Wikileaks: Predicting the 2006 coup

10 02 2012

With coup talk about, PPT thought it might be useful to post a Wikileaks cable dated 15 September 2006, where the U.S. Embassy’s Alexander A. Arvizu writes of the chances of a coup in Thailand.

Recalling that this is just days before the 2006 military coup took place, here’s what went to Washington D.C.:

Talking to military contacts and academics, we mostly hear the same analysis about the military’s options. Despite some jittery nerves in Bangkok about the bad blood between the military (and the Palace) on one hand, and the police (and Thaksin) on the other, virtually everyone with whom we have spoken does not believe the situation has gotten even close to the point where the military would act. [PPT added the emphasis]

Frankly, we are surprised. Either it is deliberately false or lots of people were blind or they just didn’t hoped it wouldn’t happen. But clearly the Embassy was also hearing different messages, for it is then stated:

Embassy officials continue to make clear to military and political contacts that any such move by the military would have serious consequences, and would be very counterproductive.

They got that last bit right, but still claimed to be

encouraged by the views expressed by important figures like Privy Councillor Surayud [Chulanont] perhaps the most respected retired senior military officer, who expressed faith in the political process, and who clearly opposed any kind of coup attempt by the military.

It is then added: “Army Commander General Sonthi [Boonyaratglin] has also reassured us and publicly denied any possibility of a military coup.”

But then let’s look at the record from other sources and cables.

General Sonthi has gone on record stating that before the coup, the “US understood the country’s political situation…”. He adds: ” I was talking to the US ambassador [Ralph Boyce] all the time.”

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.

From as early as August 2006, other cables show that the Embassy was aware that preparations were underway. In early September, Boyce seemed far less convinced by Surayud’s “no coup” claims. Boyce’s signals were pretty darn clear: if there is a coup, we’ll stop some aid programs (but not all), but we won’t do much more than that. Green light.


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