08BANGKOK3317 PALACE INSIDER TELLS AMBASSADOR
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 003317 NOFORN SIPDIS NSC FOR WILDER AND PHU EO 12958 DECL: 11/06/2018 TAGS PGOV, KDEM, MOPS, ASEC, TH SUBJECT: PALACE INSIDER TELLS AMBASSADOR OF THE KING’S OPPOSITION TO A COUP AND TO PAD PROTESTS REF: A. BANGKOK 3289 (POLARIZATION TO PERSIST) B. BANGKOK 3280
(THAKSIN ADDRESSES UDD) C. BANGKOK 3226 (HOPES FOR MEDIATION)
D. BANGKOK 3080 (QUEEN SHOWS SUPPORT) BANGKOK 00003317 001.2 OF 003 Classified By: Ambassador Eric G. John, reason: 1.4 (b and d). SUMMARY AND COMMENT ------------------- ¶1. (C) King Bhumibol explicitly told Army Commander Anupong
Paojinda not to launch a coup, XXXXXXXXXXXX, an advisor to
Queen Sirikit, told Ambassador November 4. XXXXXXXXXXXX also
claimed that the Queen had not meant to signal support for
the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) anti-government
agenda when she presided over funeral ceremonies on October 13.
XXXXXXXXXXXX said PAD’s activities had irritated the King,
who reportedly wants PAD protestors to leave Government House.
XXXXXXXXXXXX spoke well of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat,
saying Somchai was open to compromising with the PAD, although
XXXXXXXXXXXX guessed Somchai would be forced from office by
the end of the year. Separately, a politically active businessman
with strong connections to the palace told us that the Queen’s
funeral appearance had hurt the monarchy’s image, thereby
serving the agenda of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
This contact also discussed a possible assassination plot against
Thaksin and PAD plans for violence. Both contacts claimed the King
suffered from back pain and his condition was frail.
¶2. (S/NF) Comment: XXXXXXXXXXXX’s claim that the King instructed
Anupong not to conduct a coup is the strongest account we have
heard to date about the King’s opposition to a coup and his
communicating this to Anupong; it would explain why Privy
Counselors Prem and Siddhi, both seen as opponents of the
current government, gave recent assurances to the Ambassador
that there would not be a coup. While XXXXXXXXXXXX did not
specify how he heard of this exchange, the purported
instruction does appear consistent with Anupong’s actions,
other high-level military assurances to the Ambassador,
and reporting in other channels. We agree that the Queen’s
funeral appearance was a significant blunder, jeopardizing
the public’s perception of the palace’s neutrality. PAD
appears increasingly divided; this divide, as well as the
intense and dynamic condition of Thai politics, may make it
appear realistic to hope for a PAD-government compromise.
Possible further violence, however, remains a concern.
End Summary and Comment.
PALACE-PAD RELATIONS -------------------- ¶3. (C) Ambassador met privately at the Residence on November 4
with XXXXXXXXXXXX, a close advisor to Queen Sirikit who in the
past has also served as a confidant of the King.XXXXXXXXXXXX
remarked that he regretted the Queen’s October 13 appearance
at the funeral of a PAD supporter (ref D). He claimed the Queen
had been emotionally affected when she learned that one victim
of the October 7 violence was a young lady about to be married,
and that she had told her father she was going to the protest
to defend the monarchy. Initially, the Queen had wanted to send
Princess Chulabhorn to the funeral. It was only at the request
of Chulabhorn and Chulabhorn’s companion, Chaichon Locharernkul,
that the Queen decided to go herself. XXXXXXXXXXXX said there
was no intention for the Queen to involve either herself or
the monarchy in political matters, but, unfortunately, some
members of the public could interpret the funeral appearance
differently. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the Queen later reached out to
seriously injured police officers in an attempt to show her
neutrality, but this signal went largely unnoticed.
¶4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX remarked that King Bhumibol was highly
irritated by PAD’s occupation of Government House and other
disruptions caused by the anti-government group, but the
King was unsure how best to ensure PAD would vacate the compound.
XXXXXXXXXXXX said the King had instructed two of his loyalists
to convey his desire that PAD leave Government House.
(One of these messengers was well-known associate of the King
Disathorn Watcharothai, who said publicly on October 29 that
Thais who love the King should “go home”; see ref A.)
XXXXXXXXXXXX considered XXXXXXXXXXXX to be obstinate, however,
saying Sondhi had become obsessed with his own sense of mission.
By contrast, XXXXXXXXXXXX thought that XXXXXXXXXXXX was
reasonable and willing to compromise.
POSITIVE VIEW OF SOMCHAI ------------------------ ¶5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed to have spoken to Prime Minister
Somchai Wongsawat about the current standoff. XXXXXXXXXXXX
told the Ambassador that Somchai had agreed that the government
could meet with the PAD and reach a compromise, but the time
was not yet ripe. In his conversation with the Ambassador,
XXXXXXXXXXXX spoke highly of Somchai, saying he was “very good”
and had many qualities that made him suitable to be Prime Minister,
including a sense of fairness and a moderate temperament.
Nevertheless, XXXXXXXXXXXX predicted that Somchai could not
remain long in office because he would likely be forced out
by an adverse Constitutional Court ruling in the People’s Power
Party (PPP) dissolution case (ref A), which XXXXXXXXXXXX believed
the Court might issue before the King’s birthday (December 5).
XXXXXXXXXXXX guessed Somchai would dissolve the parliament
before being forced from office.
KING TO ANUPONG: NO COUP ------------------------ ¶6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX predicted that the current turmoil would not
result in a military coup. He said that the King, speaking with
Army Commander Anupong Paojinda, had referred to the 2006 coup
and made a statement to the effect that there should be no further
POLITICIZATION OF THE MONARCHY ------------------------------ ¶7. (C) We also met on November 5 with XXXXXXXXXXXX (strictly protect),
the well-connected scion of a wealthy family with close palace ties.
XXXXXXXXXXXX had a leading role in the XXXXXXXXXXXX; his wife,
XXXXXXXXXXXX, has the royal title of “XXXXXXXXXXXX” and works
closely with the Queen. XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed that the Queen’s
appearance at the October 13 funeral had highly negative ramifications,
saying that even politically neutral Thais felt she had inappropriately
brought the monarchy into politics. He also acknowledged increasing
semi-public criticism of the monarchy, focused on the Queen (septel).
XXXXXXXXXXXX stated with confidence that the King had sought to deter
the Queen from attending the funeral by questioning the wisdom of that
plan, but had stopped short of forbidding her to do so.
¶8. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX discussed former Prime Minister Thaksin’s
statement in his November 1 address to supporters (ref B) that
either “royal mercy or the people’s power” could allow his return
to Thailand. XXXXXXXXXXXX said this juxtaposition, which he viewed
as highly strategic, had the predictable effect of energizing
Thaksin’s opponents in the royalist camp. This reaction allowed
Thaksin to demonstrate publicly that many palace figures were aligned
against him, thereby eroding the prestige that the palace derived
from its status as an institution above politics. (Separately,
after Thaksin’s remarks, a member of Thaksin’s legal team told us
that the sentence in question was part of a “very refined product”
and that she had heard this sentence “four or five times” in
Thaksin’s rehearsal of the speech.)
THAKSIN’S ENEMIES’ PLANS FOR VIOLENCE ------------------------------------- ¶9. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX believed PAD continued to aim for a violent
clash that would spark a coup. He asserted that he had dined on
October 6 with a leading PAD figure (NFI), who explained that
PAD would provoke violence during its October 7 protest at the
parliament. The unnamed PAD figure predicted (wrongly) that the
Army would intervene against the government by the evening of
October 7. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted to us that PAD remained intent
on a conflict that would generate at least two dozen deaths and
make military intervention appear necessary and justified.
¶10. (C) We mentioned to XXXXXXXXXXXX the claim by Thaksin associate
XXXXXXXXXXXX that Thaksin had been the target of an assassination
plot (ref C). (Note: Subsequent to the Ambassador’s meeting with
XXXXXXXXXXXX, another Thaksin ally related the same claim, and
said Thaksin himself had spoken of this plot. End Note.) XXXXXXXXXXXX
suggested XXXXXXXXXXXX’s list of conspirators -- including two
prominent judges -- was not credible, but XXXXXXXXXXXX said he
could confirm (presumably because of first-hand discussion with
an organizing figure) that certain enemies of Thaksin (NFI)
had sought to kill him. XXXXXXXXXXXX said he had been surprised
to learn that the contract on Thaksin’s life entailed a relatively
low payment of only several hundred thousand Baht (in the range of
10,000 USD), although it also entailed resettlement abroad for the
person(s) directly involved.
REMARKS ON THE KING’S HEALTH ---------------------------- ¶11. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX (late August/early September). At that time,
he said, the King’s complexion appeared healthy, but overall the
King appeared frail. He added that the King was upset with the Thai
doctor who had organized the team that performed back surgery on
the King two years ago, as the operation had not worked as well as
the King had been led to expect. XXXXXXXXXXXX, in his meeting with
the Ambassador, also said the King was suffering from back pain,
and his activities were more limited than in recent years. JOHN