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10BANGKOK287 KING BHUMIBOL RESUMES A MORE VISIBLE ROLE – IN HIS HOSPITAL RECEPTION ROOM

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“246944″,”2/3/2010 10:47″,”10BANGKOK287″,”Embassy

 

Bangkok”,”SECRET”,”09BANGKOK2488|09BANGKOK3025|10BANGKOK165″,”VZCZCXRO5

 

023

 

PP RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM

 

DE RUEHBK #0287/01 0341047

 

ZNY SSSSS ZZH

 

P 031047Z FEB 10

 

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

 

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9814

 

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS PRIORITY

 

RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 7986

 

RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA PRIORITY 0402

 

RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 5928

 

RUEHPB/AMEMBASSY PORT MORESBY PRIORITY 0839

 

RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL PRIORITY 6183

 

RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 2327

 

RUEHWL/AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON PRIORITY 0308

 

RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI PRIORITY 7606

 

RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

 

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI PRIORITY

 

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RUEKDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

 

RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA PRIORITY 0014″,”S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02

 

BANGKOK 000287

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR WALTON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/02/2030

 

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KDEM, PINR, TH

 

SUBJECT: THAILAND: KING BHUMIBOL RESUMES A MORE VISIBLE

 

ROLE – IN HIS HOSPITAL RECEPTION ROOM

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 165 (RESHUFFLE UNFOLDS ACCORDING TO PLAN)

 

B. 09 BANGKOK 3025 (KING,S FRAIL HEALTH)

 

C. 09 BANGKOK 2488 (KING,S HOSPITALIZATION)

 

BANGKOK 00000287 001.2 OF 002

 

Classified By: DCM James F. Entwistle, reasons 1.4 (b, d)

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

 

——————-

 

1. (C) King Bhumibol Adulyadej has actively presided over

 

three separate swearing-in ceremonies at Siriraj Hospital

 

since mid-January, dispensing philosophic advice to ministers

 

and judges in public and the Prime Minister in private. In

 

addition to swearing-in the five new cabinet members on

 

January 18 (REF A), King Bhumibol also administered the oath

 

of office to two separate groups of judges on January 25 and

 

February 1, delivering extemporaneous remarks — which were

 

later broadcast on TV — both times. On the latter two

 

occasions, he spoke at relative length (10 minutes), evenly,

 

and in the typically Delphic and inscrutable style for which

 

he has long been renowned. In the January 18 private session

 

with PM Abhisit, the King purportedly discussed his concerns

 

about application of lese majeste and directed Abhisit to

 

implement changes after a careful review of current

 

procedures. Despite these clear indications that the King is

 

resuming a more active life in recent weeks, he remains

 

hospitalized at Siriraj Hospital, where he has stayed since

 

last September.

 

2. (S) Comment: The status of his ongoing physical recovery

 

aside, the recent audiences are promising signs of King

 

Bhumibol having re-engaged mentally after whispers that he

 

was suffering from depression in addition to physical

 

ailments like Parkinson\’s and pneumonia. His ability to

 

deliver off the cuff comments to new ministers and judges

 

were in marked contrast to more pained delivery of written

 

remarks at his December 5 birthday audience and for New

 

Year\’s. The lese majeste discussion with Abhisit in

 

particular seems to indicate that Bhumibol is aware of the

 

wider debate about the role of the monarchy, present and

 

future, in Thailand. The real question at this stage

 

remains: why does he continue to be hospitalized? The stated

 

rationale — to build up his physical strength and endurance

 

– could be accomplished in a palace, either in Bangkok or

 

his preferred seaside residence in Hua Hin. Some will

 

suspect other motives, but what those might be remain

 

unclear. End Summary and Comment.

 

SWEARING IN THE NEW MINISTERS…

 

——————————–

 

3. (SBU) The five new members of PM Abhisit\’s cabinet

 

traveled to Siriraj hospital on January 18 for a swearing-in

 

ceremony with the King (REF A). Following the official

 

swearing-in, King Bhumibol addressed the group, hewing in

 

large measure to an overall theme of honesty. He asked the

 

group to keep national interests at heart while they

 

performed their duties, underscoring the importance of

 

honesty and integrity at every step of the way. The King

 

emphasized that as public figures, the ministers\’ actions

 

would be scrutinized and held up as a model for appropriate

 

behavior. In closing, the King noted that if the ministers

 

carried out their duties in line with public expectations,

 

they would help bring peace and progress to Thailand.

 

…WHISPERS FOR ABHISIT…

 

————————–

 

4. (S) After the Ministerial swearing in concluded, the King

 

asked Abhisit to stay behind for an hour long one-on-one

 

discussion; the focus was application of lese majeste

 

provisions, according to a trusted, long-time Embassy contact

 

who heard it from the person Abhisit subsequently briefed on

 

his session with the King, Justice Ministry PermSec

 

BANGKOK 00000287 002.2 OF 002

 

Kittipong. Kittipong serves as the Chair of a Committee

 

Abhisit established in November 2009 to review the

 

implementation of lese majeste provisions. According to

 

Kittipong, King Bhumibol told Abhisit he needed to review,

 

with an eye towards reforming, the judicial procedures

 

associated with lese majeste implementation. Such a review

 

needed to proceed carefully, Bhumibol supposedly told

 

Abhisit, but he was aware any changes would primarily affect

 

one person – himself. The King also reportedly reminded

 

Abhisit that as King he had the ability to pardon anyone

 

convicted on lese majeste grounds.

 

5. (S) Note: King Bhumibol is on the public record, in his

 

2005 annual Birthday address, as stating clearly that he was

 

not above criticism and in fact welcomed it. His comments

 

then and now are a likely indication that he understands that

 

lese majeste as currently implemented serves to weaken, not

 

protect, the institution of monarchy. Bhumibol does have a

 

track record of pardoning those convicted of lese majeste,

 

though there are two prominent recent convictions of Thais

 

for which pardon appeals have not been forwarded to the King.

 

Both cases are mentioned in the 2008 and 2009 Human Rights

 

Reports.

 

…SERMONS FOR THE JUDGES

 

————————-

 

6. (C) A week later, King Bhumibol presided over a January 25

 

swearing-in ceremony for newly appointed Supreme Court

 

Administrative judges. Speaking for ten minutes in a voice

 

that was even, though little more than a whisper likely due

 

to the effects of Parkinson\’s, Bhumibol exhorted the judges

 

to abide by professional standards based on Buddhist tenets,

 

a theme that allowed him to deploy the standard talking

 

points he has made in such settings for years. He urged the

 

judges to carry out their duties with fairness, impartiality,

 

a sense of justice according to Buddhist norms on

 

righteousness, and with an emphasis on maintaining

 

neutrality.

 

7. (SBU) On February 1 the King met with another group of

 

Supreme Court judges, and again drew on familiar themes in

 

unscripted remarks. Bhumibol urged the judges to ensure

 

justice and righteousness, to fully honor the dignity of the

 

court, and to serve as the guarantor of the nation\’s peace,

 

prosperity, and order. He noted at one point that: \”Even

 

bandits hope for justice.\” He closed by congratulating them

 

on the opportunity to have a deep and lasting impact on other

 

people\’s lives.

 

8. (S) The King\’s messages to both sets of judges would have

 

sounded familiar to anyone who has heard the King speak in

 

the past: grounded in Buddhist tenets, delphic in nature, but

 

potentially applicable to the current Thai scene in a number

 

of ways – in other words, how Bhumibol has addressed his

 

ministers, judges, and citizens for decades. That fact

 

alone, given the recent extended hospitalization and concerns

 

that the end of reign was approaching more rapidly, made both

 

events highly significant. Whether any deeper meaning could

 

or should be read into exhortations to judges to do their

 

duty, weeks before a scheduled February 26 landmark court

 

decision on fugitive former PM Thaksin\’s frozen assets, will

 

remain open to question, and speculation.

 

JOHN

 

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Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:19 am

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