Remembering U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney

From Manager, May 27, 2014
U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney thinks: …”Seuak” [this is a Thai word meaning “to meddle,” or more colloquially, “none of your business”]
Caption: Ambassador Kristie must look for the meaning of this word fast.
[This cartoon represents the view of those who support the coup and oppose anti-coup statements of foreign governments, particularly Kristie Kenney, whose call for a “quick return to elections” is interpreted by coup supporters as a desire for a return of Thaksin power.]

Update from late 2015: The new U.S. ambassador is a meddler

US ambassador connects with Thai ‘Tweethearts’ –, July 13, 2011
…Kenney denied her informal style — “Good morning tweethearts!” is a typical daily message — detracts from more serious diplomatic matters, such as keeping secrets, delivering speeches and providing feedback from Washington…

U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney had the highest profile of any recent U.S. ambassador due to her use of social media. Daily tweets meant that the average Thai citizen could become aware of the ambassador as an accessible person. This is in marked contrast to former U.S. ambassadors, mostly unknown to the general public, who spent their days in tipsy cocktail parties gossiping with high-born Thais.

U.S. statements about Thailand holding quick elections, widely disseminated throughout social media, along with high-profile visits of U.S. officials to Red Shirt villages in the Northeast, led to conspiracy theories that the U.S. was wanting a quick return of Thaksin and a sellout of Thailand to foreign interests. It also led to an unusual amount of personal criticism of the ambassador. This hypersensitivity, along with the ridicule of Kenney, is ironic considering the actual anemic response to the coup by overseas governments.

All of this means that it is unlikely that the next ambassador will be allowed to use Twitter like Kenney did. The exposure of the general public to her everyday tweets and the increased visibility this created meant that U.S. boilerplate statements about condemning coups had a human face for the public. This ended up feeding into anti-American sentiment about “meddling” foreigners.

It is also unlikely that U.S. officials will continue to openly visit and be feted at “Red villages” in the north and northeast. As the “Red village” concept is one of the anathemas to the establishment’s fetish for Thai “unity” and its exposure in social media has impacted the U.S. image, it is likely that no more high-profile Red Shirt meetings will take place. Editor Ron Morris’ book, The Thai Book: A Field Guide to Thai Political Motivations, is available in the Kindle Store.

Also: U.S. diplomatic drift and Thailand

From Thairath, July 14, 2014
Left, Ambassador Kristie Kenney: The U.S. and Thailand has had an established good relationship for centuries. We therefore want to support Thailand…
Middle, Ambassador Kenney: …in terms of economy, energy and military affairs.
ACM. Prajin Juntong: Here it is…
Right, ACM. Prajin: …just tell me exactly what you want from us this time?

[From the Thai perspective, the U.S. first strongly criticized the coup. Then, after this stance raised public ire on social media, ambassador visited ACM Prajin saying that the relationship between the U.S. and Thailand remained intact.
The joke here is that ACM Prajin thinks that the change in tone from the ambassador means that the U.S. wants something from Thailand.]

Above: From Komchadluek, June 3, 2014

[The aftermath of the coup resulted in an unusual degree of anti-American sentiment among those who support, if not the coup itself, then anything that stalls Shinawatra power in politics.
This is ironic, since other than a stern rebuke from Australia and the typically tough opinions pieces from the Economist and Financial Times, the Western response has been muted and formulaic–“coup bad, elections good.” These are the kinds of responses governments have to make to the public while exercising realpolitik on a day-to-day basis behind the scenes.]

From Manager, July 6, 2014
U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney, giving the three-fingered anti-coup salute from The Hunger Games: What!?… Are you afraid of them so much that you dare not wear red shirts? Dare to uphold your principles… Like me!
Caption: There is only one true Red left in Thailand

[From left are Red Shirt leaders Thida Thavornseth, Dr. Weng Tochiarakarn, Nutthawut Saikua and Jatuporn Promphan. These are core leaders of the Red Shirt movement. The cartoonist ridicules the Red Shirt leaders for giving up their principles as they have not supported Thaksin nor advocated an uprising against to the junta as they had long threatened.
Photos circulated on social media have shown U.S. officials meeting with Red Shirt grassroots groups amid calls for Thailand to hold elections quickly. This has aroused anger that those who support the coup and its intentions to destroy Thaksin influence.]

Above: Tweet from the U.S. Embassy seeming to laud pro-Red Shirt media outlet Prachatai.

From a graphic circulated on social media. The Thai text reads: The U.S. isn’t democratic. Imposing a curfew is really not democratic–-just like what Ambassador Kristie said.

[This is ridiculing U.S. calls, made by U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney, for quick elections and the lifting of martial law in Thailand and contrasting these statements with rioting and the curfew in Ferguson in the United States.]

From Thairath, July 23, 2014
Left: Thai man: In the past, due to the miscommunication, foreigners criticized Thai people saying that when Thais say something, they do the opposite. So, they called it “Siamese talk.”
Middle: Thai man: Luckily, America sends its ambassador to help us solve this criticism.
A man: How?
Right: It changes from “Siamese talk” to “Kristie talk.”

[The cartoon ridicules the statements of U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Kristie Kenney. At the outset, she criticized the junta. However, after the U.S. began to be criticized by Thais in the media and the U.S. seemed to lose advantage to other countries who “showed their understanding to the situation in Thailand” (as those in the junta said), the ambassador changed her statements by affirming strong Thai-U.S. relations despite the coup.]

An example of anti-American graphics being circulated on Thai social media. The text reads: Don’t stick your nose into other people’s business for just once, will you?

From Thairath, July 20, 2014
Cartoon title: Watch out!
Top left: Watch out for a widow disguised as a brown spider!
[Reference is to a lethal poisonous brown spider found in Nan Province. The spider is called a brown widow.]
Top middle: Want to live by the seaside, watch out for locations like Laem Chabang!
[Reference is to a gas leak on July 17 at Laem Chabang Port, Cholburi Province.]
Top right: Even an old woman of 72 was raped. Watch out! You have to lookout for yourself!
Bottom left: Looking for a mate on LINE app. Watch out! You may find a .22
[refers to a shooting incident involving people who me via LINE]
Bottom middle: Watch out! A scaffold may collapse on you while inspecting a rice warehouse.
[Reference is to a scaffold which was found in the rice warehouse of the Phoenix Agri Tech (Thailand) Co., Ltd. in Chachoengsao Province during an inspection on July 23. The scaffold was used to create a hollow cavity and create the impression that there was a huge stockpile of rice.]
Bottom right: Why not watch out for a person who used to think ill, then turned sweet.
[Refers to Kristy Kenney, the U.S. Ambassador to Bangkok, who recently paid a friendly to ACM Prajin Jantong after initially criticizing the Thai coup and asking for quick elections.]

Above: Thais opposed to Thaksin have criticized U.S. officials for visiting and thus legitimizing “Red” villages

This entry was posted in Analysis, Editorial Cartoons - Komchadluek. Bookmark the permalink.

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