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24.11.2017 Author: Joseph Thomas

Western Journalists Use Bangkok For Regional Agitation


The so-called Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand (FCCT) is located in downtown Bangkok and includes the regional offices of many of the United States’ and Europe’s largest media organizations. It also includes a large, swank clubhouse complete with a restaurant and bar, where events are held.

The FCCT on its website offers a lengthy, self-aggrandising and somewhat incoherent explanation as to what function it actually serves, claiming:

The FCCT moved into a penthouse floor with access from a corridor already filling up with foreign media offices. The Maneeya today houses AsiaWorks, the BBC, ABC, ITN Channel 4, NBC, InFocus, Al Jazeera and the Financial Times, among others. This guarantees the FCCT constant journalist traffic, imbuing it with the feel of a genuine press club. It has a good bar and decent enough kitchen but makes no pretensions to emulating the grandeur of its counterparts in Hong Kong or Tokyo – nor the fakeness of the “FCC” in Cambodia, a bar and restaurant with one of the best views in Asia but no hacks. 

In reality, it is a regional hub where US and European lobbyists and agitators, posing a journalists, coordinate events, programmes and propaganda campaigns targeting not only Thailand itself, but Thailand’s Southeast Asian neighbours. 

The FCCT claims that by hosting the army’s spokesman the next week, the FCCT is “doing something right” by playing an impartial and unbiased role. Those familiar with Thai politics and the absolutely biased nature both events were spun in favour of the ousted Shinawatra regime and the interests in Washington, London and Brussels sponsoring him, and at the cost of the new government’s credibility, know otherwise.It was at the FCCT, the club proudly boasted, that former education minister and political lieutenant of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Chaturon Chaisaeng held a press conference to grandstand while turning himself into the military after the 2014 coup. It was organised specifically to have the cameras of the West’s biased media machine capture the moment soldiers arrested him, depicting Thailand as a state overwhelmed by a brutal military dictatorship.

A Hub for Agitation 

The FCCT had recently scheduled an event with the US State Department-funded Virginia-based Boat People SOS organisation. The FCCT admits in its announcement that the event was intended to:

…discuss the overall human rights situation in Vietnam, the imprisonment of at least 165 prisoners of conscience with heavy sentences, and the recent launch of the NOW! Campaign, an initiative by 15 human rights organisations around the world, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of these men and women.

The FCCT claims that the event was cancelled after several meetings with the police and military.

No explanation was given by the FCCT as to what grounds the event were cancelled on, but at a period when Asian states are meeting at the APEC summit in Vietnam, Bangkok likely believed it was inappropriate to host foreign-funded agitators attempting to undermine Vietnam’s credibility while Thai representatives were in Da Nang negotiating over and discussing the collective future of the region.

Curiously after the FCCT’s announcement, a ripple of stories moved through other US-funded organisations in Thailand, including the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and George Soros Open Society-funded media front, Prachatai.

Supposedly-independent Thai nongovernmental organisations and media platforms, foreign media organisations and US-based organisations focused on Vietnam seem to have very little in common at first glance. That is until it is understood that they all form aspects of US and European “soft power” in Asia and beyond.

Who is Behind Organisations like the FCCT and Why? 

The FCCT itself has also received funding from and has served a role in supporting US, European and corporate foundation foreign policy objectives in Southeast Asia.

After revelations emerged that the FCCT received funds from convicted financial criminal George Soros’ Open Society Foundation, FCCT president Dominic Faulder and BBC correspondent Jonathan Head would at first attempt to categorically deny it.

A bizarre story soon appeared in the English-language Thai newspaper, The Nation, in which the above-mentioned NED-funded front Prachatai denied its foreign funding influenced its news coverage, along with a categorical denial by Faulder, claiming, “no financial support from outside at all. We have no financiers, none.”  

Before long, however, Jonathan Head, who also initially and categorically denied the accusations, admitted to a “one-off” media seminar Open Society and the FCCT conducted in Myanmar. And while Head’s admission undermined Faulder’s categorical denial, it turns out that Head was still lying.

Located at the same address as the FCCT and headed by the FCCT’s own president, is the Indochina Media Memorial Foundation (IMMF). On its own official website, it clearly and definitively lists George Soros’ Open Society as one of several “outside” supporters.

The IMMF is a training programme used to stand up entire media organisations that help amplify and advocate US and European narratives on behalf of US and European special interests. In fact, it was precisely at the IMMF that Myanmar’s current minister of information was trained.

Thus, in addition to agitating the region, hubs like the FCCT work together to compromise and co-opt the region’s media circles as well as influence entire government ministries.

Hiding Behind, Not Upholding Journalism 

It is clear than that “journalism” has little to do with the FCCT’s real mission statement, going far in explaining the FCCT’s “about us” page and its inability to explain what it actually does.

What the FCCT actually does is use “journalism” as a façade to pursue the political interests of foreign nations in a host country and region while conducting training to create local “echo chambers” to manipulate and control public perception.

The FCCT is not alone. Similar “clubs” and organisations exist all over the globe. The “superstar” effect of local journalists and “activists” being invited into the “clubhouse” comes at the cost of echoing US and European talking points and advocating for US and European interests. Articles like those appearing in The Nation and opinions and editorials that frequently appear in both English and Thai are owed one part due to this, and another part due to the training and indoctrination “clubs” like the FCCT and other recipients of US and European government money are conducting.

The large “human rights” industrial complex Washington, London and Brussels have constructed as a firewall between overt subversion and political meddling and a targeted nation’s ability to curb their activities prevents Bangkok or any other nation in the region from moving against organisations like the FCCT and its many collaborators.

However, with the US recently forcing Russia’s RT news network to register as foreign agents, it may have inadvertently given targets of its own, and very real political meddling the precedent and tools needed to expose and uproot hubs like the FCCT.

By diminishing the “superstar” effect the FCCT uses to recruit local collaborators, and creating alternative media platforms with the same or greater appeal is already successfully being done in nations like Russia and China. Nations like Russia and China could even help nations like Thailand transform their media to truly and more effectively reflect their own national interests.

Joseph Thomas is chief editor of Thailand-based geopolitical journal, The New Atlas and contributor to the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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