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09BANGKOK2488 KING BHUMIBOL’S HOSPITALIZATION, PURPORTEDLY NOT SERIOUS, REACHES TWO WEEKS

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“227603”,”9/30/2009 10:14″,”09BANGKOK2488″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”SECRET”,””,”VZCZCXRO7817

PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

DE RUEHBK #2488/01 2731014

ZNY SSSSS ZZH

P 301014Z SEP 09

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8437

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 1967

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 7534

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 5837

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 0022

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 7073

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

RUEKDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY

RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY”,”S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 002488

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR WALTON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/30/2029

TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PREL, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: KING BHUMIBOL\’S HOSPITALIZATION,

PURPORTEDLY NOT SERIOUS, REACHES TWO WEEKS

 

BANGKOK 00002488 001.2 OF 002

 

Classified By: Charge a.i. James F. Entwistle, reason 1.4 (b,d)

 

1. (S) Summary/Comment: By all accounts, public and private,

81-year old King Bhumibol\’s ongoing ailments which led to his

hospitalization September 16 are not particularly serious.

None of the insiders who would be genuinely concerned were

his health in true danger seem worried — in contrast to

December 2008. However, as the hospitalization reaches the

two-week mark, and the now daily public medical updates

indicate that a low-grade fever/lung infection returned after

disappearing for several days, the King\’s inability to bounce

back quickly from an apparently minor infection highlights

his declining, fragile health. It also serves as another

reminder that Thailand will face momentous changes during

royal succession once he passes, uncertainties around which

have already been affecting political dynamics for several

years. Septel will look at the relation between

succession-related issues, lingering political turmoil, and

possible factors/scenarios, in more detail. End

Summary/Comment.

 

No problem? Yet Still Hospitalized after two weeks

——————————————— ——

 

2. (C) Officially, King Bhumibol was admitted to Siriraj

hospital on Saturday September 19, according the Royal

Household Bureau, which started issuing daily bulletins on

Sunday, September 20, the day that a well-wishers book was

opened for signature, starting with PM Abhisit and Army

Commander Anupong. The Ambassador was the first diplomat to

sign the book, on September 21; palace officials on hand in

the hospital were completely relaxed and indicated the King\’s

health issues were not serious. Army chief Anupong and Chief

of Staff Prayuth, known to be very close to Queen Sirikit,

told a small group of diplomats September 22 the same thing,

without any sense of evident concern: the King was in good

shape, the reasons for hospitalization not serious.

 

3. (C) This relaxed attitude, which continues, is in contrast

to the reaction last December, when the King suffered from

bronchitis, was treated on an I.V. drip at the Dusit Palace,

and missed his birthday speech. One of the palace officials

who has been relaxed the past ten days, M.L. Anuporn

Kashemsant, was distraught and disheveled when we met him

last December; at the time, he had lined up the royal

motorcade to take the King from the Dusit Palace to Siriraj

Hospital, stayed up all night, and showed evident concern

about Bhumibol\’s condition.

 

4. (C) The current hospitalization has not been entirely

smooth, however. Apart from an apparent \”W\” shaped recovery

— a low fever and lung infection returned after the King was

fever free for several days, according to the daily public

bulletins — our contacts with sources inside the King\’s

medical team and palace circles indicate that the King was

actually first admitted at Siriraj on September 16, after a

routine September 15 check-up uncovered some \”minor\”

concerns. We heard about the hospitalization on September

18, two days before it became public, and a day before the

hospitalization supposedly started.

 

5. (S) The four-day delay in the Royal Household Bureau

issuing the first health bulletin, and the shaving of the

time of the hospitalization by three days, indicates the

sensitivity and uncertainty with which palace officials

approach the issue of the King\’s health, minor or not, and

how much information to release to the public, even when the

situation apparently is not one for concern. That approach,

in turn, raises questions about how the palace will handle

more serious medical situations in the future, including the

eventual day practically no one in Thailand wishes to see:

the incapacitation and death of the beloved King Bhumibol.

 

Reminder of the Bigger Issue to come: Succession

——————————————— —

 

6. (S) Our contact who first tipped us off to the

hospitalization noted that this current hospitalization, like

the King\’s illness at the end of 2008, occurred in the wake

 

BANGKOK 00002488 002.2 OF 002

 

of royal family members being perceived to be engaged in

politicking, despite the standard that the royal family

should remain above politics: the Queen\’s attendance at an

October 2008 funeral for a yellow-shirt PAD (People\’s

Alliance for Democracy) supporter killed October 7 after

being hit in the chest by a police-fired, Chinese-made tear

gas canister, presaged last year\’s hospital stint; and the

Crown Prince\’s ongoing lobbying for a certain police general

(Chumpol Manmai) to be named the next national police chief,

against the nominee of PM Abhisit, who, it is widely rumored,

has received the backing of Queen Sirikit frames the current

story. Another potential family-related factor in bouts of

the King\’s poor health was the death and funeral of his

sister Galyani: his October 2007 stroke/hospitalization

paralleled her terminal decline (they were in the same

hospital), and the December 2008 illness occurred after the

evident strain of Galyani\’s elaborate cremation rites.

 

7. (S) There is clearly no way for anyone to analyze

accurately the King\’s state of mind, or draw certain

conclusions between political developments, possible mental

stress, and his physical ailments. However, one long-time

expat observer of the Thai scene, present in Thailand since

1955, has repeatedly asserted to us over the past year that

the King shows classic signs of depression — \”and why

wouldn\’t he, seeing where his Kingdom has ended up after 62

years, as his life comes to an end\” — and claims that such

mental anguish likely does affect his physical

condition/failing health.

 

8. (S) It is hard to underestimate the political impact of

the uncertainty surrounding the inevitable succession crisis

which will be touched off once King Bhumibol passes. Over

the past year, nearly every politician and analyst, when

speaking privately and candidly, regardless of political

affiliation or colored perspective, has identified succession

as the principal political challenge facing Thailand today,

much more important than normal political issues of coalition

management or competition for power, which clearly do factor

into the mix of political dynamics.

 

9. (S) The dynamics in the ultimate end game/last days of

King Bhumibol would likely differ considerably depending on

who was the Prime Minister, the governing coalition, the army

chief, and the leading Privy Councilors at that time, and

whether the King passed away suddenly or lingered in an

incapacitated state for a long period of time. Various

different political actors shape their short and medium-term

plans accordingly.

 

10. (S) It is entirely possible King Bhumibol will return to

his Hua Hin seaside palace several hours south of Bangkok in

the coming days and live quietly for many years – postponing

the day of reckoning and change that will inevitably come.

In the meantime, the bustle of normal politics and changing

societal attitudes will continue apace, while Thais keep a

wary eye on the health of their ailing King.

ENTWISTLE

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Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:25 am

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