The US is involved in regime change worldwide – from Venezuela in South America, to Ukraine in Eastern Europe, to Syria in the Middle East, to Afghanistan in Central Asia.
But these headline-grabbing wars, coups, color revolutions, and interventions are far from the full extend of US interference.
The US is also engaged in regime change efforts all along China’s peripheries. This includes across Southeast Asia and in particular, the nation of Thailand.
Hard Times for US Proxies
Recent elections held earlier this year validated public support for a 2014 coup ousting US-backed proxy Thaksin Shinwatra, his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, and their Pheu Thai political party (PTP).
The military-linked Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) won the popular vote and built a coalition with a majority in parliament. PPRP’s head, Prayuth Chan-O-Cha easily won a parliamentary vote for Thailand’s next prime minister.
Part of Shinawatra’s strategy during the last election was dividing his political party into multiple parties so that if one or two were disbanded, there would still be several others left to run for seats in parliament.
One of these parties is Future Forward (FFP) led by billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. His party’s founding members include leaders and activists drawn from US and European-funded fronts posing as nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).
Since wading into politics, Thanathorn himself has received an inordinate amount of support from not only the Western media as seen during events organized by The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) but also from Western embassies based in Bangkok.
FFP faired poorly in the elections coming in distant third with several million fewer votes than PPRP. Despite coming in third, and despite Thanathorn claiming he was not Shinawatra’s proxy – Thaksin Shinawatra’s PTP nominated him as their candidate for prime minister, but fell far short of winning.
Panhandling Overseas for Support
Thanathorn now has criminal cases mounting against him owed to serial violations of election laws as well as charges related to sedition. Perhaps in hopes of being overseas if a guilty verdict is reached and escaping jail – Thanathorn now finds himself “touring” the US and Europe asking – and receiving – support in Washington, Brussels, and London.
During an arranged interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Thanathorn bemoaned Thailand’s history of frequent military coups and the lack of “democracy.” He claimed the impetus of setting up FFP was to “end the culture of coup d’etat in Thailand.”
Absent from either Mitchell’s questioning or Thanathorn’s rehearsed answers was any mention of what preceded the most recent coup in 2014.
No mention was made of the ousted government being openly and illegally run by Thaksin Shinawatra despite living in Dubai, UAE as a fugitive. No mention was made of the ousted government’s robbery of nearly one million rice farmers and the crippling of Thailand’s rice industry. And no mention was made of the protests the ousted government used deadly violence in an attempt to quell.
The military’s intervention was welcomed by Thais, a fact vindicated by recent elections which saw the military-linked PPRP win the popular vote. The Western media – however – has gone through great lengths to portray it as a power grab rather than the restoration of strability it actually was.
The Roving Hypocrite
Despite Thanathorn’s overseas tour showcasing his fight for “democracy” and “human rights” in Thailand, he is directly linked to and admittedly a supporter of Thaksin Shinawatra, his Pheu Thai Party, and his violent street front known as the “red shirts.”
Shinawatra has the worst human rights record in Thai history having mass murdered over 2,000 people in just 90 days in 2003 during a supposed “war on drugs.” He also killed another 85 in a single day during the 2004 Tak Bai protests. Violence carried out by his red shirt street front has led to the deaths of over 100 people including police and soldiers between 2009-2014.
As to why none of this is mentioned in the Western media – one only has to look at Thaksin Shinawatra’s track record of serving US interests – ranging from sending Thai troops to the US war in Iraq to hosting CIA torture sites, to privatizing Thailand’s petrochemical industry.
The same interests Shinawatra served are interests Thanathorn is also eager to serve.
Thanathorn – despite failing to get into power – has nevertheless pledged to roll back Thailand’s growing ties with China and instead favor US and European interests.
This includes opposing the current construction of a joint Thai-Chinese high-speed railway in favor of the so far nonexistent Hyperloop proposed by US and European-based companies including Virgin.
Bloomberg in its article, “Thailand needs hyperloop, not China-built high-speed rail: Thanathorn,” would report:
A tycoon turned politician who opposes Thailand’s military government has criticised its US$5.6 billion high-speed rail project with China because hyperloop technology offers a more modern alternative.
An option such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One — which is working on building networks of pods traveling at airplane-like speeds — is better for Thailand as it would help the nation to be a technological leader, according to Future Forward Party head Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
Thanathorn has also criticized Bangkok’s decision to begin purchasing weapons from China to replace its aging inventory of US arms.
In a Bangkok Post article titled, “Future Forward Party vows to cut army budget,” his party would propose slashing the military’s budget thus hindering the purchase of additional arms from partners like China.
The article claimed:
The Future Forward Party (FFP) has vowed to cut the military budget and reduce the number of generals in the army, according to its secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul.
Apparently oblivious to the multiple wars the US alone is waging around the globe, the Bangkok Post would quote Thanathorn’s secretary-general, claiming:
“In today’s world, no one engages in wars any more.”
And now with Thanathorn himself touring the US and Europe, being paraded across the Western media and promoted in the halls of Western government – whatever illusions remained of Thanathorn and Future Forward’s working for Thailand rather than themselves and foreign sponsors has evaporated.
Aspiring to be like America, Desiring US Support
During his NBC interview Thanathorn was asked by a fully empathic Andrea Mitchell:
What do you hope to accomplish? You’re travelling. You’re going to different countries. What would you like us to do in the United States? What would you like people around the world to do for Thailand?
Thanathorn’s would answer – confirming his role as a proxy of US interests – that:
Well, I would like to tell our American friends that to take note that Thailand is now not a democratic country. What you see now is an authoritarian regime with an election. I think, I would like to ask our American friends to stand with us to help us build a democratic Thailand. To build a better society together. So that Thailand can be a powerful force helping solve the global problems. For example, problems in Burma, problems in Indonesia. You know, these problems need attention and Thailand can be such a powerful force in the region to help solving global problems.
I believe that the US is a great nation. A nation built up on democratic values. Built up on the rule of law and that is what we aspire to be. So I believe that the US government will be behind our cause.
It is no coincidence that Thanathorn echoes Washington’s desire to see Thailand transformed into a hub of regional meddling. This has been on the agenda of Washington for decades.
Despite Thailand’s role during the Vietnam War – the nation itself has resisted attempts by the US to use its territory to further encircle and contain China – or as a base of operations to meddle in neighboring countries and their internal affairs.
More recently, the very sort of “problem solving” Thanathorn would like to see Thailand involved in was shut down by the Thai government. When the above mentioned FCCT sought to organize an event criticizing the Vietnamese government, Thai police promptly cancelled it.
Reuters would complain in their article, “Police cancel Vietnam human rights event at FCCT,” that:
Police forced a rights group to cancel the launch of a report alleging Vietnam’s persecution of an ethnic minority on Friday, saying it could harm relations between the Southeast Asian neighbours.
It’s clear the current government has placed Thailand on a track – along with much of the region – pivoting away from America’s own “pivot to Asia.” It is a move that the US and Europe has attempted to undo through the familiar means of funding opposition movements, politicians like Thanathorn, economic coercion, and even by organizing violence.
It is not working. Thanathorn’s panhandling across Europe and the US for support against his own nation of Thailand is not going unnoticed in Thailand where Thanathorn’s party has already suffered defeat, is embroiled in legal crisis, and is exposed daily as working against – not for – Thailand’s best interests.
Thanathorn says he aspires to make Thailand more like America. Thais must look at America’s current state of decline and ask themselves why anyone claiming to work for Thailand would aspire to send the nation over the same cliff the United States is going over.Qatar at the Heart of the US Policy in the Middle East