In a Wikileaks cable dated 26 September 2006, further coordination between the military junta and the palace. Given the palaver over the palace’s role prior to the coup, which has been covered by PPT in previous Wikileak’s posts, this cable indicates continuing coordination post-coup.
In this cable, Ambassador Ralph Boyce, refers to a meeting with Ministry of Foreign Affairs Permanent Secretary Krit Garnjana-Goonchorn. This followed a previous cable that spoke to a large meeting where MFA and a coup leader spoke to the diplomatic corps in Bangkok. Some of that cable first.
In that briefing, Krit and National Security Council Secretary-General Winai Phattiyakul, who was also Secretary-General of the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy, called for “understanding” from “friends.”
Krit was said to have admitted that “coups are wrong and undesirable” but that nothing was black and white, and that the “people as a whole seem to have welcomed the military intervention.”
The MFA was also concerned to ensure that the “monarchy is above politics” line was upheld:
Krit said that the CDRM had learned that the initial rendering of its title (The Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy) had caused misunderstandings and “wrongly suggested some role for His Majesty in the September 19 intervention.” Therefore, the official title would now be simply the Council for Democratic Reform….
The role of the king in the coup was raised later too:
During the Q’s and A’s, Krit returned to the question of the King’s role. He emphasized that the CDR had their audience with the King “after the process of the takeover to report what had happened.” The King had no foreknowledge of the coup. “He is above politics. Remember the past year; he has been cautious not to intervene. He turned down requests to appoint a prime minister under Article 7 of the Constitution. That was a clear indication of how the King applies his role as constitutional monarch.”
But the image damage was already done, and has been maintained until the present. Boyce referred to the “the angst over … the King’s role” amongst the coup masters. He points out that:
On the one hand, the CDR wants the legitimacy that comes from the perception that the King has accepted, if not approved, the coupmakers’ actions. At the same time, they do not want to be accused of causing damage to the King’s reputation by having exposed him to international criticism. (The reference to the King as “an idiot” by a reporter asking questions at the State Department briefing has already excited great concern at the MFA. [T]here is also lingering concern about the book “The King Never Smiles” which, though banned in Thailand, is on the minds of some.)
We now return to the cable on the meeting between Krit and the Ambassador where despite the “angst,” the junta’s cooperation with the palace is clear.
Boyce stresses to Krit that getting civilian regime is the most important task. As we have noted previously, PPT finds Boyce’s repeated friendly advice to the junta mechanistic; as if transferring power to civilians under the tutelage of a junta alters the nature of the regime or erases its illegal path to power.
Boyce then describes a conversation with “Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda on the subject” of a transition to a civilian regime. Boyce is clearly indicating that there is a role for the palace in this.
Krit confirmed that “the King would sign the interim constitution on Friday, September 29.” The junta would then transmogrify into a “security council” as its puppet prime minister and cabinet became the front for the junta (of course, these are PPT’s terms).
Krit stated that “Thailand had stumbled while on the road to democratization, he said, and now needed a helping hand to help pull the Thais back up.” Helpfully, and revealing his bias, Boyce comments:
Krit did not indicate clearly whether he viewed the coup as the stumble, or what many considered the increasingly authoritarian methods of Thaksin Shinawatra.” It is clear that Boyce has no problem at all with the military coup.
MFA’s Director General for American Affairs Nongnuth Phethcaratana returned to the role of the king in his meeting with Boyce, referring to a 22 September statement by Senator Biden “that not only criticized the coup (as a ‘setback for the cause of democracy’) but also made explicit references to the King.” Nongnut believed Biden’s positive statements were “inappropriate” for even referring to the king. Krit jumped in to “suggest” that the:
State Department spokesman reprimand a journalist who made insulting remarks about the King [as an idiot] in State Department press briefings [or] … at least an explicit comment from the spokesman to the journalist noting that the Department disapproved of his “abusive” language.
As ever, the royalists indicate an imperfect knowledge of international politics.
PPT sought out these two items. The only Biden quotes we can find suggest that the king should take a role in restoring democracy. Given the role the palace has long portrayed itself playing in times of political crisis, such a comment by Biden would seem perfectly understandable. However, as the palace’s involvement in the coup had been to get rid of the “crisis” it saw personified in Thaksin, then the royalists seem to be upset that the king is being asked to be involved in politics. Yes, we know that sounds stupid, but that’s the way the palace plays its propaganda.
On a journalist saying the king was an idiot, we think this is refers to a question from Lambros to the State Department spokesman. Lambros was Lambros Papantoniou, who died in 2009. His question is garbled in the transcript but was likely, reconstructed from two fragments of the same question:
Any comment on the conduct of the King, who is acting as an idiot, and cooperated immediately with the coup against democracy in Thailand?
The answer was:
MR. CASEY: I’m not aware of any specific contacts that might have been made with the King. As I said yesterday, we have been in discussions with the relevant political actors, both in terms of those involved in this military leadership that has now taken over as well as with political parties and other major figures in Thailand.
Wikileaks cables tend to show that “we,” as represented by Boyce, mainly meant talking with the junta and its supporters.
These two cables indicate the coordination between junta and embassy and between palace and junta. At the same time, the junta seemed to be under considerable pressure to put public relations in place that somehow undid the damage already done to the palace’s international image.