U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce was happy enough to support the 2006 military coup that ousted Thaksin Shinawatra, a leader Boyce had earlier described as “delusional.”
In a Wikileaks cable sent a day after the coup, Boyce is happy to report “near universal agreement among Thai and US businesspersons and RTG civil servants … that any economic fallout from Thailand’s military coup will be shallow and short-lived.” Boyce was remarkably upbeat, seemingly reflecting his elation about the coup and informed by businesspeople who wanted Thaksin out.
Boyce reports that the Governor of the Bank of Thailand expected no major problems but stood ready to intervene if required. More politicized was an “official from the Federation of Thai Industries” chortled that the coup was “good news for business…”. The FTI expected a government of “highly qualified technocrats.” They were soon disappointed but unbowed politically. Thai exporters were said to be “positive on the political developments, saw no real downside to their export business and looked forward to greater economic stability.”
The “Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Bangkok advised us that … they had no particular concerns about business conditions going forward.”
Boyce summarizes that “the feeling among most Thais is that overall uncertainty is reduced because of the coup, and less uncertainty is better for business.” How he felt he knew is anybody’s guess. Boyce concludes: “The optimism of the business community, even in the face of martial law, is striking. One foreign brokerage has actually recommended a double-weighting for Thai assets in the wake of the coup.”
In two further cables on the same day (here and here), Boyce details how the United States would respond to the coup. Most of its actions were mandated by U.S. legislation. The Embassy mentions this as involving Section 508 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. The Embassy stated that it supported the
immediate suspension of obligations or expenditures of funds under programs such as International Military Education and Training (IMET), Foreign Military Financing (FMF), the Economic Support Fund (ESF), International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INL), and others until the President determines and certifies to Congress that a democratically elected government has taken office. Post further proposes that those military programs that are similar to initiatives subject to Section 508, but not part of the Foreign Operations Act, also be suspended until the installation of an acceptable interim civilian caretaker government. These programs would include our comprehensive military exercise program, and programs already funded for maritime security under Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006.
Note that the highlighted words indicate nothing more than a nominal suspension of these addition programs. Indeed, Boyce declares that these “additional sanctions might only be in place for a brief period…”. He argues that they would allow him to pressure the “Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM) to take necessary intermediate steps resulting in a freely elected civilian government.” Note the contradiction between “elected government” and a “caretaker government.”
There were many exemptions: “the Peace Corps, or those aimed at providing disaster assistance, HIV/AIDS programs and other programs not benefiting the military…”. At the same time, Boyce argued that:
[s]ome of our security assistance programs in Thailand are vitally important to U.S. interests. Included among these are the Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System (PISCES) being implemented at Thai ports of entry to monitor travelers entering and exiting the country, the U.S. Military Information Support Team (MIST) with Civil Affairs augmentation developing a psyops strategy for Thai soldiers countering insurgents in Southern Thailand, and discreet bilateral training to assist Thai soldiers rotating to the South to identify and disarm IEDs…. The Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) is another program we should continue to support, as Thailand is scheduled to host the GPOI CAPSTONE event in May 2007, with participation from five other countries.
Boyce reckoned these were “benign and non-lethal programs” – in the south?? – and asked that the all be exempted. That is these security programs were to continue, despite the coup. In other words, Boyce was keen that the U.S. do little more than give the military junta more than a mild slap on the wrist.