Thai queen accused over 2006 military coup: US cable
A former Thai premier accused the queen of responsibility for a 2006 military coup, a leaked US diplomatic memo showed, prompting Bangkok to insist Wednesday the monarchy was above partisan politics.
Samak Sundaravej, who was prime minister for seven months in 2008, "showed disdain for Queen Sirikit, claiming that she had been responsible for the 2006 coup d'etat...," according to the October 2008 memo from the US embassy in Bangkok, obtained by British daily The Guardian from the WikiLeaks website.
"Samak viewed himself as loyal to the King, but implied that the Queen's political agenda differened (sic) from her husband's," according to the confidential diplomatic note, posted on The Guardian's website.
The kingdom has been riven by political unrest since the 2006 coup which ousted Thaksin Shinawatra, whose "Red Shirt" supporters staged mass protests in in April and May that sparked violence which left more than 90 people dead.
Queen Sirikit, 78, is the wife of Thailand's deeply-revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Any discussion of the royal family is an extremely sensitive topic and insulting the monarchy is a serious offence punishable by up to 15 years in jail.
Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi said the government could not comment on the authenticity of the leaked diplomatic documents because they were not its own.
"We want to reiterate the the Thai monarchy is above partisan politics, and above political conflicts that have occurred," he told AFP.
"In the recent past, there have been efforts by some parties involved in the political conflicts to draw the monarchy into the political fray. We should not give credence to such efforts."
Samak took power in Thailand's first elections after the 2006 coup that toppled his ally Thaksin, a billionaire telecoms tycoon-turned-premier who lives overseas to avoid a prison term for corruption.
Samak's brief premiership was marked by mass demonstrations staged by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a royalist movement better known as the "Yellow Shirts" -- rivals of the Reds.
The colourful right-winger was forced from office in September 2008 for accepting payments for appearing in television cooking shows. He died of liver cancer in November 2009 at the age of 74.
Another US memo, dated November 2008, was critical of the queen's appearance at the funeral of a Yellow Shirt demonstrator killed in clashes with police.
"We agree that the Queen's funeral appearance was a significant blunder, jeopardising the public's perception of the palace's neutrality," the cable said.
King Bhumibol, the world's longest reigning monarch and widely revered as a demi-god by many Thais, has been hospitalised since September 2009.
The 83-year-old monarch has no official political role but is seen as a unifying figure.
He remained largely silent during the political crisis in April and May, which saw a series of street clashes between armed troops and anti-government "Red Shirt" protesters in the heart of the capital.
The US memo quoted a palace insider as saying the king had told the army chief in 2008 not to launch another coup.
Thaksin, a former owner of English football club Manchester City, is hailed by many of the Reds for his policies for the masses while in office but seen by the establishment as corrupt, autocratic and a threat to the revered monarchy.
According to one of the cables, which quoted an associate of Thaksin, there was a plot to kill the former premier with an assassination contract worth several hundred thousand baht -- around 10,000 US dollars.
© 2010 AFP