Thammasat University, October 6, 1976

Confidential British cable on the October 1976 Thammasat massacre and coup

Confidential cable sent on October 13, 1976, from British ambassador David Cole to Foreign Minister Anthony Crosland.


10c: Did the King approve?

A vital factor in the situation must have been the role of the King. In February 1976, following the downfall of the Kukrit Government, the King let it be known that he would not condone a military take-over and felt that democracy must be given one last try in the form of the then forthcoming elections. The Generals did not pursue their plans. It is inconceivable that this latest take-over by the military could have gone ahead without at least the knowledge of the King’s acquiescence. Even for their own safety the Generals needed this. In a prearranged audience three days after the coup, the King made it plain to Mr Malcolm MacDonald and myself that, although he had not encouraged the coup, he had in the circumstances condoned it. There are three other comments I must make about the role of the King. The first is that the whole mood of the King at the Audience was so definitely one of approval of the military that the Generals must have been aware of it and would have needed little by way of specific confirmation. The second is that I felt that the King at the Audience chose his words extremely carefully, did not disclose the full picture, and was trying, for reasons to which I will return later, to minimise his involvement. The third comment relates to the influence of Queen Sirikit. I have remarked before on the Queen’s Marie-Antoinette complex; also her obsession, in conversation, with security and anti-communism. There are now well-authenticated reports that she has become closely, even too closely, associated with right-wing organisations; indeed the last conversation I had with her a couple of months ago centred obsessively on the right-wing Village Scouts as the salvation of the country. The consequence, it is alleged, is that she has been pushing the King to the right and seeking more and more to involve the Crown Prince, who recently returned with unexplained suddenness from Australia, in the current political situation. In the latter connection the fact is that, however detached a picture of the monarchy the King gave to Mr MacDonald and myself, his son at a critical moment of 6 October was haranguing right-wing crowds at Royal Plaza in an effort to persuade them to go home.

15c: The Monarchy

Whatever his views and actions, the King is likely to be associated with the coup, and the bloodshed leading up to it, in the eyes of the left. Militant students are apparently convinced that he engineered it. In the view of the left, the King and the Monarchy may well now be firmly linked with the repressive and reactionary right. The King could perhaps be the biggest loser from this coup.

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