Wikileaks: Boyce on the coup

3 03 2012

In what appears to be the first of several cables sent on 20 September 2006, U.S. Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce comments on the coup. We have already posted and earlier cable from the day after the coup on business reactions to the military’s intervention (apologies for getting out of order), and we have another post coming within a few hours that details some of the other cables on that day.

Using what PPT thinks is the best and most accurate moniker for the junta, Boyce refers to it as the Council for Democratic Reform under the Monarchy. In later cables it becomes the Council for Democratic Reform under Constitutional Monarchy. Boyce seems comfortable in reporting the coup and stating that the junta is “in control of the government after a bloodless coup on the evening of September 19.”

Boyce’s attitude is almost nonchalant – Coup? So what? He immediately appears to be justifying the coup by reporting that the:

CDRM promises to cede control to an interim civilian government soon, and civil society contacts we spoke to today believed this would happen. Politicians and academics have expressed support for the military’s actions, believing that there was “no other way” to proceed with political reform free of the control of Prime Minister Thaksin’s enormous wealth and political power.

He does add that this “is a sad commentary on the weak state of Thailand’s democratic institutions,” but doesn’t seek to explain this or decry the end of every single democratic institution and all freedoms by the actions of the military-palace alliance to toss out Thaksin. Boyce turns to what he repeatedly says is the “good news”: the junta has promised “to return the government to civilian control ‘as soon as possible’.”

Remarkably, Boyce refers to a junta member telling “the Ambassador last night that it might take a few days before the military would cede control to a civilian.” It is revealing that Boyce was talking with coup plotters on the very night of the coup. Perhaps that is because the U.S. is considered so significant for the military in Thailand, but that Boyce reports this as “good news” suggests a remarkably cosy relationship.

The “bad news” is barely mentioned and waved off as Boyce steamrolls on to tell his bosses that the coup has seen “Bangkok rejoice.” There is then a long list of comments that indicate wide support for the coup:

Post has spoken to a range of contacts in Bangkok about the coup. PAO academic contacts could only be described as ebullient. They gave a variety of justifications for the army’s move, alleging that Thaksin had deliberately incited problems in the South to strengthen his political position, for example, and even claiming he was behind the bomb attacks in Hat Yai. One said that army was only reacting to the “coup” already staged by Thaksin, a reference to what is seen as his anti-democratic ruling style. They all felt that the coup was inevitable and it was good that it happened while Thaksin was out of the country.

Those academics are probably pleased that Boyce didn’t name them, but it is well-known which academics were regularly talking with the U.S. embassy, and some have been mentioned in previous posts.

The cable then turns to “political party contacts” who turn out to be only the coup-supporting Democrat Party and Chart Thai. Both are reported as recognizing that the coup “looked bad” internationally but shrugged and said “what else was there to do? Thaksin’s enormous wealth made him unbeatable in elections. He had emasculated the Constitution’s checks and balances.”

It is remarkable that Boyce is simply repeating anti-Thaksin scuttlebutt as if it were fact. Even if he believes some of it, repeating rumors with no balancing observations is giving them support.

Boyce then talks about Thaksin and basically assures Washington that he is finished for the moment. Boyce mentions that some Thai Rak Thai Party politicians have been arrested but is happy enough with assurances from his CDRM buddies that “they were well.” Likewise, he seems relieved that claims People’s Alliance for Democracy activists were also being detained was not correct.

This is a remarkable cable and one that puts a lie to any residual claims that the ambassador and the U.S. did anything other than welcome the military-palace coup.


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