New US Ambassador Seeks to Drag Thailand into US-China Conflict

September 9, 2020 New Eastern Outlook    

The English-language Bangkok Post helped reveal Washington's growing obsession with Beijing and its attempts to drag Thailand into the middle of its conflict during an interview with the newly appointed US ambassador to Thailand, Michael DeSombre. 


In an article titled, "US turns focus to South China Sea," the Bangkok Post claims:
Early this month, China held a five-day naval drill near the contested Paracel Islands. Then the US carried out military exercises in the waterway showing support for the free and open Indo-Pacific, as the South China Sea has been subject to overlapping claims by many countries, including China.
 The article then claims:
In an interview with the Bangkok Post, US Ambassador Michael George DeSombre said the US had carried out its military engagement in support of freedom.

"That is what we have done in the Spanish-American War, World War I and World War II. That is the role we see our military provides in promoting freedom around the world and ensuring other countries have the ability to be sovereign, safe and secure, which is the foundation of our Indo-Pacific strategy," he said.
This fantastical claims made by the newly appointed US ambassador flew in the face of facts, both in historical and contemporary terms. The new ambassador also never convincingly explained what Washington's fixation over China had to do with Thailand or what Thailand would gain by supporting the US against Thailand's largest and most important economic partner.

While another Thailand-based English-language newspaper, The Nation, conducted a similar interview, it included a clear graph illustrating that China's foreign direct investment (FDI) in Thailand was over 13 times larger than the United States', perhaps letting economic realities speak where Nation reporters were too polite to point out the increasingly quixotic nature of US foreign policy.


EU Cries "Human Rights" as Cambodia Turns to China

August 18, 2020 New Eastern Outlook 

What should the world make of the West's attempts to pressure the Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia on humanitarian grounds when the West is guilty of the worst (and still ongoing) abuses of the 21st century? 


Wikipedia provides a quick and simple definition of the psychological concept of projection, stating: a defense mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. 

A recent "op-ed" in the Bangkok Post which reads more like a paid-placement for the US and European-funded front, Human Rights Watch and its sponsors, was clearly an extreme exercise in projection.

The op-ed would claim:
"The European Union should add this outrage to the long list of rights abuses that need to be resolved in negotiations over 'Everything But Arms' (EBA) trade preferences," said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of HRW.

Under the EBA scheme, Cambodian exports get tariff-free access to the EU market. In February, the EU announced plans to suspend access for about 20% of Cambodian goods, citing democratic and human rights setbacks in recent years. The EU is implementing a "phased approach", which could see the EBA status fully revoked if Phnom Penh fails to restore democratic rights.
 The op-ed concludes by claiming:
However, Cambodia is seemingly already looking for ways to offset financial losses caused by a potential full EBA withdrawal. The country is looking to partner with China on a free trade agreement (FTA). "This very huge [Chinese] market access enables Cambodia to diversify its products and markets and reduce over-reliance on a few trading partners, ie, Europe, US and Canada, who traditionally trade with Cambodia on a concessional basis such as EBA," Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak said.

Apparently, the CPP is willing to risk a full EBA withdrawal as long as it has options. Or maybe Mr Hun Sen and the CPP simply can't be bothered to uphold Western standards of human rights.
Western standards of human rights?

Are these the same standards that enables the United States and United Kingdom to provide weapons, intelligence and other forms of military support for the Saudi government in its ongoing war with neighbouring Yemen? The UN has stated that this conflict is in fact the world's worst humanitarian crisis. And it is a crisis that is only possibly with the US and Europe's complicity.


How about the Western standards of human rights that allow, unopposed, the continued military presence of the United States in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan?

Iraq's elected representatives went as far as voting to demand US forces withdraw, demands that were blatantly ignored by Washington who, among other lies, insisted its involvement in Iraq was to foster democracy.

Today and every day since the 2003 invasion, the US tramples Iraq's collective democratic and human rights by ignoring the will of the Iraqi people within their own borders and regarding their own sovereign affairs by maintaining a military occupation predicated entirely on false premises.

Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch has little to say about any of this while insisting nations targeted by the West fall into line behind whatever "Western standards of human rights" actually are.

These are standards that are surely nothing demonstrated or observed by or within the West itself and seem more like standards imposed on others as an excuse for what could otherwise be best described as naked coercion. Phil Robertson and organisations like Human Rights Watch appear then to be political tools used to deny targeted nations basic dignity, sovereignty and human rights, not uphold any of the above.

The West Really Wants to Cry "China" 

Let's take a look at that op-ed again. It claims:
 "This very huge [Chinese] market access enables Cambodia to diversify its products and markets and reduce over-reliance on a few trading partners, ie, Europe, US and Canada, who traditionally trade with Cambodia on a concessional basis such as EBA," Commerce Minister Pan Sorasak said.
Apparently, the CPP is willing to risk a full EBA withdrawal as long as it has options. Or maybe Mr Hun Sen and the CPP simply can't be bothered to uphold Western standards of human rights.
And there it is. It is Cambodia's pivot to China that has the EU and its partners across the Atlantic truly upset. That and the fact that having failed to overthrow Cambodia's government after years of trying, the West has very little to offer Cambodia to pivot back in its direction.

Cambodia's pivot toward China isn't recent. It, along with much of Southeast Asia, has been unfolding over the past two decades and has accelerated in the last 10 years to a point where it has visibly transformed the region as well as visibly reduced the West's influence in Asia-Pacific as a result.


US Meddling in Thai Politics Continues

August 12, 2020 New Eastern Outlook  

Democracy by definition is a process of self-determination. For Thailand, democracy means the process of the Thai people determining the nation's path into the future. 


Nothing could have less to do with the Thai people and this process of democratic self-determination than a capital and its interests located on the other side of the planet. Yet that hasn't stopped the United States from insisting otherwise. 

Following the dissolution of Thai opposition party Future Forward for blatant violations of Thai election laws, the US embassy in Bangkok has been regularly mentioned in international and local media reports weighing in on the matter which most certainly constitutes Thailand's internal affairs and should remain off-limits to foreign interests. 

One example of this comes from English-language newspaper Bangkok Post in their article, "Pannika dodges rally questions," in which Future Forward's spokesperson explained that the disbanded party would resort to street mobs in order to continue pursing the party's single-minded agenda of ousting the ruling government.

The article concludes by noting: 
On Saturday, the US Embassy in Bangkok said the court decision risked disenfranchising the party's voters and raised questions about their representation within Thailand's electoral system.
It said the US strongly supports democratic governance around the world, and appreciates Thailand's recent seating of a democratically elected government. The US does not favour any party, but noted that more than six million voters chose the FFP.
Indeed, more than six million voters chose Future Forward. However, omitted is the fact that several million more chose its larger and more established partners, Pheu Thai. Several million more still chose Palang Pracharath which currently leads the ruling government coalition which came into power following the 2019 general election. 

Redefining "Democracy" as Needed 

In other words, Future Forward came in distant third and belongs to a political coalition with Pheu Thai holding a minority in parliament. In ordinary democracy, the minority does not decide or direct policies at the expense of the majority. In Washington's version of democracy, facts like Future Forward's unpopularity are spun or shrugged off in order to present it and its agenda as relevant regardless. 

This is because Future Forward and its billionaire founder and leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit represent Washington's latest efforts to place a client regime into power in Thailand as part of a wider regional effort to surround China with uncooperative and even hostile neighbours to hinder its regional and international rise. 

Defending a US Client 

Thanathorn has toured the US and vowed to serve US interests. He has vowed to roll back Thai-Chinese relations and has even threatened to replace Chinese-built high-speed rail projects already under construction with non-existent US alternatives like the yet-to-be-developed "hyperloop." 

Bloomberg's "Thailand needs hyperloop, not China-built high-speed rail: Thanathorn," 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.
An option such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Hyperloop One -- which is working on building networks of pods traveling at airplane-like speeds -- is better for Thailand as it would help the nation to be a technological leader, according to Future Forward Party head Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. 
Thanathorn's threats to slash Thai military spending are aimed at curbing Thai-Chinese military relations and a recent spending spree by Bangkok to replace aging US hardware with newer and cheaper Chinese alternatives. 

Bangkok Post's "Future Forward Party vows to cut army budget," reported:
The Future Forward Party (FFP) has vowed to cut the military budget and reduce the number of generals in the army, according to its secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul. 
Ignoring multiple wars waged by the US alone, Future Forward's Piyabutr would claim as a tenuous excuse for slashing the military budget that:
"In today's world, no one engages in wars any more." 
It should come as no surprise then that the US, a nation engaged in multiple illegal military occupations around the globe would shamelessly inject itself and its interests into Thailand's internal affairs particularly regarding the dissolution of what was clearly an opposition party backed by Washington. 

UK's Stunning Hypocrisy over Hong Kong

A British arms embargo on Hong Kong over "human rights concerns" while the UK continues to arm and train Saudis amid Yemen genocide? 

August 1, 2020 New Eastern Outlook

Further evidence the UK hides behind "human rights" rather than stands for them was demonstrated when London placed sanctions on Hong Kong after the passing of a security law aimed at combating overt foreign interference in special administrative region of China.


British state media in an article titled, "UK suspends extradition treaty with Hong Kong," would claim:
The UK government will suspend its extradition treaty with Hong Kong "immediately and indefinitely".
The article also stated:
[British Foreign Secretary] Mr Raab also confirmed the government would extend its arms embargo - which has been in place with China since 1989 - to Hong Kong, stopping the UK exporting equipment, such as firearms, smoke grenades and shackles, to the region.
The article cited other members of the British government condemning China for alleged human rights abuses, violations of international law and a lack of democratic values. This comes after the UK caved to US pressure and banned Chinese telecom company Huawei from involvement in the UK's 5G rollout.

Omitted from the BBC article was mention of the UK's own and very real abuses.

British Human Rights Concerns are Projections of Own, Real Abuses  

At a time when the UK condemns China for its "actions in the South China Sea" the UK still finds itself involved in wars of aggression and military occupations around the globe, side-by-side their US allies.

Worse still is that while the UK pledged to extend an arms embargo on Hong Kong over human rights concerns, the British government continues to arm nations like Saudi Arabia who is still currently waging war on neighbouring Yemen in a conflict the United Nations itself has called "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world."


The New York Times in its article, "Britain Says It Will Resume Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia," would admit:
Saudi Arabia is a big market for British arms manufacturers. Between April 2015 and March 2018, Britain’s government licensed the sale of at least 4.7 billion pounds (around $5.89 billion) of military equipment to the Saudis, and a further £860 million to its coalition partners.
Sales of arms were temporarily "suspended" over growing awareness of their use in Saudi atrocities in its ongoing war of aggression in neighbouring Yemen. After sufficient lip service was paid to "investigating" the issue, sales were resumed with claims abuses were "isolated."  The US has likewise sidestepped concerns over arms sales to Saudi Arabia with a $478 million missile sale moving forward.

This staggering hypocrisy was noted even within the British government itself, the NYT would note:
Emily Thornberry, who speaks for the opposition Labour Party on international trade, described the resumption of arms licenses to Saudi Arabia as “morally indefensible.” The timing, she added, suggests “at the very least a case of mixed messages, undermining the government’s claim to be human rights defenders.”
Indeed, the British government's claim to be human rights defenders is undermined if not entirely exposed as a façade behind which it advances various agendas. It cites "human rights" when smearing its opponents on the global stage such as China (often with fabricated claims), then eagerly, openly and unapologetically tramples human rights when convenient.

The common denominator between Britain's otherwise contradictory stance regarding China and Saudi Arabia is its desire to advance its geopolitical agenda in undermining competitors and bolstering its own wealth and influence globally. Human rights is a mere prop to be used or abused.

Never were human rights an actual principle driving UK foreign policy, but merely a superficial enabler or inconvenient speed bump toward moving it forward.


PETA-UK Scam a Warning to Trading With West

July 29, 2020 New Eastern Outlook   

Animal rights front PETA and British retailers and media have teamed up to deliver a collective and politically-motivated blow to Thailand's agricultural exports and in particular its large coconut industry (second largest coconut exporter in the world).


PETA makes the absurd claim that Thailand's immense coconut industry depends on "monkey labour" to collect coconuts from trees and that these alleged monkeys are regularly abused.

The vague, baseless report citing neither specific numbers nor basic statistics regarding Thailand's coconut industry and practices nonetheless prompted, according to PETA, "more than 18,000 stores around the world" to "never stocking products sourced from monkey labour after speaking with PETA and its affiliates." The campaign was also publically supported by the British prime minister's fiancée, Carrie Symonds.

The economic impact is already being felt in Thailand by some with Reuters claiming in an article titled, "Coconut milk maker hit by monkey labour accusation," one of the nation's largest coconut product exporters has seen sales drop by 20-30% after the move.

PETA and the UK's collective action comes at a time when the US and British governments have been increasing pressure on China and its allies.

Thailand has in recent years expanded its cooperation with China at the cost of US-European influence in Asia-Pacific and as a result has suffered serial public relations attacks, political subversion and targeted condemnation from the West.

This most recent attack is hardly an isolated incident. It makes up part of a much larger campaign of baseless attacks aimed at undermining Thailand's economic and political stability and Asia's continued rise as a whole.

Thailand's Coconut Industry is Huge, PETA's "Evidence" Nonexistent 

The use of monkeys to collect coconuts in Thailand in reality is almost nonexistent on large farms. Thailand produces over 800,000 tonnes of coconuts a year, meaning "monkey labour," if true, would be so extensive PETA would have had an easy time documenting specific numbers and presenting sufficient, overwhelming evidence.

Instead, it posted vague accusations and admits it only visited eight farms (though provides no evidence of even this). Its own "video" shows only 14 scenes from what appears to be only one farm and the same 1-2 monkeys used throughout the entire short 1 minute and 39 second video clip. No information was provided about where or when the video was taken or how representative it is of Thailand's overall coconut industry.

At least one "scene" was reused twice in the clip meaning PETA didn't even have enough video footage of its own allegations to pad out its extremely short presentation.

At the time of this writing, no full report is linked to on its website (if one even exists) and no statistics at all are presented amid what is otherwise clearly propaganda aimed at audience's emotions rather than genuinely investigating and exposing "abuses."


US Loses Myanmar to China

June 29, 2020 New Eastern Outlook  

For the Southeast Asian state of Myanmar, the decision to expand ties with China despite Western pressure was a no-brainer. Significant economic ties have been expanded and the prospect for several large-scale infrastructure projects have been firmed up.


Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent visit to Myanmar could be considered a victory lap of sorts; the cementing of long-standing and ever-expanding ties between Myanmar and China and the final displacement of significant US and British influence in the former British colony.

An op-ed on China's CGTN website titled, "Xi's New Year visit to Myanmar: A milestone in bilateral relations," would help frame the significance of President Xi's visit while comparing and contrasting Myanmar's ties with China and the US.

The op-ed would note that President Xi's trip to Myanmar was his first major trip abroad made during 2020. It is also the first major visit by a Chinese leader to Myanmar in nearly 20 years.

Even US Proxies Can't Deny America's Decline 

The op-ed also noted that Myanmar's State Counsellor, Aung San Suu Kyi, picked China for her first major visit abroad after her National League for Democracy party came to power in 2016.

To understand the significance of this it is important to understand that Suu Kyi and her rise to power was primarily driven by support from Washington.

She and her political party along with a large army of US government-funded fronts posing as nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and US-funded media networks were selected and groomed for decades by Washington to seize power and serve as a vector for US special interests both in Myanmar itself and as a point of leverage versus Beijing.

However, despite America's expertise in political meddling, what it lacks is, as the op-ed calls it, any concrete economic pillars; something China does have on offer.

No matter how much covert or overt financial and political support any client regime in Myanmar may receive from Washington it does not address the genuine need for real development within Myanmar itself. Without such development and the financial and economic incentives it brings with it, enemies and allies of the client regime alike will turn towards those who can offer such incentives.


Thailand: Key ASEAN Nation Emerges from COVID-19

June 12, 2020 New Eastern Outlook 

The Kingdom of Thailand plays a central role in the Southeast Asian ASEAN economic bloc. It has a population of nearly 70 million, the second largest economy in the region and hosts a key leg of China's One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative including high speed rail that will connect China (via Laos) to Malaysia and beyond.


Thus, regional recovery in the wake of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) depends on central nations like Thailand's quick and orderly recovery.

COVID-19's Impact

For Thailand, the impact of COVID-19 has been mostly socioeconomic. The disease itself had a minimum health impact with health services easily accommodating the approximately 3,000 cases with less than 60 resulting in deaths. The deaths themselves were linked to serious pre-existing chronic illnesses and advanced age.

Regardless, the government took quick action, instating curfews, lockdowns and restricting both internal travel and international arrivals. Coupled with measures taken by China to restrict departures of tour groups, Thailand's tourist industry took a particularly hard hit considering arrivals from China make up the vast majority of Thailand's tourism business.

Thai businesses big and small also depend heavily on Chinese manufacturing for both components and for retailing. The temporary closure of Chinese factories created the first of two major setbacks for Thai businesses hitting supply, while lockdowns and curfews hit demand.


However, Thailand possesses a massive "informal economy" with myriad small independent businesses which have proven over the years to be exceptionally agile even in times of crisis. The use of modern telecommunication and IT technology (particularly online shopping and delivery apps) together with delivery services allowed to continue operating by the government during lockdown, many food, beverage and retail businesses continued operating, allowing many Thais to continue making a living despite restrictions.

Recovery

The Thai government is investing heavily in breathing life back into the Thai economy, having already provided several programmes to aid those temporarily unemployed during the lockdown now being lifted incrementally across the country.

This includes a stimulus package aimed at helping businesses recover from the extended period of shuttered or partially shuttered business. State enterprises are also being restructured to prevent massive disruptions and losses in the event something like COVID-19 occurs again.

Because Thailand has strong economic fundamentals including a strong agricultural and manufacturing base as well as strong trade ties within both Southeast Asia and wider Asia including China who is itself on its way to recovery, Thailand will likely succeed in restoring economic stability and the return to normality in short order.

Thailand is also looking into ways of heading off similar disruptions in the future by looking for ways to bolster domestic economic activity in the event that foreign trade and tourism is ever cut off again.