Former People’s Democratic Reform Committee activist Mr Phichit Chaimongkon accused the United States of being guilty of an abuse of human rights in Thailand. He also indicated that his group was seeking further information on US scholar and longtime Khon Kaen resident, David Streckfuss, who claimed last week that his visa and work permit were in jeopardy due to his political activities. This comes as Pattaya officials have revealed the city’s population will be 70% vaccinated by August and ready to welcome thousands of American GIs at Bali Hai pier for an ‘R&R’ stay who will also have been fully vaccinated.
There have been mixed signals in Thailand over the past few days with Pattaya officials at City Hall, on Wednesday, extending the red carpet for American GIs to spend ‘R&R’ time in the once-thriving resort city famous for its adult entertainment while, on the other hand, a protest group took up position outside the US Embassy in Bangkok on Tuesday accusing American officials there of supporting groups within the country seeking to undermine Thai traditional values, national security and to topple the monarchy.
American GIs are heading back to Pattaya in August this year to help give the decimated resort city a boost after its vital tourism industry has been left flattened by three waves of Covid 19.
Thailand is currently in the midst of the most serious outbreak to date but authorities in Pattaya City who met American military officials on Wednesday, have confirmed that by August, 70% of the population there will have been vaccinated.
American officials at City Hall in Pattaya confirm the American military is coming back to Pattaya
Details of the proposed visit came after Captain Matt Barker, naval attaché at the US Embassy and Mr Charles Butler of the US Force Protection Detachment with officials of the city’s administration discussed public health precautions and security for the visit which will occur as part of phase 3 of the Cobra Gold military exercise.
The use of Pattaya by the US military as a ‘Rest and Relaxation’ resort is credited with triggering the boom in the city that occurred in the 1960s turning it from a seaside village into one of Southeast Asia’s most popular destinations but also among the most notorious in the world because of its reputation for sex and sleaze.
Cobra Gold has been one of the biggest international military exercises in the world since it began in 1982
Cobra Gold has been happening regularly since 1982 between the Thai and US militaries. It also features service personnel from other countries in the region such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and Singapore who are members as well as other countries mainly in the Asia Pacific region but also additional western allies.
The Cobra Gold exercises are among the largest in the world even though this year’s event, in August, will be smaller than normal focusing on field exercises.
It is still anticipated up to 30 countries may play a part between those who are members of the group as well as observers and partners.
Press told that between 1,000 and 2,000 US personnel will be visiting Pattaya for ‘R&R’ after phase 3
The meeting, on Wednesday, between the US representatives and Pattaya City Hall officials was followed by a press briefing at which it was revealed between 1,000 and 2,000 US service members would be coming to Pattaya for rest and recreation after phase 3 of the exercises.
The Thai officials underlined that security for the visit at Bali Hai Pier will be tight with 3 shifts being manned 24 hours daily by a range of security agencies.
Captain Barker said Pattaya was well known to the US military for its holiday facilities, beautiful scenery and delightful range of cuisines.
He also pointed out that all American military personnel will have been fully vaccinated with two vaccine doses.
Contrast in attitudes towards the United States as protest group turns up outside the US Embassy
The friendly US Thai rapport on display in Pattaya on Wednesday was in marked contrast to a protest which took place on Tuesday morning outside the US Embassy by a group of concerned Thai citizens who urged the world superpower to stay out of the kingdom’s internal affairs.
The group staged a protest outside the entrance to the compound on Wireless Road in central Bangkok, the second such gathering in the last 6 months.
Royalists claim the United States is seeking to destabilise Thailand using ‘hybrid warfare’ tactics and media
The group were led by Nitithorn Lamlua, a lawyer who, at one time, was involved in the leadership of the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), the group which led the street protests in 2013/2014 that ultimately led to the toppling of the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
On February 24th last, many of the top leadership or those at the forefront of the PDRC protest campaign were jailed by the Criminal Court in Bangkok including three cabinet ministers among them former Education Minister, Nataphol Teepsuwan who was sentenced to seven years and four months and former Digital Economy and Society Minister Buddhipongse Punnakanta who received a seven-year term for his part in the aggressive street protest movement led by another former minister in the previous government of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Suthep Thaugsuban who was also jailed.
Protest heard the United States is engaged in a campaign of political interference across the globe
On Tuesday, the former PDRC co-leader was joined outside the US Embassy by Phichit Chaimongkon who told the media the United States was engaged in a policy of political interference in countries across the world for the last two decades.
He linked his claim with efforts by successive US administrations to promote and export democracy internationally.
He explained that this interference took the form of economic pressure and sanctions as well as efforts to control and manipulate public opinion.
He warned that up to now, these efforts by the world’s largest superpower have managed to initiate conflict in other countries and suggested the same could happen in Thailand.
America using its military, security agencies, NGOs and clandestine organisations to influence the political events and opinion in Thailand
Mr Phichit also pointed to development organisations and NGOs which were active in Thailand and suggested the United States was funding these groups who were using their position within the country to influence its political agenda and the public on the ground.
He also warned the US was deploying clandestine organisations in Thailand and using its military and security apparatus to influence the agenda of Thai agencies.
Government announced reform plans for NGOs in February including mandatory disclosure of funding and registration with the Ministry of the Interior
In February, the government announced legislation in the form of two draft bills to monitor and regulate non-government organisations (NGOs) in Thailand.
The proposed laws require all NGOs active in Thailand to register with the Ministry of the Interior but at the same time, allow them to apply to the Thai government for financial support for the activities.
The contents of the bills were outlined by deputy government spokeswoman Rachada Dhnadirek.
The provisions require the NGOs to produce annual audited accounts and to account for their sources of finance.
It is also stipulated that their activities must be entirely within the scope of Thai law.
‘This is not intended to limit their rights, but is aimed at ensuring that money they receive will be properly used and their activities will be conducted in accordance with the objectives of non-profit organisations, for true benefits,’ said Ms Rachada at the time.
The laws suggest that those found in breach could face jail terms although the exact penalties were not outlined.
At least 100 NGOs active in Thailand
It is understood that there are at least 100 foreign NGOs active in Thailand.
Many work in combatting the prostitution and human trafficking trade while others provide support services to the less well off, disadvantaged and vulnerable.
Many have an indirect goal of helping to improve the lives of Thai women in a country which, by the standards of western feminists, is lacking in western-style social progress and according to its sharpest critics, is regressive.
Conservatives in Thailand see traditional values as sacrosanct with the monarchy at its heart
Many conservative Thais, on the other hand, see Thai traditional values as sacrosanct and these are the monarchy, the country’s Buddhist religion and love of the nation itself.
In 2018, Thai representatives at the UN in Geneva defended the countries controversial and draconian Article 112 lèse-majesté provision on the basis of protecting the kingdom’s monarchy which was at the heart of its traditions and culture.
Protester describes US activities in Thailand as human rights abuses of comparable gravity to war crimes
On Tuesday, Mr Phichit said the activities of the United States in Thailand were tantamount to human rights abuses of the highest order or even similar to war crimes.
He accused the American administration of funding subversive groups whose aim is nothing less than the toppling of Thailand’s revered monarchy.
Conservative protest group questions the activities of Khon Kaen based US academic David Streckfuss
The activist referred to the controversy last weekend over the US scholar David Streckfuss, the PhD graduate from the University of Wisconsin Madison who is an expert on Southeast Asian history and has published a seminal work ‘Truth on Trial in Thailand’ dealing extensively with Article 112 and the ongoing political struggle.
Officials deny long-time resident American professor in Khon Kaen was targeted because of political activities
Mr Phichit said his group was investigating the activities of the American who has been living in Thailand for over thirty years and has headed up the US non-profit organisation, Council on International Educational Exchange which before the pandemic, had organised exchange students with Khon Kaen University.
The US national is also reported to have founded a news website in Khon Kaen ‘The Isaan Record’ and organised a seminar in February which dealt with the Isan region’s identity and decentralisation.
Claims the US Embassy supported student protests and the movement sought to topple the monarchy
The conservative activist referred to a firm denial from the US Embassy on Monday to claims that an internal staff figure with the signature ‘H’ had been involved in a LINE social media chat with protest leader Chonticha Jangrew, something that drew the attention and ire of conservative social media users after it appeared online.
Mr Phichit accused the American Embassy of being supportive of the now diminished student protest movement which has controversially sought reform of Thailand’s highest institution.
On Tuesday, Mr Phicht claimed that the movement behind the protests sought to undermine Thailand’s national security and to bring down the monarchy, the key pillar of the nation.
Screenshot image allegedly linking US Embassy staff member with LINE chat to protest leader
The controversy over the screenshot of the purported conversation between ‘H’ thought to be Mr Henry Rector, a former political officer at the embassy and the protest leader, is still raging.
Like other similar claims over the past 8 months, this was denied when addressed, on Monday, by US Embassy spokeswoman Nicole Fox.
She stated unequivocally that the United States does not provide any form of support or financial assistance to protest groups in Thailand.