org/cable/2008/12/08BANGKOK3712.html
References08BANGKOK3648, 08BANGKOK3707, 08BANGKOK409
Referenced by08BANGKOK3746, 08BANGKOK3747, 10BANGKOK46
History
Extras? Comments
VZCZCXRO2140 OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM DE RUEHBK #3712/01 3570942 ZNY CCCCC ZZH O 220942Z DEC 08 FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5464 INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1268 RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 6637 RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 5160 RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 9301 RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON PRIORITY 1829 RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 5995 RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
Hide header C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 003712 SIPDIS NSC FOR WILDER AND PHU E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/22/2018 TAGS: PGOV [Internal Governmental Affairs], PINR [Intelligence], KDEM [Democratization], TH [Thailand] SUBJECT: NEW THAI CABINET APPOINTED, FACES CRITICISM REF: A. BANGKOK 3707 (KASIT UNPLUGGED) B. BANGKOK 3648 (ABHISIT ELECTED) C. BANGKOK 409 (NEW CABINET) BANGKOK 00003712 001.2 OF 004 Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission James F. Entwistle, reason: 1.4 (b and d). SUMMARY AND COMMENT ------------------- ¶1. (C) Abhisit Vejjajiva's cabinet received royal appointment on December 20 and was scheduled to be sworn in late in the day on December 22. The cabinet consists primarily of politicians, although a former Army Commander serves as Defense Minister and a career diplomat serves as Foreign Minister. Abhisit's Democrat Party (DP) ceded some key positions to coalition partners, with the faction loyal to Buriram politician Newin Chidchob -- formerly a close Thaksin ally -- receiving a generous allotment of important seats. Abhisit faced some criticism from his own party over the cabinet's composition. This cable provides biographic information on selected persons holding security and justice-related positions; septel will report on the economic team. Paragraph nine provides a complete cabinet list. ¶2. (C) Comment: We had doubted that Abhisit's formal opposition would allow him to enjoy a honeymoon period, but it is surprising that, upon returning the Democrats to power for the first time since 2001, the new PM immediately began taking open criticism from his own side as well. The cabinet's composition shows Abhisit and his close political partner Suthep have recognized the need to distribute ample seats to their coalition allies. But the pro-Thaksin Puea Thai Party, which holds a plurality in the House, was previously willing to back the Motherland Party Leader as Prime Minister and can offer tempting incentives to break up Abhisit's coalition. Abhisit faces a tough road ahead. End Summary and Comment. CABINET TO BE INAUGURATED DECEMBER 22 ------------------------------------- ¶3. (SBU) Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's cabinet, publicly unveiled after receiving royal approval on December 20, is scheduled to take its oath of office late in the day on December 22, in the presence of King Bhumibol. Abhisit and his administration have already drawn criticism. Loyalists to former Prime Minister Thaksin have publicly alleged that senior military figures played a role in cobbling together the coalition that elected Abhisit on December 15. Pro-Thaksin figures also denounced the new Foreign Minister's ties to the People's Alliance for Democracy (ref A). ¶4. (SBU) More surprisingly, Democrat Party (DP) legislator Nipit Intarasombat, who failed to receive a cabinet appointment, complained publicly that the cabinet's formation was improperly influenced by individuals' financial interests. In response, DP Secretary General Suthep Thaugsuban -- who claimed publicly that only he and Abhisit determined the cabinet's composition -- flatly denied that he "sold" cabinet seats. Abhisit admitted his cabinet might not be optimal but explained he had to contend with certain political realities. Aside from Nipit, many observers predicted prominent Democrats Kraisak Choonhavan (a relative newcomer to the party) and Kiat Sittheeamorn would join the cabinet, but they, too, ultimately were excluded. BALANCE AMONG POLITICAL PARTIES ------------------------------- ¶5. (SBU) DP figures -- and non-politicians favored primarily by the DP -- hold 18 of the 36 cabinet positions, including the premiership. This distribution reflects the substantial leverage of the Democrats' coalition partners. DP legislators provided approximately 70 percent of the House votes in Abhisit's favor during his recent Abhisit election, but the DP holds only 50 percent of the cabinet seats. ¶6. (C) The faction of former People's Power Party (PPP) BANGKOK 00003712 002.2 OF 004 legislators loyal to Buriram politician Newin Chidchob, which defected to the Democrats, received substantial payback from Abhisit. Newin faction figures became Interior Minister -- despite preliminary indications that DP Secretary General Suthep sought this powerful and presumably lucrative job for himself -- and Transport Minister (another position offering many opportunities for personal enrichment). Others from this faction became Deputy Ministers in Interior, Transportation, and Agriculture. ¶7. (SBU) The position of Agriculture Minister remains, as it was under Prime Ministers Samak and Somchai, with an ally of Banharn Silapa-Archa, former Leader of the now-disbanded Chart Thai Party. Banharn's brother, Chumpol Silapa-Archa, has taken over the Tourism Ministry, formerly headed by close Banharn associate Weerasak Kowsurat. Sanan Kachornprasart, who joined Chart Thai in 2007, rounds out the top tier of that former party's representatives, remaining a Deputy PM, as under Samak and Somchai. ¶8. (SBU) Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana Party financier Pradit Phataraprasit remains in place as Deputy Finance Minister, while his party also picked up the Energy Ministry. A representative of the former Matchima Party received the position of Commerce Minister, while the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry is in the hands of Suwit Khunkitti, a former Thai Rak Thai figure who co-formed and until recently led the Motherland Party (now torn by factionalism). FULL LIST --------- ¶9. (U) Abhisit's cabinet, in its entirely, consists of: - Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva - Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban - Deputy Prime Minister Korbsak Sabhavasu - Deputy Prime Minister Sanan Kachornprasart - Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya - Defense Minister General (ret) Prawit Wongsuwan - Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga - Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul - Deputy Interior Minister Boonjong Wongtrairat - Deputy Interior Minister Thaworn Senneam - Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij - Deputy Finance Minister Pradit Pataraprasit - Deputy Finance Minister Pruektichai Damrongrat - Commerce Minister Pornthiva Nakasai - Deputy Commerce Minister Alongkorn Pollabutr - Tourism and Sports Minister Chumpol Silapa-Archa - Social Development and Human Security Miinister Witoon Nambutr - Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut - Deputy Agriculture Minister Chartchai Pukkayaporn - Transportation Minister Sophon Saram - Deputy Transportation Minister Kuakul Danchaiwijit - Deputy Transportation Minister Prajak Kaewklahan - Natural Resources and Environment Minister Suwit Khunkitti - Information and Communications Technology Minister Ranongrak Suwanchawee - Energy Minister Wannarat Charnnukul - Industry Minister Charnchai Chairungrueng - Labor Minister Phaithoon Kaeothong - Culture Minister Teera Slukpetch - Science Minister Kalaya Sophonpanich - Education Minister Jurin Laksanawisit - Deputy Education Minister Chaiwuti Bannawat - Deputy Education Minister Narisara Chawaltanpipat - Public Health Minister Witthaya Kaewparadai - Deputy Public Health Minister Manit Nopamornbodi - Minister Attached to the PM's Office Satit Wongnongtaey - Minister Attached to the PM's Office Virachai Virameteekul SELECT BIOS ----------- ¶10. (SBU) Post provided biographic notes on Abhisit, Foreign Minister Kasit, and Deputy PM Sanan Kachornprasart in refs B, A, and C, respectively. Septel will report on the economic BANGKOK 00003712 003.2 OF 004 team. Biographic notes on certain key cabinet members follow. Deputy PM Suthep Thaugsuban --------------------------- (C) Deputy Prime Minister Suthep has served as Deputy Secretary General of the Democrat Party since 2005. Born on July 7, 1949, in Surat Thani province, he entered politics in 1979 and has held a seat in Thailand's democratically-elected parliaments since then. He has previously served in the cabinet as Communications Minister and twice as Deputy Agriculture Minister. In 1995, a scandal involving then-Deputy Agriculture Minister Suthep's land reform program caused then-Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai (to whom Suthep remains close) to dissolve the House rather than face a no-confidence vote. (C) In recent years, Suthep has controlled the finances of the Democrat Party, and several Democrats have privately complained to us that he engages in corrupt and unethical behavior. Abhisit has generally deferred to Suthep to conduct political negotiations on his behalf; while Abhisit appears publicly as an ethical intellectual, Suthep serves as the party's backroom dealmaker. He maintains contacts in all camps, including the military. Although he played a leading role in complaining about fraud in the 2006 legislative election, protecting witnesses in the case that ultimately led to the Thai Rak Thai party's dissolution, he has reportedly had direct contact with Thaksin after Thaksin was deposed as Prime Minister. (SBU) Suthep has a bachelor's degree from Chiang Mai University and a Master's Degree in Political Science from Middle Tennessee State University; he can discuss professional matters in English, although at times he struggles to find apt words. He has been very accessible to the Embassy. Suthep's first wife died years ago; he now refers to the sister of Democrat Party Deputy Leader Niphon Promphan as his wife, although the two may not be legally married. Suthep has three children from his first marriage. Defense Minister General (ret) Prawit Wonsuwon --------------------------------------------- - (SBU) General Prawit became Army Commander in 2004, reportedly thanks to the backing of close Thaksin ally Sudarat Keyuraphan. He held that position until 2005, when he retired and was replaced by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin. After the 2006 coup d'etat, Prawit was appointed to the National Legislative Assembly, where he played a role in the drafting of the Internal Security Act. (SBU) Prawit served in Vietnam from 1970-71. During his career, he also fought against communist insurgents in Thailand's Northeast, and he has served on the Thai-Cambodian border. He became First Army Area Commander in 2002 and then rose to become Assistant Army Commander the following year. Born on August 11, 1945, Prawit graduated from the Armed Forces Academy Preparatory School and Chulachomklao Royal Military Academy (1969). He is a graduate of the Command and General Staff College (1978) and National Defense College (1997). He never married. Interior Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul ---------------------------------------- (SBU) Chaovarat's appointment as Interior Minister marks his fifth cabinet position this year. He started under Prime Minister Samak as Deputy Minister of Public Health, then moved to become Minister of Social Development and Human Security, then served as Minister of Public Health. Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat appointed him as Deputy Prime Minister, and after the Constitutional Court dissolved the People's Power Party (PPP) on December 2 Chaovarat served briefly as Acting Prime Minister. He is currently aligned with Buriram politician Newin Chidchob. (SBU) Chaovarat is Chairman of the Sino-Thai Construction Company, which he founded in 1952. He has been a major BANGKOK 00003712 004.2 OF 004 financier of the Thai Rak Thai party, then of the PPP. He has served as Honorary Consul of Papua New Guinea, and he served twice as Deputy Minister of Finance in the mid-1990's. He was born on June 7, 1936, in Bangkok, and holds a bachelor's degree in Economics from Thammasat University. Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga ----------------------------------------- (SBU) Pirapan has not previously held a cabinet post. He was a career judge before entering politics in 1996 as a Democrat Party candidate for a Bangkok seat in the House of representatives. In the 1990's, he served as advisor to the Education Minister, Advisor to the Justice Minister, and Advisor to the Bangkok Governor. Pirapan was born on February 21, 1959, the son of a Vice Admiral. The holds an LL.B. degree and two master's degrees, including one from Tulane University. He is married to the daughter of prominent hotelier Thanpuying Chanat Piya-oui, and has four children. Minister Attached to the PM's Office Satit Wongnongtaey ------------------------------------ (SBU) Satit entered politics in 1995, winning election as a Democrat Party legislator from Trang province. He was been re-elected in every election since then. He served as Secretary to Abhisit when Abhisit was Minister Attached to the Prime Minister's Office, and he also served as DP spokesman from 1998 until 2001. He also owns a school in Trang province. He holds a bachelor's degree from Prince of Songkhla University and a master's degree in public administration from the National Institute for Development Administration. He was born in April 23, 1961, and is married to Suporn Wongnongtaey, and has two children. He does not speak English. Deputy Minister of Interior Boonjong Vongtrirat --------------------------------------------- -- (SBU) Boonjong has represented the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima in the House of Representatives in each election since 2001, when he was affiliated with the Thai Rak Thai party. Before 2001, he served in the provincial administrative organization of Nakhon Ratchasima. He is currently aligned with Buriram politician Newin Chidchob; after Newin threw his faction's support to Abhisit, an unidentified person placed two hand grenades in Boonjong's yard. This is Boonjong's first cabinet position. He holds a master's degree in public administration from the National Institute of Development Administration; we were unable to determine his other educational credentials. He is married to Kanchana Vongtrirat and has two children. Deputy Minister of Interior Thaworn Senneam ------------------------------------------- (SBU) Thaworn, a Deputy Secretary General of the Democrat Party, served as a public prosecutor in southern Thailand for 19 years. In 1995, he won election as a Songkhla province legislator, and he retained his seat in every subsequent election. This is Thaworn's first cabinet position. He holds an LL.B. from Thammasat University and a master's degree in public administration from the National Institute for Development Administration. He was born on March 29, 1947, and is married to Major General Chantima Senneam. He has three children. He does not speak English. JOHN

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