PRIME Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and right-wing politicians in Thailand have launched blistering attacks at U.S. ambassador Glen T. Davies’ comments on the country’s human rights record.
On May 12, after a meeting with Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, the U.S. ambassador read a statement at a press conference addressing recent arrests connected to social media posts.
“The United States was troubled by the recent arrests of individuals in connection with online postings, and the detention of Patnaree Charnkij,” he said, referring to the mother of an activist who was arrested for failing to rebut an online comment that apparently insulted the PM.
“These actions create a climate of intimidation and self-censorship.”
Prayuth responded to Davies’ comment on Monday, suggesting the ambassador had no right to comment on such matters: “Is Thailand a U.S. colony? Have his opinions backfired on him? More Thai people hold a grudge against him and it’s me who has to calm them down.”
Some media reports and Thai correspondents translated Prayuth as saying that many Thai people “hate” Davies.
According to the Bangkok Post, Prayuth added that Davies’ remarks reflected a clear lack of knowledge of the country’s goings-on, and only based them on “general U.S. democratic principles” and “media reports”.
Politicians from the right-wing elite weighed in with anger, calling for Davies to be booted out of the country.
Former Parliament speaker Arthit Ourairat said in a post on Facebook that the ambassador’s actions were “despicable and lacked diplomacy”.
According to the Matichon Online, Ourairat suggested that Davies should be sent back to the U.S. to preserve the dignity of the Thai monarchy.
His post, translated from Thai, said: “Thailand, as a country with older and greater culture than the U.S., should be able to teach the U.S. that by sending such an ill-mannered person to be an ambassador is an insult to our country.
“Therefore, Thailand should react by labeling him as an unwanted person – persona non grata – and sending him back to the U.S.”
Former deputy spokesperson for the Democrat Party, Mallika Boonmeetrakool, posted the image below on her Facebook, which received over 4,000 likes and was shared more than 2,000 times.
Human rights groups and activists have long condemned the military junta’s strict rules regarding free speech and the country’s violation of international human rights obligations following the coup in 2014.
Regional Director of the International Commission of Jurists, Sam Zarifi, compared the prime minister’s reactions to “North Korean bluster” in a tweet yesterday.
— Sam Zarifi (@SZarifi) May 16, 2016
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development and Development (FORUM-ASIA) last week called for the Thai government to “end the rapid deterioration of the human rights situation in the country and return to democratic civilian rule”.
Executive director of FORUM-ASIA, Evelyn Balais-Serrano, said in a statement: “We are disappointed by the Government’s responses to questions and recommendations regarding the undue infringements, especially on the rights to freedom of assembly and expression.
“Defending these excessive limitations as unavoidable necessities, the Government showed no intention to ease, let alone remove, the existing restrictions.”
While Davies nor the U.S. embassy has responded to Prayuth’s comments, Davies posted a tweet about meeting UNICEF Thailand to advance the rights of children in the country, and appears to show no sign of backtracking on his statement.
— Glyn T. Davies (@GlynTDavies) May 16, 2016
Asian Correspondent has contacted the U.S. embassy in Thailand for comment.