The Complete Guide: US Government Role in Thailand’s “Student Protests”
Virtually every aspect of “student protests” in Thailand are funded and backed by the US and aimed at destabilizing a key partner of China, reversing Thai-Chinese relations, and advancing Washington’s Beijing containment policy.
- Thailand is a key partner of China’s and has pivoted toward Beijing at Washington’s expense;
- Protesters are backed by pro-US billionaire-led opposition parties;
- US-backed billionaire-led opposition vowed months ago to “take to the streets;”
- US government funds core protest leader Anon Nampa via National Endowment for Democracy (NED);
- US also funds orgs trying to “rewrite” Thailand’s constitution;
- US funds fake news fronts posing as “independent journalism;”
- Despite “pro-human rights” slant, opposition parties are led by worst human rights offenders in Thai history.
The Southeast Asian Kingdom of Thailand has tilted too far toward China for Washington’s liking.
The country – with nearly 70 million people and the second largest economy in Southeast Asia – counts China as its biggest trade partner, its largest source of foreign direct investment, the largest source of tourism with China providing more tourists per year than all Western nations combined, and a key partner in developing infrastructure including the already under-construction China-Laos-Thailand-Malaysia-Singapore high-speed rail link that will only further cement these ties.
Thailand is also replacing its aging US military hardware with Chinese alternatives including Chinese-made main battle tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry fighting vehicles, naval vessels including the Kingdom’s first modern submarines, and jointly developed projects like the DTI-1 multiple rocket launcher system. Thailand and China have also conducted joint military exercises in recent years.
To reverse this trend – the United States is attempting to destabilize Thailand politically and economically – topple the current government and place into power a political opposition led by abusive billionaires who have specifically vowed to roll back Thai-Chinese relations.
This has manifested in protests the Western corporate media has claimed are “student-led” and “organic” despite what are clearly centrally led protests with easily identifiable leaders tied directly to US government funding.
The protests are leveraging a nation-wide network created by US government organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), USAID, and other funding mechanisms to overwrite Thailand’s indigenous institutions with Western-style alternatives across Thailand educational, labor, media, and political spaces.
The protests also have direct ties to US-backed opposition parties including those of fugitive billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party and corrupt billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit of Future Forward/Move Forward Party and even foreign opposition movements the US is funding in China’s territories of Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Thailand’s US-backed Billionaire-led Opposition
Thailand’s political opposition – while portrayed by the Western media as “progressive liberals,” is in fact run by two corrupt billionaires.
One – Thaksin Shinawatra – is a convicted criminal who currently hides abroad as a fugitive. Despite this – he still openly runs his political party Pheu Thai – as New York Times would note in their 2013 article, “Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand Wields Influence from Afar.”
Thaksin also runs a number of nominee parties operating in lockstep with Pheu Thai – including Future Forward/Move Forward Party headed by fellow billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.
|Image: US, British, and European embassy staff regularly accompanied pro-Western billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit when facing charges for his various corruption and sedition cases.|
|Image: Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit had attempted to distance himself from Thaksin Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party during an FCCT event in Bangkok before the 2019 elections – but admitted he had voted for it and attended their rallies. His party’s platform is identical to Pheu Thai’s, his party headquarters literally next door to theirs, and Pheu Thai eventually, literally nominated him as their pick for PM. Pheu Thai and Future Forward have functioned as an indistinguishable opposition front ever since.|
Thaksin had served as Thai prime minister from 2001-2006 and openly and repeatedly served US interests at the expense of Thailand’s own best interests.
- In the late 1990’s, Thaksin was an adviser to notorious private equity firm, the Carlyle Group. He pledged to his foreign contacts that upon taking office, he would still serve as a “matchmaker” between the US equity fund and Thai businesses. It would represent the first of many compromising conflicts of interest that would undermine Thailand’s sovereign under his rule.
- Thaksin was Thailand’s prime minister from 2001-2006. Has since dominated the various reincarnations of his political party – and still to this day runs the country by proxy, via his nepotist appointed sister, Yingluck Shinawatra.
- In 2001 he privatized Thailand’s resources and infrastructure including the nation’s oil conglomerate PTT – much to Wall Street’s delight.
- In 2003, he would commit Thai troops to the US invasion of Iraq, despite widespread protests from both the Thai military and the public. Thaksin would also allow the CIA to use Thailand for its abhorrent rendition program.
- In 2004, Thaksin attempted to ramrod through a US-Thailand Free-Trade Agreement (FTA) without parliamentary approval, backed by the US-ASEAN Business Council who just before the 2011 elections that saw Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra brought into power, hosted the leaders of Thaksin’s “red shirt” “United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship” (UDD) in Washington DC.
Thanathorn – the heir of his parents billion dollar autoparts manufacturing fortune and before entering politics helped bust unions at his family’s factory – maintained an anti-Chinese foreign policy platform during his 2019 election campaign.
Articles like Bloomberg’s “Thailand needs hyperloop, not China-built high-speed rail: Thanathorn,” illustrates clearly the agenda US-backed political parties and leaders like Thanathorn represent – particularly in rolling back Thai-Chinese relations. The article would note:
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.
It should be noted that not only does the “hyperloop” exist only as crude prototypes versus China’s high-speed rail technology already moving billions of people a year – the Thai-Chinese high-speed rail line is already under construction with a new grand station nearing completion built specifically to serve as, among other things, a terminal for Chinese-built high-speed trains. .
|Image: Thailand’s massive Bang Sue Grand Station nears completion and will serve as a terminal for Chinese-built high-speed trains.|
|Image: Thanathorn ran in 2019 on a platform that included cancelling Thai-Chinese rail projects in favor of the nonexistent “hyperloop.” It was a proposed policy that would have served only Washington’s interests at Thailand and China’s expense.|
US-backed Billionaire Vowed to Take to Streets Just Months Ahead of “Organic Protests”
Just months ago – after losing the 2019 elections by millions of votes and his party being disbanded for blatant election law violations – Thanathorn vowed to take his pursuit of power to the streets.
Thai PBS’ article, “Thanathorn vows to bring people onto streets after rally in downtown Bangkok,” would note as early as December 2019 that:
Addressing the demonstrators, Thanathorn said the rally was just a harbinger of more political activities against the Prayut government. He threatened to “bring people to the streets…”
Many of the protesters and organizations present during rallies openly led by Thanathorn are now the very same ones leading current protests. And while Thanathorn is not leading the protests from the front in order to maintain the illusion they are “student-led,” they have adopted his “3-finger salute” and he openly eggs them on through the media his family owns and personally on social media through is official public account.
Members of Thaksin and Thanathorn’s political parties regularly attend and directly participate in recent protests.
Mobs that billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit vowed to put into the streets just months prior are finally here and receiving widespread support from the same Western media organizations, embassies, and fronts that backed his and Thaksin’s bid for power during the 2019 elections.
US Government Funds Core Protest Leader Anon Nampa
While these billionaire-led opposition parties push the protests from behind politically and through media concerns they own in the country – the protests themselves are led by an army of US-funded fronts posing as “nongovernmental organizations.”
The most prominent of these is “Thai Lawyers for Human Rights” (TLHR) whose staff member – Anon Nampa – is openly a member of the protest’s core leadership.
TLHR’s US government funding was openly displayed on the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) website in 2014.
Its name has since been removed from NED’s website but continues to receive US funding through the NED via the “Union for Civil Liberty” (UCL) of which it is a member.
The UCL is still listed on NED’s current webpage for programs it funds in Thailand. TLHR is listed as a member of UCL on its official website next to other recipients of US NED funding including the Cross Cultural Foundation, the Human Rights Lawyers Association, and the Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL).
Before TLHR and its members began leading rallies – founding members admitted TLHR is entirely funded by foreign governments.
Even the Bangkok Post previously reported this – despite apparently “forgetting” this fact more recently in its reporting.
The Bangkok Post in a 2016 article titled, “The lawyer preparing to defend herself,” would admit (emphasis added):
…[TLHR] receives all its funding from international donors including the EU, Germany and US-based human rights organisations and embassies of the UK and Canada.
Thus, a front posing as “pro-democracy” and representative of the Thai people receives none of its support from people actually living in Thailand and instead – from foreign capitals with obvious ulterior motives.
In addition to an award presented by the French Embassy, the US State Department awarded TLHR member Sirikan “June” Charoensiri the 2018 “International Women of Courage Award” presented by US First Lady Melania Trump.
The US embassy in Bangkok openly praised TLHR in its own post celebrating the award, exclaiming:
The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok is proud of Sirikan “June” Charoensiri’s work as a lawyer and human rights defender, and for being recognized by the Secretary of State as an International Women of Courage award recipient.
Ms. Sirikan is a co-founder of Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), a lawyers’ collective set up to provide pro bono legal services for human rights cases and to document human rights violations.
Thus – an organization carefully cultivated by the US government for years – propped up financially and politically and even awarded for carrying out Washington’s agenda in Thailand – is now leading protests aimed at overthrowing the elected government of Thailand.
Anon Nampa shares the stage with likewise compromised “student leaders” of the “Student Union of Thailand” (SUT) – who are open supporters of Thailand’s US-backed billionaire-led opposition parties and enthusiastic supporters of US-funded unrest in Hong Kong.
Some of these “student protesters” have even “graduated” into Thanathorn’s Future Forward/Move Forward political party – including Rangsima Rome who used to regularly lead protests side-by-side with Anon Nampa. He still regularly attends protests and provides direct support for leaders including offering transportation – the Bangkok Post would admit.
Others supporting the unrest are students and academics indoctrinated through US State Department programs including the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) and scores of “workshops” run by USAID and other US entities across Thai schools and university campuses each year.
US Government Funds Orgs Trying to “Rewrite” Thailand’s Constitution
If Russia was funding an NGO in the US petitioning for the US Constitution to be rewritten – and rewritten specifically to make it easier for Russian-backed politicians to get elected into the US government – one could expect an immediate and extreme backlash across the media exposing this.
Yet in Thailand where US government-funded groups are doing precisely this in regards to the Thai constitution – the media not only conceals US funding, it spins the move as “pro-democratic.”
English language newspaper The Nation in an article titled, “iLaw launches petition for charter rewrite,” would claim:
The Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw), a human rights NGO, has launched a campaign seeking signatures from 50,000 voters to sponsor a motion for a Constitution rewrite.
No where in The Nation’s article is mentioned that iLaw’s primary source of income is the US government via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) – a notorious US government arm involved in political interference and regime change operations around the globe.
The organization’s US government funding can be found on NED’s official website under the name, “Internet Law Reform Dialogue” (iLaw).
On iLaw’s own website under “About Us” it admits:
Between 2009 and 2014 iLaw has received funding support from the Open Society Foundation, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and a one-time support grant from Google.
Between 2015 to present iLaw receives funding from funders as listed below1. Open Society Foundation (OSF)2. Heinrich Böll Stiftung (HBF)3. National Endowment for Democracy (NED)4. Fund for Global Human Rights (FGHR)5. American Jewish World Servic (AJWS)6. One-time support donation from Google and other independent donors
A foreign-funded organization – an organization that would not exist without this foreign funding – petitioning for Thailand’s very constitution to be rewritten is not only a clear cut case of conflict of interests and foreign political meddling – it undermines the very foundation and fundamentals of democracy and self-determination.
Democracy and self-determination means that Thailand’s constitution and efforts to either maintain or amend it should be determined solely by the Thai people – not by Washington and fronts it funds like iLaw.
Other groups working to rewrite Thailand’s constitution include “ConLab” or “Constitution Lab” (only on Facebook) who do so in partnership with US government-funded iLaw and which recently held an event at the US Embassy’s “American Corner” at Chiang Mai University.
The rewritten constitution aims specifically to remove sections meant solely to prevent Thaksin Shinawatra and his proxies from returning to power. Thus iLaw’s US-funded activities would make it easier for US-backed opposition parties to retake power and help the US reverse Thailand’s growing ties with China.
US Government Funds Fake News Fronts Posing as “Independent Journalism” Supporting Protests
There are also a number of fake news websites funded by the US government and providing decidedly lopsided coverage of the ongoing protests including Prachatai.
Prachatai receives millions of Thai Baht a year from the US government to advance narratives that divide and destabilize Thailand and promote US interests within Thai borders. It is also an echo chamber for US State Department talking points including US policy regarding the Mekong River, the South China Sea, and other opposition fronts the US backs in the region.
It is listed on the US NED’s official website under the name “Foundation for Community Educational Media,” which appears at the very bottom of Prachatai’s website.
The media front’s “executive director” Chiranuch Premchaiporn is also a “fellow” of the National Endowment for Democracy – an organization chaired by representatives not of promoting democracy and human rights – but inveterate pro-war proponents and actual war criminals like Elliot Abrams, propagandists like Anne Applebaum, and representatives of America’s arms, oil, and banking sectors.
Prachatai’s activities include promoting and defending opposition groups and parties the US seeks to place into power. It has recently served as a central platform promoting ongoing unrest, protesters’ demands, and attempting to build legitimacy around all three while omitting any mention of documented foreign funding or ulterior motives involved.
Prachatai has in the past and still currently hides its US government funding. A partial disclosure made in 2011 is buried on its English website and has not been updated since. No financial disclosure at all has been made on its Thai language website.
Prachatai also supplied at least one member of its staff – Nalutporn Krairisksh – as a “founding member” of billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit’s Future Forward Party. Prachatai even “interviewed” her regarding her role as a Future Forward co-founder but never disclosed her relationship with Prachatai or the fact that she still worked out of their offices in Huay Kwang Bangkok even after joining Future Forward.
The conflicts of interest are numerous and alarming – but also being entirely unmentioned or even covered up. It is impropriety that should help further illustrate the true nature of Thailand’s so-called “opposition” and undermine dishonest or naive claims that US interference in Thailand is not a serious problem.
In fact – the easiest way to illustrate how what the National Endowment for Democracy does is wrong, is to note how if any other country did what it does, inside the US, it would be considered an act of war.
The US has leveled sanctions on both China and Russia over mere accusations of similar behavior it has yet to prove with evidence and has used claims of Chinese and Russian interference in Western affairs as impetus to place troops on Russia’s boarders and sail warships off China’s shores.
Yet it openly interferes abroad in ways many times worse in reality than it baselessly claims others are doing within its own borders.
The Human Rights Racket
Despite the current protests making “human rights” a central theme of their rallies – their sponsor Thaksin Shinawatra holds the odious title of worst human rights violator in Thai history.
The protesters themselves are at least partially made up of Thaksin Shinawatra’s “red shirt” street front – guilty of some of the worst street violence in Thailand’s modern history.
In 2003, while Thaksin Shinawatra was in office he initiated what he called a “war on drugs.” Nearly 3,000 were extrajudicially murdered in the streets over the course of just 90 days. It would later turn out that more than half of those killed had nothing to even do with the drug trade.
In 2004, he oversaw the killing of 85 protesters in a single day during his mishandled, heavy-handed policy in the country’s troubled deep south. The atrocity is now referred to as the “Tak Bai incident.”
Throughout his administration he was notorious for intimidating the press, and crushing dissent. According to Amnesty International, 18 human rights defenders were either assassinated or disappeared during his first term in office. Among them was human rights activist and lawyer Somchai Neelapaijit. He was last seen in 2004 being arrested by police and never seen again.
Somchai’s disappearance under Thaksin Shinawatra’s regime is particularly ironic – with protesters today now carrying his portrait around in an attempt to insinuate the current government is somehow responsible.
Also throughout Thaksin’s administration, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) claimed in its report, “Attacks on the Press 2004: Thailand” that the regime was guilty of financial interference, legal intimidation, and coercion of the press.
These same rights organizations have now collectively “forgotten” these violations as they attempt to pressure the current government to step down – paving the way for Thaksin and his proxies to return to power and resume their abuses.
The Western media still writes entire articles about Thaksin Shinawatra and his role in Thai politics – including this piece from last year in the Washington Post – never once mentioning the thousands put to death under his regime.
…the unjust dismissal of ten union members, obstruction of workers’ right to freedom of association through threats, intimidation and harassment, and failure of the company to respect the right of workers to collectively bargain.
The statement noted that among workers’ demands were that Thanathorn’s Thai Summit, “[cease] and [desist] from any further threats, harassment or intimidation of workers and union members.”
And in 2010 according to, Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights, Thanathorn’s union-busting included:
…a systematic pattern of obstruction and violation of the worker rights to form and join a union.
The report also noted that:
Over 400 Thai Summit Eastern Seaboard workers had joined the Ford and Mazda Thailand Workers’ Union in November 2006 but were harassed and coerced until all union members had resigned under duress.
It is particularly ironic and telling that mobs Thanathorn now backs are demanding the government not “intimidate them” – echoing demands made by workers in Thanathorn’s family’s factories – demands that, under his leadership, were ignored for years.
While the US clearly backs his bid for power – US-funded groups posing as rights advocates were forced to pay lip service to his past abuses – but only once, and with little fanfare.
Phil Robertson– Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division questioned Thanathorn in a tucked-away response to a social media post, asking:
I’d be interested in hearing your take on Summit Group’s continuous anti-union stance that has seen auto workers fired for exercising their rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining! Ask Thailand Auto Workers Federation what they think. End union busting now!
Unlike pressure HRW places on Thanathorn’s opponents both on their official website and throughout the Western media daily – Robertson’s feigned concern started and ended with a single anemic social media reply 2 years ago utterly ignored, un-liked, and un-retweeted even by other colleagues at HRW.
|Image: Nice stage. Nice sound system. Who paid for it? Students? The Western media doesn’t ask.|