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06BANGKOK5335 ALLEGED BOMB PLOT: MILITARY ON DEFENSIVE

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“76646”,”8/30/2006 11:36″,”06BANGKOK5335″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”06BANGKOK5228″,”VZCZCXRO0490

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DE RUEHBK #5335/01 2421136

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O 301136Z AUG 06

FM AMEMBASSY BANGKOK

TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1289

INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS

RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC

RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

RHFJSCC/COMMARFORPAC

RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC

RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHINGTON DC”,”C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 005335

 

SIPDIS

 

SIPDIS

 

TREASURY PASS TO FRB SAN FRANCISCO/TERESA CURRAN

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/28/2016

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH

SUBJECT: ALLEGED BOMB PLOT: MILITARY ON DEFENSIVE

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 5228

 

B. BANGKOK 5204

C. BANGKOK 4610

 

Classified By: Political Counselor Susan M. Sutton, reason 1.4 (b) (d)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The Army lieutenant arrested August 24 has

given a confusing statement expressing contrition but saying

that he did not know there was a large bomb in the car he was

driving. He refuses to name anyone else in connection with

the incident. The Prime Minister has insisted that, in light

of the bomb attack, he must have trusted military officers

close to him moved into key positions, especially in Bangkok.

The government does not seem to be making a strong case that

the bomb attack was a real threat to the PM. The PM\’s

intervention in the military assignments process is another

measure that will exacerbate tensions between the PM and the

military. END SUMMARY.

 

2.(C) In the wake of the alleged assassination attempt of

August 24, two stories predominate. The first is the stream

of often contradictory information about the arrested driver,

Lt. Thawatchai Klinchana and other aspects of the

investigation. The second is the Prime Minister\’s decision

to use the incident as the basis for insisting that some of

the military officers he trusts (former fellow students from

the pre-Cadet Academy) be placed in key positions,

particularly around Bangkok.

 

THE POLICE INVESTIGATION

————————

 

3. (C) The police have released the results of a interview

with Army Lieutenant Thawatchai Klinchana, arrested as the

driver of the car bomb found on August 24. On August 28, the

police showed the press a video in which Thawatchai said that

he \”took responsibility\” for driving the car and that he

would not say who had told him to drive it, since \”he was a

soldier and would keep promises.\” He said, \”What I did was

wrong, and I felt so sorry when I came to learn that the car

was loaded with a deadly bomb. I have the feeling that the

Siam Thewatirat (the guardian spirit of Bangkok) really

exists, making the bomb not explode… I confess to having

driven the car that caused the problem. Originally, I was

just told to drive the car to park. Nothing else. Nothing.

When I came to learn that there was a deadly bomb, I though

to myself, what have I done?\” He also said, \”If the bomb had

gone off, an enormous number of people would have suffered

and I would carry the sin for my whole life.\”

 

4. (C) According to the police, the driver has also

confessed to driving the same car on August 22 and 23, but

this statement is not shown on the video. According to some

reports, the police are trying to link the driver to an

\”accident\” that occurred earlier in the month affecting the

PM\’s motorcade; some reports are now casting that \”accident\”

as an attempt to injure or kill the PM. Police searched the

residence of another low-ranking military officer today and

the government claims that at least two more military

officers may be involved, identified only as \”Col. S.\” and

\”Lt. Col. M.\” None of these suspects has been picked up yet,

as far as we know. The police are forecasting further

arrests.

 

5. (C) Meanwhile, the media continue to question many

aspects of the initial police report. The police statement

that the bomb would have brought down the overpass under

which the car was parked, and would have caused damage for a

square kilometer, has been questioned. It is unclear to

everyone how the driver could have driven the car around not

knowing that there was a bomb in it, but the bomb squad was

able to see the bomb in the back seat. Informally, most

military contacts express skepticism about the whole story,

but police are loudly proclaiming that they thwarted a real

threat.

 

MILITARY RESHUFFLE LIST

———————-

 

6. (C) The military, already concerned about the implication

of its officers in the \”bomb plot,\” got more bad news early

this week. The PM\’s former classmates from the pre-cadet

academy approached Thaksin following the discovery of the

bomb to express their concern for his safety. (Note: Thaksin

 

BANGKOK 00005335 002 OF 002

 

studied to be a policeman together with students destined for

the military in the pre-cadet academy. These high-school

groupings usually give rise to extremely strong class

loyalty, and the expectation that those who do well will help

out their colleagues. Thaksin is a member of Class 10, and

he has supported his classmates to help them rise quickly in

the military bureaucracy. End note.) Thaksin subsequently

told military and government officials that, due to the bomb,

he wanted to reexamine some of the military assignment

decisions recently agreed, and now insisted on putting some

of his classmates into key positions, especially in the

Bangkok area. Details of the PM\’s request have been reported

widely in the press, and a variety of US embassy sources

confirm the press reports are substantially correct.

 

7 (C) The annual military reshuffle is an extremely important

event, in which military officers contend for the assignments

that keep their careers advancing. Military officers may be

moved every year as they move up in rank and responsibility.

The military leadership believes that it should have the

authority to decide on assignments — all the way up to the

highest offices — without \”political interference.\” In

fact, there is often some influence by the government or

Privy Council to advance favorites. However, the military

has been particularly unhappy with the reported efforts of

the PM to advance his classmates (ref c). We understood

that, after some quiet negotiation, a list had recently been

decided, and was beginning to go through the formal approval

process: getting government approval, then to the Privy

Council, then to the King for signature. Allegedly, some of

Thaksin\’s proteges had not done as well as they had hoped.

According the reports circulating, Thaksin is now insisting

that his classmates assume key positions for security in the

Bangkok area, like the 1st Army commander and the Royal

Guard (1st Division) commander.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

8. (C) We still do not have enough information to reach a

conclusion about who was behind the car bomb and what their

goal was. The government is not doing a good job making its

case that it was a serious assassination attempt. The

arrested driver certainly does not sound like suicide bomber

or assassin. The immediate move by the PM to seize an

advantage and put his classmates in some important positions

can be interpreted two ways, like most of what has happened

so far. Either it\’s a cynical manipulation to play up the

alleged bomb to get concessions from the military the PM

couldn\’t get before. Or, it\’s a prudent step to have friends

watching his back during a dangerous time. In either case,

it will exacerbate the negative view that much of the

military now has of the PM, and contribute to already rising

tensions.

 

BOYCE

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Written by thaicables

July 13, 2011 at 5:32 am

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