Wikileaks: Briefed by the junta

4 03 2012

In yet another Wikileaks cable dated 20 September 2006, U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce details a briefing provided by Army chief Sonthi Boonyaratglin, fronting the junta’s then rather aptly named Council for Democratic Reform Under the Constitutional Monarchy (CDRM). The briefing was provided for the diplomatic corps and defense attaches and was held, symbolically, at the Army’s headquarters. The rest of the CDRM was also in attendance: Supreme Commander and heads of the Navy, Air Force, Police and National Security Council.

As is well-known, it was at this briefing (and in related announcements) that the CDRM provided its justification for deposing the elected government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra:

a lack of political confidence; rampant nepotism; corruption; unprecedented social divisions in Thailand; the inability of administrative institutions to function properly without political interference; social injustice, and offenses to the Thai monarch.

Sonthi apparently stressed that the military’s goal was to “make democracy a reality in Thailand.”However, Boyce notes that “Sonthi was evasive when pressed to explain exactly what had prompted the coup.” PPT has never considered Sonthi very bright and we think the “evasion” is just Sonthi being unwilling to say that he was ordered to do it.

All Sonthi says is that the military had “recently … learned certain facts about the (Thaksin) caretaker government. This information convinced us that further waiting would not result in democracy, so we acted.” He doesn’t say what they knew but adds that the military “have received numerous requests to act, to bring peace and normalcy back to the country.” He doesn’t say who made the “requests” but when pressed by the Australian ambassador, he replied: “The people requested us to act; they were not receiving the benefits of democracy. A democracy formed by the people did not exist.”

It is noted that the “CDRM members had an audience with the King and Queen,” but no details are provided in this cable. For those, see this cable posted some time ago, where Sonthi claims the king was “happy, smiling throughout” the meeting with the CDRM cabal of military leaders.

What is somewhat surprising is Sonthi’s statement in reply to a British diplomat, who seems to have been more persistent in questioning and skeptical of the junta than Boyce, who noted that “Sonthi had said that the coup was prompted by ‘certain facts’ concerning Thaksin which, while unspecified, must be fairly serious given the actions they provoked.” He noted that “the CDRM does not have any plans to take any legal action against Thaksin. What, asked the UK Charge, has Thaksin done?”  Sonthi replied that Thaksin “has not done anything legally incorrect…”. 


Seemingly unable to grasp the enormity of a coup that has thrown out a premier elected with the biggest ever electoral vote, Boyce says “the good news here is that he has committed to move toward civilian rule in two weeks. We should welcome this commitment…”. It seems clear that Boyce has also welcomed the illegal putsch. Of course, Boyce had met with Sonthi in advance of the coup, several times, and knew his thoughts on Thaksin. At that time, Boyce provided succor to the general, assuring him that “policymakers in Washington … have noted that the military continues to conduct itself in a professional manner, staying on the sidelines of this crisis, and that this can largely be attributed to Sonthi himself.”

Sonthi is reported as saying that “there is no intention, whatsoever, for military involvement in the current crisis.” We doubt Boyce believed him, but he continually repeated this line to Washington. We can only speculate that Boyce knew more than he let on, for he makes no point about being misled by Sonthi in these earlier chats.

When Sonthi was asked by the Finnish ambassador about a return to democracy, the dullard in Sonthi was revealed when he replied: “Thailand is 100 percent democratic now; our reason for action is that we want real democracy in our country.” Military types seldom understand the meaning of democracy, and we assume that Sonthi is blathering about “democracy with the king as head of state.”

Boyce is critical of Sonthi for not anticipating these questions and having pat answers prepared, “[e]ven after making due allowance for the fact that the CDRM members had not gotten any sleep the previous night…”. Poor guys. Throwing out elected governments is no picnic. However, and more seriously, as noted above, we doubt Sonthi could even conceptualize electoral democracy from “Thai-style democracy,” which is no democracy at all, but a royalist regime.

Boyce seems to have been quiet and prepared to accept the coup without much questioning at all. We can only imagine that other ambassadors must have been surprised by his acquiescence but they probably also knew his support for crown and the men with guns.



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10 03 2012
Who Divides Thailand? | Thai Alliance for Human Rights

[…] made by the people. The embarrassing diplomatic cables showing the United States Ambassador justify the 2006 coup to the State Department, andrecommend that no measure be taken against the junta beyond symbolic gestures of disapproval […]

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