As recently as January, Thailand’s Air Chief Marshal Siddhi Savetsila, a longtime US ally and a member of the Thai King’s privy council, privately said Prime Minister Hun Sen and fugitive ex-Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra were conniving to “destroy our country,” according to a leaked US State Department cable published by The Guardian.
Relations with Thailand have since improved after successive meetings between Mr Hun Sen and current Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva. The two countries normalized diplomatic relations in August after Mr Thaksin, ousted in a 2006 coup and wanted in Bangkok on corruption charges, resigned as economic adviser to Phnom Penh.
The Foreign Ministry declined to comment and Thai officials were unavailable.
In a classified Jan 25 cable leaked to the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks, US Ambassador to Bangkok Eric John described discussions with Marshal Siddhi, as well as Privy Council Chairman and alleged mastermind of the anti-Thaksin coup General Prem Tinsulanonda and former Thai premier Anand Panyarachun concerning the succession of Thai Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn and Thailand’s immediate political future.
Mr Thaksin’s October 2009 appointment as an adviser to Phnom Penh remained an irritation in January, according to the cable. In a Jan 13 luncheon, Gen Prem asked Mr John how the US would respond if a former president hostile to Washington had taken employment with a neighboring government, and Mr John replied that no US president would ever do so.
Writing just five days after Mr Thaksin made his third visit to Cambodia as economic adviser, Mr John said he had “advised Prem and Thai officials to take the high road in their public comments about Cambodia and not to be drawn into a tit-for-tat with Thaksin and Hun Sen,” according to the cable.
In a Jan 11 meeting at his home, Marshal Siddhi told Mr John that Mr Abhisit felt after relinquishing the chairmanship of Asean at the end of 2009 that he would be freer to respond “to Hun Sen’s bullying rhetoric,” the cable said. “Siddhi attacked Thaksin as trying to use money, red-shirt protests, and Hun Sen to ‘destroy our country.'”