It has been a while since PPT has commented on released cables. We will do more on this as we have time.
In this Wikileaks cable, dated 5 September 2006, U.S. Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce and Privy Councilor and former Army commander General Surayud Chulanont huddle on politics. Surayud tries to convince Boyce that there will be no coup. The coup came just 2 weeks after this cable was produced.
Boyce claims that Surayud believed that the incumbent Thai Rak Thai government “might not perform as well in the coming election as previously.” Given that many observers considered a coup on the cards at this point, is Surayud playing dumb? What Surayud did note was dissension within TRT, its lack of money and he thought rival parties would do better. It is worth noting that accounts seem to agree that TRT had spent relatively little in the 2005 and 2006 elections. Surayud seems stuck in some kind of time warp.
Surayud “characterized Thaksin as paranoid and unwilling to believe he would face less pressure and less of a threat to his assets” if he stepped down. Surayud believed Thaksin would return as premier after winning the election (that never came). But Surayud also thought that “TRT might underperform … raising doubt about Thaksin’s ability to claim a mandate.”
Surayud showed that he lived in a fantasy world or believed that he could convince Boyce that Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda “opposed the idea of a coup and had made this clear to Surayud and also to Army Commander General Sonthi Boonyaratglin.” All of Prem’s actions were quite different. If Prem really was taking this “no coup” position, then he displayed a remarkable and unlikely lack of political acumen.
Surayud even “told the Ambassador he considered Sonthi as a solid professional and an unemotional person – not the type to carry out a coup.” Either Surayud was in LaLa Land with his cars and model trains or was a consummate liar.
Boyce sounds as though he was incredulous stating “that, given Thai history, it might be unwise to think a coup would be impossible, Surayud simply laughed in response.” When the ambassador “observed that conventional wisdom held that Prem, Surayud, and Privy Councilor Palakorn Suwanrath represented Thaksin’s key foes, Surayud simply replied, ‘That’s how he (Thaksin) sees it’.”
Boyce is forced to state that he was “struck by Surayud’s seeming optimism that Thaksin might be gently forced from office in the event of a below-expectations performance by TRT in upcoming elections, caused by factionalism within TRT, a stronger showing by rival parties, and reduced funding for campaign activities.” It seems Boyce was not convinced by Surayud’s act.