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Confirmed US Meddling in Thailand’s Upcoming Elections

The US not only possesses its own organisations for the purpose of political interference, they are openly funded by and linked directly to the US government.

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Originally appeared at the New Eastern Outlook

As the United States intensifies its accusations against Russia for alleged interference in the 2016 US Presidential Elections, the United States itself is found engaged in confirmed political interference worldwide.

This includes in Southeast Asia where Washington is attempting to rush elections in Thailand in hopes of returning their proxy Thaksin Shinawatra and his Pheu Thai Party (PTP) to power.

US efforts to rush elections have included a concerted effort to dismiss those pointing out Shinawatra’s continued influence in Thai politics, his continued leadership role over PTP and his intentions to use PTP to return to power.

However, Reuters in an article titled, “Thai ex-PM Thaksin calls for party unity ahead of promised election,” would openly admit Shinawatra, a convicted criminal and fugitive, still controlled PTP whose leadership met with him recently in Hong Kong.

The article reported:

Fugitive former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra met lawmakers from his Puea Thai Party in Hong Kong where he called for party unity ahead of an approaching general election, party members said on Monday.

Many are watching to see how Puea Thai Party performs in a vote which the military government has promised to hold in November but which could be delayed.

The necessity of repeated delays of Thai elections is very straightforward.

Thaksin Shinawatra, a convicted criminal and fugitive still seeks to contest them through PTP. Allowing a fugitive to contest elections would be illegal and any election outcome influenced by a convicted criminal and fugitive would be illegitimate. By delaying elections, the current Thai government hopes to continue diminishing Shinawatra’s unwarranted influence and wealth as well as that of his political network inside Thailand until both are no longer an obstruction to legal elections.

Yet despite this straightforward necessity to delay elections, the United States and its European partners have repeatedly demanded rushed elections. Additionally, the US and its European partners are funding myriad opposition fronts ranging from media platforms to street protests to place pressure on the current Thai government to rush elections while it is believed Shinawatra and PTP still have a chance of winning.

US Meddling

The US accuses Russia of political interference based on activities of the Internet Research Agency a recent FBI indictment insinuated was linked to the Russian government. While no actual evidence has surfaced linking the organisation to the Kremlin, the US not only possesses its own organisations for the purpose of political interference, they are openly funded by and linked directly to the US government.

In Thailand, the United States government through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is funding media organisations like Prachatai which promote daily protests and demands for immediate elections.

Shinawatra also controls his own media organisations inside of Thailand. This includes VoiceTV supposedly founded by his son, Panthongthae Shinawatra, but clearly serving his father’s political agenda.

Supposed rights advocates like Fortify Rights (page 20, .pdf)iLaw, Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR), Cross Cultural Foundation, Thai Netizen Network and Isaan Record are also all funded by the US government via NED and have not only contributed toward attempts to manufacture dissent, but have also led small protests in the streets themselves.
Anon Nampa of US-funded TLHR has repeatedly led anti-government protests demanding elections while concurrently representing fellow protesters in court cases, calling into question the supposed impartiality his organisation claims to represent.

Protesting alongside Nampa are members of Thaksin Shinawatra’s own street front, the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship (UDD) also known as red shirts. This includes UDD organiser Sombat Boonngamanong and dedicated red shirts like Yupa Saengsai.

The UDD red shirts have committed serial acts of violence and terrorism including gunning down two shopkeepers while committing widespread arson and looting in 2009, the use of some 300 heavily armed militants during protests in 2010 which led to nearly 100 deaths and also ended in widespread arson and looting, bombings including that of a Bangkok hospital and a terrorist campaign aimed at anti-Shinawatra protesters in 2014 that left nearly 30 dead.

With the reemergence of Shinawatra’s red shirts on the streets, observers have warned that violence is imminent.

Yet despite this, efforts by the Thai government to arrest leaders and prevent another round of instability and violence have been decried by the US government and its European partners as well as US-funded fronts like Prachatai, TLHR, Fortify Rights and their partners in corporate foundation funded fronts like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

Under the guise of “human rights,” “freedom of assembly” and “freedom of expression,” these compromised organisations representing concerted foreign meddling in Thailand’s internal political affairs are setting the conditions for another attempt at violently subverting Thailand’s stability and political order.

This reflects a similar pattern seen elsewhere around the globe where the US pressures nations into holding elections Washington is confident its proxies can win. Should those elections fail to place Washington’s proxies into power, or be delayed, the US then organises increasingly disruptive street protests, then violence, before more directly involving itself in “regime change.”

Washington’s Man in Dubai and Multipolar Thailand 

Thailand’s longstanding political crisis centres around former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a military coup in 2006, and who has attempted to return to power through a number of proxies including his own brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat and his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. His sister too was removed from power by a military coup in 2014 after she attempted to amend the nation’s constitution to return her brother to power.

Thaksin Shinawatra’s administration represented the peak of US influence in Thailand.

Between 2001-2006 Shinawatra privatised Thailand’s natural resources including its oil and gas reserves for the sake of US energy giants, committed Thai troops to the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, approved of Washington’s use of Thai territory for its extraordinary rendition programme and attempted to pass without parliamentary approval a free trade agreement with Washington that would have granted American corporations and financial institutions unprecedented access and control over Thailand’s population, economy and resources.

Shinawatra and his sister are both convicted criminals. Both have fled the country, evading a 2 year and 5 year prison sentence respectively, making them fugitives as well. Thaksin Shinawatra has allegedly been based in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates while his sister is supposedly being given safe-haven in London, UK.

Since Shinawatra’s ousting from office and his multiple failed attempts to return to power, Thailand has shifted its economic and foreign policy more inward toward Asia, including fostering greater ties with China.

This includes Thailand replacing its ageing Vietnam War-era US military hardware with Chinese armaments. It also includes massive infrastructure deals signed with Beijing including high speed railways that will link major Thai cities as well as Thailand with both its Southeast Asian neighbours as well as China itself.

Thailand is also forging stronger ties with its immediate neighbours in Southeast Asia in both economic and political terms. This includes cooperating with neighbouring countries in their own battle against US political meddling. Thailand’s immediate neighbour to the east, Cambodia, recently asked for the repatriation of opposition members of the Cambodia National Rescue Party which was recently revealed to have colluded with the United States to seize power.

It is clear why the US is determined to reverse its diminishing fortunes both in Thailand, and in Asia in general.

Meddling Industrial Complex: Diminishing Returns?

US attempts to meddle in Thailand’s internal affairs depends on a small but loud and well-funded number of neoliberal Thais educated in the US and Europe and working for US and European institutions, media platforms and foreign-funded organisations. It also depends on Shinawatra’s waning support base in northeast Thailand (referred to as Isaan) where his popularity depends on constant, unsustainable populist handouts.

The diminutive protests held so far are owed to a lack of genuine support for Shinawatra. Protest leaders even admitted that without supporters brought in from Shinawatra’s political stronghold upcountry, protests would remain limited.

Pro-Shinawatra newspaper Khaosod in an article titled, “Protest Just a ‘Kick-Off.’ Activists Say,” admitted:

Sirawith [Seritiwat] said that many protesters upcountry had been blocked from traveling to the capital.

“If the authorities were really brave, then take out those blocks and we’ll fill all of Ratchadamnoen!” he said, referring to road blockades reportedly erected to prevent people from traveling to the capital.

In actuality, there were no roadblocks, only bans on political activities, including Shinawatra’s PTP’s use of charted buses to bring subsidised villagers to Bangkok as it has done in past protests. Should PTP pay villagers to board charted buses now, they may face a political ban, finally barring them from elections.

That an entire opposition movement exists in Thailand solely because of the money and directives of the United States and their proxy Thaksin Shinawatra, is an example of the blatant and extensive political interference Washington is engaged in around the globe as it accuses and attempts to punish Russia for interference and collusion in its own internal political affairs.

More than mere “influence operations” as the FBI’s indictment claims regarding Russian meddling, the US is creating entire opposition movements, from media platforms to street fronts to lawyers designated to defend members of the movement as the government arrests and charges them for sedition.

For nations like Thailand facing extensive US meddling, one possible recourse might be to take pages from Washington’s own rhetoric and punitive measures aimed at Russia, and apply them to US efforts aimed at Bangkok. Vigorous laws targeting US-funded fronts in Thailand posing as nongovernmental organisations modelled after laws the US itself has created and used against Russian media could be one example of this.

However, Bangkok may also decide a more patient and reserved approach, simply delaying elections, weathering US-manufactured dissent and stretching out protests until they expose and exhaust themselves.

 

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Beijing Threatens “Severe” Retaliation Against Canada If Huawei CFO Is Not Released

China’s warning marks an escalation in Beijing’s rhetoric as investors worry that the arrest could cause the shaky trade detente between the US and China to devolve into acrimony.

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Via Zerohedge


Canada’s extraordinary arrest one week ago of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou, the daughter of Huawei founder and billionaire executive Ren Zhengfei, and its decision to charge her with “multiple” counts of fraud – a preamble to her likely extradition to the US to face charges of knowingly violating US and EU sanctions on Iran – has elicited widespread anger in Beijing, which declared Meng’s detention a “violation of human rights” during a bail hearing for the jailed executive on Friday.

That anger has apparently only intensified after the hearing adjourned without a decision (it will resume on Monday, allowing Meng’s defense team to argue for why she should be released on bail, contrary to the wishes of government attorneys who are prosecuting the case).

And with Canada insisting that it will prosecute Meng to the full extent of the law over allegations that she mislead banks about the true relationship of a Huawei subsidiary called Skycom, angry Chinese officials have decided to issue an ultimatum directly to the Canadian ambassador, who was summoned to a meeting in Beijing on Saturday and told in no uncertain terms that Canada will face “severe consequences” if Meng isn’t released, according to the Wall Street Journal.

China’s foreign ministry publicized the warning in a statement (though Canadian officials have yet to comment):

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng summoned Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, John McCallum, on Saturday to deliver the warning, according to a statement from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The statement doesn’t mention the name of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, though it refers to a Huawei “principal” taken into custody at U.S. request while changing planes in Vancouver, as was Ms. Meng. The statement accuses Canada of “severely violating the legal, legitimate rights of a Chinese citizen” and demands the person’s release.

“Otherwise there will be severe consequences, and Canada must bear the full responsibility,” said the statement, which was posted online late Saturday.

Phone calls to the Canadian Embassy rang unanswered while the Canadian government’s global affairs media office didn’t immediately respond to an email request for comment.

The warning marks an escalation in Beijing’s rhetoric as investors worry that the arrest could cause the shaky trade detente between the US and China to devolve into acrimony. A federal judge issued a warrant for Meng’s arrest back in August. Though after she was made aware of the warrant, Meng avoided travel to the US. She was arrested in Vancouver last Saturday while traveling to Mexico.

Aside from breaking off trade talks, some are worried that Beijing could seek to retaliate in kind by arresting a notable US executive. While the threats of Chinese bureaucrats might not amount to much in the eyes of US prosecutors, threatening a US executive with long-term detention in a Chinese “reeducation camp” just might.

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The trials of Julian Assange

Eresh Omar Jamal interviews Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi in relation to the situation of Julian Assange.

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Authored by Eresh Omar Jamal for The Daily Star (Bangladesh):


Stefania Maurizi is an investigative journalist working for the Italian daily La Repubblica. She has worked on all WikiLeaks releases of secret documents and partnered with Glenn Greenwald to reveal the Snowden Files about Italy. She has authored two books—Dossier WikiLeaks: Segreti Italiani and Una Bomba, Dieci Storie. In an exclusive interview with Eresh Omar Jamal of The Daily Star, Maurizi talks about the continued arbitrary detention of Julian Assange, why powerful governments see WikiLeaks as an existential threat, and the implications for global press freedom if Assange is prosecuted for publishing secret government documents.

You recently had the chance to visit Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. When was this and can you describe the state he is in?

I was able to visit him on November 19, after 8 months of failed attempts, because last March the Ecuadorian authorities cut off all his social and professional contacts, with the exception of his lawyers, and in the preceding 8 months, I had asked for permission to visit him nine times without success—the Ecuadorian authorities didn’t reply at all to my requests.

When I was finally granted permission to visit the WikiLeaks founder at the Ecuadorian embassy in London last November, I was literally shocked to see the huge impact his isolation has had on his health. Because I have worked as a media partner with him and his organisation, WikiLeaks, for the last nine years, I have met him many times and can tell when there are any changes in his body and mind. I wondered how his mind could keep working; but after talking to him in the embassy for two hours, I have no doubt that his mind is working fine. I still wonder how that’s possible after six and a half years of detention without even one hour of being outdoors. I would have had a physical and mental breakdown after just 6 months, not after 6 years.

Detention and isolation are killing him slowly, and no one is doing anything to stop it. The media reports, the commentators comment, but at the end of the day, he is still there; having spent the last six and a half years confined to a tiny building with no access to sunlight or to proper medical treatment. And this is happening in London, in the heart of Europe. He is not sitting in an embassy in Pyongyang. It is truly tragic and completely unacceptable. And I’m simply appalled at the way the UK authorities have contributed to his arbitrary detention, and have opposed any solution to this intractable legal and diplomatic quagmire.

Having bravely defended Assange for years, the Ecuadorian government in late March cut off almost all his communications with the outside world. What prompted this turnabout and what is its purpose?

Politics has completely changed in Ecuador, and more in general, in Latin America, since 2012, when Ecuador granted Julian Assange asylum. I have never had any interviews with the current Ecuadorian President, Mr Lenin Moreno, but based on his public declarations, it’s rather obvious to me that he does not approve of what Julian Assange and WikiLeaks do.

With all his problems, Rafael Correa (former president of Ecuador) protected Assange from the very beginning, whereas Lenin Moreno considers him a liability. Moreno is under pressure from the right-wing politicians in Ecuador, and also from very powerful governments, like the US and UK governments, who will leave no stones unturned to jail Assange and destroy WikiLeaks. I am not sure how long Lenin Moreno will hold out against this immense pressure, provided that he wants to hold out at all.

Assange was vindicated not so long ago as to why he cannot leave the embassy when the US Department of Justice “accidentally” revealed in November that the founder of WikiLeaks had been secretly charged in the US. What do you think those charges are for?

It’s hard to say unless the charges get declassified and I really appreciate how the US organisation, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, is fighting before the court in the Eastern District of Virginia, US, to have the charges declassified.

There is no doubt whatsoever that the US authorities have always wanted to charge him for WikiLeaks’ publications. They have wanted to do so from the very beginning, since 2010, when WikiLeaks released its bombshell publications like the US diplomatic cables.

But the US authorities have been unable to do so due to the fact that WikiLeaks’ publication activities enjoy constitutional protection thanks to the First Amendment. So it will be very interesting to see how they will get around this constitutional protection in order to be able to charge him and other WikiLeaks journalists and put them all in jail.

Why have some of the most powerful governments and intelligence agencies invested so much resources to attack Assange and WikiLeaks?

You have to realise what it meant for the US national security complex to witness the publication of 76,000 secret documents about the war in Afghanistan, and then another 390,000 secret reports about the war in Iraq; followed by 251,287 US diplomatic cables and 779 secret files on the Guantanamo detainees; and to watch WikiLeaks save Edward Snowden, while the US was trying everything it could do, to show the world that there is no way of exposing the NSA’s secrets and keep your head attached to your neck having done so.

You have to realise what this means in an environment like that of the US, where even the most brilliant national security reporters didn’t dare to publish the name of the head of the CIA Counterterrorism Center, Michael D’Andrea, even though his name and the abuses committed by his centre were open secrets within their inner circles. Although the New York Times finally did, later on. But this was and still is the reality in the US, and even though it may not be as bad in the UK, it’s still quite bad. Look at what happened with the arrest of Glenn Greenwald’s husband, David Miranda, at the Heathrow Airport during the publication of the Snowden Files. Look at what happened with The Guardian being forced to destroy its hard drives during the publication of those files.

There are different levels of power in our societies and generally in our western democracies, criticism against the low, medium and high levels of power via journalistic activities is tolerated. Journalists may get hit with libel cases, have troubles with their careers; however, exposing those levels is permitted. The problem is when journalists and media organisations touch the highest levels, the levels where states and intelligence agencies operate.

WikiLeaks is a media organisation that has published secret documents about these entities for years, and Julian Assange and his staff have done this consistently, not occasionally like all the other media organisations do. You can imagine the anger these powerful entities have towards WikiLeaks—they perceive WikiLeaks as an existential threat and they want to set an example that says, “Don’t you dare expose our secrets and crimes, because if you do, we will smash you.”

If Assange is prosecuted, what impact might it have on other publishers and journalists and on press freedom globally?

It will have a huge impact and that is why organisations like the American Civil Liberties Union are speaking out. Never before in the US has an editor and media organisation ended up in jail for publishing information in the public interest. If Julian Assange and the WikiLeaks’ staff end up in jail, it will be the first time in US history and will set a devastating precedent for attack on press freedom in the US, but actually, not only in the US. Because if a country like the US, in which the activities of the press enjoy constitutional protection, treats journalists this way, you can imagine how other countries where the press doesn’t enjoy such strong protection will react. It will send a clear message to them: “Your hands are free.”

At the end of the day, I think there are two sides to this Assange and WikiLeaks saga: the US-UK national security complex, but more in general, I would say, the people within the national security complex, who want to destroy Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to send a clear message to journalists: “Don’t mess with us if you don’t want your lives to be destroyed.” While on the other side, there are the freedom of the press guys, meaning journalists like me, who want to demonstrate the exact opposite: that we can expose power at the highest levels, we can expose the darkest corners of governments and come out alive and well. And actually, we must do this, because real power is invisible and hides in the darkest corners.

Eresh Omar Jamal is a journalist for The Daily Star (Bangladesh). You can find him on Twitter: @EreshOmarJamal and Stefania Maurizi: @SMaurizi

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Diplomacy a Waste of Time with Washington

Trump’s JCPOA pullout and threatened INF Treaty withdrawal show Washington can never be trusted.

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Authored by Stephen Lendman:


The US is a serial lawbreaker, operating by its own rules, no others.

Time and again, it flagrantly breaches international treaties, Security Council resolutions, and other rule of law principles, including its own Constitution.

Diplomacy with Republicans and undemocratic Dems is an exercise in futility.

Trump’s JCPOA pullout and threatened INF Treaty withdrawal show Washington can never be trusted.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova’s proposed US outreach to discuss INF Treaty bilateral differences is well intended – despite knowing nothing is accomplished when talks with Washington are held, so why bother.

It’s just a matter of time before the US breaches another promise. They’re hollow when made. Kremlin good intentions aren’t enough to overcome US duplicity and implacable hostility toward Russia.

“We are ready to continue the dialogue in appropriate formats on the entire range of problems related to this document on the basis of professionalism and mutual respect, without putting forward unsubstantiated accusations and ultimatums. Our proposals are well known and remain on the negotiating table,” said Zakharova, adding:

“We have admitted (US) documents for further consideration. This text again includes accusations in the form of unfounded and unsubstantiated information about Russia’s alleged violations of this deal.

Comments to Washington like the above and similar remarks are like talking to a wall. The US demands all countries bend to its will, offering nothing in return but betrayal – especially in dealings with Russia, China, Iran, and other sovereign independent governments it seeks to replace with pro-Western puppet ones.

Not a shred of evidence suggests Russia violated its INF Treaty obligations. The accusation is baseless like all others against the Kremlin.

“No one has officially or by any other means handed over to Russia any files or facts, confirming that Russia breaches or does not comply with this deal,” Zakharova stressed, adding:

“We again confirm our consistent position that the INF Treaty is one of the key pillars of strategic stability and international security.”

It’s why the Trump regime intends abolishing it by pulling out. Strategic stability and international security defeat its agenda. Endless wars and chaos serve it.

The US, UK, France, Israel, and their imperial partners get away with repeated international law breaches because the EU, UN, and rest of the world community lack backbone enough to challenge them.

It’s how it is no matter how egregious their actions, notably their endless wars of aggression, supporting the world’s worst tinpot pot despots, and failing to back the rights of persecuted Palestinians and other long-suffering people.

The only language Republicans and Dems understand is toughness. Putin pretends a Russian/US partnership exists to his discredit – a show of weakness, not strength and responsible leadership.

In response to the Trump regime’s intention to withdraw from the INF Treaty, he said Russia will “react accordingly” – precisely what, he didn’t say.

A few suggestions, Mr. President.

  • Recall your ambassador to Washington. Expel the Trump regime’s envoy from Moscow and other key embassy personnel.
  • Arrest US spies in Russia you long ago identified. Imprison them until the US releases all Russian political prisoners. Agree to swap US detainees for all of them, no exceptions.
  • Install enough S-400 air defense systems to cover all Syrian airspace. Warn Washington, Britain, France and Israel that their aircraft, missiles and other aerial activities in its airspace will be destroyed in flight unless permission from Damascus is gotten – clearly not forthcoming.
  • Publicly and repeatedly accuse the above countries of supporting the scourge of ISIS and likeminded terrorists they pretend to oppose.
  • Warn them in no uncertain terms that their aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic no longer will be tolerated. Tell them the same goes if they dare attack Iran.
  • Stop pretending Mohammad bin Salman didn’t order Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, along with ignoring the kingdom’s horrendous human rights abuses domestically and abroad – including support for ISIS and other terrorists.
  • Put observance of rule of law principles and honor above dirty business as usual with the kingdom and other despotic regimes for profits.
  • Do the right things at all times and damn the short-term consequences – including toughness on Washington, the UK, Israel, and their imperial partners in high crimes of war and against humanity.

VISIT MY NEW WEB SITE: stephenlendman.org (Home – Stephen Lendman). Contact at [email protected].

My newest book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

www.claritypress.com/LendmanIII.html

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