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08BANGKOK3251 PRIVY COUNCILOR PREM SAYS SITUATION CALM; ARMY TO STAY ON THE SIDELINES BUT SURPRISED BY CAMBODIAN ACTIONS

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“175859”,”10/30/2008 6:16″,”08BANGKOK3251″,

“Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,

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SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 003251

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MLS

NSC FOR PHU

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/30/2018

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PINR, PBTS, TH, CB

SUBJECT: PRIVY COUNCILOR PREM SAYS SITUATION CALM; ARMY TO

STAY ON THE SIDELINES BUT SURPRISED BY CAMBODIAN ACTIONS

BANGKOK 00003251 001.2 OF 002

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

1. (C) Summary: Privy Council Chair Prem Tinsulanonda told

the Ambassador October 29 that the political situation was

getting calmer and that he was not worried about a planned

November 1 rally by pro-Thaksin supporters. In a separate

October 29 meeting, Deputy Army Commander General Jiradej

Kotcharat agreed with the Ambassador that the Army would

serve the country best by allowing political situation to be

resolved through the democratic process. Jiradej also told

the Ambassador that Thai and Cambodian military commanders

along the disputed border with Cambodia were committed to

avoiding future clashes.

2. (C) Comment: Prem\’s welcomed views about a calming

situation come against the backdrop of considerably fewer

rumors of a coup in recent days and less fiery public

rhetoric from all sides of the political conflict. We are

also reassured by continued Thai Army insistence that the

military would not become involved in politics, though the

wildcard remains unanticipated violence/bloodshed that could

be sparked by armed thugs in the street on both sides

(People\’s Alliance for Democracy – PAD – and United Front for

Democracy against Dictatorship – UDD). Army Commander

Anupong designated Jiradej to meet with the Ambassador

because of Anupong\’s desire in recent weeks to stay entirely

out of the political and diplomatic realm. That Jiradej

openly expressed Thai Army commitment to allowing the current

conflict to be resolved through democratic means is

reassuring, given that he was a close aide to former Thai

Third Army Region Commander General Saprang Kalayanaramitra,

who was active in the September 2006 coup. End Summary and

Comment.

PREM SAYS SITUATION CALM

————————

3. (C) The Ambassador and British Ambassador Quayle met Privy

Council President Prem Tinsulanonda and the King\’s Deputy

Private Secretary Ambassador Krit Garnjana-Goonchorn for

lunch October 29. Prem said the political situation was

currently calm and predicted it would remain that way. Prem

also said he was unconcerned about the planned November 1 UDD

rally despite reports that former Prime Minister Thaksin

Shinawatra would address via telephone a large number of

pro-government supporters who plan to gather in a Bangkok

sports stadium. Even though he expected the weekend to pass

peacefully, Prem agreed with the Ambassador that the leaders

of the UDD and their PAD rivals had raised tensions to the

point that the supporters in the two groups could may easily

take actions that could inadvertently spark a violent

confrontation. (Note: overnight on October 30 at about 0320,

an unidentified party threw a grenade into a group of PAD

supporters, injuring at least eight).

ARMY SEES NO ROLE FOR MILITARY IN POLITICAL CONFLICT

——————————————— ——-

4. (C) During a subsequent October 29 meeting with Royal Thai

Army Deputy Commander General Jiradej Kotcharat, the

Ambassador stressed that the current political situation

should only be resolved through the democratic process.

Jiradej agreed and told the Ambassador that the Army viewed

the current situation as a political rivalry between

supporters of Thaksin and those who opposed the former Prime

Minister. As this was a political conflict, the Army saw no

role for itself other than to assist the police in

maintaining order if a violent confrontation broke out and

the police were unable to control the situation.

5. (C) The Ambassador emphasized to Jiradej that he believed

that in every crisis there was an opportunity. With the

political crisis based on a deep-seated rivalry between

anti-Thaksin groups, with the PAD as themost public face,

BANGKOK 00003251 002.2 OF 002

and Thaksin supporters, the Thai Army had so far maintained

an important role by keeping the conflict within the

political realm. The Thai Army would perform a very

productive role in facilitating an environment for political

resolution by allowing democratic institutions to more

strongly define themselves and their role in resolving the

crisis. The Thai general election in December 2007 was not

sufficient to bridge the political divide; rather more time

was needed to work out the political difficulties, the

Ambassador said. With the Army on the sidelines, democratic

institutions such as political parties, civil society, the

courts, and the media could mature and strengthen. The coup

of 2006 only delayed this maturation process, andQother

coup would further set back democratization. Jiradej said he

fully agreed and told the Ambassador that despite attempts by

many sides to draw the Army into the conflict, Army Commander

General Anupong Paochinda and other senior Thai Army leaders

were committed in their belief that the only wQto resolve

the situation was through the political process. There would

be no military involvement, Jiradej stated.

BORDER CLASH WITH CAMBODIA \”ACCIDENTS\”

————————————–

6. (C) Jiradej told the Ambassador that Thai and Cambodian

local military commanders near the disputed border area

adjacent to the Preah Vihear temple continued to communicate

well and maintained good relationships. Neither side wanted

further clashes, the Deputy Commander said. Considering good

relations between local commanders on the border, the Thai

Army had been surprised by Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen\’s

October 13 ultimatum that the Thai withdraw from disputed

border areas. Jiradej suggested to the Ambassador that it

was likely that incorrect information about the border

situation had been passed to Hun Sen, because the Thai Army

had been unable to understand why else the Cambodian Prime

Minister had decided to heighten tensions.

7. (C) The Thai military viewed the October 15 clash between

the two sides as an \”accident\”, Jiradej said. Thai troops in

the disputed area adjacent to the temple had returned fire

only after Cambodian troops shot first, and in the ensuing 40

minutes, the clash had taken on a life of its own. Jiradej

said Army Commander General Anupong was concerned for the

protection of the Preah Vihear temple and had given specific

orders for Thai troops not to use force in the area of temple

and not to escalate the use of force in the case of future

clashes.

JOHN

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Written by thaicables

July 19, 2011 at 6:13 am

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