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08BANGKOK1879 FORMER CABINET MINISTER DISCUSSES LESE MAJESTE CHARGE, THAKSIN, AND ROYAL FAMILY

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“158655”,”6/18/2008 9:56″,”08BANGKOK1879″,”Embassy Bangkok”,

 

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/18/2018

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, PINR, KDEM, KJUS, TH

SUBJECT: FORMER CABINET MINISTER DISCUSSES LESE MAJESTE

CHARGE, THAKSIN, AND ROYAL FAMILY

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 1662 (LESE MAJESTE)

B. BANGKOK 1613 (JAKRAPOB TAKES AXE TO MEDIA)

C. BANGKOK 1612 (HOW HOT IS IT?)

D. BANGKOK 1370 (THEIN SEIN VISIT)

E. BANGKOK 1290 (DINNER WITH THAKSIN)

 

Classified By: CDA James F. Entwistle, reason: 1.4 (b) and (d).

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) Jakrapob Penkair, the former Minister Attached to the

Prime Minister\’s Office who resigned on May 30 after being

charged with lese majeste, told us on June 17 that he may be

prosecuted for this alleged offense, but he would expect to

be pardoned if convicted. He believed the police were likely

encouraged by the palace or its surrogates to pursue his

case, but he also fell victim to plotting by colleagues in

People\’s Power Party circles. Jakrapob claimed that former

Prime Minister Thaksin\’s lack of support for him, and for

Jakrapob\’s advocacy of a more democratic Thailand, showed

that Thaksin has withdrawn from political life — even though

Thaksin, in our view, remains involved in informal political

decisionmaking. Jakrapob also commented on King Bhumibol\’s

health and on the Queen\’s activities and her personal

connection to First Army Commander Prayut Chan-ocha (who has

featured prominently of late in coup rumors). End Summary.

 

LESE MAJESTE CASE

—————–

 

2. (C/NF) Deputy Political Counselor met on June 17 with

former Minister Attached to the Prime Minister\’s Office

Jakrapob Penkair (strictly protect throughout), who resigned

on May 30 after being charged by police with lese majeste

following media focus on his public description of a clash

between democracy and Thailand\’s traditional patronage system

(ref A). Jakrapob characterized the lese majeste charge

against him as weak. He said the investigating police

officers had admitted that a literal, word-by-word reading of

his public remarks presented no basis for the charge, but the

police nevertheless based their accusation on suspicion of a

\”hidden agenda\” against the monarchy that was revealed by the

overall tone of his statements. Speaking privately to us,

Jakrapob readily admitted that his goal was to help Thailand

to build a more modern political system, one in which the

structures of democratic governance would not be vulnerable

to interference by the palace.

 

3. (C) Jakrapob said he would provide the police with a

statement responding to the lese majeste charge on July 2.

His case would then undergo reviews by police officials at

two levels before it might be forwarded to public

prosecutors. Jakrapob doubted that those reviews would

result in the police dismissing his case, as such a move

would generate strong criticism of the police by royalists.

 

4. (C) Citing widespread public esteem for Thailand\’s

judicial system, Jakrapob told us he doubted prosecutors

would face similar criticism if they were to decline to

prosecute him. He claimed, however, that the high profile of

his case had led to widespread dissemination of a text of his

remarks, and this might make it more likely that this matter

would proceed to trial. He said he had recommended to

colleagues of his that they should use his case, and possibly

his imprisonment, to advance the public\’s interest (e.g.,

enlightening Thais about feudal elements of Thai politics,

including lese majeste provisions of law). Jakrapob said he

expected that he would receive a royal pardon if convicted,

as King Bhumibol has announced that he would pardon anyone

convicted of lese majeste.

 

STABBED IN THE BACK

——————-

 

5. (C) Jakrapob surmised that the police had been pressured

to pursue him by a loose cabal involving, possibly among

others, Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda, the

People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), and the Democrat

 

BANGKOK 00001879 002 OF 003

 

Party. He also felt that enemies of his within the

pro-Thaksin People\’s Power Party (PPP) had deliberately

stoked the controversy in order to force him out of office.

He claimed that some figures — such as Newin Chidchob, a

former legislator and close associate of former PM Thaksin —

had taken note of his efforts to reform media management in

Thailand (see ref B) and wanted to displace him in order to

accrue for themselves the influence and fringe benefits that

such efforts could provide.

 

6. (C/NF) Jakrapob told us with dismay that Thaksin had

quickly decided not to support Jakrapob when he came under

fire. Jakrapob said Thaksin had likely worried that Jakrapob

would use his position to engage in a \”long war\” (Jakrapob\’s

term) against the palace, and this could affect Thaksin.

Implying that Thaksin\’s and his political views were not

dissimilar, Jakrapob said Thaksin\’s lack of political support

for him showed that Thaksin had truly withdrawn from

politics. Jakrapob then speculated that Thaksin might be

willing to make a deal with the palace or its surrogates

whereby the Democrat Party could run the government. If

Thaksin refused that deal, Jakrapob speculated that the

anti-Thaksin cabal would continue to place pressure on

Thaksin and his allies through PAD demonstrations and the

aggressive pursuit of legal cases against Thaksin.

 

7. (C/NF) Comment: In our discussion, Jakrapob did not

resolve the seeming contradiction between his assertion that

Thaksin was out of politics and his speculation that Thaksin

might make a deal that determines who governs Thailand. In

an early June lunch meeting, Thaksin told the Australian

Ambassador to Thailand that he was out of politics, although

Thaksin also characterized himself as directing political and

economic events — \”driving from the back seat,\” according to

an Australian diplomat present. This portrayal of Thaksin as

engaged in politics while formally uninvolved tracks with the

impression he conveyed to the U.S. Ambassador in late April

— see ref E. End Comment.

 

REMARKS ABOUT THE ROYAL FAMILY AND GENERAL PRAYUT

——————————————— —-

 

8. (C/NF) We also asked Jakrapob about the widespread rumors

that First Army Commander General Prayut Chan-ocha would have

a leading role in the event of a military coup d\’etat (ref

C). Jakrapob explained this view by referring to a close

personal bond that Prayut had reportedly formed with the

Queen during his service with the Queen\’s Regiment. Jakrapob

alleged that this close relationship had allowed Prayut to

maintain direct contact with the Queen, who is widely thought

to support a confrontational approach to the current

government. The Queen fueled this perception when,

accompanied by Army Commander Anupong Paojinda, she visited

the \”War Victory Temple\” (Wat Channa Songkram) on the May 19

Buddhist holiday. That temple is not the traditional venue

for the royal family on this holiday, but is normally a place

where people pray before going into a battle of one sort or

another.

 

9. (C/NF) In a tangential aside, Jakrapob noted that, prior

to his resignation, he had accompanied visiting Burmese Prime

Minister Thein Sein to an April 30 audience with the King

(ref D). Jakrapob said that, at that audience, the King had

appeared in excellent condition and was mentally sharp.

Jakrapob added, seemingly based on hearsay, that the King has

\”good days and bad days.\”

 

COMMENT

——-

 

10. (C/NF) The public portrayal of Jakrapob as disloyal to

the King helped to energize anti-government sentiment.

Jakrapob\’s resignation, combined with the government\’s

decision to postpone constitutional amendment procedures,

lowered tension somewhat, although the PAD continues its

rallies and appears eager to find new ways to attack the

Samak administration. While Jakrapob did not directly insult

the King in the remarks that led to the lese majeste charge,

he does believe it would be appropriate to diminish the

 

BANGKOK 00001879 003 OF 003

 

palace\’s stature and informal political role. In his mind,

the fact that voicing this view could land him in prison

illustrates clearly his point.

ENTWISTLE

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 2:57 am

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