WikiLeaks: On PAD, the politicization of the monarchy, plot to kill Thaksin
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WikiLeaks: On PAD, the politicization of the monarchy, plot to kill Thaksin

Further to BP previous posts about WikiLeaks and Thai politics (US can’t trust Thailand on extraditions; Thai political elite are corrupt; Former Thai PM Samak on 2006 coup; and US Ambassador meets Thai coup leader), there are more cables. This blog post will focus on a cable from November 2008. The title of the cable is “PALACE INSIDER TELLS AMBASSADOR OF THE [BP: Title removed] OPPOSITION TO A COUP AND TO PAD PROTESTS. The cable number is 003317. The cable is written by the US Ambassador. All redactions marked as “XXXXXX” is done by The Guardian. Redactions by BP are through the use of square brackets. Again, due to the subject matter of the cable, no link can be provided.

The cable:

(C) [BP: Title and name removed] explicitly told Army Commander Anupong Paojinda not to launch a coup, XXXXXXXXXXXX, an advisor to [BP: Title and name removed], told Ambassador November 4. XXXXXXXXXXXX also claimed that the [BP: Title removed] had not meant to signal support for the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) anti-government agenda when [BP: Description removed]. XXXXXXXXXXXX said PAD’s activities had irritated the [BP: title removed], who reportedly wants PAD protestors to leave Government House. XXXXXXXXXXXX spoke well of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, saying Somchai was open to compromising with the PAD, although XXXXXXXXXXXX guessed Somchai would be forced from office by the end of the year. Separately, a politically active businessman with strong connections to the palace told us that the [BP: Title and description removed] thereby serving the agenda of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. This contact also discussed a possible assassination plot against Thaksin and PAD plans for violence. Both contacts claimed the King suffered from back pain and his condition was frail.
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/>2. (S/NF) Comment: XXXXXXXXXXXX’s claim that the [BP: Title removed] instructed Anupong not to conduct a coup is the strongest account we have heard to date about the [BP: Title removed] opposition to a coup and his communicating this to Anupong; it would explain why Privy Counselors Prem and Siddhi, both seen as opponents of the current government, gave recent assurances to the Ambassador that there would not be a coup. While XXXXXXXXXXXX did not specify how he heard of this exchange, the purported instruction does appear consistent with Anupong’s actions, other high-level military assurances to the Ambassador, and reporting in other channels. We agree that the [BP: title and description removed] was a significant blunder, jeopardizing the public’s perception of the [BP: word removed] neutrality. PAD appears increasingly divided; this divide, as well as the intense and dynamic condition of Thai politics, may make it appear realistic to hope for a PAD-government compromise. Possible further violence, however, remains a concern. End Summary and Comment.
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/>[BP: word removed]-PAD RELATIONS
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/>3. (C) Ambassador met privately at the Residence on November 4 with XXXXXXXXXXXX, a close advisor to [BP: Name and title removed] who in the past has also served as a confidant of the [BP: title removed]. XXXXXXXXXXXX remarked that he regretted the [BP: title and description removed] (ref D). He claimed the  [BP: title removed] had been emotionally affected when she learned that one victim of the October 7 violence was a young lady about to be married, and that she had told her father she was going to the protest to defend the monarchy. Initially, the  [BP: title removed] had wanted to send [BP: Name and title and description removed]. It was only at the request of [BP: name removed] and [BP: name removed] companion,   [BP: name removed], that the [BP: title removed] decided to go herself. XXXXXXXXXXXX said there was no intention for [BP: title removed] to involve either herself or the [BP: word removed] in political matters, but, unfortunately, some members of the public could interpret the [BP: event removed] differently. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the [BP: title removed] later reached out to seriously injured police officers in an attempt to show her neutrality, but this signal went largely unnoticed.
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/>4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX remarked that [BP: Name and title removed] was highly irritated by PAD’s occupation of Government House and other disruptions caused by the anti-government group, but the [BP: title removed] was unsure how best to ensure PAD would vacate the compound. XXXXXXXXXXXX said the [BP: title removed] had instructed two of his loyalists to convey his desire that PAD leave Government House. (One of these messengers was well-known associate of the [BP: title and title removed] who said publicly on October 29 that Thais who love the King should “go home”; see ref A.) XXXXXXXXXXXX considered XXXXXXXXXXXX to be obstinate, however, saying Sondhi had become obsessed with his own sense of mission. By contrast, XXXXXXXXXXXX thought that XXXXXXXXXXXX was reasonable and willing to compromise.

BP: Sondhi obsessed with his own sense of mission?

The cable continues:

POSITIVE VIEW OF SOMCHAI
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/>5. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX claimed to have spoken to Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat about the current standoff. XXXXXXXXXXXX told the Ambassador that Somchai had agreed that the government could meet with the PAD and reach a compromise, but the time was not yet ripe. In his conversation with the Ambassador, XXXXXXXXXXXX spoke highly of Somchai, saying he was “very good” and had many qualities that made him suitable to be Prime Minister, including a sense of fairness and a moderate temperament. Nevertheless, XXXXXXXXXXXX predicted that Somchai could not remain long in office because he would likely be forced out by an adverse Constitutional Court ruling in the People’s Power Party (PPP) dissolution case (ref A), which XXXXXXXXXXXX believed the Court might issue before the King’s birthday (December 5). XXXXXXXXXXXX guessed Somchai would dissolve the parliament before being forced from office.
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/>[BP: Title removed] TO ANUPONG: NO COUP
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/>6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX predicted that the current turmoil would not result in a military coup. He said that the [BP: Title removed], speaking with Army Commander Anupong Paojinda, had referred to the 2006 coup and made a statement to the effect that there should be no further coups.

BP: BP heard this and the wording that there would no further coups back in 2008.

The cable continues:

POLITICIZATION OF THE MONARCHY
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/>7. (C) We also met on November 5 with XXXXXXXXXXXX (strictly protect), the well-connected scion of a wealthy family with close palace ties. XXXXXXXXXXXX had a leading role in the XXXXXXXXXXXX; his wife, XXXXXXXXXXXX, has the royal title of “XXXXXXXXXXXX” and works closely with the Queen. XXXXXXXXXXXX agreed that the [BP: Title and description removed] had highly negative ramifications, saying that even politically neutral Thais felt [BP: words removed]. He also acknowledged increasing semi-public criticism of the [BP: word removed], focused on the [BP: title removd] (septel). XXXXXXXXXXXX stated with confidence that the [BP: Title removed] had sought to deter the [BP: Title removed] from attending the [BP: event removed] by questioning the wisdom of that plan, but had stopped short of forbidding her to do so.

8. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX discussed former Prime Minister Thaksin’s statement in his November 1 address to supporters (ref B) that either “royal mercy or the people’s power” could allow his return to Thailand. XXXXXXXXXXXX said this juxtaposition, which he viewed as highly strategic, had the predictable effect of energizing Thaksin’s opponents in the royalist camp. This reaction allowed Thaksin to demonstrate publicly that many palace figures were aligned against him, thereby eroding the prestige that the palace derived from its status as an institution above politics. (Separately, after Thaksin’s remarks, a member of Thaksin’s legal team told us that the sentence in question was part of a “very refined product” and that she had heard this sentence “four or five times” in Thaksin’s rehearsal of the speech.)

BP: That last sentence in paragraph 7…. Thaksin doesn’t escape attention in paragraph 8 either.

The cable continues:

THAKSIN’S ENEMIES’ PLANS FOR VIOLENCE
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/>9. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX believed PAD continued to aim for a violent clash that would spark a coup. He asserted that he had dined on October 6 with a leading PAD figure (NFI), who explained that PAD would provoke violence during its October 7 protest at the parliament. The unnamed PAD figure predicted (wrongly) that the Army would intervene against the government by the evening of October 7. XXXXXXXXXXXX asserted to us that PAD remained intent on a conflict that would generate at least two dozen deaths and make military intervention appear necessary and justified.
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/>10. (C) We mentioned to XXXXXXXXXXXX the claim by Thaksin associate XXXXXXXXXXXX that Thaksin had been the target of an assassination plot (ref C). (Note: Subsequent to the Ambassador’s meeting with XXXXXXXXXXXX, another Thaksin ally related the same claim, and said Thaksin himself had spoken of this plot. End Note.) XXXXXXXXXXXX suggested XXXXXXXXXXXX’s list of conspirators — including two prominent judges — was not credible, but XXXXXXXXXXXX said he could confirm (presumably because of first-hand discussion with an organizing figure) that certain enemies of Thaksin (NFI) had sought to kill him. XXXXXXXXXXXX said he had been surprised to learn that the contract on Thaksin’s life entailed a relatively low payment of only several hundred thousand Baht (in the range of 10,000 USD), although it also entailed resettlement abroad for the person(s) directly involved.
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/>REMARKS ON THE [BP: Title removed] HEALTH
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/>11. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX (late August/early September). At that time, he said, the [BP: Title removed] complexion appeared healthy, but overall the [BP: Title removed] appeared frail. He added that the [BP: Title removed] was upset with the Thai doctor who had organized the team that performed back surgery on the [BP: Title removed] two years ago, as the operation had not worked as well as the [BP: Title removed] had been led to expect. XXXXXXXXXXXX, in his meeting with the Ambassador, also said the [BP: Title removed] was suffering from back pain, and his activities were more limited than in recent years.

BP: The comments in pargraph 9 and 10 are fairly explosive. It also helps to frame the mindset of the various players and their actions.