Police use water cannon on pro-democracy protesters to disperse them during an anti-government demonstration in Bangkok on Nov. 8. (Photo: AFP)
When in doubt, blame the Jews. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that ascribe an oversized influence to an imaginary Jewish cabal whose aim is world domination have long been a staple of fear-mongering on the outer fringes of discourse in the West.
Such ideas may come as a surprise, however, in a country like Thailand where there has never been any significant presence of Jews — apart from a few Jewish expats and a number of Jewish tourists from Israel, the United States and elsewhere. Nor is there much interest among Thais in Jews or the Israeli-Arab conflict.
Yet during a heated debate on a television talk show about Thailand’s youth-led pro-democracy movement, an ardent royalist stressed she knew who has been responsible for the ongoing political turmoil in the country: American Jews.
According to Haruethai Muangboonsri, a former singer who is an avid supporter of Thailand’s military-allied regime, it is Jews in the US who are financing the anti-government movement that seeks to force Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former junta leader, to resign and to have Thailand’s latest army-drafted constitution amended to make it more democratic.
“Who is iLaw? Why are they taking money from the American Jewish World Service? How can iLaw take money from Jews?” Haruethai ranted, referring to a Thai non-profit group that monitors human rights violations and has apparently received some funding from the Open Society Foundation, a philanthropic initiative of Jewish-American billionaire George Soros.
“I am a Thai person and I cannot accept that. How can the Thai constitution be amended by the American Jewish World Service?” she shouted angrily as she harangued her interlocutor, a young supporter of the pro-democracy movement.
“Prepare to be slaves to imperialism and the interference of great powers!” she warned him.
Haruethai is a proponent of an unfounded allegation rife in Thai ultraconservative circles that the US is waging a “hybrid war” against Thailand by fomenting political unrest. Last month the mercurial firebrand led a small group of pro-government protesters in a rally outside the American embassy in Bangkok, where they called on Washington to stop meddling in Thailand’s internal affairs.
Dressed in the royalist movement’s yellow shirts, they carried large signs that read “Please stop hybrid war in Thailand” and “Mr. DeSombre! Your job in Hong Kong was good but it doesn’t work in Thailand.”
The latter sign appeared to imply that these protesters believe that Michael George DeSombre, the US ambassador to Thailand, was also somehow behind the pro-democracy rallies in Hong Kong.
There is no evidence that Thailand’s pro-democracy mass rallies that have been taking place regularly since July have been anything other than grassroots initiatives by high school, college and university students who are fed up with the repressive and paternalistic political culture of their homeland.
But to conservatives like Haruethai, that simple explanation doesn’t wash. There must be, they figure, some sinister global plot against Thailand by the usual suspects: the CIA, Jews, secret societies like the Illuminati, or all of them together.
Last year Natthaporn Toprayoon, a prominent lawyer who once served as an adviser to Thailand’s Ombudsman, filed a police complaint against the leaders of a popular progressive opposition party called Future Forward, saying they were in cahoots with the Illuminati (“Enlightened Ones”), an alleged cabal of mischief makers who seek to create a New World Order by toppling governments.
As a piece of evidence for this claim, Natthaporn cited the triangular orange logo of the party, which if turned upside down, he said, resembles the Illuminati’s symbol of an Egyptian pyramid with an all-seeing eye on top. That’s hardly a convincing argument, but his conspiracy theory has gained plenty of traction among his political fellow travelers.
If Future Forward was indeed a project of devious and all-powerful schemers somewhere out there, they have made a hash of it because the party was dissolved by a Thai court on spurious grounds earlier this year and many of its leaders have been banned from politics for 10 years.
Then again, facts rarely matter to the conspiratorially minded. Still, it’s quite telling that Thai arch-conservatives who are dead set on perpetuating the political status quo in one of the world’s most unequal countries prefer to blame anyone but themselves and their own side for Thailand’s continued political impasse and economic malaise.
That they do so mindlessly is no extenuating circumstance. Many conspiracy-minded Thais betray a woeful lack of even elementary knowledge about world history and appear to be on shaky ground even about the history of their own nation. They blame the US, Jews and the Illuminati simply because these feature as the usual scapegoats in conspiracy theories in the West.
Luckily, there is little risk that Thais will begin to subscribe en masse to these wacky notions. Most know little about Jews, to say nothing of the Illuminati. As a result, they are less susceptible when it comes to buying into the risible nonsense that they rule the world.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.