August 21, 2016 The New Atlas
The leaks illustrate the widespread, unwarranted power and influence Open Society wields within the world of NGOs, the media, education and even law, exposing much of what we were led to believe was "grassroots" activism as the work of a handful of foreign special interests working through a global army of willing accomplices.
Even if one thought that Open Society was engaged in "good" throughout the world, one organisation controlling and influencing this much, by default, represents an immense conflict of interest that honest organisations would avoid.
Soros Leaks, Exposed Thai NGOs
In Thailand, revelations that Prachatai and Thai Netizen have been receiving funding from a foreign organisation headed by quite literally a convicted criminal (George Soros was convicted in European courts of insider trading according to Bloomberg), has shone light on these otherwise opaque "NGOs," their work, as well as their true motivations and objectives. It also calls into serious question their perceived legitimacy.
While these supposed NGOs claim to represent the best interests of the Thai people, they are supported not by the communities whom they claim to serve, but by millions of baht of foreign cash sent to them annually from abroad by multi-billionaires, foreign governments and their various fronts.
Poor Excuse for Poor Behaviour
The Nation's article, "Prachatai denies funding by Soros foundation influences its news coverage," confirms that those involved in these so-called NGOs are fully aware that what they are doing is unequivocally wrong.
The article reports;
Thai Netizen coordinator Arthit Suriyawongkul said the organisation had received funding only once from Open Society, in 2012, for the development of its website.His comments fail to account for very obvious conflicts of interest, meaning that regardless of whether or not Open Society funding is affecting his organisation, accepting the funding in the first place is unethical and illustrates poor judgement.
"We also have other international donors and Open Society just supported us project by project," he said.
Arthit said he considered Open Society a foundation and did not think its funding affected his organisation.
Arthit Suriyawongkul has publicly acknowledged in the past that he is fully aware that his organisation would not receive support from Thai people and that only through foreign funding could he and his colleagues continue their work. The fact that he is now on the defensive illustrates well that he knows that at least a perceived conflict of interest exists.
In reality, Thai Netizen is openly engaged in impropriety regarding its foreign funding, toeing a political line it knows resonates with his foreign sponsors and their interests, not with the people of Thailand he claims to serve.
The Nation would continue:
The FCCT denied it received financial support from Soros's foundation.
"No financial support from outside at all. We have no financiers, none," said FCCT president Dominic Faulder, who recently assumed the position.
"I have not read the [New Atlas] article but what I'm telling you is it is not true [regarding the FCCT]," he said.
Dominic Faulder admittedly is denying the contents of an article he didn't even read, and appears also uninformed regarding what was divulged in the Soros Leaks. The FCCT is indeed mentioned, linked to one of Open Society's many media programmes.
[Prachatai director] Chiranuch told The Nation that Prachatai's transparency and quality proved its credibility.However, it should be noted that Chiranuch Premchaiporn has only disclosed the foreign sponsors of her organisation one time, in 2011, and only after significant pressure was placed on her and her organisation by actual independent journalists. It should also be noted that this single disclosure was done only in English, despite her being Thai, maintaining a Thai-language website in Thailand and the fact that most of her readers are also Thai.
One must wonder then, what "transparency" Chiranuch Premchaiporn is referring to, since the funding behind her website was initially concealed from her readers, with her website even going as far as appealing for donations from readers despite secretly receiving several million baht a year from both Open Society and the US State Department through the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and USAID.
Prachatai has also hosted the US ambassador on at least one occasion while Wikileaks cables reveal Prachatai's director was in regular contact with the US Embassy in Bangkok. This casts serious doubts on Prachatai's claims of simply receiving money from abroad, and nothing more.
Like Thai Netizen, Prachatai simply receiving this money from governments and special interests abroad in the first place represents an alarming conflict of interest and incredibly poor judgement, but the fact that she concealed it (and still does to this day) from her Thai readers indicates that at the very least she is aware of just how bad it looks. It might also indicate much wider impropriety taking place.
The Nation would also write:
Also, she pointed out, Prachatai has its own code of conduct forbidding it from receiving funding from a political body. The executive said she could not judge Soros, as she did not know him well enough to make that judgement. A person has many sides and people should not make judgements until finishing a fact-finding process, she said.Open Society, the US State Department and other European government organisations funding Prachatai are obviously political bodies.
"Some say Soros is a wise and good man. Others say he caused currency crises and many more [negative things]," she said.
Prachatai claiming to know little of who George Soros is, despite the fact that he founded and directs the organisation funding Prachatai's work annually, means it likely cannot be trusted with discerning even the most basic facts, news and events day-to-day. Unfortunately, it is difficult to believe that Prachatai is truly uninformed. Prachatai's director, like she did regarding the fact that she was receiving foreign funding in the first place, is simply lying.
Unethical Behaviour from Foreign-Funded Organisations Endanger Real NGOs
Not only is this unethical behaviour, it is leaving a deep, permanent scar on both journalism and rights advocacy in Thailand. Collectively, organisations like Prachatai and Thai Netizen are defaming and diminishing the work of real NGOs. This is not only unfortunate, but a threat to the sociopolitical future of Thailand.
Organisations receiving money from foreign governments are not "nongovernmental." Individuals receiving money from corrupt billionaires abroad are not "journalists." It would be more accurate to describe these both as foreign agencies and lobbyists. For them to pose as anything else is deceptive and destructive and particularly destructive to the very principles these organisations both claim they are defending.
In other nations, strict laws have been passed to rein in foreign-funded organisations posing as NGOs. These laws are essential to protect legitimate NGOs and the important work they do. Prachatai and Thai Netizen posing as "NGOs" along with many others like them, are transforming the word "NGO" into something derogatory, belying the work genuine activists and the locally-supported organisations they lead are doing.
It is likely time in Thailand for similar laws to be put into effect, forcing organisations like Prachatai and Thai Netizen to register as foreign agencies, declare their foreign funding before each statement, written or verbal (in English and Thai), be subjected to extra scrutiny and face steep penalties including liquidation if caught engaged in impropriety of any kind.
Prachatai and Thai Netizen's divisive and disruptive behaviour can easily be accommodated by Thailand, but only with them demonstrating true transparency by not only declaring their foreign funding openly, but by properly labelling themselves as what they actually are, foreign agents, not "nongovernmental organisations."
If they do not want to be labelled as such, they should find support from the very Thai people they claim to serve. If they cannot find that support, it is likely the activities they are engaged in are not serving the Thai people.
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