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.





Wikileaks and the cable on the queen and 2006 coup

15 12 2010

Yesterday we posted from the story in The Guardian about Samak Sundaravej’s comments on the queen and her political position and the 2006 coup. This post relates to The Guardian’s post of the cable of that report.

US embassy cables: Thai Queen Sirikit encouraged 2006 coup

* guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 14 December 2010 18.31 GMT

Summary

1. This cable from October 2008 alleges former prime minister Samak Sundaravej claimed to the US ambassador that Queen Sirikit encouraged the Thai coup in September 2006. Key passage highlighted in yellow. [PPT- that is, highlighted by the Guardian. No highlighting here. It was section 5].

Wednesday, 01 October 2008, 10:48

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002977

SIPDIS

EO 12958 DECL: 10/01/2018

TAGS PGOV, KDEM, KJUS, PINR, TH

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES WITH FORMER PM SAMAK HIS

DOWNFALL,

REF: BANGKOK 2778 (SAMAK UNDERCUT)

BANGKOK 00002977 001.2 OF 002

Classified By: Ambassador Eric G. John, reason: 1.4 (b, d)

1. (C) Summary: Former Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej resigned from his position as Party Leader of the People’s Power Party (PPP) September 30. He remains free on bail as he continues to appeal a years-old defamation conviction. Samak told the Ambassador September 26 that he believed Queen Sirikit, working through Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, supported the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) protest movement. Samak viewed himself as loyal to the King, but implied that the Queen’s political agenda differened from her husband’s. Separately, XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed to the Ambassador October 1 that he had begun direct negotiations with the PAD and suggested that he and the current Somchai administration had 90 days to produce results.

2. (C) Comment: XXXXXXXXXXXX’s expectation that his term in office may be short-lived tracks with a widespread view among Thais that the PPP will be fighting against the odds for its survival in upcoming party dissolution proceedings. Although XXXXXXXXXXXX provides proof that senior Thai politicians can often revive careers, we believe Samak has lost virtually all of his influence and has little prospect of staging a political comeback. PM Somchai Wongsawat appears likely to succeed Samak as PPP Party Leader. End Summary and Comment.

SAMAK QUITS PPP POST, HEADS TO DISNEY WORLD

——————————————-

3. (C) On September 30, a PPP official told the media that former PM Samak Sundaravej had formally resigned from his position of PPP Party Leader. This resignation followed an Appeals Court’s September 25 ruling upholding a previous conviction of Samak on defamation charges, and affirming the two-year prison sentence for Samak. In a September 26 lunch with the Ambassador, Samak explained that he expected to remain free on bail while continuing to appeal this case through other channels; he predicted his legal battle could continue for approximately two years before he might have to face incarceration. Samak planned to join unnamed associates for an extended North American vacation starting with Disney World, criss-crossing the United States and parts of Canada by car.

4. (C) Note: Once Samak lost face after PPP legislators signaled their unwillingness to support his reelection as Prime Minister (reftel), it would have been awkward for Samak to retain the position of Party Leader. PPP immediately named PM Somchai as acting party leader. Political parties typically nominate their Party Leaders for the position of Prime Minister; it would be logical to assume that Somchai will formally take the top job in PPP. Samak’s resignation will not protect Samak from a five-year loss of political rights in the event that PPP is dissolved. Party dissolution by the Constitutional Court entails sanctions against the executive board that was in place at the time of the dissolution-warranting offense.

SAMAK DISCUSSES HIS DOWNFALL, CRITICIZES THE QUEEN

——————————————— —–

5. (C) Samak described to Ambassador the political pressure against him during his seven months in office. He showed disdain for Queen Sirikit, claiming that she had been responsible for the 2006 coup d’etat as well as the ongoing turmoil generated by PAD protests. He alleged the Queen operated through Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda who, along with others presenting themselves as royalists, worked with the PAD and other agitators. Citing his own regular meetings with King Bhumibol, Samak claimed he — rather than his opponents — was sincerely loyal to the King and enjoyed the King’s support. In his discussion of the

BANGKOK 00002977 002.2 OF 002

monarchy, Samak made no mention of the Crown Prince.

6. (C) Samak, a former journalist, lamented his opponents’ success in manipulating media coverage of his administration. Samak noted that jockeying for control over the media had often caused rifts within Thai Rak Thai and, subsequently, the People’s Power Party.

7. (C) Samak’s eyes became misty as he recalled that, when he was contemplating returning to the premiership after eviction from office by the Constitutional Court, his wife and one of his daughters had pressed him to abandon this quest. “I told them to get out,” he related. “I didn’t need to be betrayed by them.”

Out with the Old, Out with the New?

———————————–

8. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX indicated to Ambassador October 1 that he expected the Somchai administration to be short-lived, though he hoped it could be extended if it proved successful in addressing the serious challenges facing the country. XXXXXXXXXXXX If Somchai’s administration were to prove effective, he hoped the Constitutional Court might delay dissolution proceedings against various coalition parties to allow the government more time in office (note: the Attorney General announced later on October 1 that he had referred the first case, against Chat Thai, to the Constitution Court for review).

9. (C) On the ongoing PAD occupation of Government House, XXXXXXXXXXXX said he had twice spoken with PAD XXXXXXXXXXXX, most recently on the night of September 30. XXXXXXXXXXXX described his approach toward the PAD as similar to that which he had taken toward communist insurgents in the 1970s and 80s: he would initially stress commonalities while deemphasizing differences, which would be sorted out later. (Septel will report XXXXXXXXXXXX’s views on mediating the southern insurgency.) JOHN