U.S. Embassy Denies Funding Anti-Govt Protests

Demonstrators attend a pro-establishment rally organized by the Thai Phakdee group in Bangkok on Aug. 30, 2020.

BANGKOK — The American Embassy in Bangkok on Monday denied the allegations that its government supported and funded the anti-government movement in Thailand. 

The embassy was implicated in the ongoing protests by speakers at a pro-establishment rally in Bangkok on Sunday, where they accused the Americans of meddling in Thai politics. But a statement released by the embassy said the United States does not support any political party, and urged all sides to engage in peaceful conversation with each other. 

“The United States government is not funding or otherwise providing support to any of the protests in Thailand,” the embassy said in response to an inquiry. “As friends of Thailand, we encourage all sides to continue to act with respect and restraint and engage in constructive dialogue on how to move the country forward.”

“The United States does not support any individual or political party; we support the democratic process and the rule of law.”

Read: Protesters Vow to Defend the Monarchy, Decline to Rule Out Violence

The accusation was put forth in an “infographic” published by a hardline royalist group called Thailand Vision.

The chart accused multiple international agencies and figures of engineering the protests against PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, including American billionaire and activist George Soros, the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and even Netflix. 

Domestic organizations are also implicated, from the Prachatai news website and the Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand to student leaders, Thammasat University academics, and the Thai Lawyers for Human Rights.

Director of a conservative thinktank, called Thai Move Institute, also lashed out at the U.S. at a pro-monarchy gathering on Sunday.

“America lost their battle front in Hong Kong,” institute director Vethin Chartkul said at the rally inside Thai-Japan Din Daeng Stadium. “People like Joshua Wong are now branded as a servant dog by locals … They use democracy as a pretext to interfere in politics of various nations.”

“Foreigners must also be behind those protesters here,” he said. 

Harutai Muangboonsri, a celebrity and key member of the newly founded royalist group Thai Phakdee, also said Western powers want to destabilize Thailand like they did in Libya, Iraq, and Syria. 

“Syria, Libya and Iraq are like this due to [Western powers]. Today, it’s in ruins,” Harutai told the crowd.

Conservative activist Kittitouch Chaiprasith also discussed the accusations on social media. 

“Which embassy and organization was responsible for ‘financial support from the embassy and foreign NGOs?’” he wrote on Aug. 18. “I think many people already know what embassy and foreign NGOs they are.”

But one of the student leaders named in the Thai Move Institute’s infographic said his group was not used or paid by the U.S., or any other Western country.

“It’s not true. I even refused to attend the Independence Day reception back in 2017 and have since never been invited,” Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal said by phone. “This is a way of distracting from the real issues, that of violations of human rights.”

“America is a superpower, it’s inevitable that they will get involved but we must see whether it’s for good or bad. If they support liberty then I can agree with them,” he went on. “It’s not like everything about America is good.”

Protests against PM Prayut have been characterized as “foreign meddling” by the pro-establishment and ultranationalist groups, though little evidence has been provided.

Leaders behind the current anti-government protests said they want a new election, a more democratic charter, and an end to harassment of government critics. Some activists also called for a series of reforms of the monarchy.  

Correction: An earlier version of this story identified the Thai Move Institute as the agency responsible for the infographic. In fact, it was the Thailand Vision group.