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08BANGKOK3119 THAI KING\’S SECRETARY ASSURES AMBASSADOR: NO COUP; ARMY COMMANDER GIVES SIMILAR ASSURANCES ON LIVE TV

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“173973”,”10/16/2008 11:32″,”08BANGKOK3119″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”08BANGKOK3080″,”VZCZCXRO7025

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/16/2018

TAGS: PGOV, KDEM, ASEC, CASC, MOPS, TH

SUBJECT: THAI KING\’S SECRETARY ASSURES AMBASSADOR: NO COUP;

ARMY COMMANDER GIVES SIMILAR ASSURANCES ON LIVE TV

 

REF: BANGKOK 3080 (QUEEN SUPPORTS PAD)

 

BANGKOK 00003119 001.2 OF 003

 

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

(b, d).

 

1. (C) Summary: The streets of Bangkok remained calm October

16; Royal Thai Army (RTA) commander Anupong Paojinda went on

live TV late in the day to reiterate that political actors

should resolve their differences and that military

intervention was not the solution. The King\’s Principal

Private Secretary Arsa Sarasin told the Ambassador on October

16 that Anupong would not launch a coup d\’etat. Former PM

Anand Panyarachun told Charge that the next three weeks were

crucial and perilous, but professed not to know what might

occur. Former Foreign Minister Noppadon Pattama, an ally of

Thaksin Shinawatra, told us that he considered a coup

possible but not/not a \”strong possibility.\” Noppadon spoke

highly of Anupong, but said anti-government demonstrators

would continue efforts to bring down the current government.

Noppadon did not believe dissolving parliament would serve

People\’s Power Party (PPP) interests, although he said Prime

Minister Somchai Wongsawat was considering this step as a

last resort. In an end of day development, the National

Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) found cause against PM

Somchai Wongsawat on charges of dereliction of duty in a case

dating back to 2000, when he was Justice Ministry Permanent

Secretary; the case now goes to the Justice Ministry\’s Civil

Service Commission for review.

 

2. (C) Comment: We are encouraged by the assurance the

Ambassador received from Sarasin, as well as Anupong\’s latest

public reiteration of his views, but we cannot entirely

dismiss the possibility of a coup. Anand, playing coy,

stated there would \”not be a coup in the traditional sense of

the word,\” but warned that the next three weeks were: \”very

perious; anything could happen.\” The NCCC decision against

Somchai and an expected October 21 verdict in ex-Thaksin

Shinawatra\’s corruption case are two wildcards; even if the

NCCC decision cannot force Somchai to step down, it will

likely be used by his opponents to claim he and his

government lack legitimacy.

 

3. (C) Comment, cont: We continue reaching out to

interlocutors on all sides to solicit their views and inform

them of our support for a peaceful resolution of the crisis,

within the constitutional framework, as well as our

opposition to a coup. Two Privy Councilors declined to meet

with us this week; a third agreed to a telephone call late

October 17 after he returns to Bangkok. The Embassy has

sought to facilitate a phone call from Admiral Keating to

Army Commander Anupong, which we believe would provide

valuable reinforcement of our message, although Anupong has

so far declined to engage. End Summary and Comment.

 

Arsa: No Coup

————-

 

4. (C) The Ambassador, in Hawaii for the EAP COM conference,

phoned Arsa Sarasin, the King\’s Principal Private Secretary,

on October 16. Arsa stressed that Army Commander Anupong

Paojinda and others in positions of authority understood the

negative consequences of a coup d\’etat, and Anupong would

not/not conduct a coup. Arsa said the Ambassador did not

need to worry about this scenario. Arsa also said that Queen

Sirikit would soon visit hospitalized police officers, to

dispel the perception of her support for the anti-government

People\’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD). (Note: This

perception spread after the Queen presided over the funeral

ceremony of a PAD supporter who died in a recent clash with

police — reftel. End Note.)

 

Anupong: Declines to talk but says army should stay out

——————————————— ———-

 

5. (U) GEN Anupong, speaking on live TV late October 16 at

the time of writing as part of a panel of all key military

 

BANGKOK 00003119 002.2 OF 003

 

commanders (Supreme Commander Songkitti and the three service

chiefs), reiterated his previously expressed views: the Army

must remain neutral; the two sides should resolve their

problems through discussion; and military intervention would

not solve the problems facing the country.

 

6. (C) The Embassy has tried to facilitate a phone call from

PACOM Commander Admiral Keating to Anupong to reinforce our

message. Anupong\’s foreign liaison office director indicated

Anupong \”did not feel comfortable\” engaging at this point

with foreign officials. In early October, Anupong aide

Colonel Saranyu Viriyavejakul told us that Anupong understood

well international views about the impropriety of military

intervention, had no intention of involving the Army in the

political process, and was exasperated that he was so

frequently sought out by Thais and foreigners to discuss the

ongoing political situation.

 

Anand: Perilous time

——————–

 

7. (C) The Charge d\’Affaires met on October 16 with former

Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, one of Thailand\’s elder

statesmen who retains close ties to the Palace. Charge

emphasized to Anand the USG\’s concern about the direction of

developments in Thailand, and the strongly negative response

the U.S. would have in the event of a coup. Anand offered

assurances that there \”would not be a coup in the traditional

sense of the word,\” but said the next three weeks were

perilous for Thailand, which \”never in history had been so

deeply divided.\”

 

8. (C) Anand claimed that the way in which the government had

dealt with protesters in front of parliament on October 7

might prove to be the \”turning point,\” regardless of whether

poor police training and impulsive on site command decisions

had led to what he considered excessive use of force, or

whether the action had been ordered by government officials.

Anand alleged that the handling of the protests, including

firing of tear gas horizontally at a distance less than 100

meters directly into a packed crowd compounded a situation

for a government which was failing to govern, failing to

manage the problems facing the country, and therefore lacking

legitimacy.

 

9. (C) Anand professed not to know a clear path which could

resolve the crisis, but he clarified remarks he made publicly

October 14 after the funeral of a PAD supporter killed on

October 7: ex-PM Thakin held the key to dissolving the

crisis. Thaksin could gracefully accept fate/legal judgment

for his transgressions, stop directing and funding political

activities, and allow the country to move forward. The

problem, stated Anand, that Thaksin did not want to give up

either money or (indirect) power.

 

Not wanting to hear our message?

——————————–

 

10. (C) Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda and Privy

Councilor Siddhi Savetsila, both seen as connected to efforts

to bring down the Somchai government, declined to meet/talk

to us October 16. Prem\’s assistant, a Vice Admiral, told us

that Prem did not feel comfortable meeting with foreign

diplomats at the current \”delicate\” time, adding that Prem

had declined a similar request from the British Ambassador.

Siddhi\’s secretary simply told us Siddhi was not available

this week. Privy Councilor (and former Prime Minister)

Surayud Chulanont, upcountry in Khorat, deferred receiving a

phone call from the Charge until the evening of October 17,

after he returns to Bangkok. (Comment: We believe that the

Privy Councilors could guess the purpose of the requested

meetings and that they most likely made a deliberate decision

not to engage. End Comment.)

 

Pro-Thaksin Ex-FM\’s Assessment

——————————

 

BANGKOK 00003119 003.2 OF 003

 

11. (C) We also spoke October 17 with former Foreign Minister

Noppadon Pattama, who remains active in PPP circles.

Noppadon told us he considered a coup d\’etat to be \”possible\”

but not/not a \”strong possibility.\” He speculated that

hypothetical chaos resulting from street demonstrations might

trigger a coup, and he assessed that the PAD \”no doubt\”

remained intent on bringing about the downfall of the current

government by whatever means possible. Noppadon believed

that the military had not intervened after the October 7

clash between the PAD and police because the Thai public

would not easily tolerate a coup, and because Army Commander

Anupong, whom Noppadon viewed as \”quite sophisticated,\” was

personally reluctant to launch one. Noppadon noted, however,

that pressure for a coup might increase if an investigatory

panel were to determine that Prime Minister Somchai had

personally directed the October 7 police action against PAD

protestors.

 

12. (C) We asked Noppadon whether Somchai was considering

dissolving the House of Representatives, as his opponents

have urged, in order to calm the situation. Noppadon said

Somchai considered House dissolution an option of last

resort. A new election would not solve the fundamental

problems afflicting the government, Noppadon said; PAD would

return to the streets in the event of another victory by the

pro-Thaksin party. He added that PPP would not fare as well

in another election as it had in 2007\’s; the party had new

leadership and was less popular, and it no longer could

campaign on a \”bring Thaksin home\” platform. It would be

wiser, Noppadon felt, for the PPP to hold on to the

advantages it currently enjoyed based on the last election\’s

results.

 

PM Somchai charged with dereliction of duty in old case

——————————————— ———-

 

13. (SBU) The NCCC resolved late on October 17 that PM

Somchai, while Justice Ministry PermSec in 2000, committed a

grave offense by not punishing two senior Ministry officials

for failure to impose a 70 million baht ($2.1 million) fee in

an auction of land belonging to a provincial court. Senior

Judge Chamnan Rawiwanpong filed a complaint at the time

against Somchai and then Justice Minister Suthas Ngoenmuen

(Democrat Party) for dereliction of duty. The NCC will

forward its resolution to the Justice Ministry\’s Civil

Services Committee to consider whether to retroactively fire

Somchai as a civil servant. If such a dismissal were to

stand up through an appeals process, Somchai\’s qualification

as an MP and as Prime Minister could be open to question. He

is under no obligation to reign as a result of this

indictment, however.

ENTWISTLE

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Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 3:06 am

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