Thai queen accused of backing 2006 military coup: US cable

15th December 2010, Comments 0 comments

A former Thai prime minister with close ties to fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra accused the queen of being behind a 2006 coup that ousted his ally, a leaked US diplomatic cable showed.

Samak Sundaravej "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.

Queen Sirikit is the wife of Thailand's deeply-revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

Any discussion of the royal family is an extremely sensitive topic in the politically turbulent country, where insulting the monarchy is a serious offence punishable by up to 15 years in jail.

Samak took power in Thailand's first elections after the 2006 coup that toppled his ally Thaksin, who lives overseas to avoid a prison term for corruption.

The kingdom has been riven by political unrest since the overthrow of Thaksin, whose "Red Shirt" supporters staged mass street protests in Bangkok in April and May that sparked violence which left more than 90 people dead.

Samak spent seven months in office, 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, jeopardizing 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.

The US memo quoted a palace insider as saying the king had told the army chief in 2008 not to launch another coup.

© 2010 AFP

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