Thailand and the WikiLeaks Cables II
|Our Correspondent||Feb 6, 2011|
See also: Free speech on trial in Thailand
Two more explosive WikiLeaks documents have been made available to newspapers in the United Kingdom. In one, which has been broadcast before in Thailand, Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is shown throwing a birthday dinner for his dog, Foo Foo, in which his wife, Princess Srirasmi, dines topless and wearing only a thong. The video can be found here: http://www.khmercity.net/video/wikileaks-thailand-crown
In the second, former US Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce described a November 2007 farewell visit to a state dinner at which the Crown Prince presided, along with the FooFoo, who had been named an Air Chief Marshal. Foo Foo, dressed in uniform with paw prints, walked down the banquet table, drinking from water glasses, including Boyce’s. The cable follows, verbatim
(C-RE9-01798) REF: LONDON 001876 (8/12/2009) Classified By: MICHAEL P. OWENS, ACTING
Header: AMEMBASSY BANGKOKTO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0717INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONSRUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 1507RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDCRHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HIRUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DCRHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HIRHEFDIA/DIA WASHDCRHFJSCC/COMMARFORPAC
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BANGKOK 005839 SIPDIS SIPDIS NSC FOR PHU 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).
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.)
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) Srirasmi 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