The Guardian's Latest Thailand-Related WikiLeaks Cables

Originally published at Siam Voices on December 15, 2010 After we have learned what China thought about post-coup Thailand and The Guardian hinting at some cables from the US embassy in Bangkok, the London-based newspaper have uploaded three full Thailand-related documents. Due to it's content, we cannot link to it or quote parts of the cables in it's entirety. We advise to look them up by yourself, unless the Thai authorities have already blocked access to the site. But here's what we can quote:

The first cable (marked 'confidential') is from September 20, 2006 - one day after the military coup - and written by then-US ambassador Ralph L. Boyce about a meeting with coup leader Gen. Sonthi Boonyaratglin. Key excerpts:

2. (C) I began by asking Sonthi about the audience with [name redacted] last night. Who had attended? He said Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda had brought him, Supreme Commander Ruangroj and Navy Commander Sathiraphan in to meet [name redacted]. Sonthi stressed that they had been summoned to [place redacted]; he had not sought the audience. He said [name redacted] was relaxed and happy, smiling throughout. He provided no further details.

3. (C) Turning to the US reaction, I reminded him of our conversation, August 31, when I told him any military action would result in immediate suspension of assistance programs such as IMET, FMF and numerous others. I told him he could expect us to announce such a measure shortly. He understood. [...]

The International Military Education and Training (IMET), the Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and various other programs were reinstated in 2008 (source).

5. (C) Was he going to seize Thaksin's assets? No, he stated flatly. Would Thaksin and his family and colleagues be allowed to return to Thailand? Yes, unconditionally. What is the officially approved English rendition of the coup group's title? "Council for Democratic Reform Under Constitutional Monarchy" or CDRM.

Thaksin's assets were seized at some point anyways and in 2010 the courts decided to keep most of it. The name of the coup group was eventually quickly changed to just "Council for Democratic Reform" in order to avoid misunderstandings.

The second cable (also marked 'confidential') is from October 1, 2008 and protocols a meeting between US ambassador Eric G. John with former prime minister Samak Sundaravej. The PAD have sieged the Government House for several weeks and Samak was disqualified just a shortly before the meeting and also stepped down as the leader of the ruling People's Power Party. The key parts are pretty much what Bangkok Pundit wrote about yesterday. The cable comments that "senior Thai politicians can often revive careers, we believe Samak has lost virtually all of his influence and has little prospect of staging a political comeback."

The last cable (marked 'secret') is from November 6, 2008 and describes several exchanges with insiders with important ties. Remember: at that time, the PAD were still occupying the Government House, since they were willing to take down prime minister Somchai Wongsuwat, Samak's successor and brother-in-law of Thaksin. Note: parts marked with 'XXXXXXXXX' were already reacted during publishing. Key parts:

4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX remarked that [name redacted] was highly irritated by PAD's occupation of Government House and other disruptions caused by the anti-government group, but [name redacted] was unsure how best to ensure PAD would vacate the compound. [...] 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.

6. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX predicted that the current turmoil would not result in a military coup. He said that [name redacted], 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. [...]

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, 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.

October 7, 2008 was the day when Somchai was supposed to hold his first speech as the new prime minister at the parliament. The PAD protestors have surrounded the compound and in the following violent clashes with the police, several people were seriously injured and one woman was killed, who is also subject in this cable.

My take: The contents of the leaked cables are highly explosive and will sure confirm what many observers were at least suspecting, but also possibly fuel a more heated controversial debate about the political implications. It is yet to seen if the position of the United States in Thailand will be compromised, considering that they are also in the progress of changing ambassadors. The authorities are sure to block The Guardian's website very quickly, but the spill's been already done and will expand - even if certain circles won't like it, as my fellow blogger Pokpong tweeted earlier today:

WikiLeaks: China About Post-Coup Thailand 2007

Originally published at Siam Voices on December 15, 2010 While most of the media focussing on the trials and controversies over it's founder Julian Assange (he's been granted bail by the way, in case you haven't heard yet), the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks has been steadily, albeit slowly, uploading US diplomat cables. So far, there have been almost 1500 documents leaked and only 2 were from the US embassy in Bangkok. Nevertheless there have been Thailand-related cables popping up from other places, where diplomats from regional neighbors have been chiming on Thailand - some of them quite explosive (see Bangkok Pundit's posts here, here and here).

Over the weekend, a cable from Beijing, classified as 'secret' appeared on the site describing a meeting in March 2007 between Chinese diplomats and Eric G. John, then Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southeast Asian Affairs in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs and current ambassador to Thailand. Apart from mainly talking about Myanmar, the cable also reveals this:

Reinforcing Democracy in Post-Coup Thailand

20. Thailand has a long history of peaceful democracy, which is in China's interest to support, DG Hu said. While not an ideal turn of events, the September 2006 coup emanated from "very specific circumstances" and did not involve violence, DG Hu said. Noting that he had just returned from Thailand, DG Hu quipped that, even with the coup, Thailand is still more democratic than Singapore, highlighting his belief that the coup was an aberration in Thai politics rather than a signal of long-term change. Still, given the recent resignation of former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Pridiyathorn Thewakun and [...], Beijing is closely monitoring the political situation in Bangkok. China has invited Thai Prime Minister Surayut Chulanon [sic!] to visit China in late May and hopes to use the visit as an opportunity to demonstrate Beijing's support for a stable, peaceful transition of power in Thailand, DG Hu said.

07BEIJING1448, DAS JOHN DISCUSSES BURMA, SOUTHEAST ASIA WITH AFM, created 2007-03-05 12:12, via WikiLeaks

Then-interim prime minister Surayud Chulanont indeed visited China in May 2007, but apart from some agreements, nothing really substantial to this story happened there.

The remarks by the Chinese diplomats reflect what many probably were thinking shortly after the coup that this was a short period of transition, a carte blanche, a reset of Thai politics if you will - even it was clear (at least in hindsight) that the Thai military was regaining long-lasting political influence. May be that Chinese diplomat now thinks otherwise.