I’d like to introduce my readers to Surapong Jayanama. The nature of Surapong’s politics can be seen in the histories of the countries where he was the Thai ambassador; Vietnam, South Africa and Germany. He also comes from a family of Thai diplomats who also do not support democracy. He is related to Direk Jayanama, Thailand’s ambassador to Japan during World War II when the military dictatorship back then chose to support the Axis Powers against the free world. Surapong’s brothers, Asda and Apipong also have been diplomats for Thailand (but mostly for themselves).
Surapong and his brother Asda joined with another member of Thailand’s foreign service, PAD member Kasit Piromya, in publicly criticizing Thailand’s democratically elected government and openly supporting the military coup in 2006. Surapong, Asda, and Kasit have often been referred to in the US as the “Three Stooges of Thai Diplomacy.”
Surapong is also the Director of the Saranrom Institute of Foreign Affairs (SIFA). SIFA is funded by Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to “promote public awareness and understanding of current foreign policy issues. It also seeks to create policy and issue-related discussion opportunities to assist in formulating and conducting foreign policy.” Part of SIFA’s activities is to “organize academic conferences, lecture series and seminars on international issues in Thailand and abroad.”
In other words, it’s a public relations/propaganda machine. But it’s also much more than that…
According to a report at New Mandala, on July 27th, before Thailand’s democratically elected government took power, Surapong held a meeting with the Thai students attending theAustralian National University in Canberra. The Thai students were summoned using their association’s Facebook page.
According to the report, Surapong’s address to the students included “general attacks on Thaksin and a defense of the 2006 coup.” Students were also “urged to defend Thailand and the monarchy from attacks by foreigners and to avoid being influenced by some of the things they may hear about Thailand while studying in Canberra.”
There we have it, Thai government representatives involved in a back-room attempt to influence and guide the thinking of Thai students studying abroad. Thai students study abroad to participate in a free and open academic culture – something that has been hard to find in Thailand since the coup.
There is more information on SIFA at their website. I’ve taken the liberty of modifying the format of their structure chart in order to better reflect the true nature of that organization and its director.