The American Embassy in Bangkok may have insisted on Wednesday that the Central Intelligence Agency was not aiding any protest leaders to seek political asylum in the U.S., but it won’t probably convince the believers in conspiracy theories.
That’s because of three factors, deep distrust of superpowers, history and a belief that the young monarchy-reform and anti-government protesters cannot possibly think and act by themselves.
The embassy’s denial came after Arnond Sakworawich, a statistics lecturer at the National Institute of Development Administration, posted on his Facebook on Monday that “The CIA approved their application. These kids will be able to spruce up themselves and study with scholarships granted by the US. They will probably return and teach at Thammasat in the next five to 10 years.”
Conspiracy theorists could and would easily discount the denial made by the American Embassy by saying no one who meddled into another state’s political affairs would willing admit it.
This is because countries like the United States are a superpower and have a real history of interfering in Thai politics in the past.
During the Cold War, Thai military dictators were basically America’s boys, chiefly Field Marshal Sarit Thanarat.
Ultra-royalists like Harutai “Ou” Muangboonsri, a key leader of the Thai Phakdee royalist group, ironically said this week about the protesters, “Do not become slaves to America. Thailand’s strength is the monarchy institution” without reading history.
It was America, during the height of the Cold War, which supported not only dictator Sarit Thanarat, but the Thai king, Rama IX, to play a greater role in society.
“Sarit and the USA oversaw a revival of the monarchy following its partial eclipse since 1932. Both the generals and their US patrons believed the monarchy would serve as a focus of unity, and a force for stability, while remaining susceptible to their control,” wrote historians Chris Baker and Pasuk Phongpaichit in their book ‘A History of Thailand’.
Given such history, it’s hard if not impossible to convince die-hard ultra-royalists that the US is not behind the protesters.
On the other side of the political spectrum, some also believe in a different conspiracy theory – that China is fully behind the Prayut Chan-ocha regime and Thailand is becoming, or had become, a de facto province of China. Again, China is also a super power and has a history of supporting the now defunct Communist Party of Thailand.
With its current economic might and close ties with major Thai-Chinese tycoons, it’s not hard to see why this conspiracy theory persists.
Personally speaking, I am also being accused by some conspiracy theorists of belonging to the U.S. camp.
On Thursday, twitter user Angelo4justice3, accused me of having been trained by the U.S.-backed Oslo Freedom Forum.
“Do your followers know that you have been trained by US backed NGO ‘Oslo Freedom Forum’? This entity trains people to top Governments and place U.S. puppets that follow their U.S. masters.”
Yes I was the first Thai to have been invited to speak at the Oslo Freedom Forum back in 2015 when the Thai military junta was illegitimately in power. Subsequently, other Thai speakers include student activist Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, and this year former Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, albelit online due to COVID-19.
Does being invited to speak make me a lackey of the U.S.? The Chinese government also invited me on a media trip last year to see their ‘success’ in eradicating poverty. Does that make me an agent for both the U.S. and China somehow?
Since I have nothing to hide, I gladly retweeted the allegations.
In the end, conspiracy theorists do not believe in ordinary people’s human agency. They don’t believe that people can think for themselves and act independently. They believe people must have a master, be it America or China.
This is part of Thailand’s deep distrust and while it’s almost impossible to convince the believers in conspiracy theories otherwise, others would do well to understand why some continue to cling on to such theories.