P10.10.15 - queen & 2006 coup

Posted By Charles Homans    

Aidan Hartley writes:

Waraporn Kateaew tells me that her husband Boonthink was a 25-year-old paramedic from Bangkok's Vachira Hospital. 'He loved what he did,' she says. 'And he loved helping people'. On 15 May this year, in the thick of the opposition Red Shirt protests that rocked the streets of Thailand's capital, Boonthink heard a call for help on the walky-talky radio he carried while on duty. He rushed to help on his moped. It meant wading in through the crowds of red Shirt supporters fighting running battles with Thai military forces. 'He heard that there were people hurt and he went out to help,' Waraporn tells me, tears welling up in her eyes.

Waraporn stares blankly into space and says, 'He wasn't trying to cause trouble. He wasn't even a red shirt supporter. He was just a paramedic trying to do his job.'

For this Unreported World, it was hard to find somebody to choose for our 'Local Hero' slot because most of the people we interviewed were partisan in Thailand's volatile political landscape. But Waraporn's tragic tale is a universal one, of how ordinary people are caught in the crossfire of dramatic world events every day. On the day we interview Waraporn in her cramped one-room city apartment, her baby son Bunyanet grasps the photo of his blood-soaked father and exclaimed in Thai, 'Daddy!'. It's a shocking moment for the entire team.
Waraporn, whose grief is still written on her face months later, had clearly loved her husband very much. His handsome, youthful face stares down from the wall in family photos from happier times. Boonthink stands as an obviously heroic, innocent figure in the otherwise shocking events of April and May in Thailand, when 91 were killed – most of them shot down by security forces – and thousands were wounded. The nation is still in crisis &dnash; the subject of our film.

Waraporn says her husband was the main breadwinner in the family. His loss means that the family does not have enough to make ends meet. She works as a casual worker in a supermarket. She relies on overtime and bonuses to boost her income, but it's still not enough.

She says she's lucky to have her mother helping her with the baby so that she can stay employed – but to do that her mother had to give up work herself. We first met Waraporn at a government office where she was applying for a compensation package being offered to some of the innocent victims of the political violence. We later heard that she had been approved for the compensation but we were told that it was only a few hundred pounds. Not much to help her raise her son. But for Waraporn, her son is now everything to her.

'As my son grows up, when he sees pictures of his father, I'll tell him that he did good things, that he died when trying to help people.' And she says that she wants her little boy to grow up to help people the way his father died trying to do.

Samak's spirit returning from the grave?

The late prime minister Samak Sundaravej was known for his outspokenness. The publication of United States diplomatic cables by Wikileaks as printed in England's Guardian newspaper has rekindled the controversy for Samak's remarks made when he was alive in 2008.

It is general knowledge that Samak believed in a conspiracy theory behind the 2006 coup to oust the then prime minister Thaksin Shinwatra. A number of red-shirt leaders too subscribed to such theory.
Spearheading to publish Wikileaks, Guardian has opened a Q&A column for its readers to search for contents of the diplomatic cables. Some identified users asked for contents related to Thailand.
Of more than 250,000 cables, some 3,000 were referenced to the Kingdom. The newspaper on Thursday published four with a particular reference to the power seizure. Two of four cables referred to Samak's views on two separate issues - the coup and his downfall.
What Samak told US Ambassador Eric John was nothing new but a rehash of the conspiracy theory. And how he drew his conclusion would remain a mystery since he was already in his grave.
At their protests, the red-shirt leaders, especially Surachai Sae Dan, made much more slanderous remarks about the coup than what Samak said.
From the red point of view, the Privy Council and its presicent General Prem Tinsulanonda were the culprits for the regression of democracy. But Samak told the US ambassador that Prem was a mere pawn.

WikiLeaks cables: You ask, we search

We asked last week what we should look for among the leaked US embassy cables. Following last night's story on the Madeleine McCann investigation, here is a further instalment of user-suggested research – on the 2012 Olympics, Roman Polanski and the Dutch far right
• A user asked for mention of the Thai royals in connection with the 2006 coup

The Queen of Thailand encouraged the 2006 ousting of former prime minister and Manchester City owner Thaksin Shinawatra, US dispatches from October 2008 allege.
Queen Sirikit was indirectly "responsible for the 2006 coup d'etat", according to Samak Sundaravej, one of Thaksin's successors as prime minister from January to September 2008, according to US diplomats. Samak also claimed, the cable writers add, that Sirikit had a hand in the "ongoing turmoil generated by PAD protests", a reference to the mass protests by the royalist People's Alliance for Democracy which have contributed to the downfall of several Thaksin-associated governments since 2006.
Sirikit is the wife of King Bhumibol, the world's longest-serving current monarch. As a member of the royal family she is in theory expected to be politically neutral.
The cable appears to add to rumours of the scale of Sirikit's political involvement. While the queen had long been suspected of favouring the PAD, the only significant evidence of her support came when she attended the October 2008 funeral of a PAD protestor, Angkhana Radappanyawut.
Samak alleged the queen "operated through privy council president Prem Tinsulanonda who, along with others presenting themselves as royalists, worked with the PAD and other agitators", according to a report by US ambassador Eric John, within a cable from October 2008.
There is no mention in the cables of any coup involvement by King Bhumibol himself. But an earlier dispatch written in the week following the coup states Bhumibol called the leaders of the coup to his palace for a meeting the evening after Thaksin was ousted and was "happy, smiling throughout".
A subsequent cable also claims Bhumibol explicitly ordered Anuphong Paochinda, commander-in-chief of the Thai armed forces, not to launch a coup in November 2008 against the then prime minister Somchai Wongsawat. Bhumibol also expressed irritation at PAD protests, the cable alleges.
Further reports on Thailand from the leaked cables will be published by the Guardian later in the week. Patrick Kingsley

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