Archive for December 16th, 2010
Source: Guardian http://goo.gl/H5uaj 15/12/2010
Thai leaders harbour grave misgivings about the crown prince’s fitness to become king owing to his reputation as a womaniser and links to a fugitive former prime minister, according to a leaked US diplomatic cable.
Three senior members of Thailand‘s powerful privy council, a group of advisers appointed by the king, make clear their preference for an alternative to Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, who is considered a political liability because of his extramarital affairs in several European countries.
The succession is of pressing concern as King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who turned 83 this month, is in poor health. Revered by most Thais, he is one of the few unifying figures in a country deeply divided between an urban elite and a rural poor.
The great fear within the authorities is that with the divisive figure of the crown prince as king, any future political turbulence could split Thailand in two. The military and the police rely on loyalty to the crown to maintain control and without it their authority would be greatly weakened.
This year Thailand experienced the worst political violence in its modern history. Ninety-one people died as protesters who support Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted as prime minister in a 2006 military coup, called for the dissolution of parliament and new elections. A state of emergency imposed at the time still remains in force.
The cable, written by the US ambassador, Eric John, in January, reports on his conversations with General Prem Tinsulanonda, the head of the privy council and a former prime minister, Anand Panyarachun, another former prime minister, and Air Chief Marshall Siddhi Savetsila.
“All three had quite negative comments about Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn,” the cable reads. “While asserting that the crown prince will become King, both Siddhi and Anand implied the country would be better off if other arrangements could be made. Siddhi expressed preference for Princess Sirindhorn; Anand suggested only the King would be in a position to change succession, and acknowledged a low likelihood of that happening.”
There are repeated references to the prince’s affairs. When the US ambassador asked where the prince was, Prem is quoted as saying: “You know his social life, how he is,” which John says is a “presumed reference to Vajiralongkorn’s preference to spend time based out of Munich with his main mistress, rather than in Thailand with his wife and son”.
John also conveys Siddhi’s observations about the prince’s dalliances. The cable states: “Siddhi, in a similar vein, noted that the Crown Prince frequently slipped away from Thailand, and that information about his air hostess mistresses was widely available on websites; he lamented how his former aide, now Thai ambassador to Germany, was forced to leave Berlin for Munich often to receive Vajiralongkorn.”
Apart from their concerns over the prince’s behaviour, the privy council members also express unease over his ties with the fugitive ex-prime minister Thaksin, best known in the UK for owning Manchester City football club from 2007 to 2008. Thaksin spends most of his time in Dubai in self-imposed exile.
“Prem acknowledged Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn probably maintained some sort of relationship with fugitive former PM Thaksin, ‘seeing him from time to time’. Prem, clearly no fan of either man, cautioned that Thaksin ran the risk of self-delusion if he thought that the Crown Prince would act as his friend/supporter in the future merely because of Thaksin’s monetary support; ‘he does not enjoy that sort of relationship.'”
In the cable, Anand blames the king’s poor health partly on Thaksin, who at the time was acting as a political adviser to the Cambodian government. The king was in hospital in January, exercising 30 minutes a day on a stationary bicycle and passing a medicine ball with a physical therapist to build up strength and regain weight.
Despite their reservations about the crown prince, John’s interlocutors seemed resigned to his becoming king.
“Anand said that he had always believed that the Crown Prince would succeed his father, according to law. However, there could be complicating factors – if Vajiralongkorn proved unable to stay out of politics, or avoid embarrassing financial transactions … The consensus view among many Thai was that the Crown Prince could not stop either, nor would he be able, at age 57, to rectify his behaviour,” the cable reads.
“After another pause, Anand added that someone really should raise the matter with the King, before adding with regret that there really was no one who could raise such a delicate topic (note: implied was the need for an alternative to Vajiralongkorn).”
Royal intrigue is also conveyed in another cable by John in October 2008. This confidential message reports on complaints by Samak Sundaravej, a former prime minister, that Queen Sirikit encouraged the coup that overthrew Thaksin.
“He showed disdain for Queen Sirikit,” John writes, “claiming that she had been responsible for the 2006 coup d’etat as well as the ongoing turmoil generated by PAD [People’s Alliance for Democracy] 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.”
What constitutes an insult?
The Thai royal family is protected by the country’s lese majesty laws, making it an offence to insult the monarchy.
Under article 112, anyone can file a complaint against someone they consider to have defamed the monarch.
Missing from the code, however, is a definition of what actions constitute defamation or insult. Neither the king nor any member of the royal family has ever filed any charges under this law.
In 2005, King Bhumibol encouraged criticism: “I am not afraid if the criticism concerns what I do wrong, because then I know.” He later added: “But the king can do wrong.”
Since 2005, use of the law has been on the rise, for politicians, journalists and activists.
In March 2007, a Swiss, Oliver Jufer, convicted of lese majesty, was sentenced to 10 years for spray-painting graffiti on portraits of the king while drunk. He was pardoned then deported.
In 2008, Jonathan Head, the BBC’s south-east Asia correspondent and vice-president of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand, was accused of lese majesty by a police colonel, Watanasak Mungkijakarndee. Watanasak said Head’s reporting between 2006 and 2008 had “damaged and insulted the monarchy”. The BBC rejected the charges as groundless.
Also in 2008, Harry Nicolaides, an Australian, was arrested at Bangkok’s international airport and charged with lese majesty, for an offending passage in his self-published book Verismilitude. After pleading guilty, he was jailed for three years. He was deported last year after being pardoned by the king.
In June, the Thai government, which has removed tens of thousands of web pages in recent years for insulting the royal family, approved the creation of an online crime agency that will pursue alleged violators of the lese majesty laws.
• The paragraph referring to Jonathan Head was amended on Thursday 16 December 2010 at 8.49am, removing a reference to him being expelled. The BBC says Head was not expelled but moved on as part of his rotation.
Thai officials worried about crown prince
Source: http://goo.gl/iVVvj 15/12/2010
LONDON (AFP) – Top palace officials in Thailand expressed concerns about the prospect of the crown prince becoming king, a leaked US diplomatic cable showed.
Three influential Thai figures, including two senior advisers to revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, “had quite negative comments about Crown Prince (Maha) Vajiralongkorn,” said the January 2010 memo from the US embassy in Bangkok.
Two of them, while asserting that the crown prince would become king, “implied the country would be better off if other arrangements could be made,” according to the cable, published by British daily The Guardian, which obtained the confidential document from the WikiLeaks whistleblower website.
It cited concerns about his private life and suspected links to fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who remains hugely popular with many rural poor but is seen by the establishment as corrupt and a threat to the monarchy.
King Bhumibol, the world’s longest reigning monarch, widely revered as a demi-god by many Thais, has been hospitalised since September 2009.
The 83-year-old has no official political role but is seen as a unifying figure in a country that has been frequently riven by political violence, particularly since the 2006 military coup which ousted Thaksin from office.
Any discussion of the royal family is an extremely sensitive topic in Thailand, where the palace has been silent over the organisation of the king’s succession.
Anxiety over the king’s health sent Thailand’s stock market plunging in October 2009.
“On the two most difficult and sensitive issues of the day in Thailand — Thaksin and the monarchy — the Thai elite appear as unsure about the future as any other sector of society,” the cable said.
“The stakes are significant for all sides, and resolution of the political divide and royal succession could still be far over the horizon.”
Just weeks after the memo was sent Thaksin’s red-shirted supporters staged mass opposition protests in Bangkok, sparking violence that left more than 90 people dead in a series of clashes between demonstrators and armed troops.
General Prem Tinsulanonda, a former premier who is head of the privy council of advisers to the palace, was “clearly no fan” of the crown prince, Bhumibol’s only son, the US cable said.
“When Ambassador (Eric John) asked where the Crown Prince was currently, in Thailand or Europe, Prem replied dismissively: ‘You know his social life, how he is’,” it added.
The memo said this was “a presumed reference to Vajiralongkorn’s preference to spend time based out of Munich… rather than in Thailand with his wife and son.”
Prem also said the prince “probably maintained some sort of relationship” with Thaksin, who lives overseas to avoid a prison sentence for corruption and is accused by the Thai authorities of inciting unrest from overseas.
The memo also quoted Siddhi Savetsila, a retired military office and privy council member, who stated that succession “would be a difficult transition time for Thailand.”
It said he “expressed preference” for Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who is widely respected by Thais for her charitable work.
A third influential figure, former premier Anand Panyarachun, “suggested only the King would be in a position to change succession, and acknowledged a low likelihood of that happening,” the cable added.
“Anand added that the consensus view among many Thai was that the Crown Prince could not stop either, nor would he be able, at age 57, to rectify his behavior,” according to the memo.
Source: BBC 17/12/2010 http://goo.gl/K1vS2
Wikileaks cable: ‘Thai concerns about Crown Prince
A leaked US diplomatic cable obtained by the Wikileaks website says three influential figures in Thailand expressed concerns about the prospect of the crown prince becoming king.
Two of those mentioned are senior advisers to the king.
The cable was sent to Washington in January this year by the then American ambassador in Bangkok.
The ailing 83-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej is the world’s longest-reigning current head of state.
The reverence in which the monarch is held is invariably evident whenever and wherever he appears in public.
Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn is in his late fifties.
The ambassador’s cable quotes alleged conversations with General Prem Tinsulanonda, the head of the privy council, and two former prime ministers, Anand Panyarachun and Air Chief Marshall Siddhi Savetsila.
It says all three had quite negative comments about the crown prince and two of them – while asserting that the crown prince will become king – implied that the country would be “better off if other arrangements could be made”.
The cable also cited concerns about the crown prince’s private life.
The ambassador’s conclusion in the cable is that “on the two most difficult and sensitive issues of the day in Thailand – [ousted Prime Minister] Thaksin [Shinawatra] and the monarchy – the Thai elite appear as unsure about the future as any other sector of society”.
He says the stakes are significant for all sides.
Analysts point out that these views are reported in a cable sent at the start of what has been one of the most turbulent years in Thailand’s recent history.
Dr Tim Forsyth, an East Asia expert from the Development Studies Institute at the London School of Economics, told the BBC:
“The Wikileaks cables certainly give the impression that the members of the privy council of Thailand are concerned about the suitability of the crown prince. Of course these cables are unconfirmed and it is very difficult for outside people to comment on it.
“But it does seem to suggest that some of the origins of the political problems in Thailand over the last few years are somehow connected to this worry about what will happen to the monarchy.
Dr Forsyth said some people in Thailand had told him that the 2006 coup which sought to depose Thaksin Shinawatra as prime minister took place partly because they were worried about the relationship between him and members of the royal family.
“This might suggest,” Dr Forsyth said, “that this underlying uncertainty about the royal family might be part of the political problems going on in Thailand over the last few years, such as the riots in Bangkok earlier this year.”
There has been no comment so far from those cited in the leaked US cable, including the crown prince.
Thani Thongpakdi, foreign ministry spokesman, said: “Regarding documents that have been released by Wikileaks in general, Thailand is not in a position to confirm the accuracy or authenticity of such documents because they were not issued by us.
“Additionally many documents seem to be conveying hearsay or gossip which in some circumstances may have been reported out of context. We should therefore not give credence to them.”
Source: Council of Foreign Relations http://goo.gl/LrSKo 16/12/2010
More Reading the Wikileaks Cables: Thailand’s Monarchy
The latest bunch of released Wikileaks cables, online at the Guardian’s archive, offer fascinating insight into Thailand’s opaque monarchy, and should put to rest, once and for all, any idea that the royals stay out of politics except for occasions of national emergency, such as the bloodshed of 1992.
Theoretically, Thailand’s monarchy is “above politics” – the royal institution does not involve itself in political life, and is theoretically a constitutional monarch, like Queen Elizabeth II. Of course, Thais and experienced Thailand watchers know this is not the case; Thailand scholar Duncan McCargo, at Leeds University, coined the term “network monarchy” to explain how the palace influences politics through a network of its supporters and loyalists. But the recent batch of leaked cables show in much more detail how directly the monarchy intervenes in Thai politics, and how much more regularly it intervenes than some Thai observers thought. The royals are hardly saving their powder for occasional instances of dire national emergency. Inone cable, a former Thai prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, tells US officials that Thailand’s Queen Sirikit pushed for the 2006 coup against former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and also backed anti-government protests by groups that had demonstrated against Thaksin. In another, senior Thai officials tell American diplomats that Thailand’s king “explicitly told [army commander] Anupong Paojinda not to launch a coup” in 2008, two years after the previous putsch.
Though these cables will be blocked from servers in Thailand, and Bangkok-based newspapers and bloggers will refer to them without referencing the royal family, for fear of being charged with lèse majesté, undoubtedly many Thais will find out about them, just as they have found out about most other stories about the royal family. Of course, Thailand’s government will officially ignore them. But eventually, it will have to address their substance. In yet another cable, senior Thai officials express dismay to the US ambassador at the eventual transition to Thailand’s crown prince, whom they hint is flighty, womanizing, and unsuited to rule. When he finally takes over the palace, if Thailand has not crafted a better way to contain the monarchy’s influence, there could be major trouble.
Source: Reuters 17/12/2010 http://goo.gl/2DxiH
Analysis: Leaked cables shed light on Thai succession risks
By Andrew Marshall
SINGAPORE | Fri Dec 17, 2010 3:36am EST
Reuters) – Confidential U.S. Embassy cables released by WikiLeaks have shed unprecedented light on the biggest political risk faced by investors inThailand — the prospect of a royal succession intensifying social conflict.
Strict lese-majeste laws make it hard for investors to make informed predictions, but the issue of succession looms large at a time of deepening tension in Thailand following the worst political violence in its modern history over April and May.
While 83-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world’s longest-serving monarch, commands supreme moral authority in Thailand, the leaked cables show doubts among key royal advisers about the suitability of his son and heir, 58-year-old Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn.
General Prem Tinsulanonda, the head of the privy council and a former prime minister, Anand Panyarachun, another former prime minister, and privy councilor Siddhi Savetsila all expressed concern about the prince as the likely heir in private conversations, according to a leaked cable written by former U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Eric John.
“All three had quite negative comments about Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn,” John wrote in a memo dated January 25, 2010, and posted on the Guardian newspaper’s website on Thursday.
There has been no public comment by those quoted in the leaked cable on whether the comments attributed to them are genuine. “We’re not in a position to comment on the authenticity and accuracy of these documents because they did not originate from us,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongpakdihe.
Although talk of the Thai monarchy’s role and possible problems on the horizon are taboo and illegal, the topic is followed closely in Thailand’s financial markets, which fell briefly last year on concerns over the King’s health.
Siddhi, an Air Chief Marshall, acknowledged that “succession would be a difficult transition time for Thailand,” the U.S. ambassador said in the memo.
“While asserting that the Crown Prince will become King, both Siddhi and Anand implied the country would be better off if other arrangements could be made. Siddhi expressed preference for Princess Sirindhorn,” John wrote.
Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn is highly respected by Thais, while there is widespread disapproval of the prince’s lifestyle.
“Anand suggested only the King would be in a position to change succession, and acknowledged a low likelihood of that happening.”
Analysts say privately that there could be a prolonged period of turmoil and even civil unrest if the succession does not go smoothly.
“It’s the big issue, there is no doubt about it, and it comes up often in private discussions with our clients but it is not something to be aired in public,” said a Singapore-based regional analyst at an international investment bank, who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the subject.
Another major bank said in a report that succession worries impose a political risk discount on Thai assets.
Thailand’s financial markets are among the world’s strongest this year. Stock prices are up more than 40 percent and the Thai baht is trading at 13-year highs, making Thailand among several emerging markets vulnerable to a correction.
Monday, 25 January 2010, 07:59
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 000192
STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR WALTON
EO 12958 DECL: 01/25/2030
TAGS PREL, PGOV, TH
SUBJECT: THAILAND: AMBASSADOR ENGAGES PRIVY COUNCIL CHAIR
PREM, OTHER “ESTABLISHMENT” FIGURES ON YEAR AHEAD
REF: BANGKOK 184 (SEH DAENG)
BANGKOK 00000192 001.2 OF 003
Classified By: Ambassador Eric G. John, reason 1.4 (b,d)
1. (S) Summary: Ambassador paid a series of New Year’s-related calls on influential
Thai figures,including Privy Council Chair GEN Prem, Privy Council member ACM
Siddhi, and former PM Anand,
to discuss the year ahead. Abhisit’s performance, issues related to the royal family,
and challenges posed by Thaksin/Hun Sen emerged as the primary themes. Prem
offered a more positive assessment of Abhisit’s performance than Siddhi, who
criticized Abhisit for a lack of resolve and the absence of an effective team to carry
out his policies. All three focused on the challenge posed by Thaksin to the
government and, indirectly, to the monarchy; Anand attributed part of the King’s
poor health to Thaksin, and both Prem and Siddhi were upset about Thaksin’s
alliance of convenience with Cambodian leader Hun Sen. All three had quite
negative comments about Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn. While asserting that
the Crown Prince will become King, both Siddhi and Anand implied the country
would be better off if other arrangements could be made. Siddhi expressed
preference for Princess Sirindhorn; Anand suggested only the King would
be in a position to change succession, and acknowledged a low likelihood
of that happening.
2. (S) Comment: On the two most difficult and sensitive issues of the day in
Thailand — Thaksin and the monarchy — the Thai elite appear as unsure
about the future as any other sector of society. The stakes are significant for
all sides, and resolution of the political divide and royal succession could
still be far over the horizon. Elite concerns about Abhisit in office appear
to reflect less on his performance than on general worries about the
ultimate resolution of issues. End Summary and Comment.
Mixed Views on Abhisit’s performance
3. (C) Privy Councilor Chair GEN Prem shared his assessments of PM Abhisit,
the Crown Prince’s relationship with Thaksin, and difficulties dealing with
Cambodia/Hun Sen with Ambassador over lunch January 13. Regarding
Abhisit, Prem referenced widespread criticism that the PM was too young and
not strong enough to be an effective leader in trying times. However, Prem
felt that Abhisit had proved in 2009 that he was up to the challenge of doing
what was necessary to run a fractious coalition government, no easy task.
In addition, there were no other politicians available who were more principled
and had more integrity than Abhisit, and Thailand needed such a leader at this
point. Prem expressed hope that Thais and foreigners alike would be more
patient with Abhisit, who he believed was the right man to serve as premier.
4. (C) Fellow Privy Councilor ACM Siddhi, hosting Ambassador at his home
January 11, was more critical of Abhisit than Prem. Siddhi said that he had told
Abhisit’s father, his own long-time personal physician, that his son needed to
be more decisive and “make more friends” in 2010. Abhisit spent too much time
at the podium and not enough time assembling an effective team to which he
could delegate action and rely on for well-thought out policy initiatives, in Siddhi’s
view. Abhisit also needed to get out to engage the grassroots, one of Thaksin’s
strengths. On Siddhi’s wish list: Abhisit pushing through a permanent appointment
for Acting Police Chief Pratheep; using his power over wayward coalition parties
by threatening parliamentary dissolution if they did not get in line; and telling
the Army to take action to dismiss renegade MGEN Khattiya, even if Defense
Minister Prawit refused to sign a dismissal order.
Political Year Ahead
5. (C) While GEN Prem expressed moderate concern about the potential for violence
and political discord in early 2010, he felt the situation was no worse than six
months ago. Prem asked about U.S. laws regarding demonstrations and avoiding
excessive disruptions of government functions and daily lives of citizens; Ambassador
explained the U.S. system of permits for protests which allowed for free speech but not
free access everywhere. Ambassador shared U.S. frustration about decisions negatively
affecting economic/investment climate, such as Ma Tha Phut and the digital lottery
cancellation; the uneven application of the rule of law, breaches of contract, and
regulatory shifts affected the investment climate more negatively at this point than
6. (C) ACM Siddhi expressed more concerns than Prem about the security situation
in 2010, suggesting that Army Commander Anupong’s inability to control wayward
red-affiliated MGEN Khattiya’s M-79 attacks on yellow-shirt rallies and trips to
see Thaksin overseas was not a good harbinger (note: three days later, someone
attacked Anupong’s office at night with an M-79, with Khattiya widely seen as the
likely suspect, see reftel. End note). Siddhi said he had higher hopes for deputy
Commander Prayuth, widely expected to replace Anupong in October and seen as
particularly close to the Queen. Siddhi claimed Prem had sent a signal of his
displeasure with Anupong by snubbing him during a group call at Prem’s residence
to pass birthday greetings, not stopping to talk to Anupong personally as he did
with other key military commanders.
Royal Family: King, Crown Prince, Entourages
7. (S) Regarding King Bhumibol’s health, Prem indicated that the King was
exercising 30 minutes a day on a stationary bicycle at Siriraj Hospital and
passing a medicine ball with a physical therapist to build up strength and
regain weight. Prem acknowledged that he had not seen the King since the
hospitalization, but that the Queen and Princess Sirindhorn saw the King
daily. When Ambassador asked about the Crown Prince’s involvement,
Prem repeated: the Queen and Sirindhorn visit him daily.
8. (S) Prem acknowledged Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn probably maintained
some sort of relationship with fugitive former PM Thaksin, “seeing him from
time to time.” Prem, clearly no fan of either man, cautioned that Thaksin ran
the risk of self-delusion if he thought that the Crown Prince would act as his
friend/supporter in the future merely because of Thaksin’s monetary support;
“he does not enjoy that sort of relationship.” When Ambassador asked where
the Crown Prince was currently, in Thailand or Europe, Prem replied
dismissively: “You know his social life, how he is.” (Note: a presumed reference
to Vajiralongkorn’s preference to spend time based out of Munich with his
main mistress, rather than in Thailand with his wife and son).
9. (S) ACM Siddhi, in a similar vein, noted that the Crown Prince frequently slipped
away from Thailand, and that information about his air hostess mistresses was
widely available on websites; he lamented how his former aide, now Thai
Ambassador to Germany, was forced to leave Berlin for Munich often to receive
Vajiralongkorn. Siddhi raised Thaksin’s controversial November Times
On-line interview, which Siddhi claimed cast the King in a bad light and
attempted to praise the Crown Prince as broad-minded and educated abroad,
hinting that Vajiralongkorn would be ready to welcome Thaksin back to
Thailand once he became King.
10. (S) Ambassador mentioned to Siddhi the Crown Prince’s more engaging
approach in the early December King’s Birthday reception with Ambassadors,
shaking each envoy’s hand and appearing more at ease than in the 2008
reception. Siddhi stated that succession would be a difficult transition time
for Thailand. According to Palace Law, the Crown Prince would succeed
his father, but added after a pause, almost hopefully: “if the Crown Prince
were to die, anything could happen, and maybe Prathep (Sirindhorn)
11. (S) Ambassador similarly raised the Crown Prince’s more confident
demeanor with former PM Anand in late December, seeking Anand’s
assessment of the dynamics in play as succession inevitably drew nearer.
Anand’s response was similar to Siddhi’s, but more detailed and blunt.
Anand said that he had always believed that the Crown Prince would succeed
his father, according to law. However, there could be complicating factors —
if Vajiralongkohn proved unable to stay out of politics, or avoid embarrassing
financial transactions. After a pause, Anand added that the consensus view
among many Thai was that the Crown Prince could not stop either, nor
would he be able, at age 57, to rectify his behavior. After another pause, Anand
added that someone really should raise the matter with the King, before adding
with regret that there really was no one who could raise such a delicate topic
(note: implied was the need for an alternative to Vajiralongkorn).
12. (S) ACM Siddhi expressed his personal concern about the declining image of
the royal family in Thailand, noting that something as simple as excessive
motorcade-related traffic jams caused by minor royals was an unnecessary
but enduring irritant. Personal Private Secretary Arsa Sarasin had raised this
with the King about eight years ago, according to Siddhi, and the King had agreed,
authorizing Arsa to talk to royal family members and to set up new rules limiting
entourages and occasions when traffic would be stopped. Nothing had changed;
Siddhi noted that he had been caught up in traffic for 45 minutes the previous
week returning for a meeting with the Chinese Ambassador, due to a royal
motorcade. Stories that the Crown Prince now ordered second story windows
closed as his motorcade passed achieved nothing but additional popular r
esentment, Siddhi added sorrowfully.
Thaksin and Hun Sen
13. (C) Thaksin clearly remained on the mind of all three “establishment” figures.
Former PM Anand asserted that the King’s health and mood remained poor
“primarily because of Thaksin” and the challenge Thaksin posed to the stability
of the country. GEN Prem asked Ambassador what the U.S. would do in the
situation Thailand found itself, with a neighboring country appointing as an
adviser a former leader bent on bringing down the government. Ambassador
replied that while former U.S. Presidents did occasionally give paid speeches
overseas, they would never work for another government; he advised Prem and
Thai officials to take the high road in their public comments about Cambodia,
and not to be drawn into a tit for tat with Thaksin and Hun Sen. (Note: Prem
seemed to be musing out loud, but he clearly was focused on what he perceived
as a threat from Thaksin and Hun Sen’s facilitation of Thaksin’s efforts).
14. (C) ACM Siddhi said that PM Abhisit had called him on his 90th birthday
recently and had indicated that now that Thailand was no longer ASEAN Chair,
Abhisit would feel less constrained in responding to Hun Sen’s bullying rhetoric
more freely. Siddhi expressed concern that in addition to Cambodia and Brunei,
clearly in Thaksin’s camp due to his close personal ties with Hun Sen and the
Brunei Sultan, Laos and Vietnam might back Hun Sen in the ongoing
Thai-Cambodia diplomatic spat.
15. (C) ACM Siddhi attacked Thaksin as trying to use money, red-shirt protests,
and Hun Sen to “destroy our country,” but he predicted Thaksin would not succeed.
Thaksin never had tried to negotiate, Siddhi alleged, but only issued demands;
had he been willing to come back and spend a nominal time in jail for his conviction,
Thaksin likely would have been quickly pardoned/released as a former PM. Now
Thaksin would try to create chaos, possibly sparking the use of force. While Siddhi
expected Thaksin to lose the February 26 decision on his 76 billion baht ($2.3 billion)
in frozen assets, he claimed his sources indicated Thaksin still had 240 billion baht
($7.3 billion) overseas. Rather than live overseas quietly, Thaksin had decided to
fight, funding websites attacking the King and Queen to stir up
anti-monarchy views. JOHN