Thai officials worried about crown prince: US cable

16th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

Top palace officials in Thailand expressed concerns about the prospect of the crown prince becoming king, a leaked US diplomatic cable showed.

Three influential Thai figures, including two senior advisers to revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, "had quite negative comments about Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn," said the January 2010 memo from the US embassy in Bangkok.

Two of them, while asserting that the crown prince would become king, "implied the country would be better off if other arrangements could be made," according to the cable, published by British daily The Guardian, which obtained the confidential document from the WikiLeaks whistleblower website.

It cited concerns about his private life and suspected links to fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who remains hugely popular with by many rural poor but is seen by the establishment as corrupt and a threat to the monarchy.

King Bhumibol, the world's longest reigning monarch, widely revered as a demi-god by many Thais, has been hospitalised since September 2009.

The 83-year-old has no official political role but is seen as a unifying figure in a country that has been frequently riven by political violence, particularly since the 2006 military coup which ousted Thaksin from office.

Any discussion of the royal family is an extremely sensitive topic in Thailand, where the palace has been silent over the organisation of the king's succession.

General Prem Tinsulanonda, a former premier who is head of the privy council of advisers to the king, was "clearly no fan" of the crown prince, Bhumibol's only son, the US cable said.

"When Ambassador (Eric John) asked where the Crown Prince was currently, in Thailand or Europe, Prem replied dismissively: 'You know his social life, how he is'," it added.

The memo said this was "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."

The memo also quoted Siddhi Savetsila, a retired military office and privy council member, who said that succession "would be a difficult transition time for Thailand."

He "expressed preference" for Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, who is widely respected by Thais for her charitable work, it said.

Another influential figure, former premier Anand Panyarachun, "suggested only the King would be in a position to change succession, and acknowledged a low likelihood of that happening," the cable added.

© 2010 AFP

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