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Cablegate: Cns Leaders Look to the Stars for Hope and Good Luck

VZCZCXRO9449
RR RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHCHI #0067 1001025
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 101025Z APR 07
FM AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0444
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHCHI/AMCONSUL CHIANG MAI 0488
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 0012
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC

UNCLAS CHIANG MAI 000067

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TH
SUBJECT: CNS LEADERS LOOK TO THE STARS FOR HOPE AND GOOD LUCK

1. Leaders of the Council for National Security (CNS) visited
famed Chiang Mai astrologer Varin Buaviratlert April 1,
suggesting that it takes more than military might and political
righteousness to govern Thailand's increasingly chaotic affairs
of state. Attraction to mediums and mystics cuts across all
segments of Thai society, as evidenced by the loyalty of one of
Varin's most famous followers, CNS leader Gen Sonthi
Boonyaratkalin, a devout Muslim.

2. Senior RTG military leaders, including CNS General Secretary
Winai Phattiyakul, visited Varin last week for a ceremony to
protect against ill fortune and pay respect to their mentor.
According to media reports, those also present included CNS Vice
Chairman Chalit Phukphasuk and Gen Sonthi's wife, Piyada
Boonyaratkalin. Sonthi and other CNS leaders last publicly
visited Varin in early November to ward off bad luck that might
have stemmed from their staging of the Sept. 19 coup.

3. A close business contact of Varin's told ConGen staff that
Gen Sonthi has sought Varin's advice for more than 10 years,
ever since the seer foretold of a coveted military promotion
Sonthi received. Other CNS members similarly depended on Varin's
guidance long before they helped oust the former government.
Many see Varin as serving as an unofficial special advisor to
the CNS, claiming he has provided recommendations on everything
from the precise timing for staging the coup to political
appointments in the new government.

4. A Chiang Mai native, Varin was a rural teacher and failed
real estate investor before making the leap to all-knowing
astrologer 20 years ago. Prior to finding fame as the CNS's
favorite soothsayer, he struck it rich by convincing his clients
to include him as a partner in their business investments. The
media coverage of his services to CNS leaders has driven demand
for his services even higher. But even before the coup, he had
achieved notoriety, playing both sides of Thailand's political
divide by also once counseling former Prime Minister Thaksin
Shinawatra.

5. Belief in astrology and mysticism is well within the
mainstream of Thai culture, which blends astrology and a rich
mixture of Buddhism, Hinduism, animism, and elements of the
occult into everyday life and decision making. However, the
devotion to Varin's wisdom expressed by some CNS officials
combined with the cost of flying government leaders up to Chiang
Mai in C-130 military planes, has raised eyebrows even among
normally superstitious Thais.

CAMP

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