Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004


@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

There are some interesting WikiLeaks revelations related to Thailand. Of the estimated 3000 cables sent by the United States Embassy in Bangkok to the US State Department, the most intriguing are those tied to the case of Russian businessman and alleged arms smuggler Viktor Bout, who faced trial in Thailand before being extradited to the United States last month. The documents have revealed the concerns expressed by the United States about the attempt of Bout’s associates in Russia (who were opposed to the extradition) to bribe local Thai officials and influence the court’s decision.

Outgoing US Ambassador Eric John allegedly sent a February 2010 report informing his superiors in Washington on the status of Bout’s case in Thailand that stated:

‘…there have been disturbing indications that Bout’s xxxxxxxxxx (names were removed by WikiLeaks) and Russian supporters have been using money and influence in an attempt to block extradition. The most egregious example was the false testimony of xxxxxxxxxx that Bout was in Thailand as part of government-to-government submarine deal. Thus, we felt it was time to once again raise the matter at the top of the government and make clear that, while we understand the judicial process must take its course without political interference, we insist that the process be free of corruption and undue influence. We will continue to do so in the months ahead.’

These exposed cables confirmed that the US didn’t completely trust the Thai legal system. Also, since the US evidently badly wanted to extradite Bout, many are now asking if it might have used its special relationship with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to force the extradition of Bout, who’s accused of being the world’s biggest arms dealer.

Some pundits are even asking if the US negotiated the extradition of Bout with Abhisit in exchange for the extradition of Thailand’s fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Abhisit has denied this, saying he only discussed the iPad with US President Barack Obama during a November meeting, not Thaksin’s extradition.

It’s not certain whether unreleased WikiLeaks cables might reveal more information about this issue—particularly the extradition of Thaksin—but so far we’ve at least been able to confirm that Thailand felt some pressure from state and non-state actors from Russia and the United States in regards to the Bout case.

Meanwhile, Thai citizens are already eagerly anticipating the publication of other WikiLeaks documents that might cover controversial topics such as arms control, human trafficking, military operations, internal government affairs, war crimes and elections.

And as for Ambassador John, it’s unfortunate he’s going to be leaving Thailand while being suspected of interfering with the domestic judicial process of the country.

Written for The Diplomat

WikiLeaks Exposes Kim Flab Jab

Apparently, Singapore’s former Prime Minister and current Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew thinks North Koreans are ‘psychopathic types’ and their leader Kim Jong-il is a ‘flabby old chap who prances around stadiums seeking adulation.’

This was revealed as part of the most recent WikiLeaks move, which is set to involve the release of 251,287 classified cables between the US State Department and its embassies around the world. It seems Lee made these particular comments when he met US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg at the Istana (presidential palace) back in Singapore on May 30, 2009.

And what are Lee’s thoughts about the future leadership in North Korea? Again, his thinking is both amusing and scandalous: ‘Kim Jong-Il has already had a stroke. It is just a matter of time before he has another stroke. The next leader may not have the gumption or the bile of his father or grandfather. He may not be prepared to see people die like flies.’

Lee is quoted as commenting on many other issues in the region, such as the prospect of Korean unification and China’s attitude towards the two Koreas. But it’s his opinions of the controversial and reclusive North Korean leader that have captured global attention. And it’s also, unsurprisingly, the buzz amongst Lee’s compatriots in Singapore.

Many Singaporeans were surprised that Lee, a seasoned diplomat, would use such unflattering language to describe another leader. Some even commented on the irony that Lee and Kim are in fact seen as similar in many ways (although one difference between the two might be that if somebody were to call Lee a ‘flabby old chap’ in Singapore they could quickly face a libel suit!)

The cable reports exposed by Wikileaks proved once more that Lee, despite his age and less prominent role in Singapore’s government, is still a very influential and intriguing global public figure. Obviously, his views are highly valued by those in the United States. With this in mind, it’s worth looking at what Lee told the Americans about China’s plans for the Korean Peninsula.

According to the WikiLeaks cable report:

‘MM Lee said the Chinese do not want North Korea to have nuclear weapons. At the same time, the Chinese do not want North Korea, which China sees as a buffer state, to collapse. The ROK would take over in the North and China would face a US presence at its border. If China has to choose, Beijing sees a North Korea with nuclear weapons as less bad for China than a North Korea that has collapsed, he stated.’

And what was Lee’s advice to the US on how to best deal with an aggressive China? Again, from the cable report:

‘MM Lee said the best course for the United States on China is to build ties with China’s young people. China’s best and brightest want to study in the United States, with the UK as the next option, then Japan. While they are there, it is important that they be treated as equals, with the cultural support they may need as foreigners.’

Will the US follow the advice given by Lee, particularly the point about being fair to Chinese students? Lee’s fellow Singaporeans, though impressed that their former leader is still mentally sharp and well regarded in the West, could well ask him first if Chinese nationals are being treated equally in Singapore.

And as the WikiLeaks ‘cablegate’ continues to rattle politicians around the world, the Singaporean government has added its voice of disapproval to the decision to publish classified documents. Will Wikileaks be banned soon in Singapore and other nations? If it is, at least we already know what Lee thinks about all those ‘psychopaths’ and their ‘flabby old’ leader.

Written for The Diplomat

One Response to “WikiLeaks’ Thai Revelations?”

  1. I find this most interesting about Thailand, at the same time can you tell me about the gambling payments Taksin cleared. Thanks

    Jason Peavy

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