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09BANGKOK2260 PRIVY COUNCIL MEMBERS, PALACE OFFICIAL QUASH THAKSIN PARDON SUGGESTIONS PUBLICLY AND PRIVATELY

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“223701”,”9/4/2009 8:47″,”09BANGKOK2260″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”08BANGKOK2243|09BANGKOK2167″,”VZCZCXRO8605

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STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR WALTON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/03/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, TH

SUBJECT: PRIVY COUNCIL MEMBERS, PALACE OFFICIAL QUASH

THAKSIN PARDON SUGGESTIONS PUBLICLY AND PRIVATELY

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 2167 (KING WARNS OF RUIN)

B. 08 BANGKOK 2243 (THAKSIN PREDICTS PARDON)

 

BANGKOK 00002260 001.2 OF 003

 

Classified By: Ambassador Eric G. John, reason 1.4 (b,d)

 

1. (C) Summary: Privy Council Members and a palace official

publicly and privately September 2-3 have dampened

speculation about the potential for any pardon or \”deal\” for

fugitive former PM Thaksin Shinawatra. The Thai media widely

reported the September 2 comments of Privy Councilor Ampol

Senanarong to a civil servant commission that Thaksin did not

exhibit the qualities of a virtuous leader, and fugitives

from justice could not file a petition seeking royal pardon.

Privately, deputy Personal Private Secretary Krit

Garnjana-Goonchorn and Privy Councilor GEN Pichit

Kullavanijaya told us September 3, at a lunch at the

Ambassador\’s residence held in honor of Privy Council Chair

GEN Prem Tinsulanonda, that while Thaksin was sending out

continuous feelers to palace personnel, there was no chance

for Thaksin to cut a deal and return to Thailand a free man.

Meanwhile, former Deputy Prime Minister and close Thaksin

ally Sompong Amornvivat told us that while Thaksin continued

to profess optimism about an \”imminent return,\” Sompong

personally did not see any viable channels through which this

might occur.

 

2. (C) Comment: While Thaksin himself told the Ambassador in

July 2008 that he expected a deal could be cut that would

lead to a pardon for him and a national unity government (ref

B), much water has passed under the bridge in the intervening

year plus to undermine his hopes and assumptions. Of most

note are his October 2008 conviction and his April 2009 call

for \”revolution\” during the height of the red-shirt rallies

that degenerated into mob riots in Pattaya and Bangkok.

Recent rumors about the renewed possibility of a pardon deal

seem sourced to red shirts or Thaksin associates; few give

credence to talk of a Democrat-Puea Thai alternate coalition,

apart from being rhetorical pressure for Phumjai Thai to fall

in line. While it is understandable why Thaksin would hope

to cut a deal for a royal pardon, it is less clear why anyone

associated with the Palace would support such a gambit just

months after Thaksin openly called for revolution. Privy

Councilors and other officials in direct service to the King

appear to see Thaksin as an existential threat to the

monarchy, an institution they have devoted their lives to

serving and protecting. When asked whether Thaksin would

ever return to Thailand, GEN Pichit quipped: \”Eventually, but

most likely in a coffin.\” End Summary and Comment.

 

All the King\’s (Old) Men – a brief primer

—————————————–

 

3. (C) The 19 elderly men who comprise the Privy Council have

few formal duties apart from advising Thai King Bhumibol when

he seeks advice, and playing a critical role during

succession, which has not been an issue in Thailand for the

past 62 years. Five are former Supreme Court Chief Justices,

with a sixth a life-long judge who served as PM; seven are

former flag-ranked officers; and the remaining six are five

career civil servants and one head of a state-owned

enterprise, many with an engineering bent. Having sworn

personal oaths to serve the King as public servants

throughout their working careers through age 60, they have

devoted their retirement years to being his personal

advisers. While highly esteemed in society, the Privy

Councilors generally shy away from politically-related

commentary in public.

 

4. (C) The Privy Council is separate from, but affiliated

with, the Office of the Principal Private Secretary (PPS),

which is headed by two former Ambassadors to the U.S., PPS

Arsa Sarasin and DPPS Krit, and responsible for

correspondence/paperwork for the King. Financial management

is handled by a different entity, the Office of the Royal

Household, along with two more separate entities, the Crown

Property Bureau and the Privy Purse. For the past decade,

King Bhumibol has spent nearly all of his time three hours

away from Bangkok, in his seaside Hua Hin palace. The

Bangkok-based Privy Councilors have relatively infrequent

 

BANGKOK 00002260 002.2 OF 003

 

interaction with the King at this point, PPS Arsa even less

so.

 

Publicly: Thaksin not a just leader, not worthy of pardon

——————————————— ————

 

5. (C) Three Privy Councilors have broken the soft taboo

against speaking publicly on politically-related issues in

recent years to speak out publicly against fugitive former PM

Thaksin. Privy Council Chair GEN Prem is the most notable,

and has drawn the wrath of red-shirt demonstrators, who

rioted in front of his residence in May 2007 and demonstrated

there again in April 2009. West Point grad GEN Pichit has

several times over the past year accused Thaksin of massive

money laundering through the Cayman Islands. On September 2,

a lesser known Privy Councilor, Ampol Senanarong, a life-long

Agriculture Ministry irrigation expert, waded into the

anti-Thaksin fray, at a time when rumors of alleged possible

Democrat-Puea Thai \”grand coalition\” arrangements and/or a

pardon for Thaksin were on the rise.

 

6. (SBU) Speaking on morals, ethics, and transparency at a

seminar held at the Civil Servant Commission, Ampol directly

addressed the issue of whether Thaksin were worthy of or

eligible for a pardon. Citing the \”dasavidha- rajadhaama,\”

or ten principles of a righteous ruler, Ampol contrasted the

King\’s virtuous behavior with Thaksin\’s misrule as Prime

Minister, claiming Thaksin exhibited none of the ten virtues.

Ampol, who attended King Bhumibol\’s two most recent

audiences, including the August 21 one in which the King

called for unity to prevent the country from falling into

ruin (ref A), stated flatly that Thaksin was ineligible for a

pardon. Ampol cited three examples, without naming the

individuals involved, of convicts who had fled instead of

serving their jail terms, and whose pardon requests were

denied by the King on these grounds.

 

Privately – reinforcing the sense no deal is likely

——————————————— ——

 

6. (SBU) Ambassador held a September 3 lunch at the Residence

in honor of GEN Prem, who turned 89 on August 26. Six Privy

Councilors (Prem, GEN Surayud, ACM Sitthi, GEN Pichit, Sawad

Wattanayagorn, and Atthaniti Disatha-amnaj), plus the King\’s

PPS Arsa Sarasin and the Deputy PPS, Ambassador Krit,

attended.

 

7. (C) Ambassador Krit, who served as Prem\’s diplomatic

liaison when Prem was PM from 1980-88 and was recalled from

his Ambassadorial assignment in Washington early to assume

the deputy PPS position in 2008, expressed regret that Ampol

had spoken up so publicly September 2. He suggested that

Prem had not authorized it and would have preferred not to

stir further public controversy. Ampol had been present in

King Bhumibol\’s two most recent public audiences, Krit noted,

and inevitably people would infer Ampol was speaking on the

King\’s behalf. However, Krit proceeded to be equally

emphatic in ruling out any potential pardon or deal for

Thaksin.

 

8. (C) Acknowledging that Thaksin had sent \”continuous

feelers\” to various people associated with the palace over

the past year, Krit stated forthrightly that: \”Arsa had shut

down all such known channels.\” Citing what he considered

Thaksin\’s incendiary and irreverent comments in April 2009 in

the Financial Times and elsewhere, Krit opined that a deal

with Thaksin would be \”unimaginable.\”

 

9. (C) GEN Pichit was equally blunt to us. Accusing Thaksin

of attempting to undermine the institution of monarchy and

return to Thailand to serve as \”President,\” Pichit said: \”we

won\’t let him.\” When asked whether Thaksin had a chance of

ever returning to Thailand, Pichit paused before adding:

\”Eventually, but most likely in a coffin\” after dying abroad.

 

Thaksin – still hoping for an early return

——————————————

 

10. (C) In a separate September 3 meeting, Thaksin ally and

 

BANGKOK 00002260 003.2 OF 003

 

former Deputy Prime Minister Sompong Amornvivat told us that

Thaksin continued to express optimism about his prospects for

an imminent return to Thailand. Sompong reported that he

meets with Thaksin frequently in Dubai — and will do so

again in a few weeks — and that Thaksin often ends their

encounters by stating confidently: \”I will see you in Bangkok

soon.\” When we asked whether this confidence was well

founded, Sompong said that he was not aware of any mechanism

by which Thaksin could return to Bangkok any time soon,

before adding that he personally did not share Thaksin\’s

optimism.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:57 am

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