How US Influence is Co-Opting Malaysia's Governance

July 21, 2018 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - The Diplomat, which claims to be "the premier international current-affairs magazine for the Asia-Pacific region," has recently published a piece granting credit for Malaysia's recent general election results to what it calls, "everyday activists."


The article is in fact titled, "The Everyday Activists Behind Malaysia’s Democracy Struggle." The article begins by claiming:
Audiences worldwide have been transfixed by the Shakespearian twists and turns that saw Malaysia’s opposition defeat the world’s longest-ruling coalition. But the unprecedented May 9 win was also the culmination of a decades-long civil rights movement by activists who took great personal risks to bring about change.
The article cites Maria Chin Abdullah who headed Malaysian street front Bersih, online media platform Malaysiakini, political cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque (also known as Zunar), Malaysia Muda and legal group Lawyers for Liberty as examples of those that have finally helped make Malaysian democracy "work."

Yet there is something else all of these examples cited in The Diplomat's article have in common. They are all either directly funded by the United States government through the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), or their activities are facilitated by other organisations in Malaysia that are. 

From Abdullah to Zunar, Funded by the US Government 

In essence, The Diplomat's piece is arguing that the organisations they covered represent the custodians of Malaysian democracy, and thus play a role in determining Malaysia's future. Yet the disturbing common denominator among them indicates a paradoxical dilemma. If these custodians themselves are a function of foreign influence, how could they possibly play a role in the Malaysian people determining for themselves a path that serves their own best interests and not those of these organisations' foreign sponsors?


We begin with Maria Chin Abdullah, now a newly elected member of the Malaysian parliament. She had previously been chief of the Bersih street front whose rallies were regularly led by opposition politicians including Anwar Ibrahim who is now the defacto leader of the victorious Pakatan Harapan party.

In 2011, The Malaysian Insider would report in its article, "Bersih Repudiates Foreign Christian Funding Claim," that:
[Bersih 2.0 chairman Ambiga Sreenevasan] admitted to Bersih receiving some money from two US organisations — the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Open Society Institute (OSI) — for other projects, which she stressed were unrelated to the July 9 march.
The article would also cite Maria Chin Abdullah as well, claiming:
Fellow Bersih steering committee member, Maria Chin Abdullah, explained that both NDI’s and OSI’s funding were specifically for to the electoral watchdog’s delineation projects.
The NDI is a subsidiary of the NED. Details of funding provided to Bersih were disclosed on the NDI's website, stating (our emphasis):

In July 2005, NDI organized a national-level workshop for party leaders on election reform. NDI has since conducted workshops across Malaysia to promote electoral reform in collaboration with Research for Social Advancement (REFSA), the secretariat for BERSIH. In 2006, NDI conducted a workshop for BERSIH that focused on pimproving the action plancs of each participating organization or political party. In 2007, NDI and BERSIH conducted a series of workshops in the politically neglected provinces of Sabah and Sarawak to educate previously disenfranchised political aspirants.
It is clear that Bersih's leadership, including Maria Chin Abdullah attempted to first conceal their US government funding from the public, then attempted to downplay the implications this funding had regarding their work.

Bersih faces fair criticism over their stated objective of "clean, free and fair elections" contradicting the foreign interference their dependence on US government funding represents.

The Diplomat next makes mention of Malaysiakini which describes itself as "independent media." However its financial disclosures reveal it instead heavily dependent on foreign funding.

Like Bersih, Malaysiakini is funded by both the NED and the Open Society Institute. It also receives funding from the Canadian government, the Asian Foundation (which in turn is funded by the US State Department) and the Media Development Loan Fund (which in turn is funded by Open Society).

While political cartoonist Zunar's financial sponsors are unknown, The Diplomat itself notes that work like his would not be published were it not for US government-funded media platforms like Malaysiakini.


Twitter Bot Armies Target Thai Politics

July 20, 2018 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - It appears that the Western-backed opposition in Thailand is attempting to create the illusion of popular support online after failing repeatedly to create it in the streets of Bangkok, the nation's capital.

Hundreds of suspicious accounts either clearly bots and sockpuppet accounts, or exhibiting suspicious behavior have begun promoting pro-opposition propaganda in unison after nearly a year of apolitical but equally similar activity.



The campaign resembles the manifestation of US government programs admittedly aimed at manipulating public perception through the use of false social media accounts which were revealed as early as 2011.

The US Has Sought to Manipulate Social Media for Years  

Attempting to control what is and isn't popular is the desire of all involved in the field of marketing and politics. The ability to amplify the perceived popularity of a political idea or party to tap into the bandwagon effect is a temptation most involved in politics are not ethical enough to avoid.

During World War II, British operatives regularly manipulate US public opinion polls to reverse steadfast anti-war sentiment.

Today, the US has admittedly taken this process to social media where it uses - among many other techniques - software solutions like automated bots and multiple sockpuppet accounts used by single users to spread pro-American propaganda.

This was revealed as early as March 2011 by the Guardian in an article titled, "Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media," which admitted:
The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.
The article would continue by describing contracts already awarded to companies to procure this technology - and by describing the capabilities of such technology:
The Centcom contract stipulates that each fake online persona must have a convincing background, history and supporting details, and that up to 50 US-based controllers should be able to operate false identities from their workstations "without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries".
The article also admits:
Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions. 

In other words, the US seeks to influence public perception by creating a false consensus through an avalanche of manufactured content serving US interests. While the Guardian article claims the technology would only be used against "terrorists," it has become abundantly clear that fake accounts were used during the US engineered "Arab Spring" and subsequent political and military interventions around the globe to stampede government out of power through the illusion of mass uprisings.


Today - such technology is available to political parties, movements, and marketing operations around the globe. Real users can create and manage multiple accounts via such platforms. Other applications allow varying degrees of automation for social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

This allows a single user to manage several, dozens, even hundreds of accounts at once - amplifying any desired message from promoting a favorite band during an online competition - to manipulating public perception in favor of a political party or movement.

Twitter Bot Armies

As recently as April this year, the Western media began to notice and report on the appearance of Twitter accounts appearing across Asia - exhibiting the same characteristics as described by Centcom's contract requirements. They appeared to be similar - automated - but also appeared to use local languages for names and followed the Twitter accounts of mostly pro-Western media and institutions attempting to influence news and politics in each respective nation.


US Propaganda: Time Magazine Takes Swipe at Thailand

July 15, 2018 (Joseph Thomas - NEO) - Time Magazine's article titled, "Thailand’s Leader Promised to Restore Democracy. Instead He's Tightening His Grip," reflects Wall Street and Washington's growing displeasure with the current Thai government and its seemingly successful efforts to pivot the nation away from US-backed proxies including the ousted regime of Thaksin Shinawatra and his Pheu Thai political party (PTP), and toward a more multipolar footing in Asia and internationally.

This includes stronger ties with not only Thailand's other Southeast Asia neighbours, but also with China and even Russia.

China is now Thailand's largest trading partner, unseating the US.

Thailand is also systematically replacing its ageing US military hardware with Chinese, Russian and European systems including Chinese tanks and submarines, Russian helicopters and European fighter jets.

There are also large infrastructure deals signed between Bangkok and Beijing extending China's One Belt, One Road initiative through Thailand.


Attempts by the US and its media to disrupt this pivot have been ongoing, with Time's article being only a more recent example.

The Thai government, in good faith, provided Time Magazine writer Charlie Campbell an interview with Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

Instead of objectively portraying the prime minister's words, Campbell predictably twisted them, intentionally took them out of context, all while interjecting misinformation and lies of omission throughout the article.

The Thai Foreign Ministry denounced Time's article in a statement here, refuting many of Time's many mischaracterisations and outright lies.

Time's Mountain of Lies   

Time's article covers the military coup in 2014 and its aftermath, but suspiciously omits any of the events that actually led up to the coup.

Time dishonestly frames Thailand's political crisis as follows:
For more than a decade, Thailand has been wracked with color-coded street protests between the typically rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother Thaksin–who served as Prime Minister from 2001 to 2006–and their mainly urban opponents, backed by the powerful royal palace, military and judiciary. The pro-Yingluck faction wear red. Their opponents wear yellow.
However, this is patently untrue. In Thailand's 2011 elections, Thaksin Shinawatra's PTP won support from a mere 35% of all eligible voters. Of those that voted, PTP failed to win a popular majority. PTP's opponents include not only Bangkok, but also Thailand's central and southern provinces which are unmistakably agricultural and rural.

Thus Thailand's political crisis is owed not to some sort of class struggle, but to Shinawatra and his foreign sponsors attempting to reassert Western hegemony over both Thailand, and to a much greater extent, Asia, versus Thailand's attempts to maintain its long-standing sovereignty.

Nothing leading up to the actual 2014 coup is mentioned in Time's article. Had it been mentioned, the coup would not only have seemed reasonable, but as unavoidably necessary. Should Time have also mentioned that current protests are merely Shinawatra and his foreign sponsors pressuring the current Thai government to rush elections while they both still believe they can win, the government's intolerance of these protests would also appear to be reasonable rather than "repressive."

Before the 2014 Coup 

Thaksin Shinawatra is a convicted criminal and a fugitive. After accumulating the worst human rights record in modern Thai history and indulging in unprecedented, overt corruption, he was ousted from power in an earlier 2006 coup. In 2008 he was convicted of corruption and sentenced to 2 years in prison. He fled the country and has been a fugitive since.

Despite being a fugitive, he still openly runs Thailand's largest opposition party, PTP. Yet, none of this is mentioned in Time Magazine's article.



It is difficult to believe Campbell or Time Magazine are unaware of these facts, since such facts were published in previous Time articles themselves, including a 2011 Time article titled, "Thai Parliament Dissolves: Let the Campaign Season Begin," which openly admits (my emphasis):
A slew of parties will contest the elections, but the race will chiefly pit Abhisit and his Democrat Party against the opposition Pheu Thai party, which is led remotely by wealthy businessman Thaksin Shinawatra. The elected prime minister who was ousted by the army in the 2006, Thaksin lives abroad, having fled after being convicted of corruption and given a two-year prison sentence he did not serve. Pheu Thai's campaign slogan is "Thaksin thinks, Pheu Thai acts," and party executives acknowledge that Thaksin is expected to name his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, a businesswoman with no political experience, as the party's candidate for prime minister.
Thus, a convicted criminal and fugitive led a party contesting Thailand's 2011 elections, and having won them, became the defacto prime minister of Thailand with his sister Yingluck Shinawatra merely a placeholder.

Upon taking office, Shinawatra immediately sought to grant himself amnesty for his 2 year jail sentence and clear all other pending court cases. He also implemented his vote-buying rice subsidy scheme in which his sister's government would buy rice from farmers at above market prices and sell the rice on the international market.

The programme immediately imploded. Farmers rushed to produce rice in quantity rather than quality to receive larger subsidies, forcing Thailand's traditional trade partners to buy rice from neighbouring rice producers producing cheaper, higher quality rice. Thai rice rotted unsold in government warehouses as the rice scheme fund dried up. Payments to farmers were first delayed, then stopped altogether.

Nearly a million farmers went over 6 months without being paid, spurring some to suicide to escape mounting debts, while others joined growing anti-amnesty protests already ongoing between 2013-2014 to oust Shinawatra's proxy government.

None of this is mentioned in Charlie Campbell's Time Magazine article.


Who are Washington's "Revolutionaries" in Iran?

The US backed Iranian opposition are neither "revolutionary," nor even "in" Iran. Yet they have been designated as Washington's proxies of choice, and an alternative government they seek to place into power in Tehran.


July 11, 2018 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - As the US-led proxy war in Syria reaches a relative stalemate and with time on Damascus and its allies' side, Washington's wider agenda of using the conflict as a stepping stone toward regime change in Iran is leading into a much larger conflict.


Geopolitical expert F. William Engdahl has pointed out the means through which Western oil corporations have orchestrated global schemes to raise oil prices to make American shale oil production profitable. At the same time, the US has for years now used sanctions against Iran, political subversion in Venezuela, war in Libya, and proxy war in Ukraine to prevent Tehran, Caracas, Libya's opposition, and Moscow from benefiting long-term from higher oil prices.

For Iran, undermining its oil revenues and reintroducing sanctions and secondary sanctions on nations that refuse to recognize America's withdrawal from the so-called Iran Nuclear Deal, is done in tandem with direct, covert subversion inside Iran itself.

Together, these efforts seek to cripple Iran as a functional nation state, as well as reduce its influence through the Middle Eastern and Central Asian regions.

US Portrays Terrorist Cult as "Iranian Opposition"

Just as the US has done in Libya and Syria, it is using terrorist organizations to attack and undermine the Iranian state.

With Iranian-backed militias already fighting Al Qaeda and its multitude of affiliates including the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, the likelihood of these militant forces being exported into Iran itself - should Iranian-backed militias be pushed out of Syria and Iraq and destabilization inside of Iran itself reach that threshold - is high.

But there is another, lesser known group the US is portraying as the voice of Iran's opposition, a group that is - by its own US sponsors' admission - undemocratic, terroristic, and cult-like.

It is the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran, also known as the Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK).

Until 2012, MEK was listed by the US State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. Only through immense lobbying was MEK delisted. Since being delisted, no evidence suggests the fundamental aspects of MEK that make it a terrorist organization have changed. In fact, US-based corporate-financier policy think tanks that have advocated MEK's use as a proxy against Iran have admitted as much.

The Brookings Institution in a 2009 policy paper titled, "Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran" (PDF), would openly admit (emphasis added):

Perhaps the most prominent (and certainly the most controversial) opposition group that has attracted attention as a potential U.S.  proxy  is  the  NCRI  (National  Council of Resistance of  Iran),  the  political  movement  established  by  the  MeK  (Mujahedin-e  Khalq). Critics believe the group to be undemocratic and unpopular, and indeed anti-American.  
 Brookings would elaborate regarding its terrorist background, stating (emphasis added): 
Undeniably, the group has conducted terrorist attacks—often excused by the MeK’s advocates because they are directed against the Iranian government. For example, in 1981, the group bombed the headquarters of the Islamic Republic Party, which was then the clerical leadership’s main  political organization, killing an estimated 70 senior officials. More recently, the group has claimed  credit for over a dozen mortar attacks, assassinations, and other assaults on  Iranian civilian and  military targets between 1998 and 2001.
Brookings also mentions MEK's attacks on US servicemen and American civilian contractors, noting:
In the 1970s, the group killed three U.S. officers and three civilian contractors in Iran.
Brookings would also emphasize (emphasis added):
The group itself also appears to be undemocratic and enjoys little popularity in Iran itself. It has no  political base in the country, although it appears to have an operational presence. In particular, its  active participation on Saddam Husayn’s side during the bitter Iran-Iraq War made the group widely  loathed. In addition, many aspects of the group are cultish, and its leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, are revered to the point of obsession.  
Brookings would note that despite the obvious reality of MEK, the US could indeed use the terrorist organization as a proxy against Iran, but notes that:
...at the very least, to work more closely with the  group (at least in an overt manner), Washington would need to remove it from the list of foreign  terrorist organizations.  
And in 2012, after years of lobbying, that is precisely what the US did. Regarding that decision, the US State Department's 2012 statement titled, "Delisting of the Mujahedin-e Khalq" would claim:
With today’s actions, the Department does not overlook or forget the MEK’s past acts of terrorism, including its involvement in the killing of U.S. citizens in Iran in the 1970s and an attack on U.S. soil in 1992. The Department also has serious concerns about the MEK as an organization, particularly with regard to allegations of abuse committed against its own members.

The Secretary’s decision today took into account the MEK’s public renunciation of violence, the absence of confirmed acts of terrorism by the MEK for more than a decade, and their cooperation in the peaceful closure of Camp Ashraf, their historic paramilitary base.
Nothing in the US State Department's statement indicates that MEK is no longer a terrorist organization. It simply notes that it has publicly - as a means of political expediency - renounced violence. It should be noted that the Brookings Institution's 2009 policy paper's mention of MEK is under a chapter titled, "Inspiring an Insurgency," inferring armed violence all but guaranteeing MEK militants will indeed be one of several fronts carrying out that violence in their capacity as US proxies. 



It would be the "cultish" MEK leader, Maryam Rajavi, whom prominent American politicians and political lobbying groups would work with for years before MEK was removed from the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in 2012. This includes prominent pro-war advocates - particularly war with Iran - now current National Security Adviser John Bolton, Newt Gingrich, and current legal adviser for US President Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani.


Thai Cave Rescue Highlights the Best/Worst in People

July 7, 2018 (Tony Cartalucci - NEO) - When 12 young students and their football coach went missing in Thailand's northern province of Chiang Rai amid the Tham Luang Nang Non cave system, many expected the worst. But the Thai government, its military, volunteers both in Thailand and from abroad spent 9 days until they were located alive in cave chamber isolated by rising waters.

The Good

The rescue efforts are still ongoing. Difficult decisions remain to be made. The trip to and from the location of the students and their coach requires scuba diving. To bring the stranded students out of the cave requires either to somehow drain the water trapping them, or train them to make the dive out of the cave.


Water being pumped out of the cave system has been distributed to the land of local farmers - many of whom eagerly volunteered to have water diverted to their property to aid in whatever way they could to the rescue efforts. The government is nonetheless compensating the farmers for the damage they incur.

The government has mobilized its resources as well as those offered by other nations. It is using newly acquired Russian-made Mi-17 helicopters to access sites around the cave. The US has offered technology in efforts to locate possible exits from the cave, and it was a team of private British divers who were with Thai Navy SEALs when the students were finally found 9 days after they went missing.  Other divers and cavers from all over Asia and beyond have also come to over their expertise.

The rescue efforts are not without danger. One Thai Navy SEAL has already died while making the trip to and from the trapped students.

This highlights the risks of at least one of the proposed rescue options - training the students and their coach to scuba dive out of the cave. Rescuers have urged patience, stating that it may be weeks or even months before the students can be brought to safety.

The Bad and the Ugly  

The media - both local and foreign - have expressed mostly positive support for the rescue efforts - playing a positive role in informing the public and soliciting volunteers and donations of various supplies and skill sets when needed. The larger constructive media coverage is, the more resources that have been marshaled from near and far to assist.

However, there have been some who have used the incident for publicity. Many pro-Western media organizations in Thailand, supported by the US, UK and EU government and opposed to the current Thai government, have used the incident to attack and undermine the Thai government at every opportunity.

Anti-government Khaosod even resorted to blatantly false headlines to smear the government and the Thai police by claiming the coach was already facing charges. In the body of the article under the "clickbait" headline, "Coach Faces Charges For Leading Boys into Cave," police were directly quoted as having not even considered the possibility of charges - since all attention was focused on rescuing the students. 

Others, like Hathai Techakitteranun, a Thai writer for German-based Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) has taken every opportunity to portray the Thai government as bumbling and incompetent, using the desperate rescue efforts to advance her and her foreign sponsors' political agenda at the cost of national unity in the face of coordinated rescue efforts.

And Khaosod writer Pravit Rojanaphruk, recipient of multiple US-UK awards and fellowships, and a prominent supporter of US-backed political agitators in Bangkok, attempted to hook up US-backed regime change to the rescue efforts, claiming (translated from Thai) that while it was difficult to find the students in the cave, finding "democracy" for Thailand would be even harder.

Thai-based French "political cartoonist" Stephane "Stephff" Peray would parrot Pravit R.'s sentiments in search of clicks and attention to his otherwise ignored and often obscure "work."