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06BANGKOK1214 PRIVY COUNCILLOR/FORMER ARMY COMMANDER ON STATE OF PLAY

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“54697″,”2/28/2006 23:42″,”06BANGKOK1214″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””

,”This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”C O N F I D E N T I A L BANGKOK 001214

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/27/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH, Thai Prime Minister

SUBJECT: PRIVY COUNCILLOR/FORMER ARMY COMMANDER ON STATE OF

PLAY

 

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce reason 1.4 (b) (d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: Retired Army Commander and current Privy

Counselor General Surayud Chulanont told the Ambassador on

February 28 that the political situation was \”a mess\” while

asserting that there was no interest on the part of the

military in getting involved. Similarly, he said that the

King was not choosing sides. He was critical of Thaksin\’s

corruption, but assessed that the PM still enjoyed strong

support among his core constituency up-country. End summary.

 

2. (C) The Ambassador met on February 28 with Gen. Surayud

Chulanont, a highly-respected member of the King\’s Privy

Council and a retired Army Commander, to discuss the current

political situation. Surayud described the political

situation as \”a mess.\” He said that two \”willful\”

characters, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Dharma Army

leader Chamlong Srimuang, were locked in a confrontation.

Surayud said that Chamlong was no longer as important as he

had been in 1992, when he led the democracy demonstrations

that brought down the military government, but he still has a

lot of influence. Chamlong\’s leadership of the \”Santi Asoke\”

religious sect gives him control of a large number of

followers (the Dharma Army) that he can turn out for

demonstrations. His sudden involvement in the anti-Thaksin

movement has exacerbated the \”no compromise\” nature of the

confrontation.

 

THE KING IS NEUTRAL

——————-

 

3. (C) Surayud said that the King was not taking sides.

Nonetheless, both sides were trying to drag him in. Media

firebrand Sondhi Limthongkul had taken the lead, with his

constant references to the King in his weekly demonstrations.

Thaksin has played this card as well. (Comment: For

example, in his weekly radio address right before the

February 4 demonstrations, Thaksin commented that the King

\”only had to whisper in his ear\” and he\’d resign. Surayud

said that Thaksin\’s comment caused great perturbation among

the Thai and was an inappropriate reference to the monarch.

End comment.) The King\’s focus is on preserving the

monarchy, according to Surayud. The King also, naturally,

wants there to be no violence.

 

THE ARMY IS NEUTRAL

——————-

 

4. (C) The military also doesn\’t want to intervene on either

side, according to Surayud. He admitted that there had been

\”some talk\” within the military about the option of a

\”one-day\” coup which would turn power over to the King. (Some

of this has been picked up by the press.) But Surayud said he

had spoken directly to Army Commander Sonthi (a Surayud

protege) and he absolutely did not support such a move.

Surayud noted with discomfort that his name has been

mentioned as a possible interim Prime Minister in case of a

coup, and said that he was keeping a very low profile in

order to avoid fueling such speculation.

 

CORRUPTION

———-

 

5. (C) Surayud noted that, while the Democrats had been

trying to run the country in the wake of the 1997 financial

crisis, businessman Thaksin had made himself master of the

ins and outs of the new constitution. Once in office, he had

weakened the institutions set up by the constitution as a

limit on the PM\’s power. Surayud recalled talking to Thaksin

early in the PM\’s first term, and warning him that he had to

avoid the taint of corruption, since the Thai people would

not stand for that. Surayud, referring to the controversial

Shin Corp sale, commented, \”I guess he just couldn\’t help

himself.\” However, despite the outrage by the Bangkok elite,

Surayud felt that Thaksin was still popular with the people

who form the core of his support: the poor, farmers, and the

working class, particularly up-country.

 

6. (C) Comment: We think Surayud is right on all counts.

Rumors of coup plotting can be expected to circulate widely,

given the military\’s previous role. As things stand now, we

do not believe that the military wants to step in, nor does

the King want to be caught in the middle. Unfortunately, it

is not yet clear how this confrontation between the two

\”willful\” sides can be resolved.

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 10, 2011 at 4:15 am

3 Responses

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  1. [...] PPT’s series on Wikileaks cables, we found the 28 February 2006 report of a meeting between U.S. Ambassador Ralph Boyce and Privy Councilor Surayud Chulanont of interest. Boyce and [...]

  2. [...] General Prem Tinsulanonda had already declared that Thaksin should go. Privy Councilor General Surayud Chulanont had told Boyce that the political situation was “a mess” – term later used by the king – and noted Thaksin’s [...]


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