Soros Speech in Thailand Canceled
by BUSABA SIVASOMBOON
Associated Press Writer
BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) -- Financier George Soros on Monday canceled a visit to Thailand after threats and protests by Thais who blame him for triggering the country's 1997 economic crisis.
Soros was to address the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand on Thursday to promote his latest book about reform in the global economy. His Open Society Institute helps fund several reformist social initiatives in Thailand.
But ''if my presence would make it worse for civil society organizations, then that would be counterproductive,'' the club quoted Soros as saying when he called to cancel Monday. Many Thais blame currency speculation by Soros' companies for driving down the value of the Thai baht. After Thailand's central bank spent much of its foreign reserves in a vain defense of the currency, the economy dropped into recession and many businesses with large offshore loans went into virtual bankruptcy.
''We regard George Soros as a kind of Dracula. He sucks the blood from the people,'' said activist Weng Tojirakarn, one of about 20 people who delivered a protest letter Monday to the club demanding the speech be canceled.
After the speech was announced, one Web user in Thailand offered a $23 reward for anyone who pelted Soros with feces. Another promised twice that amount for a cream pie attack. Weng said later he appreciated Soros' cancellation. ''At least he still listens to Thais who do not want him to visit the country,'' he said.
has denied responsibility for the trading that triggered the economic meltdown,
but admitted in 1997 that his group's investments ''are guided by considerations
of profitability and of risk/reward.'' Thais were missing out on an opportunity
to hear from Soros about what really happened in the run-up to the 1997
financial crisis, said social activist Somchai Homla-or, a member of Forum
Asia, a human rights group that also invited Soros.