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08BANGKOK3080 THAI QUEEN SHOWS SUPPORT FOR ANTI-GOVERNMENT PROTESTS, PRO-GOVERNMENT \”RED\” TEAM REEMERGES

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“173599”,”10/14/2008 10:55″,”08BANGKOK3080″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO5094

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SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/14/2018

TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, ASEC, CASC, TH

SUBJECT: THAI QUEEN SHOWS SUPPORT FOR ANTI-GOVERNMENT

PROTESTS, PRO-GOVERNMENT \”RED\” TEAM REEMERGES

 

BANGKOK 00003080 001.2 OF 002

 

Classified By: Charge d\’Affaires, a.i. James F. Entwistle, reason: 1.4

(b) and (d).

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) Bangkok was calm October 14 as as Queen Sirikit sent

the strongest public signal to date of her support for the

People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) when she presided over

the October 13 funeral ceremony of an anti-government

protestor, Angkhana Radappanyawut. Shortly after the funeral

concluded, leading Thai forensics expert Porntip Rojanasunan

announced that her investigation indicated Angkhana died

after being hit in the chest by a Chinese tear gas grenade

containing a small amount of RDX explosive. Having postponed

an October 13 demonstration outside Bangkok police

headquarters, PAD\’s plan for the immediate future remains

unclear. After a five week absence, the red-clad

pro-government \”United Front for Democracy against

Dictatorship\” (UDD) reemerged with large, peaceful rallies in

Bangkok October 11-14. Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said

on October 13, after an audience with the King, that he

planned neither to resign nor to dissolve the House of

Representatives.

 

2. (C) Comment: The PAD postponement of its planned October

13 demonstration at police headquarters provided temporary

breathing space for several days, but there is no indication

it has abandoned its \”final battle\” approach to the political

conflict. We remain concerned that, if the PAD does conduct

a rally later in the week at national police headquarters, it

may turn violent. Once the Queen signaled her willingness to

preside over the cremation ceremony of Angkhana, an

extraordinarily unusual development, the PAD had every

incentive to let that event dominate the news cycle, which

strengthened the PAD\’s claim to be supporting (and supported

by) palace elements. In overtly embracing the PAD, the Queen

risks politicizing the monarchy in a manner which may prove

especially unwise at a time when challenges associated with

royal succession are looming. End Summary and Comment.

 

QUEEN PRESIDES OVER FUNERAL

—————————

 

3. (C) Queen Sirikit publicly signaled strong support for the

PAD on October 13, when she took the extraordinary step of

presiding over the cremation ceremony of commoner Angkhana

Radappanyawut, with Princess Chulabhorn, Supreme Commander

Songkitti Jakkabat, Army Commander Anupong Paojinda, Privy

Councilors, PAD leaders and opposition Democrat Party leaders

in attendance. Angkhana was one of two anti-government

protestors killed on October 7; the Queen almost never

attends funerals of commoners unless they have rendered

extraordinary services to the monarchy. Media outlets quoted

Angkhana\’s father claiming that the Queen had told him his

late daughter had supported the Thai nation and the monarchy.

 

4. (SBU) Shortly after the conclusion of the ceremony,

Thailand\’s leading forensics expert, Porntip Rojanasunan,

went on TV to discuss her findings regarding the

circumstances of Angkhana\’s death outside the Metropolitan

Police Headquarters late October 7. After test-firing the

type of Chinese tear gas canister used by police, discovering

that the canisters contained the explosive RDX, and examining

photos of Angkhana\’s wounds, Porntip concluded that Angkhana

died from being hit squarely in the chest with a tear gas

canister just before it exploded. Others had speculated that

Angkhana was carrying an explosive device that detonated.

 

SOMCHAI APPEALS TO NATION, PAD POSTPONES

—————————————-

 

5. (U) PM Somchai made a short televised appeal to the nation

late October 12. He expressed regret for the violence on

October 7, restated his intent to form two committees to

examine the causes of violence and compensate victims, called

on the country to unify in advance of a series of important

upcoming events–the mid-November funeral rites of Princess

Gallyani; the early December birthday of King Bhumibol; and

 

BANGKOK 00003080 002.2 OF 002

 

the mid-December ASEAN summits–and asked the PAD to vacate

the Government House compound and the streets.

 

6. (SBU) Shortly after Somchai\’s address concluded, PAD

leaders announced a postponement of their scheduled

demonstration outside of the police headquarters the morning

of October 13. PAD co-leader Sondhi Limthongkul said his

decision was motivated by the desire to focus public

attention on the funeral ceremonies for Angkhana and another

PAD supporter who died after the October 7 clash. A leading

PAD figure told us on October 14 that PAD had not yet decided

whether to proceed with a demonstration at the police

headquarters, which had been tentatively rescheduled for

October 15.

 

UDD RETURNS

———–

 

7. (SBU) After a five week absence in the wake of the violent

September 2 clash with the PAD which left one of its

supporters dead, the red-clad, pro-government UDD reemerged

the evening of October 11 with a rally of more than 10,000 at

Bangkok\’s Muong Thong Thani Arena, followed by a three day

rally at Bangkok\’s royal grounds (Sanam Luang). The four

original UDD leaders from 2006 led the rally, including

Jakrapob Penkair, the former member of Samak Sundaravej\’s

cabinet who resigned after being charged with lese majeste.

Another UDD leader, Veera Musikapong, reiterated publicly

what he had told us privately in early September in the wake

of the September 2 violence: the UDD aimed to show it was

more peaceful and law-abiding, and could rally a larger group

publicly, than the PAD. Another UDD figure told us October

14 that UDD would conclude its rally but would be ready to

mobilize for further protests in the event of a military coup.

 

8. (C) In addition to the alternative color scheme (red,

instead of yellow, the color of the King), the UDD has

consciously adopted several other symbols putting itself at

odds with both the PAD and the current monarchy. The PAD

uses plastic hand clappers at its rally; the UDD unveiled a

red \”foot clapper\” at its rally (showing the sole of one\’s

foot is taken as a sign of disrespect in Thai culture). In

response to the PAD\’s paramilitary, black-clad Sri Vichaya

warriors, the UDD unveiled its own black-clad guard force,

self-styled \”King Taksin warriors.\” (note: King Taksin was

the final monarch prior to the establishment of the current

Chakri dynasty, and was murdered in 1782 by his own

ministers).

 

PRIME MINISTER HAS ROYAL AUDIENCE

———————————

 

9. (SBU) King Bhumibol received Prime Minister Somchai

Wongsawat for an audience in Hua Hin on October 13. After

the audience, Somchai told the press that he had provided the

King with a routine update, and that he (Somchai) planned

neither to resign nor to dissolve the House of

Representatives.

ENTWISTLE

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 2:24 am

Posted in Confidential, HM Queen

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