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WikiLeaks’ US embassy cables: Thai King Bhumibol opposed to 2008 coup

US embassy cables: Thai king opposed to 2008 coup
* guardian.co.uk,
Tuesday 14 December 2010

Thursday, 06 November 2008,
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 003317
NOFORN
SIPDIS
NSC FOR WILDER AND PHU
EO 12958 DECL: 11/06/2018
TAGS PGOV, KDEM, MOPS, ASEC, TH
SUBJECT: PALACE INSIDER TELLS AMBASSADOR OF THE KING’S
OPPOSITION TO A COUP AND TO PAD PROTESTS
REF:
A. BANGKOK 3289 (POLARIZATION TO PERSIST) B. BANGKOK 3280 (THAKSIN
ADDRESSES UDD) C. BANGKOK 3226 (HOPES FOR MEDIATION) D. BANGKOK 3080
(QUEEN SHOWS SUPPORT)
BANGKOK 00003317 001.2 OF 003
Classified By: Ambassador Eric G. John, reason: 1.4 (b and d).
Summary

1. This cable alleges Thai king Bhumibol ordered army chief Anuphong
Paochinda not to attempt a coup against then prime minister Somchai
Wongsawat in autumn 2008. It also suggests the king was irritated by
protests by pro-royalist parties. Key passage highlighted in yellow.

2. Read related article

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

1.
(C) King Bhumibol explicitly told Army Commander Anupong Paojinda not
to launch a coup, XXXXXXXXXXXX, an advisor to Queen Sirikit, told
Ambassador November 4. XXXXXXXXXXXX also claimed that the Queen had not
meant to signal support for the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD)
anti-government agenda when she presided over funeral ceremonies on
October 13. XXXXXXXXXXXX said PAD’s activities
had irritated the King, who reportedly wants PAD protestors to leave
Government House. XXXXXXXXXXXX spoke well of Prime Minister Somchai
Wongsawat, saying Somchai was open to compromising with the PAD,
although XXXXXXXXXXXX guessed Somchai would be forced from office
by the end of the year. Separately, a politically active businessman
with strong connections to the palace told us that the Queen’s funeral
appearance had hurt the monarchy’s image, thereby serving the agenda of
former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. This contact also discussed a
possible assassination plot against Thaksin and PAD plans for violence.
Both contacts claimed the King suffered from back pain and his condition was frail.

2.
(S/NF) Comment: XXXXXXXXXXXX’s claim that the King instructed Anupong
not to conduct a coup is the strongest account we have heard to date
about the King’s opposition to a coup and his communicating this to
Anupong; it would explain why Privy Counselors Prem and Siddhi, both
seen as opponents of the current government, gave recent assurances to
the Ambassador that there would not be a coup. While XXXXXXXXXXXX did
not specify how he heard of this exchange, the purported instruction
does appear consistent with Anupong’s actions, other high-level
military assurances to the Ambassador, and reporting in other channels.
We agree that the Queen’s funeral appearance was a significant blunder,
jeopardizing the public’s perception of the palace’s neutrality. PAD
appears increasingly divided; this divide, as well as the intense and
dynamic condition of Thai politics, may make it appear realistic to
hope for a PAD-government compromise. Possible further violence,
however, remains a concern. End Summary and Comment.

PALACE-PAD RELATIONS

——————–

3.
(C) Ambassador met privately at the Residence on November 4 with
XXXXXXXXXXXX, a close advisor to Queen Sirikit who in the past has also
served as a confidant of the King.XXXXXXXXXXXX remarked that he
regretted the Queen’s October 13 appearance at the funeral of a PAD
supporter (ref D). He claimed the Queen had been emotionally affected
when she learned that one victim of the October 7 violence was a young
lady about to be married, and that she had told her father she was
going to the protest to defend the monarchy. Initially, the Queen had
wanted to send Princess Chulabhorn to the funeral. It was only at the
request of Chulabhorn and Chulabhorn’s companion, Chaichon
Locharernkul, that the Queen decided to go herself. XXXXXXXXXXXX said there was no intention for the Queen to involve either herself or the monarchy in political matters,
but, unfortunately, some members of the public could interpret the
funeral appearance differently. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the Queen later
reached out to seriously injured police officers in an attempt to show
her neutrality, but this signal went largely unnoticed.

4. (C)
XXXXXXXXXXXX remarked that King Bhumibol was highly irritated by PAD’s
occupation of Government House and other disruptions caused by the
anti-government group, but the King was unsure how best to ensure PAD
would vacate the compound. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the King had instructed
two of his loyalists to convey his desire that PAD leave Government
House. (One of these messengers was well-known associate of the King
Disathorn

BANGKOK 00003317 002.2 OF 003

Watcharothai, who
said publicly on October 29 that Thais who love the King should “go
home”; see ref A.) XXXXXXXXXXXX considered XXXXXXXXXXXX to be
obstinate, however, saying Sondhi had become obsessed with his own
sense of mission. By contrast, XXXXXXXXXXXX thought that XXXXXXXXXXXX
was reasonable and willing to compromise.

POSITIVE VIEW OF SOMCHAI

————————

5.
(C) XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed to have spoken to Prime Minister Somchai
Wongsawat about the current standoff. XXXXXXXXXXXX told the Ambassador
that Somchai had agreed that the government could meet with the PAD and
reach a compromise, but the time was not yet ripe. In his conversation with the Ambassador, XXXXXXXXXXXX spoke highly of Somchai, saying he was “very good” and had many qualities
that made him suitable to be Prime Minister, including a sense of
fairness and a moderate temperament. Nevertheless, XXXXXXXXXXXX
predicted that Somchai could not remain long inoffice because he would
likely be forced out by an adverse Constitutional Court ruling in the
People’s Power Party (PPP) dissolution case (ref A), which XXXXXXXXXXXX
believed the Court might issue before the King’s birthday (December 5).
XXXXXXXXXXXX guessed Somchai would dissolve the parliament before being
forced fromoffice.

KING TO ANUPONG: NO COUP

————————

6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX predicted that the current turmoil would not result in
a military coup. He said that the King, speaking with Army Commander
Anupong Paojinda, had referred to the 2006 coup and made a statement to
the effect that there should be no further coups.

POLITICIZATION OF THE MONARCHY

——————————

7.
(C) We also met on November 5 with XXXXXXXXXXXX (strictly protect), the
well-connected scion of a wealthy family with close palace ties.
XXXXXXXXXXXX had a leading role in the XXXXXXXXXXXX; his wife,
XXXXXXXXXXXX, has the royal
title of “XXXXXXXXXXXX” and works closely with the Queen. XXXXXXXXXXXX
agreed that the Queen’s appearance at the October 13 funeral had highly
negative ramifications, saying that even politically neutral Thais felt
she had inappropriately brought the monarchy into politics. He also
acknowledged increasing semi-public criticism of the monarchy, focused
on the Queen (septel). XXXXXXXXXXXX stated with confidence that the
King had sought to deter the Queen from attending the funeral by
questioning the wisdom of that plan, but had stopped short of
forbidding her to do so.

8. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX discussed former
Prime Minister Thaksin’s statement in his November 1 address to
supporters (ref B) that either “royal mercy or the people’s power”
could allow his return to Thailand. XXXXXXXXXXXX said this
juxtaposition, which he viewed as highly strategic, had the predictable
effect of energizing Thaksin’s opponents in the royalist camp. This
reaction allowed Thaksin to demonstrate publicly that many palace
figures were aligned against him, thereby eroding the prestige that the
palace derived from its status as an institution above politics.
(Separately, after Thaksin’s remarks, a member of Thaksin’s legal team
told us that the sentence in question was part of a “very refined
product” and that she had heard this sentence “four or five times” in
Thaksin’s rehearsal of the speech.)

THAKSIN’S ENEMIES’ PLANS FOR VIOLENCE

————————————-

9.
(C) XXXXXXXXXXXX believed PAD continued to aim for a violent clash that
would spark a coup. He asserted that he had dined on October 6 with a
leading PAD figure (NFI), who explained that PAD would provoke violence
during its October 7 protest at the parliament. The unnamed PAD figure
predicted (wrongly) that the Army would intervene against the

BANGKOK 00003317 003.2 OF 003

government
by the evening of October 7. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted to us that PAD
remained intent on a conflict that would generate at least two dozen
deaths and make military intervention appear necessary and justified.

10.
(C) We mentioned to XXXXXXXXXXXX the claim by Thaksin associate
XXXXXXXXXXXX that Thaksin had been the target of an assassination plot
(ref C). (Note: Subsequent to the Ambassador’s meeting with
XXXXXXXXXXXX, another Thaksin ally related the same claim, and said
Thaksin himself had spoken of this plot. End Note.) XXXXXXXXXXXX
suggested XXXXXXXXXXXX’s list of conspirators — including two
prominent judges — was not credible, but XXXXXXXXXXXX said he could
confirm (presumably because of first-hand discussion with an organizing
figure) that certain enemies of Thaksin (NFI) had sought to kill him.
XXXXXXXXXXXX said he had been surprised to learn that the contract on
Thaksin’s life entailed a relatively low payment of only several
hundred thousand Baht (in the range of 10,000 USD), although it also
entailed resettlement abroad for the person(s) directly involved.

REMARKS ON THE KING’S HEALTH

—————————-

11.
(C) XXXXXXXXXXXX (late August/early September). At that time, he said,
the King’s complexion appeared healthy, but overall the King appeared
frail. He added that the King was upset with the Thai doctor who had
organized the team that performed back surgery on the King two years
ago, as the operation had not worked as well as the King had been led
to expect. XXXXXXXXXXXX, in his meeting with the Ambassador, also said
the King was suffering from back pain, and his activities were more
limited than in recent years. JOHN

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