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09BANGKOK2967 THAILAND: CIRCLES OF INFLUENCE INSIDE THE INSTITUTION OF THE MONARCHY IN KING BHUMIBOL’S TWILIGHT

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SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, INR

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/22/2039

TAGS: PGOV, PINR, PREL, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: CIRCLES OF INFLUENCE INSIDE THE

INSTITUTION OF THE MONARCHY IN KING BHUMIBOL\’S TWILIGHT

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 2606 (KING HOSPITALIZATION UPDATE)

B. BANGKOK 2488 KING HOSPITALIZED)

C. BANGKOK 2746 (THAKSIN MANEUVERS)

D. BANGKOK 2260 (PALACE OFFICIALS QUASH RUMORS)

 

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

 

1. (S) Introduction and Comment: With King Bhumibol

significantly weakened by a variety of ailments that have

kept him hospitalized for two months (refs A-B), realization

that the end of his 62-year reign may be drawing near has

heightened speculation and rumors about what might come next

for the Chakri dynasty. In the short-term, attention now

focuses on whether Bhumibol will be physically able to

preside over the annual King\’s Birthday military parade

December 2. Bhumibol\’s eventual passing will be a watershed

event in Thai history. It likely will unleash changes in

institutional arrangements in Thailand, affecting the size

and role of the monarchy, its relationship to the elected

government and the military, and the roles of both of the

latter, unmatched since the 1932 transition from absolute to

constitutional monarchy, which nevertheless retained the

monarchy at the core of Thai national identity.

 

2. (C) The Thai institution of monarchy remains an opaque

institution, full truths about which are difficult to fix

with any certainty. While many observers often refer to the

Thai monarchy as if it were a unified, coherent institution,

and use \”the Palace\” as short-hand in the same way \”the White

House\” or \”10 Downing Street\” is employed as a metaphor for a

clearly defined and located nexus of power, neither

description is particularly appropriate in the current Thai

context.

 

3. (S) There are in fact multiple circles of players and

influence surrounding the Thai royal family, often times with

little overlap but with competing agendas, fueled by years of

physical separation and vacillating relationships between

principals. Separate centers of influence/players focus

around: King Bhumibol; Queen Sirikit; Crown Prince

Vajiralongkorn; Princess Sirindhorn; and the Privy Council,

though the latter has less access/influence than many

suppose. In addition, there are supporting bureaucratic

entities such as the Office of Principal Private Secretary,

the Royal Household Bureau, the Crown Property Bureau, and

the Privy Purse, which employ thousands and manage assets in

the billions, as well as a bevy of minor royals whose

motorcades routinely clog Bangkok\’s roads.

 

4. (S) As with royal courts of old, rumors and alleged

machinations abound–two enduring purported \”shockers\” in

2009 have involved supposed negotiations between

representatives of Thaksin and \”the Palace,\” and stories of a

supposed \”December surprise\” involving an abdication

announcement. Neither ever seemed likely to us. Such claims

and other royal rumint should be assessed in the context of

the legal norms of the institution and the personal

relationships between principals and marginal players. Many

figures in the various circles attempt to appropriate the

charisma of the King and prestige of the royal institution

for their own purposes without any official remit, a process

known in Thai as \”ang barami.\”

 

5. (S) This is the first of two cables taking an extended

look at the players and elements affecting the dynamics and

implications of royal succession, both before and after King

Bhumibol\’s death; septel will examine succession scenarios

and implications for Thailand and U.S. policy. We offer this

\”royal primer\” mindful of the opaque nature of the

institution, the difficulty in establishing absolute truths

about public yet very remote royal figures, and the inherent

biases of inside players, even those we have known for years

(several of whom recently repeated a Thai aphorism about the

institution: \”those who know aren\’t talking, and those who

are talking aren\’t in the know\”).

 

6. (C) This assessment draws on Embassy institutional

knowledge and understanding based on the observations of

royal watchers, both Thai and expat, over the past several

 

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decades, as well as our interaction with many of the

secondary and more marginal players in the various circles

described. Most informed observers expect the transition

period associated with royal succession and institutional

redefinition to last at least five years; the cast of

characters and key players will likely change significantly

after succession, particularly when/if the Crown Prince

becomes King. End Introduction and Comment.

 

The King\’s Dwindling Circle of Men (and Women)

——————————————— –

7. (C) Cambridge, Massachusetts-born King Bhumibol Adulyadej

turns 82 December 5, by many accounts beset long-term by

Parkinson\’s, depression, and chronic lower back pain, and

short-term by an extended brush with pneumonia in

September-October that caused him to lose weight and, for

now, be wheelchair bound (refs A-B). As a result, his

current companions are most likely to be doctors and

physio-therapists from Siriraj hospital, along with his

second daughter Princess Sirindhorn, who often seems to act

as his defacto personal assistant, and Queen Sirikit.

 

8. (S) Until relatively recently, it was much different. The

King has lived nearly all of the past decade at his seaside

Klai Kangwon Palace (appropriately titled \”Far from Worries\”)

in Hua Hin, having abandoned habitual residence in Bangkok in

2000 as his health worsened. Queen Sirikit only rejoined him

full time in Hua Hin in mid-2008, concerned about his

declining health and with an eye towards more firmly managing

the transition to come. Prior to mid-2008, the King and

Queen had lived most of the past 20 years largely apart,

joint public appearances excepted. This unpublicized reality

started after the Queen disappeared from public view in 1986

for about six months to recover from emotional exhaustion, in

the wake of the King dismissing her favorite military aide de

camp. Their social circles diverged sharply from then on,

with very few figures spanning both camps.

 

9. (S) The King\’s decade-long sojourn in Hua Hin starting in

2000 significantly limited the amount of interaction he had

not only with the Queen but also those whom many outsiders

(incorrectly) presume spend significant amounts of time with

him: Privy Councilors; as well as officials of the office of

the Principal Private Secretary, all of whom are

Bangkok-based and do not have regular access to the King.

That limited access apparently has not changed during the

ongoing hospitalization in Bangkok, with M.R. Thep Devakul

the only Privy Councilor allowed into the King\’s room, and

that solely by virtue of his being a cousin of the Queen.

 

10. (C) Those few whose counsel the King has sought in recent

years, according to various sources, are neither household

names nor political players, but associated with his

charitable development foundations or his closest staff.

These include the sharp-tongued Thanphuying Butrie

Viravaidya, his deputy Principal Private Secretary (DPPS) and

wife of NGO activist Meechai \”the Condom King\” (Butrie is

currently ensconced at Siriraj Hospital); Wud Sumitra,

another DPPS; Sumete Tantivejkul, head of the Chai Patana

Foundation; Disathorn Watcharothai, Chair of the Rajanukhrao

Foundation and son of the Lord Chamberlain; and Pramote

Maiklap, former director of the Royal Irrigation Department.

The Privy Councilor closest to the King is likely Air Chief

Marshal Kamthon Sidhvananda, former long-time head of State

Electricity Giant EGAT, whom the King credits for

electrifying much of rural Thailand. His most regular social

interaction in recent years came in weekly late-Saturday

night jam sessions with his pick-up jazz band, whose

geriatric members have played with the King for decades.

 

11. (C) Inner circle proximity to the King may ultimately

mean little when it comes to influence/impact, however. In

the late 2008 political crisis caused by the occupation of

Government House, and ultimately Bangkok\’s airports, by the

yellow-shirt PAD activists claiming to be defending the

monarchy, both Sumete and Disathorn joined Princess

Sirindhorn in October 2008 in publicly stating that the King

did not consider the yellow-shirts to be acting on his

behalf. Disathorn went so far as to tell a seminar: \”if you

 

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love the King, go home.\” Instead, PAD leader Sondhi Lim

denounced both men from the PAD stage with curses; Sondhi

repeated his criticism of Disathorn at the November 15 PAD

rally. For her part, \”Mom Butrie\” has been known for years

as an outspoken opponent of Thaksin and the Crown Prince,

both of whom are reputed to regard her as their \”enemy number

one\” within the King\’s circle. Despite relying on Mom Butrie

for general advice and Princess Sirindhorn for assistance,

however, all indications are that the King is unwavering in

his insistence that the Crown Prince succeed him.

 

The Queen\’s Women (and Men)

—————————

12. (S) As the King withdrew from Bangkok-based public life

over the past decade, Queen Sirikit rose in prominence, and

she is expected by most to play a crucial role in the

succession transition, before and after the King\’s passing.

The Queen long maintained an active social life, with her

tradition of twice weekly dinners that would start near

midnight and last to dawn only ending with her move to Hua

Hin. Based mainly out of Bangkok\’s Chitralada Palace, she

regularly spent extended stretches at palaces in the north

(Chiang Mai), the deep south (Narathiwas) and the northeast

(Sakon Nakhon) through 2004, years after the King stopped his

provincial travels. A 1994 Puma helicopter crash tragically

robbed Sirikit of her most valued and respected advisers who

could steer her away from trouble.

 

13. (S) The ladies-in-waiting who are left, the closest of

which are Thanphuying Charungjit Teekara, head of the Queen\’s

Support Foundation, and Thanphuying Chatkaew Nandhabiwat,

appear to reinforce the Queen\’s tendency to be more

nationalistic than the King. Those sentiments have led her

astray in forays into political issues in recent years, both

her attitudes towards the Malay Muslim deep south/promotion

of Buddhism as the constitutionally- enshrined state religion

in 2006-07, and the 2008 People\’s Alliance for Democracy

(PAD) yellow-shirt protests. The latter culminated in her

disastrous decision to attend the October 13, 2008 funeral of

a young female PAD supporter killed by a police tear-gas

grenade, a move universally seen as dragging the monarchy,

which is supposed to remain above politics, into the partisan

fray.

 

14. (S) The men currently closest to the Queen include GEN

Prayuth Chanocha, Army deputy Commander and expected

successor to GEN Anupong as the country\’s most powerful

military figure as of October 2010; and Grand

Chamberlain/head of the Crown Property Bureau Chirayu

Israngkul. Apart from cousin M.R. Thep Devakul, the Privy

Councilor closest to the Queen is Palagorn Suwanrath. Two

others in her inner circle as recently as early

2009–businessman Piya Malakul and deputy Royal Aide de camp

GEN Naphol Boonthap, have now been largely pushed aside with

the Queen\’s assent, though not entirely out of her outer

orbits. Charungjit and Chatkaew (in the case of Piya) and

Prayuth (with Naphol) intervened, after the Queen accepted

the views of her closest associates that Piya and Naphol had

damaged her standing due to their freelancing/claims to act

on her behalf — Piya vis-a-vis the PAD, and Naphol, who

oversees a Village Defense Force (VDF) project associated

with the June 8 mosque massacre in the south.

 

15. (S) For many years, Queen Sirikit actively promoted Crown

Prince Vajiralongkorn\’s interests and was seen as his

greatest backer in the face of widespread public opposition

and open preference for Princess Sirindhorn. For instance,

she was the driving force behind the Crown Prince\’s 2003 trip

to Washington, which she intended as a cornerstone effort to

rehabilitate his image in the eyes of the Thai people as an

acceptable future King, one who had recently remarried and

would soon produce an acknowledged male heir.

 

16. (S) The mother-son relationship suddenly changed in 2007

for two reasons: the appearance of video and still photos of

Vajiralongkorn\’s wife Srirasmi in the nude on the

internet/CDs then widely available in Bangkok; and a noisy

row over the amount of time the Crown Prince was spending

outside Thailand. In 2008, the Queen and the Crown Prince

 

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had a shouting match at a hospital during the Queen\’s brief

hospitalization, with the Crown Prince angrily berating her

in front of ladies-in-waiting. Relations were further

strained in late 2009 over the Police Chief struggle, with

the Queen, supporting Acting Police Chief Pratheep, telling

the Crown Prince to back off his support of GEN Chumpol, and

he defiantly refusing to do so. Several of the key

ladies-in-waiting reportedly now refuse to be present when

the Crown Prince visits the Queen.

 

The Crown Prince\’s Men (and Girls)

———————————-

17. (S) Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn has spent most (up to

75%) of the past two years based in Europe (primarily at a

villa at a medicinal spa 20km outside of Munich), with his

leading mistress and beloved white poodle Fufu.

Vajiralongkorn is believed to be suffering from a

blood-related medical condition (varying sources claim he is

either: HIV positive; has Hepatitis C; is afflicted by a rare

form of \”blood cancer,\” or some combination which leads to

regular blood transfusions). His current (third) wife

Srirasmi and 4 year old son Adityadornkitigun, known as Ong

Ti, reside in his Sukhothai Palace in Bangkok, but when

Vajiralongkorn travels back to Bangkok, he stays with his

second mistress in the retrofitted Air Force VIP lounge at

Wing Six, Don Muang Airport (note: both mistresses are Thai

Airways stewardesses; the Crown Prince has shifted from

flying F5s to Thai Airways Boeings and Airbuses in recent

years. End note). Long known for violent and unpredictable

mood swings, the Crown Prince has few people who have stayed

long in his inner circle.

 

18. (S) One key exception: boarding school classmate Niphon

Promphan, who has long tended to the Crown Prince\’s

finances/affairs at the palace and recently resigned as PM

Abhisit\’s Chief of Staff due to the spat between Abhisit and

the Crown Prince over the Police Chief selection. Niphon is

widely tipped to be the likely next Privy Council Chair,

presuming Vajiralongkorn assumes the throne and cleans house.

A relatively new close associate and princely financier is

banned former Thai Rak Thai politician Anutin Charnvirakul,

son of Interior Minister/Phumjai Thai Chair Charavat, and

executive of the Sino-Thai construction conglomerate. Deputy

Police Commander Chumpol (see above) reportedly served for

many years as then PM Thaksin\’s bagman, delivering funds

skimmed from lottery proceeds to the Crown Prince and his

staff; more recently, Chumpol is alleged to have been the

conduit for Thaksin to \”gift\” a $9 million villa in Phuket to

the Crown Prince. Patsri Bunnag and her French husband

Jean-Michel often accompany the Crown Prince on buying trips

through Europe.

 

19. (S) Currently, the Chakri dynasty has but two eligible

male heirs: Vajiralongkorn and his young son Ong Ti, who

appears to suffer from both physical and mental developmental

delay issues and reportedly has regular seizures. Rumors

started flying in late 2009 that the Crown Prince might have

facilitated the return to Thailand of his oldest,

disinherited son Chudhavajra Polpraserth, born of his

eventual second wife Yuwatida when she was 16 and he was

still married to his first wife, Princess Somsowali.

Chudhavajra is known to have resided in Florida for over a

decade. Rumor has it that he obtained a pilot\’s license and

supposedly is now flying for Bangkok Airways or Thai Airways

after a successful \”second family\” reunion this past summer

in Europe. Rumint aside, there has been no public

acknowledgment of Chudhavajra\’s supposed presence, which

could alter succession dynamics (septel). As a sign of the

Vajiralongkorn\’s fickleness, the Crown Prince recently

returned to Europe, leaving Srirasmi and little Ong Ti to

preside at the November 15 royally-sponsored wedding

reception of Niphon\’s daughter.

 

Princess Sirindhorn\’s Circle

—————————-

20. (S) Known to most Thai as \”Prathep\” (angel, a term from

her formal title), Princess Sirindhorn is often mistakenly

referred to as the \”Crown Princess\” in English, even though

there can only be one crown heir (it is Vajiralongkorn), and

 

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Palace law does not allow for female monarchs. A professor

of U.S. studies, among other topics, at Chulachomklao, the

Thai version of West Point, Sirindhorn is clearly the most

beloved Thai royal after the King, bears the lion\’s share of

royal duties/ceremonies at this point, and serves her father

in such personal tasks as recently interviewing and hiring a

physio-therapist for him. However, her influence is actually

quite limited, and her future most uncertain. A majority of

royal watchers we have talked to, including many who know her

well, predict she will quietly leave the country once her

father passes, for both the stability of the country and her

own personal safety, leaving the Thai stage to her brother.

 

21. (C) Sirindhorn\’s closest aides are a long-serving, stable

group, starting with Passinee Limathakul and Valliya

Pangsrivongse, the two daughters of Pong Sarasin (Note: Pong

served as the Thai nominal owner of the share transaction

which allowed fugitive former PM Thaksin to sell his company

to Singapore sovereign wealth firm Temasek. End note).

Another close aide, Tirawat \”Ting\” Sucharitakul, previously

spent 20 years working outside Thailand at UNHCR and most

recently got himself entangled in Thaksin\’s \”Swedish channel\”

of negotiations, apparently representing no one beyond

himself (ref C). Two final close associates are Thanphuying

Araya Pibulnakarin, her Secretary, and Dr. Prapod

Assavairuthakarn, Sirindhorn\’s college classmate, currently

Dean of Chulalongkorn University\’s Faculty of Arts.

 

The Privy Council – less than meets the eye?

—————– ————————–

22. (SBU) The Privy Council is comprised of 19 elderly men,

ranging in age from their mid-60s up to early 90s, who serve

at the pleasure of the King. Statutorily they exist to offer

advice to the King if he solicits it, review petitions on his

behalf, act as ceremonial stand-ins for the King at various

royally-sponsored ceremonies, and play a critical role in

succession. One-third were flag-ranked officers; a third

were Supreme Court justices, and a third were high ranking

civil servants, particularly in development fields. Three

spent an additional stint as PM (Prem, Thanin, Surayud). All

have spent their entire adult lives in sworn service to King

Bhumibol, both before and after retirement at age 60.

 

23. (C) Privy Council Chair GEN Prem Tinsulanonda, PM from

1980-88, has a special title as senior statesman last held in

the early 1940s by Pridi. Prem has parlayed his stature into

a series of board chairmanships and enduring influence in

military reshuffle lists, drawing criticism from many

quarters for engaging in inappropriate \”ang barami\” –

borrowing the charisma of the monarch. Because of their

presumptive encouragement for the 2006 coup that removed

Thaksin from office, Prem and post-coup interim PM Surayud

Chulanont have been particular targets of Thaksin and the

red-shirts\’ ire, as part of the red \”throw the aristocrat-

bureaucrats out\” campaign. The spring 2009 red protests

called for Prem to resign; in the fall 2009, red-shirts

demanded that the Constitution be changed so that the Privy

Council Chair could not serve as Regent during the King\’s

incapacitation. One Privy Council member red-shirt leaders

have told us they do respect: long-time FM (under Prem) ACM

Sitthi Savetsila.

 

24. (C) Yet the Privy Council plays a far smaller role than

the red-shirts claim and many presume. Privy Councilors have

only sporadic direct access to the King and can only offer

advice or proposals if the King requests it, as several Privy

Councilors have told us in the past year. Of note, GEN Prem

is not particularly close to the King, as it turns out.

While the Embassy has seen many instances of this over the

years, perhaps the most notable came during the December 2006

visit to Thailand of former President George H.W. Bush. When

King Bhumibol offered to host a dinner for former President

and Barbara Bush, Prem did not make the initial guest list

drawn up by the Royal Household Bureau on the King\’s behalf,

despite having worked with the former President as Thai PM

from 1980-88. One moment when the Privy Council will play a

crucial role is in succession: once the King dies, the Privy

Council is charged with forwarding the name of the named

crown heir to parliament for endorsement as the next King.

 

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Office of the Principal Private Secretary (PPS)

——————————————— —

25. (C) The Office of the Principal Private Secretary employs

about 200 staff operating out of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.

Its formal roles include preparing paperwork to be signed by

the King, who endorses all passed legislation and

high-ranking government/military/police appointments,

reviewing petitions to the King (aided occasionally by the

six former Supreme Court justices on the Privy Council), and

supporting foreign guests of the King/Queen. The current

PPS, Arsa Sarasin, younger brother of Pong, has long made

clear his desire to leave the position to focus on managing

his family\’s business, but he serves at the pleasure of the

King. Arsa, his predecessor Bhira, and his deputy Krit all

served as diplomats — and all as Ambassadors to the U.S.

Krit, in turn, is known as one of \”Prem\’s boys,\” having

served as the MFA\’s PM liaison/interpreter for Prem\’s entire

PM stint.

 

26. (C) The Office of the PPS does not have clear lines of

authority, with certain employees\’ informal roles/influence

more significant, such as Mom Butrie\’s, than their titles

might suggest. Another such informal player is the Queen\’s

foreign liaison officer within the OPPS, M.L. Anuporn \”Joe\”

Kashemsant, son of the King\’s now deceased cardiologist and

the former National Counter Corruption Commissioner,

Thanphuying Preeya, who indicted Thaksin on a false assets

declaration in 2000 and is a regular at the Queen\’s dinner

table. Once the number of the Queen\’s foreign visitors

slowed dramatically in recent years, Anuporn started

freelancing more in political intrigues.

 

Royal Household Bureau, Crown Property Bureau, Privy Purse

———————– ———————————-

27. (C) The Royal Household Bureau (RHB), led by the nearly

senile 80 year old Lord Chamberlain Gaewkhwan Watcharothai

and run out of the Grand Palace, employs several thousand

staff to run the day-to-day support of the King/Queen and the

upkeep of various palaces used by the King and Queen. A

childhood school friend of the King, Gaewkhwan has largely

withdrawn from day-to-day management of the RHB, allowing his

two sons to run the show. The Privy Purse, directed by MIT

grad Pinyo Ekarapanich, manages King Bhumibol\’s personal

property holdings/finances, distinct from the wider holdings

of the institution of monarchy (see next para).

 

28. (C) The Crown Property Bureau (CPB), run by Gaewkhwan\’s

deputy, the Grand Chamberlain Chirayu, employs between

100-200 people to manage the extensive property and portfolio

holdings of the Crown and generate income to support the

monarchy and various members. When Forbes magazine claims

that King Bhumibol is the world\’s richest monarch, valuing

him at $35 billion, they fix that number by applying

commercial real estate rates to the declared CPB holdings,

even though the majority of CPB holdings are likely never to

fall in that category. Finding a balance between a better

rate of return and the wider interests of the monarchy can be

tricky, since much of the CPB\’s real estate is occupied by

non rent-paying schools, hospitals, and government buildings

on the one hand, and small urban Bangkok businessmen on the

other, with the latter figuring among the institution\’s most

fervent supporters. The CPB holdings are certainly a prize

which then PM Thaksin and his team eyed while in office from

2001-06, believing they could \”unlock value\” if given

managerial control.

 

Minor Royals – Ceremonies and traffic jamming motorcades

————- ——————————————

29. (C) A number of other minor royals continue to perform

ceremonies and clog traffic with motorcades that routinely

shut down exresays and major arteries on every trip to go

shopping or play badminton, to the great annoyance of

Bangkokians. Of most importance is Princess Soamsawali, the

Queen\’s niece and Crown Prince\’s first wife. The Queen

engineered Soamsawali\’s formal return to the royal family in

2003, as a counter-balance to the emergence of Srirasmi as

the Crown Prince\’s new wife. Soamsawali currently bears the

second heaviest load of royal ceremonies after Sirindhorn.

 

BANGKOK 00002967 007.2 OF 008

 

Her daughter, the Crown Prince\’s first child, Princess

Bajrakitiyabha (known as Ong Ba), who received a Cornell law

degree, has enjoyed an increasingly high profile and a

reputation for being perhaps the sharpest of the royal family

members. Ong Ba works as a provincial prosecutor in Udon

Thani; she is currently taking additional courses at John Jay

College in New York.

 

30. (C) The King\’s youngest child, Princess Chulaporn,

suffers from Lupus, and has cut down her appearances

domestically in recent years, but travels extensively in

Europe, where she receives medical treatment; her two

daughters also contribute to traffic jams. The King\’s first

child, daughter Ubonrat (often incorrectly referred to as

\”Princess\” in English), returned to Thailand and the Bangkok

social scene in 2001 after 25 years as a Californian

housewife and a divorce from a fellow MIT grad. However, the

King chose not to restore Ubonrat\’s royal title of Princess,

which he stripped after she married against his wishes.

Princess Sirivannavari, the Crown Prince\’s second daughter,

from his second ex-wife Yuwatida (currently residing in

Florida), is informally known as the \”Fashion Princess\” for

her fashion design interests; she is currently working at the

MFA in advance of a European posting as a \”fashion liaison\”

to Paris and Milan.

 

Interpreting Royal Rumint – 3 brief case studies

————————- ———————-

31. (S) \”The Swedish gambit\” – Several times in 2009 Thaksin

has tried to advance \”negotiations\” with various figures

affiliated in some way with the monarchy via Swedish

associates. He apparently hoped to leverage the prestige of

the institution of monarchy to pressure the Democrat-led

government to cut a deal with him to return his frozen

assets, drop criminal charges, and allow his return to

Thailand; what he offered in return was never clear.

However, Deputy PPS Krit told us in September that PPS Arsa

continually shut down such feelers from Thaksin\’s camp to

various figures in palace circles (ref D). Two individuals

mentioned as interlocutors who have confirmed the Swedish

talks with us — Sirindhorn adviser Tirawat and Queen liaison

officer Anuporn — appear to have been freelancing, without

authority to speak for anyone beyond themselves or deliver on

any package deal, something Thaksin and his Swedish

intermediaries apparently did not realize (ref C).

 

32. (S) \”The December surprise\” – there was a flurry of late

October rumors, as the King\’s hospitalization stretched into

its second month, of a possible announcement by the King in

the anticipated annual Birthday speech (traditionally

delivered December 4) that he would abdicate. One version

had it in favor of the Crown Prince, a second for a Queen

Regency on behalf of Ong Ti. Abdication rumors started

mid-year, sourced (as best we can tell) out of the Crown

Prince\’s circle and often repeated by red-shirts and those

close to Thaksin, but without any confirmatory indication

inside palace circles. The downturn in the King\’s health led

many to wonder if insiders might change their mind.

 

33. (S) Yet the story seemed far-fetched for many reasons:

Prem had indicated mid-October to Dutch diplomats that it was

unlikely the King would deliver a birthday speech this year

due to his health; the King has never shown an inclination to

abdicate, knowing it sets a perilous precedent for a dynasty

with an unpopular heir and uncertain future bloodlines; the

only person with any stature to raise such an issue with the

King would be the Queen, whose current views about the Crown

Prince remain obscured; the Queen\’s associates with standing

to forcefully raise such a delicate yet momentous issue with

her are long dead; and it would take more than a month to

prepare the country for an abdication decision–red-shirt

leader Vira Musikapong, in dismissing the rumint, told us six

months\’ minimum. (note: with an apparent upturn in the

King\’s health, the rumors died down after a week).

 

34. (S) \”No intermediaries\” – Even Thai relatively close to

royal principals treat purported wishes conveyed by other

royal associates with caution, given the tradition of

self-serving \”ang barami.\” One charismatic, divisive figure

 

BANGKOK 00002967 008.2 OF 008

 

once very close to the Queen, but no longer, is Thanphuying

Viraya, a prodigious fund-raiser who was also Thaksin\’s chief

agent of influence in palace circles until she was expelled

circa 2003. When NCCC Commissioner Preeya was preparing to

indict Thaksin for his false asset declaration in late 2000,

on the eve of his first electoral victory, Viraya claimed to

Preeya that Queen Sirikit wanted her to back off the

indictment. The message was reinforced by the Crown Prince,

who verbally threatened Preeya in front of ladies-in-waiting.

Shaken, Preeya sought an audience directly with the Queen,

who told her to ignore what she had heard from others and do

what was right based on the evidence in the case. Nine years

later, Preeya\’s son Anuporn told us the Queen conveyed a

similar message to PM Abhisit and DPM Suthep in late summer

in regards to ensuring accountability for the June 8 mosque

massacre, in the face of concern about the connection of the

suspects to her aide de camp GEN Naphol: do what is right

based on the evidence and legal norms.

JOHN

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Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 12:53 am

Posted in HM King Bhumipol

3 Responses

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