Nonthaburi protesters blast Davies

Nonthaburi protesters blast Davies

Anti-US sentiment grows over speech

About 30 rally-goers gather in front of the Nonthaburi Provincial Hall on Friday to show their dissatisfaction with US ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)
About 30 rally-goers gather in front of the Nonthaburi Provincial Hall on Friday to show their dissatisfaction with US ambassador to Thailand Glyn Davies. (Photo by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

Anti-American sentiment continues to mount as protesters in Nonthaburi were the latest to denounce US ambassador Glyn Davies' criticism of Thailand's lese majeste law.

The protest comes as another blow to the recently appointed ambassador who has been dragged into hot water after his contentious speech on Nov 25 which has drawn anger, and a series of protests in many provinces across the country.

Gathering in front of the Nonthaburi Provincial Hall on Friday, a group of about 30 rally-goers, named "Seri Non Khon Rak Nai Luang", demonstrated their dissatisfaction with Mr Davies through placards and a special one-page statement, which strongly criticised the ambassador for his "highly unacceptable" words.

They warned against the consequences which they said could cause further damage to Thai-American relations, which have weakened since the coup last year.

The protesters said they were upset by Mr Davies' comments on the prosecution of lese majeste suspects and freedom of expression, which the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has been pursuing with renewed vigour.

They said they feared that some political-related activities may hinder efforts to bring peace to the country, torn by pro- and anti-Thaksin Shinawatra groups.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand (FCCT), Mr Davies was quoted by media representatives as saying, "I think no one should be jailed on lese majeste charges" and "Freedom of expression should not be criminalised."

The protesters are worried Mr Davies' words could be misinterpreted by some people who may subsequently dare to flout the lese majeste law.

"The US may support people or independent organisations which study this [controversial] topic with no fear," according to the statement.

These words will only "destroy the long-standing relationship between the US and the Kingdom of Thailand", reads the statement.

During his speech, Mr Davies said he is very much aware of the centuries-old Thai traditions and knows that respect for others is very important for the Thai people and that His Majesty the King, whose contributions to his people have been internationally recognised, is revered highly among them.

However, he said he made his comments in the context of democracy which is "universal, not American, principles which include self-determination and free speech".

Yet, in the view of protesters in Nonthaburi, it seems many US ambassadors to Thailand have tried to criticise and interfere with almost all of Thailand's internal affairs and "there is no exception to a law aimed to protect our beloved monarchy", the statement read.

Mr Davies' speech has also caused the Thai government-monitoring association representative, Sonthiya Sawatdi, to file a complaint against the envoy and the speech organiser with the Crime Suppression Division.

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