Wikileaks, palace and the coup II

7 08 2011

PPT had an earlier post on the monarchy and the 2006 coup as seen in Wikileaks cables. In this cable, U.S. ambassador Ralph Boyce wrote of the role of the monarchy and the 2006 coup in a cable dated 21 September 2006. That’s just three days after the coup.

Boyce states: “It remains unclear whether Thailand’s King encouraged or provided approval in advance for the September 19 coup d’etat by the Council for Democratic Reform Under the Monarchy (CDRM). However, the CDRM is publicly linked to the monarchy to a greater extent than previous coup plotters, and the CDRM’s September 19 royal audience sent a clear public signal of Palace endorsement. Palace endorsement likely contributed to public support for the coup…. The ill health of the King might have influenced the timing of the coup.”

Boyce explains that on the night that the military junta seized control of the media, word spread that CDRM leaders would have an audience with King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The audience took place at Chittralada Villa from 12:19 a.m. until 1:24 a.m. the same night, according to an Embassy contact at the Palace. The willingness of the King to receive the CDRM representatives so quickly sent a clear public signal of royal endorsement of the coup.”

Boyce repeatedly uses the term “unprecedented” when referring to the coup and the palace/monarchy:

The CDRM’s inclusion of reference to the monarchy in the coup-plotters’ group name, however, appears unprecedented in Thai history. (A literal translation of the Thai version is: “Council for Reforming Governance in the Democratic System having His Majesty the King as Head of State.”) Also unprecedented is an alleged Royal Command, published online by the Prime Minister’s Office, in which the King “appoints General Sonthi as leader of the (CDRM), and demands… all government officials follow the orders of General Sonthi.

Boyce then gets a bit misty-eyed on the monarchy and accepts the royalist and military junta arguments that Thaksin was angling against the monarchy: “Given the widespread public understanding, especially in Bangkok, that Thaksin was increasingly engaged in confrontation with members of the Privy Council (if not with the King himself), most Thais view the CDRM as acting on behalf of the King’s interests. Almost universal Thai reverence for the King has likely contributed significantly to popular acceptance of the coup.”

PPT has to say that we cannot recall such “widespread public understanding” and it seems that Boyce was listening all too closely to the yellow-hued elite and the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

Further commenting on royal endorsement of the coup, Boyce writes: “we hear that the CDRM has requested the release of photographs and video footage of the royal audience with the CDRM. Our contacts told us that the King’s Secretary will likely release the photographs, but is unlikely to release the video footage. Release of images from the audience would convey further signals of royal endorsement.”

Boyce concludes the cable with some observations on legality: “The now-terminated 1997 Constitution provided no basis for military intervention in politics. The monarchy appears to be the sole institution capable of legitimizing the September 19 coup in the eyes of the Thai people. By its actions to date, the Palace seems to be playing that role. The King’s imprimatur — combined with widespread hatred of Thaksin in elite circles — appears to have provided a certain amount of breathing room for the CDRM.”

Given that Boyce knows the coup was illegal, it seems quite remarkable that he was the very first diplomat knocking on the door of the junta’s appointed prime minister just a few days after the coup. Were his actions acceptable to the U.S. government or was he making policy for the State Department? Whatever the case, he set the course of U.S. support for the coup, the junta and its appointed government.


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