Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 24, 2011

The Thaileaks

After 17 years of working with Reuters, mostly in Thailand, Andrew MacGregor Marshall quit. Reuters had copies of the Wikileaks documents and some three thousand of those were about Thailand. It did not dare to publish them as they contained a lot of information that could be interpreted as being negative about the king and the royal court. Thailand has severe Lèse Majesté laws. In Thailand anyone can accuse anyone of derogative talk about the king and the royal court and the result can be up to 15 years of prison. Reuters feared for its work and staff in Thailand.

Before he left Reuters Andrew MacGregor Marshall copied all relevant Wikileaks papers on Thailand and he is now publishing them on his own at his Zenjounalist blog and at Thaicables.

But he does a lot more than that. He sets those cables into detailed and lucid political and historic context in a four part Thaistory: "Thailand's Moment Of Truth - A Secret History Of 21st Century Siam". Part one, about 100 pages long, is now available for free. It is a good, at times even amusing, and easy read.

We once had a reader here, John Francis Lee, who lives in Thailand. In 2007 I posted a piece by him, A Thailand "Write Up", which included this fawning part:

HM the King of Thailand, Bhumipol Adulyadej, had already been King for a year when I was born. Most Thais know no other King. Everyone loves the King, myself included. He's seen 15 coups and 19 constitutions come and go. He's the only one in Thailand perceived to be above the self-serving mass of bureaucrats and politicians and generals that carry on the spectacle of government here.

The Wikileaks papers and Thaistory prove that the king is not above politics at all, but that he, his privy council, his family and the royal court are essentially running the country by pulling strings, replacing top figures as they feel needed and secretly devising policies that the government in charge, military junta or elected civilian, will feel urged to implement.

Thailand is a dictatorship, an absolute kingdom where some people still literally throw themselves on the ground in front of royals, with a democratic facade. This is well known in academic and media circles in Thailand. But the Lèse Majesté laws prevent any open and public reporting or discussion about it.

The religious political cult around the person of King Bhumibol, who was born in the United States where his parents studied medicine and lived in Switzerland before becoming king of Thailand, was build on purpose and not without support from the various U.S. services. During the cold war the king helped to keep Thailand strongly on the U.S. side. Thailand was a main U.S. base during the Vietnam war. Up to today the king, through his hard right leaning privy council and the military, has a hand in preventing even mildly socialist/progressive policies. Thailand today is also part of the U.S. war on Muslims as the royal house is bolstering, if not inciting, Buddhist Thais in a smoldering conflict against Muslim-Malay living in south Thailand.

Several times when Thais elected governments that were leaning to the left, the military, prodded secretly by the king, intervened. When the right-wing yellow shirts initiated a color revolution against the elected government and red-shirt supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra's party, the king also indirectly intervened and the court system then abolished the government and a new right-wing coalition took over. (In 2008 I wrote about this in The Coup Attempt in Thailand)

The king is now 82 and ill. As Thaistory explains in detail there is a deep conflict within the royal family of who is to follow him.

I had only a hunch of that with little proof when I wrote in comments to the Coup piece:

I think it is more of a succession fight. The king is near death and its mostly General Prem [head of the privy council], who has his own agenda, speaking for him.

The crown prince had/has good relations with Taksin and less good with the army. General Prem and the establishment does not want him to become king and prefer his princess sister who lectures at a military academy and is more of a manipulable figure than the lively crown prince.

The Wikileaks cables, as laid out in Thaistory, now confirm that take.

Whoever will follow king Bhumipol will likely have difficulties to reach his cult-like status as a "neutral" leader. This and the now public cables and Thaistory will lower the standing of the royals and their surrounding establishment. That will probably open a real chance for Thais to convert their system into something genuinely democratic one.

Posted by b on June 24, 2011 at 12:54 UTC | Permalink


So another absolute monarchy, what's new?

Posted by: alexno | Jun 24 2011 19:52 utc | 1

Thanks for this information. This is the reason I read this blog each day.

Thanks for all you do.

Posted by: joseph | Jun 24 2011 19:56 utc | 2

I'm all with joseph on this one

Posted by: claudio | Jun 25 2011 21:58 utc | 3

amazing, i had heard nothing of the thaileaks until now.

Posted by: annie | Jun 27 2011 2:59 utc | 4

The deal behind Thailand's polls

BANGKOK - High-level secret talks between Thailand's royal palace, military and self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra point towards a stable outcome to this Sunday's highly anticipated election. Contrary to widespread speculation of a post-poll coup and new rounds of street violence, the military is more likely to stay in the barracks if Thaksin's Puea Thai party wins and forms a new government.

Posted by: b | Jun 30 2011 8:43 utc | 5

Thanks for telling the truth of Thailand. Thailand under King Phumipol has lies to the whole world and Thai people for over sixty years.

Posted by: pigeonforge | Jul 1 2011 5:57 utc | 6

Even much better than expected for the Taksin folks ...

Thaksin party wins Thai election by a landslide

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's opposition won a landslide election victory on Sunday, led by the sister of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a triumph for red-shirt protesters who clashed with the army last year.

Exit polls showed Yingluck Shinawatra's Puea Thai (For Thais) party winning a clear majority of parliament's 500 seats, paving the way for the 44-year-old business executive to become Thailand's first woman prime minister.
With nearly all votes counted, Yingluck's party won a projected 261 seats with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's Democrat Party taking 162, according to the Election Commission.
Exit polls by Bangkok's Suan Dusit University showed Puea Thai doing even better, winning 313 seats compared to just 152 for the Democrats, dismal enough to threaten Abhisit's job as party leader.
The results were a rebuke of the traditional establishment of generals, old-money families and royal advisers in Bangkok who loathed Thaksin and backed Abhisit, an Oxford-trained economist who struggled to find a common touch.

The Queen and the military will fume about this. What are they to do?

Posted by: b | Jul 3 2011 18:24 utc | 7

The comments to this entry are closed.