THAILAND: MY MEETING WITH GENERAL SONTHI


EO 12958 DECL: 09/19/2016 
TAGS PGOV, PHUM, TH 
SUBJECT: THAILAND: MY MEETING WITH GENERAL SONTHI 

Classified By: Ambassador Ralph L. Boyce, reason 1.4 (b)(d)

1. (C) I met with General Sonthi privately directly after he
 addressed the diplomatic corps this afternoon.
He thought the session had gone well (see septel for details;
 I doubt most of the Western diplomats, at least, will share 
his assessment).

2. (C) I began by asking Sonthi about the audience with the
 King 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 the King. 
Sonthi stressed that they had been summoned to the palace; he 
had not sought the audience. He said the King 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.  I added that 
the restoration of such assistance could only come after a 
democratically elected government took office. In the meantime,
 I stressed that the coup group needed to make every effort to
 demonstrate a sincere intention to return to civilian rule as 
soon as possible. His announcement today that an interim 
constitution and civilian government would be installed within 
two weeks was a good example. I reiterated these points several
 times.

4. (C) Sonthi responded by saying the military had truly acted 
in order to improve Thai democracy, not destroy it. The prevailing 
situation had become untenable. Had Thaksin only been willing to
 announce publicly that he would not return as Prime Minister, this 
action could have been avoided. But his unwillingness to do publicly
 what he had repeatedly told many privately had led people to fear
 that his true intention was to seek a renewed mandate and return 
to power. Thus the military had acted. But they did not seek 
sustained political power and would return to barracks as soon 
as possible. The sooner the better, I repeated. I told him to 
expect fairly broad international criticism, as military coups 
were generally seen as a thing of the past.

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,8 or CDRM.

6. (C) Why had the military chosen to act at this particular point
 in time? Smiling slightly, he leaned forward. &Thaksin was at his
 weakest and we were at our strongest.
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