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07BANGKOK5839 CROWN PRINCE DISCUSSES MONARCHY, POLITICS IN AMBASSADOR’S FAREWELL CALL

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“130320”,”11/16/2007 6:52″,”07BANGKOK5839″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO7967

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2017

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PINR, KDEM, TH

SUBJECT: CROWN PRINCE DISCUSSES MONARCHY, POLITICS IN

AMBASSADOR\’S FAREWELL CALL

 

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

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) I paid a farewell call on Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn

on November 13. He appeared pleased with the news that his

father had been able to jam two days earlier for two hours

with the visiting Preservation Hall Jazz Band. He said in

general terms that the institution of the monarchy had helped

prevent Thailand\’s falling into a state of dictatorship, and

he labeled former Prime Minister Thaksin as a dictator who

had come to power through elections. He agreed Thailand

would likely be governed by a weak coalition government after

December\’s elections, with the pro-Thaksin People\’s Power

Party (PPP) unable to draw allies and PPP party leader Samak

Sundaravej unsuited to become Prime Minister. The Crown

Prince assessed the security situation in the South as

improving; he also commented that his Royal Consort had

experienced some frustration adjusting to her new role. In

an earlier encounter with Srirasm, she told me her son was

speaking energetically, contrary to rumors that he has shown

signs of autism. She exhibited visible discomfort with an

innocuous question about Princess Sirindhorn, seen as a rival

of the Crown Prince. Srirasm also confirmed that royal

poodle Foo Foo now holds the rank of Air Chief Marshal. End

Summary.

 

REMARKS ON THE KING

——————-

 

2. (C) I paid a farewell call on Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn

at his Sukhothai Palace residence on November 13. We began

by talking about the Embassy-sponsored Preservation Hall Jazz

Band event which he and Royal Consort Srirasm had attended on

November 10. Interestingly, the Crown Prince was unaware

that King Bhumibol had participated in a two-hour jam session

with the band the following day (November 11). He was

pleased with news of the session, saying it would have been

invigorating for the King \”after all he has been through\”

lately. He added that the King often preferred to

communicate through music rather than speech, noting that

musicians have a common bond that transcends language.

(Note: According to the musicians, the King was able to speak

normally and showed no sign of serious impairment from his

recent mild stroke. End Note.)

 

3. (C) The Crown Prince continued to discuss the King and the

monarchy generally; he praised his father for his

achievements while on the throne and noted the King always

conducted himself with the interests of the Thai people at

heart. He said, \”Without this institution, Thailand might be

a real dictatorship, like we used to have under (Field

Marshal) Pibulsonggram.\” (Comment: It was unclear whether he

was distinguishing the monarchy as an institution from King

Bhumibol\’s personal role. Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram

overthrew the absolute monarch and held power from 1938 until

1944, then again from 1948 to 1957 — including the first

decade of King Bhumibol\’s reign. End Comment.)

 

POLITICS

——–

 

4. (C) Turning to Thai politics, the Crown Prince remarked

that it must be difficult for outside observers to fathom the

complexity of developments here, adding that even he

sometimes found it hard to grasp. As we speculated on

scenarios for the upcoming election, he agreed with the

notion that the People\’s Power Party (PPP) might win the most

votes but prove unable to form a government, because people

recognized that PPP was essentially a reincarnation of Thai

Rak Thai, and returning this group to power would throw the

country into disarray.

 

5. (C) The Crown Prince rolled his eyes at mention of PPP

Party Leader Samak Sundaravej, saying that Samak would be

unacceptable as Prime Minister. While Samak could be an

effective public speaker, his judgment was poor and he had

always been brusque and controversial. The Crown Prince

assessed the current interim administration would almost

certainly be supplanted by a fragile and relatively

ineffective coalition government, quite possibly led by the

 

BANGKOK 00005839 002 OF 003

 

Democrat Party, with PPP forming a combative, strong

opposition force.

 

6. (C) Despite Thailand\’s long history of coups and its many

constitutions, the Crown Prince said, the Thai people loved

democracy and individual freedoms. He said he found it

ironic that Prime Minister Thaksin had essentially been able

to act as a dictator, although coming to power through

elections. (Comment: Early in Thaksin\’s administration,

Thaksin seemed to invest heavily in cultivating close ties to

the Crown Prince. The two men later had a spectacular

falling-out, prompting the Crown Prince to abandon the

Nonthaburi Palace that Thaksin had purchased and outfitted

for him, moving to the Sukhothai Palace downtown. Stories

vary about a meeting between Thaksin and the Crown Prince in

London earlier this year; the version we assess as most

likely is that Thaksin sought an audience with the Crown

Prince, and, when this was not granted, he inserted himself

into the reception line at the Crown Prince\’s hotel and had a

45-second discussion devoid of substance. End Comment.)

 

THE SOUTH

———

 

7. (C) The Crown Prince also noted that he and Royal Consort

Srirasm had recently traveled to southern Thailand. (They

were there from November 11-13, providing assistance to

residents of the troubled border provinces, performing a

religious rite to commemorate the King\’s upcoming 80th

birthday, and presenting honors to prominent local figures.)

He said the security situation in the deep was improving, but

it was necessary to travel there, to boost the people\’s

morale.

 

SRIRASM\’S ADJUSTMENT TO HER NEW ROLE

————————————

 

8. (C) The Crown Prince noted that Srirasm\’s life had changed

radically when she became a Princess; she had to master

massive responsibilities and deal with a wide range of issues

relating to protocol and the use of court language. Although

she conducted herself publicly with perfect grace and

composure, the Crown Prince said, in private she had felt

some frustration adapting to her new role. He added,

however, that Thais loved her because, like the King\’s

mother, she was a \”commoner,\” and her background added to her

charm.

 

DISCUSSION WITH SRIRASM AT JAZZ BAND EVENT

——————————————

 

9. (C) I also had the opportunity to speak with Srisasm when

we were seated next to each other at the November 10

Preservation Hall Jazz Band gala dinner. I asked at that

time how she had adjusted to the new protocols and court

language usage required of her. She told me that she had no

difficulties, as she had worked for the Queen for 15 years at

the Bang Pa-in summer palace.

 

10. (C) Srirasm also described her son, Dipangkorn Rasmijoti,

as a bit of a prodigy, noting that he speaks energetically —

mostly in Thai, but also in English (in which he receives

instruction). She remarked that Dipangkorn tended to speak

like an adult, because he was always in the company of

adults. (Comment: If true, this account would appear to put

to rest rumors of autism. End Comment.)

 

11. (C) I mentioned to Srirasm that, during the state dinner

hosted by the King for former President Bush in December

2006, the King had appeared most energized when discussing

animals; he had spoken animatedly about his most well-known

dog, Thongdaeng, and others. I mentioned having heard

Princess Sirindhorn had a large dog, and I asked Srirasm if

she knew the breed. Srirasm appeared immediately to freeze

up; her body language changed, and she said curtly that she

knew nothing of Sirindhorn\’s affairs. (Comment: Her reaction

was interesting, given a widespread, longstanding perception

that Sirindhorn may somehow edge out the Crown Prince as

successor to the King. End Comment.)

 

12. (C) Srirasm also confirmed that the Crown Prince\’s

miniature poodle, Foo Foo, currently holds the rank of Air

 

BANGKOK 00005839 003 OF 003

 

Chief Marshal. Foo Foo was present at the event, dressed in

formal evening attire complete with paw mitts, and at one

point during the band\’s second number, he jumped up onto the

head table and began lapping from the guests\’ water glasses,

including my own. The Air Chief Marshal\’s antics drew the

full attention of the 600-plus audience members, and remains

the talk of the town to this day.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

13. (C) The Crown Prince appears healthy. I was recently

told by M.R. Pridiyathorn Devakula, former Deputy Prime

Minister and Palace insider, that the reason the Crown Prince

had looked gaunt and was walking unsteadily a few months ago

(which sparked rumors of his failing health) was because he

was wearing some kind of constricting apparel under his

clothing. The doctors told him to take it off, and he

immediately looked more fit and stable. In conversation with

me, he was able to engage in easy back-and-forth discussion

throughout.

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:44 am

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