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09BANGKOK888 AMBASSADOR AND FM KASIT DISCUSS U.S. TRIP, BURMA, BOUT, REDSHIRTS, THAKSIN, CAMBODIA, LAO HMONG

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“201096″,”4/7/2009 9:14″,”09BANGKOK888″,”Embassy

 

Bangkok”,”SECRET”,””,”VZCZCXRO1335

 

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DE RUEHBK #0888/01 0970914

 

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000888

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR PHU

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/07/2029

 

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PREF, BM, TH

 

SUBJECT: THAILAND: AMBASSADOR AND FM KASIT DISCUSS U.S.

 

TRIP, BURMA, BOUT, REDSHIRTS, THAKSIN, CAMBODIA, LAO HMONG

 

BANGKOK 00000888 001.2 OF 003

 

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

 

1. (C) Summary. Ambassador hosted Thai Foreign Minister

 

Kasit Piromya April 6 for a two-hour one-on-one lunch.

 

Ambassador and Kasit discussed Kasit\’s priorities for his

 

upcoming trip to the U.S. April 19-24 and Kasit\’s desire to

 

engage the Secretary on strategic issues of interest to both

 

countries; working together on Burma with the shared goal of

 

changing regime behavior, leading to an inclusive dialogue

 

and the release of political prisoners including ASSK; the

 

effort by the judge in the Viktor Bout extradition case to

 

subpoena the MFA; Thai domestic politics, including the

 

upcoming red-shirt march on April 8 and former PM Thaksin\’s

 

seemingly narrowing options; diplomatic efforts to calm the

 

waters after the most recent round of border skirmishes with

 

Cambodia April 3; and ways of resolving the status of Lao

 

Hmong currently held by Thai authorities. End Summary.

 

US Trip April 19-24: strategic approach with S

 

——————————————— –

 

2. (C) Ambassador hosted straight-talking FM Kasit for a two

 

hour lunch at the Residence April 6. Kasit, a former Thai

 

Ambassador to Washington, expressed understanding that

 

Foreign Ministers from Southeast Asia often raise a narrow

 

list of non-strategic bilateral issues in their meetings in

 

Washington, rather than advancing a strategic dialogue. In

 

his planned April 23 meeting with the Secretary, Kasit said

 

he would discuss strategic issues such as

 

Afghanistan-Pakistan and Burma, look to engage in frank

 

dialogue, and not raise a laundry list of \”asks\” such as GSP.

 

3. (C) Thailand was supportive of the new U.S. Af-Pak

 

strategy, Kasit stressed, although it could not contribute

 

troops (note: Thailand sent a contingent of Army engineers to

 

work out of Bagram in 2003. End note). Ambassador suggested

 

that the Royal Thai Government\’s (RTG) successful experience

 

in opium eradication and crop substitution, as well as

 

decades of experience combating heroin trafficking in

 

partnership with DEA, offered the basis for Thai-U.S.

 

cooperation in Afghanistan in this area. Kasit agreed the

 

idea had merit.

 

4. (C) Note: Addressing the long-standing lack of a Thai

 

Ambassador in Washington, Kasit indicated that he was

 

attempting to get Don Pramadwinai sworn in, perhaps by the

 

Crown Prince rather than King Bhumibol, in time for Don to

 

accompany him on the trip and to be accredited at the next

 

scheduled ceremony in late April. If he could not get Don

 

sworn in prior, he would seek to have Don accompany him as

 

Thai PermRep to the UN.

 

Bout

 

—-

 

5. (C) Ambassador informed Kasit of the latest twist in the

 

extradition proceedings of Russian arms trafficker Viktor

 

Bout. Kasit had not heard about the presiding judge\’s

 

subpoena to the MFA to testify about the potential impact the

 

extradition might have on relations with the U.S. and Russia,

 

but he stated that he did not believe the MFA should testify.

 

Kasit agreed that the court should not use its quest for MFA

 

testimony as a means of delaying the case further, and said

 

he would discuss the matter with MFA PermSec Virasak Futrakul.

 

Burma

 

—–

 

6. (C) Citing the Secretary\’s introductory call to him prior

 

to her Asia trip, Kasit said he understood that Burma would

 

be high on the Secretary\’s agenda with him. He looked

 

forward to a good strategic discussion with the Secretary on

 

this topic and openly welcomed the opportunity to work with

 

us on Burma policy. Ambassador raised the challenge of

 

Burma\’s 2010 elections. If we stake out a position that

 

flawed elections would rule out subsequent cooperation with

 

the Burmese government which emerged, we might be stuck with

 

BANGKOK 00000888 002.2 OF 003

 

a fait d\’accompli. Kasit asserted that the international

 

community should attempt to work with the regime on the

 

election, but with tough criteria:

 

–push together on the Burmese to release all political

 

prisoners, including ASSK, within a certain period of time

 

(such as the end of 2009);

 

–demand a clear explanation of the election law; and then

 

–work for a better law, if necessary, and monitor the

 

process closely.

 

7. (C) Such an approach would not be perfect, Kasit

 

acknowledged, but the other path–ignoring the elections and

 

not working with the SPDC–would yield even worse results

 

inside Burma, and lock us into a difficult position.

 

8. (C) Kasit made a pitch for an expansion of assistance to

 

Burma. He said he supported additional U.S. assistance to

 

the border groups operating out of Thailand, but stressed the

 

need to expand assistance on the inside, as well, moving

 

beyond the Irawaddy Delta affected by Cyclone Nargis.

 

Northern Rakhine State should be the next international

 

priority, given the conditions of the Rohingya community.

 

Kasit suggested that his recent visit to Burma gave reason to

 

believe that the SPDC would allow this. Burma now appeared

 

much more comfortable working with ASEAN than it had before,

 

more willing to listen to opinions from other ASEAN members.

 

9. (C) Kasit expressed understanding for the need for

 

continued sanctions, particularly targeted financial

 

sanctions against the bank accounts and related businesses of

 

regime leaders and key cronies. However, he advocated

 

starting to ease restrictions on certain categories of goods,

 

such as medicines for poultry farms (he said that such

 

antibiotics had to be imported from the U.S. and were not

 

available in Thailand), that support assistance or

 

employment-generating projects going directly to the people.

 

10. (C) Kasit noted that he would meet with representatives

 

of the Karen National Union (KNU) later April 6 at a private

 

location in Bangkok, the start of his efforts to facilitate a

 

dialogue between the KNU and the Burmese regime.

 

Domestic Thai Politics, Thaksin, Crown Prince

 

———————————————

 

11. (C) Kasit did not seemed worried about the large

 

red-shirt rally planned for April 8, suggesting that the

 

red-shirts had moved too soon to mount their self-proclaimed

 

\”D-Day\” rally. He did not see a successful way out for the

 

red-shirts, short of violence. Ambassador suggested the

 

government\’s inability to ensure accountability for previous

 

protest excesses, such as the PAD\’s seizure of Bangkok

 

airports in late 2008, indicated a breakdown in the judicial

 

process and an inability to assert the rule of law in

 

bounding the limits of protest actions. Kasit agreed on the

 

need to pursue justice for all sides.

 

12. (C) Assessing the current battle of perceptions, Kasit

 

asserted that the RTG needed to do a better job of getting

 

its message out on all the airwaves/media, not just via

 

Abhisit\’s weekly appearances on government TV. The Democrat

 

Party needed to transition from a party of old-time elites

 

with a sense of entitlement to a progressive party able to

 

explain its programs effectively to the people. In this

 

sense, the recent no-confidence debate called by the

 

opposition served a useful purpose, prodding the RTG to

 

defend itself publicly.

 

13. (S) Ambassador suggested that if Thaksin thought he could

 

wait out the King and cut a deal after the Crown Prince

 

ascended to the throne, Thaksin\’s current actions, including

 

his open verbal attacks on the Privy Council, would

 

complicate any such rapprochement. Kasit agreed, noting that

 

his recent discussions with the Crown Prince suggested that

 

the Crown Prince is far shrewder than most people believed.

 

The Crown Prince clearly understood the difficulties his

 

personal habits (love of flying and women) presented, and

 

BANGKOK 00000888 003.2 OF 003

 

that he would need to change prior to assuming the throne.

 

While the Crown Prince had promised several years ago to stop

 

flying, he had not yet done so. Kasit remained confident,

 

however, that the Crown Prince could successfully transition

 

from one role to another, and that he would have no use for

 

Thaksin once he became King.

 

14. (C) Ambassador explained to Kasit that former PM Thaksin

 

may travel to the US, and that since Thaksin had a valid

 

visa, there was nothing we would or could do about it. Kasit

 

understood, noting that Ambassador\’s clear statements when

 

the issue of Thaksin\’s visa first arose in the media several

 

months ago had helpfully quelled uncertainty. Thaksin\’s

 

brief stays in each country he visited effectively ruled out

 

RTG pursuit of an extradition request, which took

 

considerable time to prepare.

 

Cambodia – calming the waters

 

—————————–

 

15. (C) On the matter of the April 3 border skirmishes with

 

Cambodia, Kasit revealed that DPM Suthep had traveled to

 

Cambodia April 5 to meet Hun Sen to clear the air. Kasit

 

offered a balanced assessment of what had happened at the

 

border April 3. Although the landmines which claimed a Thai

 

soldier\’s leg April 2 appeared to be fresh, Kasit stated that

 

both sides had subsequently overreacted; discussions over the

 

weekend had helped patch things up.

 

Lao Hmong

 

———

 

16. (C) Ambassador raised recent difficulties with the Thai

 

handling of Lao Hmong returned to Laos. Kasit, who visited

 

the Army detention facility in Phetchabun province recently,

 

said that he would check into the allegations that camp

 

commanders were using arrests on minor infractions to send

 

people back as voluntary returnees. Kasit inquired whether

 

the U.S. was monitoring returnees in Laos. He asked whether

 

the Hmong at Nong Khai who had been screened in with a fear

 

of return could possibly go back to Laos for a very short

 

period, well short of a month, and be processed as political

 

asylum seekers from Laos, as the Lao government was

 

demanding. Ambassador replied that this would not be

 

possible from the U.S. perspective. Kasit stressed that

 

Thailand needed to find some way around the impasse on the

 

Nong Khai Hmong and still maintain its much improved

 

relationship with Laos.

 

JOHN

 

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 2:19 am

09BANGKOK2455 AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES RECONCILIATION WITH ADVISER TO BOTH PM AND CROWN PRINCE; VIKTOR BOUT RAISED

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“227160”,”9/28/2009 5:23″,”09BANGKOK2455″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”SECRET”,”09BANGKOK2125|09BANGKOK2260|09BANGKOK2405|09BANGKOK385|09BANGKOK567″,”VZCZCXRO5490

OO RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH

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RUEAWJL/DEPT OF JUSTICE WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY”,”S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 BANGKOK 002455

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR EAP/MLS, NSC FOR WALTON

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/24/2019

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KDEM, TH

SUBJECT: THAILAND: AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES RECONCILIATION WITH

ADVISER TO BOTH PM AND CROWN PRINCE; VIKTOR BOUT RAISED

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 2405 (THAILAND,S MARCHING SEASON)

B. BANGKOK 2260 (QUASHING THAKSIN PARDON SUGGESTIONS

C. BANGKOK 2125 (POLICE CHIEF BATTLE)

D. BANGKOK 567 (AMBASSADOR PRESSES DEPUTY PM SUTHEP

ON VIKTOR BOUT EXTRADITION)

E. BANGKOK 385 (ENGAGING PM ON BOUT)

 

BANGKOK 00002455 001.2 OF 004

 

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

 

SUMMARY AND COMMENT

——————-

 

1. (C) Summary: Ambassador met with Niphon Promphan,

Secretary-General for Prime Minister Abhisit and a trusted

advisor of Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn, on September 24.

Niphon expressed exasperation with the prolonged political

stalemate and what he characterized as a degradation of Thai

political culture. He nevertheless hoped for a solution to

the impasse, based on amending the constitution, ensuring

some accountability for gross violations of the law by both

yellow-shirts and red-shirts, and a reconciliation/amnesty

deal which would have to include Thaksin. Niphon believed

the latter would need to include the return of some of

Thaksin\’s frozen assets and Thaksin serving a nominal period,

as short as \”a few days,\” in jail. A deal with Thaksin was

complicated because no one trusted Thaksin; Thaksin had

further complicated matters with his incendiary rhetoric and

by allowing his proxies to repeatedly impugn Privy Council

Chair GEN Prem Tinsulanonda\’s character in the recent

September 19 rally. Niphon said that although he was one of

only several Democrats still on good terms with Thaksin and

that Thaksin wanted to talk with him, Niphon\’s current

positions with the PM and the Crown Prince made such a direct

conversation impracticable.

 

2. (C) On royal succession, Niphon asserted that when the

time came, the Crown Prince would succeed his father,

successfully reburnish his image in the mold of the King, and

secure the monarchy\’s future in Thailand. The tricky part

would come \”in the transition phase.\” He argued that the

Prince had learned from his father\’s example and would be

well-positioned to do the job; Niphon did not offer an

explanation why the Crown Prince did not start emulating the

King and Princess Sirindhorn\’s good works activities

immediately, only that he could do so. According to Niphon,

the Prince enjoyed good relations with Sirindhorn and did not

feel threatened by her popularity. Niphon offered indirect

indications of discomfort about the Crown Prince\’s meddling

in the Police Chief saga, but suggested the affair would end

shortly after PM Abhisit\’s return from the U.S. Niphon also

expressed his profound disappointment with the lower court\’s

decision in the Viktor Bout case (see paras 16-17).

 

3. (C) Comment: Niphon is the only Democrat we know of who

advocates cutting a deal with Thaksin, but given his dual

positions as PM Abhisit\’s defacto Chief of Staff and the

Crown Prince\’s chief adviser, his views cannot be discounted.

The devil, of course, is in the details, and even Niphon was

hard pressed to outline a viable path forward to

reconciliation. As it stands, we believe there are two

primary obstacles. The first challenge lies in getting all

the parties to the table. No deal seems possible without the

following actors breaking bread together at the same time:

Thakin\’s cronies in the United Front for Democracy against

Dictatorship (UDD), aka \”the red-shirts,\” as well as the

formal opposition Puea Thai Party; PM Abhisit\’s

representatives and the Democrats; the People\’s Alliance for

Democracy (PAD), aka \”the yellow-shirts;\” and representatives

from the Privy Council. As reported in reftels, the Privy

Council would appear to be the most problematic piece of this

particular puzzle, as we see no current appetite for talks.

Secondly, any hypothetical deal would need to address

Thakin\’s fugitive legal status and his confiscated assets.

 

BANGKOK 00002455 002.2 OF 004

 

Given the tense atmospherics right now, it is hard for us to

envision either side compromising on the question of jail

time for Thaksin, something Niphon freely acknowledged. End

Summary and Comment.

 

INCREASING POLITICAL RANCOR MAKES DIALOGUE DIFFICULT

——————————————— ——-

 

4. (C) The Ambassador hosted PM Office Secretary General,

Democrat Party deputy Secretary General, and chief adviser to

the Crown Prince Niphon Promphan at the residence September

24 and asked him about the political impasse that has beset

Thailand since the 2006 coup. Niphon expressed dismay with

the tenor of the current political dialogue, remarking that

it was as partisan and rancorous as he had ever seen it, a

function he believed of the selfishness of politicians. When

the Ambassador asked whether this phenomenon helped

precipitate Thaksin\’s rise to power in 2001, Niphon argued

that Thaksin had simply identified voter interests — using a

professional polling outfit — and then tailored a domestic

agenda accordingly.

 

5. (C) When the Ambassador asked whether Niphon retained any

kind of rapport with Thaksin, Niphon replied that while they

remained on good terms — he was one of only one or two

Democrats in that category — they no longer talked.

According to Niphon, Thaksin\’s intermediaries had made it

clear that Thaksin would like to talk with him, but Niphon\’s

current position in the government and especially his

proximity to the Crown Prince meant that such a talk would be

considered scandalous in the current political context.

 

6. (C) Turning to Thailand\’s formal political divide, Niphon

expressed his personal commitment to crafting a solution

through dialogue, mentioning his own engagement with former

Thaksin lieutenant, banned Thai Rak Thai executive and

ex-Justice Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana. From Puea Thai

(PT), Thaksin\’s younger sister Yingluck Shinawatra was now

Thaksin\’s conduit to PT MPs, even if she lacked a formal

position in the party. Niphon stressed the need to expand the

dialogue to include representatives from many sides,

including yellow-shirts and the Privy Council. When asked by

Ambassador to suggest who from the Privy Council would be

willing to participate, Niphon initially struggled to

identify any one, finally suggesting Air Vice Marshal Kamthon

Sindvananda and Mr. Sawad Wattanayagorn. He also added Arsa

Sarasin, the Principal Private Secretary.

 

7. (C) Niphon suggested at least three issues needed to be

addressed: amending the constitution; basic accountability

for gross legal infractions, and some package deal on

amnesty/Thaksin. The Constitution amendment process had

picked up steam, though a national referendum would be

required. Both yellow and red would also have to accept

culpability for breaking the law — the yellow takeover of

the airports in November-December 2008, the red violence in

April, in which Niphon narrowly escaped. While there was

some willingness for an amnesty of sorts, the main challenge

was how to apply it to Thaksin. Public out of hand

rejections aside, Niphon believed that this question could be

addressed in private negotiations; there were three key

issues: Thaksin\’ money; his acceptance of legal guilt; and

his future role.

 

8. (C) On the issue of returning Thaksin\’s frozen assets,

Niphon suggested one compromise would be a stiff capital

gains tax on the gains made while Thaksin was PM, returning

the balance to Thaksin. Niphon noted that Abhisit, not in

power at the time of the judicial decision, had remarked that

it was unfair for Thaksin to lose the assets he had when he

entered office in 2001. The more difficult part involved

Thaksin\’s legal standing; Niphon initially suggested a

symbolic four days in jail before suspension/pardon might do

 

BANGKOK 00002455 003.2 OF 004

 

the trick, before concluding Thaksin would likely refuse to

spend even one day in jail.

 

9. (C) An additional complication, according to Niphon, would

be a requirement that Thaksin stay out of politics. No one

really trusted Thaksin, particularly the younger generation

of Democrat MPs. Any deals with him would be viewed with

great skepticism, particularly any promises to stay out of

the political arena. Invoking the ghost of Neville

Chamberlain and the Munich agreement with Hitler, Niphon

concluded everyone was wary of making a peace with Thaksin

that he likely would fail to respect.

 

10. (C) According to Niphon, one of Thaksin\’s biggest

problems was the fact that he lacked a close adviser with

good judgment. Thaksin wasn\’t receiving sound counsel and

therefore too often made the wrong decision. He tended to,

in other words, select the wrong tools from the proverbial

tool kit; Niphon cited Thaksin\’s unleashing his proxies

against General Prem during the September 19 red-shirt rally

(REF A) as the perfect illustration. The profane attacks on

General Prem\’s character made the Privy Council less inclined

to consider reconciliation talks, Niphon stated.

 

POLICE CHIEF IMBROGLIO

———————-

 

11. (C) On the subject of the ongoing saga to name a new

Police Chief (REF C), Niphon suggested that the issue would

conclude within ten days of PM Abhisit\’s return from the

United States, by the end of the first week of October. When

the Ambassador asked how the issue would be resolved, noting

first that it was widely known that Crown Prince

Vajiralongkorn was pushing for Police General Jumpol Manmai

over PM Abhisit\’s choice of Police General Prateep Tunprasert

(note: who also allegedly has the Queen\’s backing. End

note), Niphon shifted uncomfortably and initially replied

merely that he knew who \”his choice\” was (note: Jumpol).

When the Ambassador asked whether a third choice compromise

candidate might be the solution, Niphon agreed that it might

be a possibility, though he repeated that \”his choice\” was

the correct choice, adding that he believed the matter should

have concluded long ago.

 

12. (C) When the Ambassador inquired whether the Crown

Prince\’s direct intervention in the Police Chief selection

process had implications for public perceptions of the role

of the monarchy in governance, Niphon suggested that it did.

Niphon acknowledged that the perceived intervention was

unhelpful both for the Crown Prince and the monarchy.

 

CROWN PRINCE — READY FOR PRIME TIME?

————————————–

 

13. (C) Turning to the Crown Prince and the monarchy\’s role

in Thailand in general, Niphon argued that Thailand was in

many ways at a crossroads. Niphon estimated that a majority

of Thai — including nearly all of those over the age of 40

— still strongly supported the monarchy. According to

Niphon, Thai in the 18-40 age demographic in contrast were

far more focused on their every day lives and economic well

being, without a set view of the monarchy. This group could

be swayed either way, though on balance he felt they would

ultimately be more inclined to support the monarchy if

engaged with a positive message.

 

14. (C) According to Niphon, the Crown Prince was well aware

that he would inherit the throne at a critical moment in the

monarchy\’s future, and Niphon believed the Crown Prince was

ready to rise to the occasion (note: Niphon and

Vajiralongkorn were boarding school classmates in England, at

Millfield, from 1966-70. End Note). The Crown Prince

understood the challenges — particularly the challenges

 

BANGKOK 00002455 004.2 OF 004

 

associated with following his father — but he was confident

nevertheless. Sharp and perceptive, the Crown Prince had

been learning and absorbing lessons from his father since he

was a child, claimed Niphon. The Crown Prince also had a

great memory; Niphon cited a schoolboy exchange in which the

Crown Prince described how, when he was three, he would take

note when he overheard members of the Royal Court saying

disparaging things about the King or Queen, file the

conversations away, and then report them to his parents later

that night.

 

15. (C) When the Ambassador noted that in some ways the Crown

Prince was overshadowed by Princess Sirindhorn\’s popularity

and charisma, Niphon remarked that this dynamic had not in

any way negatively affected their close relationship. The

Crown Prince was aware of what he needed to do in order to be

a successful monarch, and he would change his personality and

character overnight in order to fit the demands of the job,

Niphon claimed. Such a transformation was not without

precedent; Niphon cited General Prem\’s transition from

general to PM. Prior to assuming the PM job, Prem had

disliked businessmen to the point that he refused to allow

them on his property. After he became PM, however, he

started working very closely with the business community and

would even fly around the world on road shows with

businessmen to help drum up opportunities for them.

 

VIKTOR BOUT

———–

 

16. (S) Niphon concluded the meeting by expressing his

profound personal disappointment with the lower court verdict

in the Viktor Bout extradition hearing, a feeling he

suggested extended throughout the government, including the

Prime Minister\’s office. Niphon said he hoped the issue

would correct itself during the appeals process, and he

reiterated that the Prime Minister was closely following it.

(Note: When allegations that Bout\’s supporters were

attempting to seek favor with associates of the Crown Prince

emerged in early 2009, the Ambassador had engaged Niphon to

shut the door on that possibility. See refs D and E. End

Note.)

 

17. (C) The Ambassador thanked Niphon and noted that the RTG

had been helpful at every step of the way, from the March

2008 arrest through preparation of the recent appeal.

Policymakers in Washington understood the distinction between

the RTG\’s close cooperation on the case and the lower court\’s

decision. The latter was an outlier that did not in any way

reflect the RTG\’s spirit of overall partnership.

Nevertheless, overturning the lower court\’s decision on

appeal would be absolutely critical both on the merits of the

case and to avoid any negative impact on the overall

U.S.-Thai relationship.

ENTWISTLE

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 2:08 am

09BANGKOK206 AMBASSADOR AND CROWN PRINCE DISCUSS POLITICS, BILATERAL TIES, KING’S HEALTH, ARMS TRAFFICKER EXTRADITION

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“188948”,”1/27/2009 9:55″,”09BANGKOK206″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO5751

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/27/2019

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PINR, ECON, ETRD, KJUS, KCRM, TH

SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR AND CROWN PRINCE DISCUSS POLITICS,

BILATERAL TIES, KING\’S HEALTH, ARMS TRAFFICKER EXTRADITION

 

BANGKOK 00000206 001.2 OF 002

 

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

 

1. (U) The Ambassador had a private New Year\’s audience with

Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn for 45 minutes at the Amporn

Palace in Bangkok on January 26. The Crown Prince\’s consort,

Princess Srirasmi, also attended.

 

Political Scene

—————

 

2. (C) The Crown Prince noted it was clear to the Thai public

that the Ambassador had been quite active in 2008,

particularly during the political crisis of the past six

months. The Ambassador\’s interest in Thailand was seen as

very positive, and it was good that he was seen meeting with

politicians and others from across the political spectrum,

both in Bangkok and in the provinces. Only by doing so can

one get \”the true story\” about politics in Thailand. The

Crown Prince said that it was essential that the King

remained silent throughout the political crisis. To have

done anything else would have not been proper, and would have

damaged the Monarchy. In response to the Ambassador\’s

comment that the King looked much healthier over the past

month, the Crown Prince agreed, and said that his father had

been rather sick in December. The King\’s sister\’s cremation

ceremony in November, the political upheaval and the airport

takeover all had taken their toll. With those burdens

lifted, the King was in much better spirits now.

 

Economic Engagement

——————-

 

3. (C) The Crown Prince said that the U.S. and global

economic situations certainly would have a negative impact on

the Thai economy, but he was confident that the situation

would quickly rebound – \”These things go in cycles.\” The

Ambassador noted that our bilateral economic relationship

remained vitally important for both countries. American

investment was slowing down in Thailand, but more as a

consequence of an overall drop in U.S. investment in the

region, rather than because of conditions in Thailand. The

U.S. would like to be able to increase exports to Thailand,

however, and would be exploring ways to do so, including the

potential sale of Boeing aircraft to Thai Airways this year.

The Crown Prince, an avid pilot, said that he still flew a

Boeing 737 for Thai Airways occasionally.

 

Building U.S.-Thai Relations

—————————-

 

4. (C) The Crown Prince said he was pleased that the

Ambassador and Mrs. John were so visible in the Thai media,

particularly on university campuses and with nongovernmental

groups, since it was important for a new generation of Thais

to learn the value of a strong and close relationship with

the United States. \”Our generation grew up in the Vietnam

War, and easily understood the strategic importance of having

a strong alliance with the U.S.\” The Ambassador responded

that the military alliance remained vital to the U.S.,

particularly for force projection, live-fire training, and

multilateral military exercise capabilities. Next month\’s

Cobra Gold exercises were a case in point. The Crown Prince

enthusiastically agreed, adding that it was important that

both Thais and Americans understood that.

 

Viktor Bout

———–

 

5. (C) The Ambassador raised the case of Viktor Bout, the

accused arms trafficker in detention in Bangkok awaiting

extradition to the United States. This case is extremely

important to the U.S., given that Bout worked closely with

known terrorists plotting to kill Americans. Extraditing him

would be important for the continued high level of law

enforcement cooperation we have. President Bush raised the

case directly with Prime Minister Samak in Bangkok in August

2008, and the Ambassador had raised it with Prime Ministers

Samak, Somchai, and Abhisit, as well as with four Foreign

Ministers. It was important that the United States could

count on its ally to do the right thing in a case like this.

That said, the Ambassador explained we were aware that Bout

 

BANGKOK 00000206 002.2 OF 002

 

was working every possible channel to secure his release –

legal, or otherwise – so that he could return to Russia and

avoid extradition. This would be a severe blow to our ties.

The U.S. is patient, and understands the long legal

procedures in Thailand, but expects that, in the end, those

legal procedures will result in Bout\’s extradition.

 

6. (C) The Crown Prince said he understood, and recommended

that we continue to pursue the case with the Prime Minister

and relevant cabinet officials. Samak and Somchai would not

have been able to focus on the case since \”they were too

concerned with their own survival.\” The Abhisit government

would be better placed to follow through on the case.

 

A Relaxed Prince

—————-

 

7. (C) The Crown Prince was very engaged in this rare

audience. For a man who is known to have his \”off days,\”

this was not one of them. There was no strained effort to

make conversation, in contrast to previous meetings, and he

was visibly relaxed in the session, particularly after the

media cameramen departed the room. At the end of the

session, the Crown Prince and his consort brought in their

four-year-old son, dressed in an identical suit, tie, and

pocket kerchief as his father, and amiably mused about the

difficulties of raising a child in the modern royal

environment with constant public scrutiny.

JOHN

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:52 am

07BANGKOK680 CHINA ON THAILAND, SINGAPORE, JAPAN AND EAS

with one comment

“95023”,”2/2/2007 8:49″,”07BANGKOK680″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”06BANGKOK5799|07BANGKOK653|07BANGKOK680|07BEIJING592″,”VZCZCXRO6023

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/31/2017

TAGS: PREL, PGOV, MARR, MASS, CH, TH, ASEAN, SN, JA

SUBJECT: CHINA ON THAILAND, SINGAPORE, JAPAN AND EAS

 

REF: A. BEIJING592: SONTHI DISCUSSES ARMS PURCHASES

B. 06BANGKOK5799: IMPLEMENTING SANCTIONS

C. BANGKOK653: SINGAPORE SPAT

 

Classified By: Political Counselor Susan M. Sutton, Reasons 1.4 (B,D)

 

1. (C) SUMMARY. Chinese diplomats confirmed that Thai

interim PM Surayud Chulanont will visit China in April, and

shared that the Thai Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn has

delayed his planned trip in a snit. The Chinese stated that

CNS Chairman General Sonthi Boonyaratglin\’s recent trip to

Beijing resulted in informal agreements for more military

expert exchanges between the two countries, and might portend

increases in the Thai purchase of Chinese military equipment.

Chinese diplomats predicted that although the

Thai-Singaporean relationship is currently tense, it would

not worsen. They also expressed optimism that Japan\’s new PM

Shinzo Abe\’s term would translate into an upturn in

Sino-Japanese relations. Chinese diplomats assessed that the

recent East Asia Summit (EAS) in Cebu, Philippines was a

success, and hoped that EAS would become a \”middle ground\”

for the Chinese and Americans to meet and discuss issues

pertaining to East Asia. End summary.

 

SURAYUD TO VISIT CHINA

———————-

 

2. (C) As part of Embassy Bangkok\’s regular tea meetings

with the PRC Embassy, XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

 

confirmed that no Chinese high-level visits to Thailand

are currently being planned. However, Thailand\’s interim

prime minister, Surayud Chulanont, will be visiting the PRC

in April. XXXXXXX then joked that although a famous Thai

astrologer predicted that 2007 would not be an auspicious

year for Thailand, XXXX believed that the Surayud government

\”have control of the (domestic) situation\” and assessed that

the state of domestic politics \”depended upon how the (Thai)

economy is going.\”

 

THE CROWN PRINCE POSTPONES CHINA TRIP IN A SNIT

——————————————— —

 

3. (C) XXXXXX shared that a planned visit by the Thai Crown

Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to take place early this year has

been postponed. XXXXX explained that the crown prince was

\”angry\” that he was refused his request for \”special VIP

treatment\” while visiting China. This would have been his

first trip to the PRC; his sister, Crown Princess Maha Chakri

Sirindhorn, visited China a number of times and speaks fluent

Mandarin Chinese.

 

ON THINGS MILITARY…

———————

 

4. (C) XXXXXXX stated that although no formal agreements were

signed during the January 21-24 visit to Beijing of

Thailand\’s Council of National Security (CNS) Chairman Sonthi

Boonyaratglin (reftel A), China expected that there would be

an increased exchange of military experts between the two

countries. Also, XXXXXXXX noted that Sonthi\’s trip would likely

translate into an increase in the Thai purchase of Chinese

military equipment.

 

WHAT? THE US STILL SELLS WEAPONS TO THAILAND?

———————————————

 

5. (C) Inquiring details to the US Section 508 sanctions

that was placed on Thailand after the military coup (reftel

B), the Chinese were surprised to learn that Section 508 did

not affect military sales. Poloff explained that Section 508

only affected various forms of US military grants and

 

BANGKOK 00000680 002 OF 002

 

assistance to the Thai military and that we were still able

to conduct foreign military sales.

 

FEUDING NEIGHBORS

—————–

 

6. (C) Noting the current tension in Thai-Singaporean

relations, XXXXXXX assessed that since both Thailand and

Singapore are members of ASEAN, \”things would not get any

worse.\” XXXXXXXX stated that Thailand \”just wanted to teach

Singapore a lesson\” (reftel C), and she did not expect

Thailand to take any steps that would worsen the two

countries\’ relationship.

 

AND CHINA\’S OWN FEUD…

———————–

 

7. (C) XXXXXXXXX expressed optimism in the new Japanese Prime

Minister Shinzo Abe. XX noted that Sino-Japanese relations

has dramatically improved since Abe\’s term and expected the

relationship to continue to improve under his government.

XXXXXX stated that there is \”still time for Abe to show his

ability,\” and confirmed that Chinese President Hu Jingtao

will visit Japan in April.

 

NEW PLATFORM FOR EAST ASIAN MULTILATERALISM?

——————————————–

 

8. (C) XXXXXXX said that the recent East Asia Summit

(EAS)/ASEAN 3 meeting in Cebu, Philippines was a great

success. XXXXX stated that although EAS is a \”new platform\”

for leaders of East Asian countries to discuss issues and

resolve differences, it is still uncertain what kind of role

EAS would play in the future. XXXX suggested that since

ASEAN 3 is currently the principle mechanism for China to

engage with its East Asian neighbors — like APEC is for the

United States — perhaps EAS could be a \”middle ground\” for

China and the US to meet together along with the other East

Asian players to discuss multilateral issues.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:50 am

07BANGKOK5041 PRE-ELECTION ROUND-UP: ELECTION LAWS, MILITARY RESHUFFLE, CROWN PRINCE SCANDAL

with one comment

“122959”,”9/20/2007 10:49″,”07BANGKOK5041″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,”07BANGKOK4793|07BANGKOK4905|07BANGKOK5041″,”VZCZCXRO3085

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/19/2017

TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, TH

SUBJECT: PRE-ELECTION ROUND-UP: ELECTION LAWS, MILITARY

RESHUFFLE, CROWN PRINCE SCANDAL

 

REF: A. BANGKOK 4905 (EX-TRT FIGURES

B. ARMY CHIEF)

C. BANGKOK 4793 (RESHUFFLE)

 

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

 

1. (C) SUMMARY: The new Army Chief will be GEN Anupong

Paochinda, as widely anticipated. Current Army Chief Sonthi

told the Ambassador he was not planning to run for

Parliament, but would seek a political position in the new

government to protect himself from those with \”tremendous

assets.\” The legislature is working to complete the laws

needed to hold the elections; these must be passed by October

3. While there is a chance their entry into effect could be

slowed if they faced a constitutional challenge, this does

not appear likely. The current draft includes very tough

penalties for parties and party leaders if their members

engage in election fraud. A scandalous video of the Crown

Prince and his wife is in wide circulation and has prompted

more (but quiet) criticism of the unloved Prince. Fractures

already threaten the recently-formed \”For the Motherland\”

party. END SUMMARY.

 

ARMY DECISIONS

————–

 

2. (SBU) The long-awaited military reshuffle list was

published on September 19. GEN Anupong Paochinda, a key

actor in last year\’s coup, is the new army commander. GEN

Saphrang Kalayanamitr, another leading participant in last

year\’s coup, will move to deputy permanent secretary at the

Ministry of Defense, a position widely seen as a consolation

prize for the former front runner for the top Army job. GEN

Montri Sangkasap, who was rumored to be the favorite of

current Army Chief GEN Sonthi, will move to deputy supreme

commander. Everyone will take his new position on October 1.

New Army Chief Anupong declared, apparently without irony,

that he would keep the military out of politics. (REF B)

 

3. (C) Current Army Chief GEN Sonthi Boonyaratglin told the

Ambassador on the margins of a social event that he was not

planning to run for a seat in the next parliament. However,

he did plan to take a political position when the dust

settles. He noted that he had to protect himself from \”those

who have tremendous assets.\” We take this as further

evidence that he is angling for a ministerial position in the

new government. As we have noted, the defense minister

portfolio is normally held by a retired general. GEN Sonthi

will retire as Army chief at the end of the month, but will

remain as chairman of the Council for National Security (CNS)

until the new government is installed.

 

LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR ELECTIONS

—————————–

 

4. (C) The National Legislative Assembly (NLA) is working on

three key laws that form the framework for the upcoming

elections: the Law on election of MPs and Senators, the Law

on the Election Commission, and the Law on Political Parties.

An NGO working on election assistance told us that the

drafts, which were prepared by the Constitution Drafting

Assembly, were reportedly very weak. They showed signs of

having been prepared under the pressure of the deadlines set

out in the interim constitution, which required the draft

legislation to be submitted to the NLA in mid-August. The

NLA has until October 3 to pass the three laws, according to

the deadline in the interim constitution (and affirmed in the

adopted 2007 constitution.)

 

5. (C) According to Yuwarat Kamolvet, a member of the NLA

drafting committee, the draft laws will be ready for

submission to the full NLA at the end of this week. Given

the fractious nature of the NLA, this is a tight deadline to

permit debate and ensure that the laws finally adopted are

consistent internally and with the constitution. The latter

is particularly important. NLA member and staunch

anti-Thaksin activist Prasong Soonsiri has warned that the

constitutionality of these laws could be challenged, leading

to Constitutional Court review before they could go into

effect. (According to the 2007 Constitution, one-tenth of

the members of Parliament can call for constitutional court

 

BANGKOK 00005041 002 OF 002

 

review of any legislation after it has passed. It is not

clear how this would be applied to the existing structure of

the NLA and the Constitutional Tribunal.) Our NLA source

admitted that a constitutional challenge was theoretically

possible; this was why, he said, they were being very careful

to ensure that there were no legal weaknesses in the final

versions. He anticipated that the projected election date of

December 23 would hold.

 

6. (C) Political parties have raised concerns that new laws

will impose excessive penalties on politicians and parties

for election transgressions. Yuwarat said that the current

draft includes stiff penalties for parties and their leaders

if they know party members are involved in election fraud and

do not intervene. We pointed out that severe penalties of

this kind could eventually lead to the decimation of

Thailand\’s political class, as most parties appeared to have

at least some members who engaged in vote-buying or other

transgressions. Yuwarat defended the decision. First of all,

he noted that nothing so far had worked in reining in

campaign abuses, and so tougher measures were necessary.

Candidates who engaged in vote-buying were not spending their

own money, for the most part; they were getting funding from

their party and its leadership. Yuwarat predicted also that

the toughest penalties would rarely be imposed. The cases

would be considered by the courts, and he expected the

parties to have better lawyers than the prosecution, and

would be able to defend themselves against unfair charges.

 

SCANDALOUS VIDEO

—————-

 

7. (C) A disturbing video of the Crown Prince and his wife is

in wide circulation here, after being posted on website

VEOH.com. The video, which is reportedly several years old,

shows the CP and his wife at a birthday party in a garden

after dark. The wife is wearing nothing but a G-string and a

smile as she lights the birthday candles. The video shows

servants waiting on the table, and the flash of photographs

being taken. According to a number of contacts, this is

being passed around on DVD, both in Bangkok and in the

provinces; the tawdry incident has provoked more (but

whispered) criticism of the CP.

 

MOTHER\’S NOT QUITE HERSELF TODAY

——————————–

 

8. (SBU) The recently announced merger of post-Thai Rak Thai

(TRT) elements with the Pracharaj party is already showing

strains. Several dozen former MPs loyal to Matchima leader

Somsak have threatened to leave \”Peua Pandin\” (For the

Motherland.) Their chief concern appears to be how the

Motherland party would solve the conflicts when each faction

has MPs who want to run in the same constituencies. They

have threatened to jump ship and declare their allegiance to

the other new coalition (Ruam Jai Thai/Chart Pattana).

Leaders of the Motherland factions are in negotiations to

heal the rift. (REF A)

 

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:47 am

07BANGKOK5839 CROWN PRINCE DISCUSSES MONARCHY, POLITICS IN AMBASSADOR’S FAREWELL CALL

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“130320”,”11/16/2007 6:52″,”07BANGKOK5839″,”Embassy Bangkok”,”CONFIDENTIAL”,””,”VZCZCXRO7967

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E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/16/2017

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PINR, KDEM, TH

SUBJECT: CROWN PRINCE DISCUSSES MONARCHY, POLITICS IN

AMBASSADOR\’S FAREWELL CALL

 

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

 

SUMMARY

——-

 

1. (C) I paid a farewell call on Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn

on November 13. He appeared pleased with the news that his

father had been able to jam two days earlier for two hours

with the visiting Preservation Hall Jazz Band. He said in

general terms that the institution of the monarchy had helped

prevent Thailand\’s falling into a state of dictatorship, and

he labeled former Prime Minister Thaksin as a dictator who

had come to power through elections. He agreed Thailand

would likely be governed by a weak coalition government after

December\’s elections, with the pro-Thaksin People\’s Power

Party (PPP) unable to draw allies and PPP party leader Samak

Sundaravej unsuited to become Prime Minister. The Crown

Prince assessed the security situation in the South as

improving; he also commented that his Royal Consort had

experienced some frustration adjusting to her new role. In

an earlier encounter with Srirasm, she told me her son was

speaking energetically, contrary to rumors that he has shown

signs of autism. She exhibited visible discomfort with an

innocuous question about Princess Sirindhorn, seen as a rival

of the Crown Prince. Srirasm also confirmed that royal

poodle Foo Foo now holds the rank of Air Chief Marshal. End

Summary.

 

REMARKS ON THE KING

——————-

 

2. (C) I paid a farewell call on Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn

at his Sukhothai Palace residence on November 13. We began

by talking about the Embassy-sponsored Preservation Hall Jazz

Band event which he and Royal Consort Srirasm had attended on

November 10. Interestingly, the Crown Prince was unaware

that King Bhumibol had participated in a two-hour jam session

with the band the following day (November 11). He was

pleased with news of the session, saying it would have been

invigorating for the King \”after all he has been through\”

lately. He added that the King often preferred to

communicate through music rather than speech, noting that

musicians have a common bond that transcends language.

(Note: According to the musicians, the King was able to speak

normally and showed no sign of serious impairment from his

recent mild stroke. End Note.)

 

3. (C) The Crown Prince continued to discuss the King and the

monarchy generally; he praised his father for his

achievements while on the throne and noted the King always

conducted himself with the interests of the Thai people at

heart. He said, \”Without this institution, Thailand might be

a real dictatorship, like we used to have under (Field

Marshal) Pibulsonggram.\” (Comment: It was unclear whether he

was distinguishing the monarchy as an institution from King

Bhumibol\’s personal role. Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram

overthrew the absolute monarch and held power from 1938 until

1944, then again from 1948 to 1957 — including the first

decade of King Bhumibol\’s reign. End Comment.)

 

POLITICS

——–

 

4. (C) Turning to Thai politics, the Crown Prince remarked

that it must be difficult for outside observers to fathom the

complexity of developments here, adding that even he

sometimes found it hard to grasp. As we speculated on

scenarios for the upcoming election, he agreed with the

notion that the People\’s Power Party (PPP) might win the most

votes but prove unable to form a government, because people

recognized that PPP was essentially a reincarnation of Thai

Rak Thai, and returning this group to power would throw the

country into disarray.

 

5. (C) The Crown Prince rolled his eyes at mention of PPP

Party Leader Samak Sundaravej, saying that Samak would be

unacceptable as Prime Minister. While Samak could be an

effective public speaker, his judgment was poor and he had

always been brusque and controversial. The Crown Prince

assessed the current interim administration would almost

certainly be supplanted by a fragile and relatively

ineffective coalition government, quite possibly led by the

 

BANGKOK 00005839 002 OF 003

 

Democrat Party, with PPP forming a combative, strong

opposition force.

 

6. (C) Despite Thailand\’s long history of coups and its many

constitutions, the Crown Prince said, the Thai people loved

democracy and individual freedoms. He said he found it

ironic that Prime Minister Thaksin had essentially been able

to act as a dictator, although coming to power through

elections. (Comment: Early in Thaksin\’s administration,

Thaksin seemed to invest heavily in cultivating close ties to

the Crown Prince. The two men later had a spectacular

falling-out, prompting the Crown Prince to abandon the

Nonthaburi Palace that Thaksin had purchased and outfitted

for him, moving to the Sukhothai Palace downtown. Stories

vary about a meeting between Thaksin and the Crown Prince in

London earlier this year; the version we assess as most

likely is that Thaksin sought an audience with the Crown

Prince, and, when this was not granted, he inserted himself

into the reception line at the Crown Prince\’s hotel and had a

45-second discussion devoid of substance. End Comment.)

 

THE SOUTH

———

 

7. (C) The Crown Prince also noted that he and Royal Consort

Srirasm had recently traveled to southern Thailand. (They

were there from November 11-13, providing assistance to

residents of the troubled border provinces, performing a

religious rite to commemorate the King\’s upcoming 80th

birthday, and presenting honors to prominent local figures.)

He said the security situation in the deep was improving, but

it was necessary to travel there, to boost the people\’s

morale.

 

SRIRASM\’S ADJUSTMENT TO HER NEW ROLE

————————————

 

8. (C) The Crown Prince noted that Srirasm\’s life had changed

radically when she became a Princess; she had to master

massive responsibilities and deal with a wide range of issues

relating to protocol and the use of court language. Although

she conducted herself publicly with perfect grace and

composure, the Crown Prince said, in private she had felt

some frustration adapting to her new role. He added,

however, that Thais loved her because, like the King\’s

mother, she was a \”commoner,\” and her background added to her

charm.

 

DISCUSSION WITH SRIRASM AT JAZZ BAND EVENT

——————————————

 

9. (C) I also had the opportunity to speak with Srisasm when

we were seated next to each other at the November 10

Preservation Hall Jazz Band gala dinner. I asked at that

time how she had adjusted to the new protocols and court

language usage required of her. She told me that she had no

difficulties, as she had worked for the Queen for 15 years at

the Bang Pa-in summer palace.

 

10. (C) Srirasm also described her son, Dipangkorn Rasmijoti,

as a bit of a prodigy, noting that he speaks energetically —

mostly in Thai, but also in English (in which he receives

instruction). She remarked that Dipangkorn tended to speak

like an adult, because he was always in the company of

adults. (Comment: If true, this account would appear to put

to rest rumors of autism. End Comment.)

 

11. (C) I mentioned to Srirasm that, during the state dinner

hosted by the King for former President Bush in December

2006, the King had appeared most energized when discussing

animals; he had spoken animatedly about his most well-known

dog, Thongdaeng, and others. I mentioned having heard

Princess Sirindhorn had a large dog, and I asked Srirasm if

she knew the breed. Srirasm appeared immediately to freeze

up; her body language changed, and she said curtly that she

knew nothing of Sirindhorn\’s affairs. (Comment: Her reaction

was interesting, given a widespread, longstanding perception

that Sirindhorn may somehow edge out the Crown Prince as

successor to the King. End Comment.)

 

12. (C) Srirasm also confirmed that the Crown Prince\’s

miniature poodle, Foo Foo, currently holds the rank of Air

 

BANGKOK 00005839 003 OF 003

 

Chief Marshal. Foo Foo was present at the event, dressed in

formal evening attire complete with paw mitts, and at one

point during the band\’s second number, he jumped up onto the

head table and began lapping from the guests\’ water glasses,

including my own. The Air Chief Marshal\’s antics drew the

full attention of the 600-plus audience members, and remains

the talk of the town to this day.

 

COMMENT

——-

 

13. (C) The Crown Prince appears healthy. I was recently

told by M.R. Pridiyathorn Devakula, former Deputy Prime

Minister and Palace insider, that the reason the Crown Prince

had looked gaunt and was walking unsteadily a few months ago

(which sparked rumors of his failing health) was because he

was wearing some kind of constricting apparel under his

clothing. The doctors told him to take it off, and he

immediately looked more fit and stable. In conversation with

me, he was able to engage in easy back-and-forth discussion

throughout.

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:44 am

05BANGKOK1233 THE AMBASSADOR’S MEETING WITH PRIVY COUNCILOR GENERAL SURAYUD

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“27206”,”2/17/2005 10:10″,”05BANGKOK1233″,

 

“Embassy Bangkok”,”SECRET”,”05BANGKOK8629″,

 

“This record is a partial extract of the original cable.

 

The full text of the original cable is not available.

 

“,”S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 BANGKOK 001233

 

SIPDIS

 

DEPT FOR EAP, INR

 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/16/2015

TAGS: PGOV, PREL, PINR, TH, BM, BURMA, Southern Thailand

SUBJECT: THE AMBASSADOR\’S MEETING WITH PRIVY COUNCILOR

GENERAL SURAYUD, FEBRUARY 16, 2005

 

REF: BANGKOK 8629

 

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, Reason 1.4 (d)

 

US INVOLVEMENT IN SOUTHERN UNREST

 

1. (S) On February 16, 2005 I, met with Privy Councilor

General Surayud Chulanont former Supreme Commander of the

Royal Thai Armed Forces (RTAF) and Royal Thai Army (RTA)

Commander-in-Chief. The meeting, held at Surayud,s request,

took place at his residence in the Eastern suburbs of Bangkok

and lasted about two hours. Surayud, a soft-speaking and

quiet personality, had just returned from a trip to Yala

province, where he met with a local Imam (unnamed) who told

him that rumors were circulating about CIA involvement in the

surge of violence that has plagued the deep South for over a

year. I denied any such U.S. involvement, to which Surayud

replied, &well, that\’s the rumor.8 Surayud said the Imam

claimed that former Ambassador Johnson had been to the South

three times and &offered to help8 in any way possible, a

proposal to which the Imam demurred. I told Surayud that I

had no current plans to go to the deep South. Surayud said

that, in his view, it was not a good idea for me to travel

there, and mentioned a recent \”troublesome\” trip by an

Embassy \”political officer.8 (Note: Ambassador Johnson

never traveled to the far southern provinces of Yala, Pattani

and Narathiwat, although he did visit Phuket and Nakhon Si

Thammarat. The embassy officer Surayud referred to is

probably our RSO who, during an initial security survey of

the South in December 2004, was \”ambushed\” by local

journalists. Per reftel, their news stories distorted the

purposes of his trip and fed the kind of conspiratorial

thinking reflected by the Imam\’s comments to General Surayud.

Various Embassy officers travel frequently to Thailand\’s

deep South. End Note.)

 

2. (S) Surayud stated his support for Thailand\’s role in

sending troops to Afghanistan and Iraq but noted that a

redeployment in either country now would be ill-advised and

could be used by rabble rousers in the South to portray the

RTG as eager to get involved in anti-Muslim activity, prodded

by the U.S.

 

THAKSIN,S SOUTHERN SECURITY STRATEGY

 

3. (S) Surayud commented on the volatile situation in the

deep South. He said that when General Prem Tinsulanonda (now

President of the Privy Council) was prime minister, he had

established a security structure in the South, the Southern

Border Peacekeeping Center, which was continued into the

second administration of Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai. That

Center was organized as a combined civilian, police and

military command structure to pool intelligence, but also to

serve as a legitimate means for citizens to send in

complaints. PM Thaksin dismantled the Center in 2002.

Thaksin\’s explanation to Surayud at the time was that there

were &only 35 rebels hiding in the woods with guns\” and the

Royal Thai Police (RTP) alone could handle the situation. In

fact, Surayud suspected, Thaksin had dismantled the Center,

thereby effectively shelving Thai military involvement,

because of his own police background and sympathies towards

the RTP, and as part of a plan to win the South back from the

opposition Democrat Party (DP). Surayud summarized the

problems in the South as complex, and therefore needing a

complex solution. He said the government must learn more

about the local culture, needs to invest in education, and

should not resort to new southern command structures that

rely on the Ministry of Defense for authority and

accountability.

 

4. (S) Surayud noted his amazement that Agriculture Minister

Wan Muhamad Noor Matha\’s Wadah faction candidates were

defeated in the recent general election, given Wan Noor,s

central prominence for years in the South, with a variety of

political parties.

 

5. (S) Commenting on HM Queen Sirikit,s speech in November

2004 where she spoke about the plight of Buddhist villagers

in the South, Surayud said that he had suggested to the Queen

before the speech not to go into too much detail about the

South. I told Surayud that the Queen\’s remarks seemed to

reflect general views of most Thai people about Thai Muslims

in the South. Surayud agreed, adding that her comments had

not been helpful. Furthermore, Surayud surmised that the

King\’s silence on matters in the South in his December 5

birthday speech was one result of the Queen\’s remarks. The

King had different views on the South than did the Queen, but

was not about to make that publicly evident. Surayud agreed

with me that most moderates in the south just want to be left

alone, but are caught between an onslaught of globalization

and a sense of increasingly imposed &Thainess8 from Central

Thailand and a swan song of radical Islamist efforts locally.

 

BURMA POLICY TOO SOFT

 

6. (S) I asked Surayud about the current RTG policy of

\”constructive engagement\” with Burma. Surayud\’s assessment

was that it was &too soft8, because the SPDC never listens.

He said that the government should return to the policy of

the second Chuan administration, which had used a harsher

rhetoric and kept closer to Thailand\’s national interests.

Surayud stated that as RTA Commander-in-Chief he had

emphasized the importance of education and going after the Wa

if the SPDC didn,t. He recounted that Thaksin had initially

agreed with this approach and Surayud had moved forces to the

North of Thailand (disguising them as maneuvers from the

Northeast). While he was in Washington giving a speech on

Capitol Hill, Surayud said he had learned that Thaksin was

expressing strong opposition to the troop movements, even

though they had already discussed them in apparent agreement.

Surayud speculated that about that time the Shin satellite

deal with Burma was being fixed and had trumped his moves

against the Wa. After that, Thaksin had tried to sideline

him, if not remove him altogether. &I was too independent,8

Surayud summarized. (Note: Surayud was promoted to Supreme

Commander in 2002 — a move regarded in Thailand as being

kicked upstairs, away from real authority — and retired in

September 2003. End Note.) Surayud also commented that the

Thaksin Administration\’s highly publicized and controversial

\”war on drugs\” — which began in early 2003 — has not been

successful, even if it appears to be popular.

Methamphetamines are still widely available in Thailand.

Thaksin, he said, only eliminated the &small fry8 along the

border and didn\’t go after the Wa, the producers. (Surayud

also said he thought many innocent people had been killed in

the drug suppression efforts in southern Thailand.)

 

FINAL NOTE ON THE CROWN PRINCE

 

7. (S) I asked Surayud about the heir to King Bhumhibol,

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. Surayud replied that he

had tutored the Crown Prince some 20 years ago and surmised

that &He\’ll never measure up8 to the present monarch, but

\”somehow the Thai people will make do.\”

BOYCE

Written by thaicables

June 23, 2011 at 1:09 am