Wikileaks: Prem on Thaksin

22 10 2011

In PPT’s continuing coverage of Wikileaks cables, this leaked cable is yet another of U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce’s revealing accounts of his own political bias and the position of those he was close to in the palace. In this cable, Boyce refers to discussions he has had with Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda.

General Prem

This cable follows another where Boyce recounts a 4 July 2006 meeting with Thaksin Shinawatra, including expletive deleted attacks on Prem. In that cable Thaksin is reported to have claimed that:

Prem thought that a Privy Councillor was higher than a Prime Minister and that the political “elite” of the country think Thaksin is “a peasant.” He claimed that many of his opponents are “living off land given them by the palace” and said that the courts were being used in an anti-democratic fashion.

Boyce then meets General Prem on 5 July and discusses “rising political tensions caused by PM Thaksin, who launched a thinly-veiled attack on Prem…”. This refers to Thaksin’s public statements that “an ‘individual with charisma,’ who was ‘outside the Constitution,’ trying to bring down the government and become Prime Minister himself.”

For some reason Boyce feels it necessary to explain that Prem is “one of the most highly respected leaders in Thailand…”. He says that “Thaksin’s comments were construed by many as an open declaration of war against Prem, all the more surprising (or foolhardy) given Prem’s stature and close relationship with the King.”

Prem is reported as laying into Thaksin. Prem is reported as saying that: “over Thaksin’s first five years as prime minister, he had not met much with Prem; Thaksin thought he knew everything already.” Prem seems to have thought that he was the fount of considerable wisdom on government and politics, a bit like the monarch. More recently, though, Prem said Thaksin had been seeking counsel.

Hence, Prem was “shocked to hear the accounts of Thaksin’s speech [on the charismatic figure].” Apparently, Prem’s reaction was: “What does he think he’s doing?” Boyce concurs on this question. It is reported that “Prem sent word to Thaksin that it would help the PM politically if he made clear that he was not referring to Prem. Thaksin disregarded the advice…”.

Prem then blamed Thaksin for having “stirred everything up again, after a period of calm around the King’s anniversary celebration.” Boyce could only agree, noting “that Thaksin didn’t seem to be able to keep himself from making these provocative statements.” It becomes clear that Boyce saw himself as U.S. Ambassador to royalist Thailand.

Prem comments that:

from the outset of his time as Prime Minister, Thaksin had been personally unprepared for the fawning reception he gets, especially when he travels around the country.

That seems remarkable from someone in the palace who expects and demands appropriate groveling and fawning.

It is at this point that Prem reveals that he believes that Thaksin was in a competition with the king. He says the fawning:

had gone to his [Thaksin’s] head … and made him believe that “he’s number one.” But Thailand was not like America, Prem added. “We already have a number one.” Thaksin needed to learn that he was the manager of the shop, not the owner.

It seems to PPT that this is an important statement of the battle lines that led Prem to campaign for Thaksin’s ouster, including getting the military on-side for a coup that came in September 2006.

Further, Prem seems to believe that Thaksin’s appeal to provincial people is doomed:

The people upcountry liked Thaksin and voted for him, but they didn’t revere him. After seeing the adoring crowds on June 9, a million people in their yellow shirts who waited for hours in the heat just to catch a glimpse of their King, Thaksin should understand that he cannot rival the King for the people’s affection, Prem concluded.

It seems that Prem  is unable to grasp the nature of the changes in attitudes and politics that had taken place since 2001. This flawed perception is probably reflective of a palace and broader yellow shirt view. This mis-peception of rural support for Thaksin seemed to underpin the politics of coup and junta-backed government that followed the coup.

We wonder if they have now got the message following the repeated election of pro-Thaksin parties in 2007 and 2011?


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2 11 2011
Wikileaks: U.S. ambassador gets warm and cosy with army boss « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Like Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda, Sonthi seems to believe that Thaksin is the problem: “The PM has the ability to end the crisis by going away, but he doesn’t want to go away.” […]

10 02 2012
Wikileaks: Predicting the 2006 coup « Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] Boyce’s cable of 6 July 2006 can be read in the context of coup preparations taking place, and it appears that Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda must have assessed that he had the green light for the coup. […]

10 02 2012
Wikileaks: Predicting the 2006 coup « Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] Boyce’s cable of 6 July 2006 can be read in the context of coup preparations taking place, and it appears that Privy Council President General Prem Tinsulanonda must have assessed that he had the green light for the coup. […]

23 02 2014
Promoting anti-democrats | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] the upcountry lot “have toiled under Thaksin’s shadow for lack of a better alternative.” This is an updated Wikileaks version of the palace story from 2006, when Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda stated that Thaksin’s appeal to provincial people […]

23 02 2014
Promoting anti-democrats | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] upcountry lot “have toiled under Thaksin’s shadow for lack of a better alternative.” This is an updated Wikileaks version of the palace story from 2006, when Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda stated that Thaksin’s appeal to provincial people […]

5 09 2015
Reuters on lese majeste and crushing dissent | Political Prisoners of Thailand

[…] He also accused Thaksin of seeking to replace the king in words that sound remarkably like Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda: […]

5 09 2015
Reuters on lese majeste and crushing dissent | Political Prisoners in Thailand

[…] He also accused Thaksin of seeking to replace the king in words that sound remarkably like Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda: […]