New Thai Government and America’s Asia “Pivot”

P 17.06.2019 U Joseph Thomas

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After much uncertainty and a turbulent election, Thailand now has a new government led by its newly elected prime minister, Prayuth Chan-o-cha. This bodes well for Thailand’s stability and development as well as its growing ties with its ASEAN neighbours as well as with China.

For the US and its attempts to reassert “primacy” over Asia while encircling and containing the rise of China, the defeat of its “pro-democracy” proxies it is a nightmare.

The Western media, their media partners in Thailand and a small army of US-funded fronts posing as nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) have decried the new government as a “dictatorship disguised as democracy.”

Articles like, “Thailand Junta Leader Named Prime Minister After Contentious Vote,” published by the New York Times, set the tone of the West’s backlash against the newly formed government, citing unqualified claims like, “an election marred by charges of manipulation” or depicting the opposition as being “pro-democracy.”

Absent from NYT articles and others across the Western media is any mention of who PM Prayuth Chan-o-Cha was really running against or why there was a coup in 2014 to begin with. This omission is deliberate, because its inclusion by the media would provide crucial context both justifying the coup and exposing the “pro-democracy” opposition as anything but.

Putting Things in Context 

PM Prayuth led a 2014 coup, ousting the regime of Yingluck Shinawatra, which in turn served merely as a front for convicted criminal, fugitive and US-proxy Thaksin Shinawatra.

From 2001-2006, Shinawatra had loyally served US interests as Thai prime minister. He privatised Thailand’s energy concerns which were promptly bought up by US and European oil corporations, committed Thai troops to the 2003 US invasion and occupation of Iraq, invited the US Central Intelligence Agency to use Thai territory for its extraordinary rendition programme and even attempted to pass a US-Thai free trade agreement without parliamentary approval.

Additionally, Shinawatra carried out a brutal “war on drugs” which left over 2,800 innocent people dead in just 90 days and crippled free speech by suing, intimidating or outright killing critics, making him the worst human rights offender in Thailand’s history. He also carried out sweeping abuses of power, including changing the nation’s laws in order to sell his satellite concern, Shin Corp, to Singapore investors tax free.

For this and Shinawatra’s attempts to illegally consolidate power by eliminating his rivals which include Thailand’s military, courts and constitutional monarchy, it is clear why he himself was ousted in a coup in 2006 and his sister ousted in a similar coup in 2014.

Between 2006-2011 Shinawatra twice attempted to seize power by force, once in 2009 and again in 2010. The latter attempt included 300-500 heavily armed militants resulting in nearly 100 deaths and the destruction of several sections of Bangkok’s downtown districts.

He has been convicted of corruption and sentenced to now 4 years in prison with multiple arrest warrants issued against him.

Despite being a fugitive, from 2011-2014 he openly ran his sister’s government remotely from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

In recent elections, Shinawatra openly headed his Pheu Thai Party (PTP) along with several other “hedge parties” fielded in case any one of them was disbanded. In fact one, Thai Raksa Chart, was disbanded. Another, Future Forward, had its leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit nominated as PM by Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai itself.

The fact a fugitive is to this day running these parties remotely or its obvious implications, is entirely omitted across the Western media.
Despite accusations of Thailand’s government being a “dictatorship disguised as democracy,” PM Prayuth Chan-o-Cha’s Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) won the popular vote. Together with its coalition partners including the Democrat Party and Bhumjaithai Party (BJT) it also formed the larger coalition with both the most actual votes and the most seats in parliament.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s Future Forward Party came in third, then joined a smaller coalition with Shinawatra’s PTP. It is difficult to imagine in what sort of “democracy” the West believes the party with the least electoral support should lead the country.

Might Makes Right, Until You’re No Longer Mighty 

Washington’s defacto appointment of Juan Guaidó as “president” of Venezuela is another, if not extreme example of the West’s version of “democracy” in action. The sloppy, impotent regime-change campaign Washington is waging against Venezuela is owed to the United States’ shrinking global influence; militarily, politically and economically.

Likewise in Thailand, the West’s media and local fronts funded by the US government find themselves weaker relative to growing regional economic, political and military power.

At the same time, partners the West seeks to use to co-opt Thailand’s institutions are also increasingly weak. Thaksin Shinawatra for example, was once among the top 5 richest people in Thailand. He is now 19th. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s family is not even in the top 20.

Their waning wealth is coupled with their waning influence. They also suffer from a severe lack of credibility. Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit for example campaigned on a platform of ambiguous values including democracy, equality and human rights, yet at his family’s auto parts factory he himself busted unions and denied workers collective bargaining rights.

As nations across the developing world continue to claim larger shares of global markets and industries, US influence around the globe will continue to wane. With it will shrivel the various client regimes and opposition groups the US sponsors around the globe, including in Thailand.

What’s Next? 

Thailand’s government now faces the challenge of consolidating its newly mandated power and moving development projects forward while continuing to build and balance regional and global ties.

As Thai-Chinese military cooperation continues to expand and infrastructure projects continue toward completion, the ability of Washington to reverse its waning regional influence fades. As the US has done in other regions of the world where the window is now closing on American hegemony, it may turn to more drastic measures no matter how unsuccessful they might be.

Domestically, the US-backed opposition will waste no time organising protests, violence and other measures to actively undermine the current government and the policies it seeks to implement. We should look out specifically for anti-Chinese “activism” and provocations aimed at souring ties between Bangkok and Beijing.

With the Western media attempting to already set the stage for such protests, claiming the election has been “stolen” from the opposition (a sentiment not surprisingly echoing Thaksin Shinawatra’s recent NYT op-ed), the machinations of yet another toxic US-backed colour revolution are already in motion.

The media, being a bellwether of Western interests themselves, continuing its campaign of undermining the current Thai government indicates that the West is far from giving up on coercing or even overthrowing Thailand’s current political order.

When the protests begin, Thailand and the wider world must be prepared for the now familiar disinformation campaigns waged by the Western media, fronts posing as NGOs funded by Western governments and all the tricks used to provoke violence or portray the sitting government as being “violent.”

Hopefully, with the fates of Libya, Syria, Ukraine and Venezuela already in full view, the uphill battle of exposing similar meddling in Thailand will be made a little easier, making it that much harder for Washington.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.


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