In a Wikileaks cable just two days after the military coup of 19 September 2006, US Ambassador Ralph Boyce tells his bosses in Washington that things are pretty much back to “normal.”
The cable begins by observing that a “royal order” appointing General Sonthi Boonyaratglin as “Leader of the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy” had been issued and widely circulated. That palace pronouncement is reproduced in full in the cable and is worth citing as many readers will probably have forgotten its significance:
General Sonthi has reported the government under the leadership of Police LTCOL Thaksin Shinawatra had caused unprecedented conflicts, division and devastation of integrity and unity among the Thai people and that the majority of the people had had doubts about the honesty of the government due to widespread corruption and political intervention in independent organizations, thus adversely affecting and impeding political activities of the country.
Despite continued efforts of many sectors, the situation has not improved and peace has not yet been restored to the country. A joint military, police and civilian group, calling itself the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy led by Gen. Sonthi has therefore seized control of the government in order to restore peace and unity to the country.
Therefore, His Majesty hereby appoints Gen. Sonthi as leader of the Council for Democratic Reform under the Constitutional Monarchy, and calls on the Thai people to remain peaceful and all government officials to follow the orders of General Sonthi.
PPT believes this announcement reflects the palace’s thinking. Of course, those who seek to “protect” the monarchy will argue that the words were given to the king and he simply signed off. However, given the supine position of the military leadership towards the monarchy and the king’s undoubted capacity to reject approaches by constitutional and elected governments, it seems highly unlikely that the announcement wasn’t in accord with palace views.
Boyce goes on to explain that there have been no pro-Thaksin Shinawatra “rallies or public displays of support” and “no signs of disturbance and no public indication of support for the deposed PM.” He then adds that “a public opinion poll that shows a whopping 86.36 percent of people in the countryside approve of the coup, along with 81.6 percent of the people of Bangkok.”
Without comment on these unbelievable figures, an Army poll is also cited, noting that it probably won’t be made public:
“only about 50-55 percent of Bangkok actually support the coup, while only about 35 percent of the people in the North and 30 percent in the Northeast do…. The approval numbers in the South are the highest (60-65 percent).
Despite the best efforts of the palace, military and the Democrat Party, little seems to have changed, except that the motivations of these groups are probably now a lot clearer.