Thailand: Why Obama is silent on the Bangkok massacres
By Shamus Cooke
May 16, 2010 -- When the White House is quiet as protesters are butchered in the streets of Bangkok, suspicions are raised. Silence often equals complicity. One can only imagine what the US government's response would be to a Venezuelan government slaughter: the US media and US President Barack Obama would loudly condemn such an act, in contrast to the muted response to Thailand's bloodbath.
The history of US-Thailand relations explains why. During the Vietnam War, the US used Thailand as one of the main “anti-communist” bulwarks in an area that included China, Vietnam and other countries that were challenging capitalism.
Thailand was thus transformed into a US client state and given money, guns and US government intelligence to battle Thailand’s “communists”. This relationship has equalled numerous Thai dictatorships that have a very bloody history, including the shooting of untold numbers of protesters who the Thai government named “communists” or the modern equivalent, “terrorists”.
The US-Thailand relationship began to sour when the recently deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra formed a closer relationship with China that included economic and military deals. The November 7, 2008, Asian Times summarises the consequences:
Thaksin's willingness to promote defense ties with China came at the US's direct strategic expense and many observers believe that's one reason Washington's reaction to the September 2006 military coup that ousted a democratically elected government was so muted.
The US government often overthrows “unfriendly governments” by bribing sections of their military, a fact discussed at length in Tim Weiner’s history of the CIA, Legacy of Ashes. When a US-backed coup happens, the US government and corporate media give tacit approval; whereas a howl of fury erupts when a coup happens against a US puppet government.
The Asian Times confirms:
Many of the  coup-makers were known U.S. allies, including alleged masterminds and former CIA-trained spy chief Prasong Soonsiri and Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda. Prasong has openly acknowledged his role in the coup …
The coup against Thaksin is at the root of the current crisis in Thailand. Large sections of the Thai working class and peasantry still identify Thaksin as their president and are demanding his return. They have resorted to extremely militant tactics to achieve their demands, which, if won, would amount to the restoration of democracy in Thailand. The May 15, 2010, New York Times adds:
Thailand is convulsed by a bitter struggle between the nation’s elite and its disenfranchised poor, played out in protests that have paralyzed Bangkok for weeks and now threaten to expand.
President Obama has not said one word of support for Thailand's poor, while his silence enables Thailand’s elite to murder protesters in the streets free of foreign pressure. The US is the main purchaser of Thailand’s exports, while providing important economic and military assistance. One strong statement from Obama would deter Thailand’s elites from further killing. But he will remain silent.
So far, dozens of protesters have been murdered. But for Thailand’s US-backed elite to successfully maintain their political dominance, hundreds if not thousands more will have to be slaughtered.
By working to maintain the Bush-era coup government in Thailand, President Obama bears criminal responsibility for the current atrocities. If the Thai working class is unable to overthrow their murderous government, Obama will bear further blame for propping up a coup-government that must resort to prolonged, massive brutality to maintain its rule.
[Shamus Cooke is a social service worker, trade unionist and writer for the US-based Workers Action, where this article first appeared.]