Thai junta summons US diplomat over US red-shirt visit

The Thai authorities summoned the US Chargé d'Affaires for talks over visits by US Embassy staff to red shirt leaders and ex-Pheu Thai politicians in the Northeast, noting that the visits might have a political effect and be inappropriate.    

Kitti Wasinondh, the Deputy Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), revealed on Saturday that the NLA had issued a letter to summon W. Patrick Murphy, the US Chargé d'Affaires to Thailand, for a discussion over US diplomats’ visits to the leaders of the anti-establishment red shirts in Isan, Thailand’s Northeast.

The letter summoned the US Chargé for a discussion on 11 February. The US Embassy has not yet revealed whether it will comply with the summons or not.

Wasinondh commented that the visits are inappropriate in the current political situation and that they might have political effects later on.   

Matichon Online quoted a red-shirt leader source that US Embassy personnel on Sunday visited several key red-shirt leaders and ex-Pheu Thai Members of Parliament in Isan. However, the source also mentioned that many of those who the Embassy personnel wished to meet reportedly declined the invitation out of fear of repercussions from the military.

Last week, Daniel Russel, the US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, met Yingluck Shinawatra, the ex-Prime Minister ousted out by the 2014 coup, and Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of the Democrat Party, the former opposition party to Yingluck’s administration during his Bangkok visit.  

On Friday Winthai Suwari, the spokesperson of the junta’s National Council for Peace and Order, said in response to the rumours of US visits to red shirts “I believe that as representatives of an ally, every foreign diplomat will respect the country that they are staying in and do nothing to affect relations with the host country, especially when it comes to issues related to politics and domestic policies because this might affect the feelings of the people of the host country.” Matichon Online quoted Winthai as saying.

Earlier on Wednesday, Murphy was summoned by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Don Paramatwinai, over the speech made by Russel, who called upon the Thai military to repeal martial law and all restrictions on freedom of expression last Monday.

According to the Thai Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Russel's remarks caused many Thais to be "worried and disappointed."

Many pro-junta ultra-nationalist Thais also rallied in front of the US Embassy on Wednesday to express their disapproval of the US diplomat’s speech and submitted a statement urging the US to stay out of Thailand’s domestic affairs. Later, many also attacked the US Embassy Bangkok Facebook page with comments stating that the US should not mess with Thailand. One comment went as far as calling the US a ‘terrorist’.

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