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07BANGKOK5718 THAI KING LEAVES HOSPITAL; SUCCESSION MECHANICS

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“129038”,”11/7/2007 10:59″,”07BANGKOK5718″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,

 

“04BANGKOK4633|07BANGKOK5522″,”VZCZCXRO0179

OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #5718/01 3111059

ZNY CCCCC ZZH

O 071059Z NOV 07

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0549

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 7909

RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON 1950

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 3866

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 5118

RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1480

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHFJSCC/COMMARFORPAC”,

 

“C O N F I D E N T I A L

 

SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 005718

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/07/2017

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, KDEM, TH

SUBJECT: THAI KING LEAVES HOSPITAL; SUCCESSION MECHANICS

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 5522 (GOSSIP)

B. 04 BANGKOK 4633 (CHAKRI SUCCESSION)

 

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, reason: 1.4 (b) and (d).

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Thai King Bhumibol left the hospital under his own

power on November 7. His return to the Palace enables many

Thais to put aside for the moment anxiety about the

transformation of Thai society that will take place when he

leaves the scene. The Constitution and the 1924 Palace Law

on Succession have established procedures for succession in

the event of the King\’s death. Under current circumstances,

these procedures should lead to the Crown Prince\’s ascension

to the throne, but there is no precedent for royal succession

in the modern era, and it remains unclear how succession

might play out. End Summary.

 

KING LEAVES HOSPITAL

——————–

 

2. (U) At mid-day on November 7, King Bhumibol left the

Bangkok hospital where he had received medical care since

suffering a minor stroke on October 13 and returned to

Chitralada Palace. Thai television news footage showed the

King, moving steadily under his own power (but relying on a

wheeled walker) as he walked from the hospital to his

vehicle. The King\’s expression was his usual poker face, but

he appeared alert and acknowledged the crowd as his vehicle

departed.

 

3. (C) The King\’s public appearance and departure from the

hospital will enable many Thais to put aside, for now, their

anxieties surrounding the King\’s eventual departure from the

scene. However, while some Thais appear psychologically

unable to cope with the idea of the eventual death of their

revered King, many in the political class recognize that this

is a looming prospect that will transform Thai politics.

 

4. (C) We are not experts on Thai constitutional law, and we

believe that it would be highly inappropriate at this time to

begin to ask our Thai legal contacts probing questions about

the succession. We hope to have the opportunity for some

discreet inquiries shortly. Based on our understanding of

the relevant laws, we give our current assessment of the

mechanics of transition.

 

SUCCESSION – WHO\’S IN LINE?

—————————

 

5. (C) The primary law governing the succession is the Palace

Law on Succession of 1924. This law specified that the

King\’s oldest son should be heir to the throne barring

certain extraordinary circumstances (such as marriage to a

foreigner, or mental illness), and then rank ordered other

male relatives in the line of succession. For several

decades, the various Thai constitutions either contained no

provision for amending this law, or required any changes to

follow the same procedures as a constitutional amendment. In

the constitution of 1991, according to an account by a

reputable academic, it was specified for the first time that

the amendment of the Palace Law shall be the perogative of

the King. This same provision has been carried over in the

2007 Constitution. The King can declare his wish to change

the law; the Privy Council will draft the amendment for his

signature. Once he has signed, the Privy Council shall

notify the President of the National Assembly to inform them

of the change, and the Assembly president will countersign

the Royal Command. In plain terms, this means that the King,

on relatively short notice, can make significant changes in

the Succession law. This has been interpreted to mean that

he could, if he liked, designate his popular daughter to

succeed him, rather than his reprobate and reviled only son.

 

6. (SBU) The 2007 Constitution has other provisions relating

to royal succession. Article 23 specifies that, when the

throne becomes vacant, the National Assembly (consisting of

 

BANGKOK 00005718 002 OF 003

 

the House and Senate), upon receipt by its President of

notification from the cabinet, will convene to acknowledge

the King\’s designated heir (currently Crown Prince

Vajiralongkorn) and invite him to ascend to the throne,

proclaiming him as King. The Constitution does not delineate

any timeline for this process. There is an expectation that

the heir will be called very quickly, however. King Bhumibol

was proclaimed King the same day that this older brother died

of an unexplained gunshot wound in 1946 — even under such

alarming circumstances, the machinery of succession worked

quickly.

 

7. (U) Addressing the contingency of a vacancy on the throne

when an heir has not been designated — a scenario that does

not currently apply — the Constitution stipulates that the

Privy Council is to submit a name of the King\’s successor to

the cabinet, for onward submission to the National Assembly,

and for the Assembly\’s approval. It is not clear whether the

Assembly\’s approval would simply be pro forma (see para 9).

Although the Palace Law on Succession currently states that

the monarch must be a male, the 2007 Constitution, like

several of its predecessors, states that the Privy Council

may submit the name of a princess as the King\’s successor.

As the constitution is the highest law of the land, we

believe that a princess could be named under these

conditions, even if the Palace Law were not amended.

 

8. (U) The Constitution further specifies that the King may

appoint a Regent in the event that he is unable to perform

his functions; if required by circumstances (i.e., in the

event of the King\’s incapacitation), the Privy Council may

select a suitable person as Regent. If the King appoints the

Regent himself, the President of the National Assembly simply

countersigns the command. If the Privy Council selects a

Regent, the person requires the approval of the National

Assembly. One can certainly imagine that, if the King were

incapacitated and a Regent had the authority to act on his

behalf, that the succession process could be manipulated. At

this point, however, this is mere speculation.

 

ARE THERE ANY LOOPHOLES?

————————

 

9. (C) The Crown Prince is the designated heir. None of

provisions above matter much if he is still the designated

heir when the Kings dies — those provisions become relevant

only if the Crown Prince is removed from contention somehow.

The Palace Law on Succession does contain a loophole that

could, at least conceivably, be applied to this case.

Section 10 of the law states that: \”The Heir who is to

succeed to the Throne should be fully respected by the people

and the people should be able to rely on him happily. If he

is considered by the majority of the people as objectionable,

he should be out of the line to the Throne.\”

 

10. (C) Ref B provides further detail on the political and

legal aspects of succession, as well as concerns about the

Crown Prince\’s character. We note that, since reftel\’s

transmission in 2004, the Crown Prince\’s reputation continues

to suffer and may have declined further, in part due to the

dissemination online and by DVD of material harmful to the

image of the Crown Prince and his Royal Consort. Ref A

detailed reports that some in palace circles are working

actively to undercut whatever support exists for the Royal

Consort, and we assume that this undercurrent also has

implications for the Crown Prince.

 

MOURNING PERIOD

—————

 

11. (C) We are not aware of any legal specifications for the

length of the mourning period for the King; a period of one

thousand days is often mentioned. The heir would still be

monarch during this period, but the coronation ceremony — a

celebration — would not be expected to happen during this

period. The cremation ceremony for the King would, we

believe, occur at the end of the mourning period. We do not

know what would be expected during a mourning period. Public

celebrations would certainly be canceled, and most Thais

 

BANGKOK 00005718 003 OF 003

 

would find it inappropriate to attend concerts or other

entertainment events, at least during the early part of the

mourning period. Thailand\’s modern economy could not shut

down for 1000 days, however, and there would have to be

provisions made for life in the country to go on. That means

that schools, shops, and government offices would have to

reopen relatively quickly.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

12. (C) There is no precedent for a Thai King\’s death in the

modern era. Although the Constitution and the Palace Law on

Succession establish certain procedures, their pace and

susceptibility to manipulation remains unclear. What is

certain is that the King\’s death will prove heart-wrenching

for the millions of Thais who genuinely adore him, and normal

political life will come to an immediate halt for a period of

months and possibly longer.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:32 am

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