WikiThai: Behind the Palace Doors
The latest batch of WikiLeaks embassy cables has a delicious dispatch from the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand. (Via the Guardian).
Two thoughts: first, it's fun to know that the behind-closed-doors dish from the King's privy councillors about the Royal family and its foibles pretty much matches all the "unattributed" speculation that appears in the Thai and overseas press.
The other thought: unlike other folks, my take on the Wikileaks diplomatic cables is not "Gosh, how venal and duplicitous are the officers of our empire". Rather: I am encouraged by how smart, culturally savvy, professional and, well, diplomatic our foreign service officers reveal themselves to be. Based on what I've been reading, quite a few of our FSOs are out in the field doing their level best to mitigate the damage the idiots in Washington and the defense department are trying to shove through. Plus, many of them are damn good writers. This stuff is more compelling than any Graham Greene novel. (BTW the Guardian's coverage is WAAAY better than the NYT or the WP.)
But on to the Thailand goodies! (Note, the date on this dispatch is January 2010, about four and a half months before the Red Shirt protests in April-May 2010).
1. The ambassador on the Crown Prince:
When Ambassador asked where the Crown Prince was currently, in Thailand or Europe, Prem replied dismissively: "You know his social life, how he is." (Note: a presumed reference to Vajiralongkorn's preference to spend time based out of Munich with his main mistress, rather than in Thailand with his wife and son).
2. The ambassador on the succession:
Ambassador mentioned to Siddhi [one of the King's Privy Councillors]the Crown Prince's more engaging approach in the early December King's Birthday reception with Ambassadors, shaking each envoy's hand and appearing more at ease than in the 2008 reception. Siddhi stated that succession would be a difficult transition time for Thailand. According to Palace Law, the Crown Prince would succeed his father, but added after a pause, almost hopefully: "if the Crown Prince were to die, anything could happen, and maybe Prathep (Sirindhorn) could succeed."
3. Are these guys really so helpless?
Anand said that he had always believed that the Crown Prince would succeed his father, according to law. However, there could be complicating factors -- if Vajiralongkohn proved unable to stay out of politics, or avoid embarrassing financial transactions. After a pause, Anand added that the consensus view among many Thai was that the Crown Prince could not stop either, nor would he be able, at age 57, to rectify his behavior. After another pause, Anand added that someone really should raise the matter with the King, before adding with regret that there really was no one who could raise such a delicate topic
There's lots more, for those of you who follow Thailand's inside baseball, and Bangkok Pundit, natch, has already weighed in with his blow by blow of the dishy cable.