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US envoy to Thailand dismisses security concerns
Publication Date : 20-09-2012
US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said yesterday that she was not worried by Thai Muslims' protest against a controversial US film.
"We don't have much concern because Thailand is different from other countries. It is a good ally of the US," she said. Kenney was in Chiang Mai to deliver a speech on the US elections.
She added that the US embassy had not detected any security threats against American expats in Thailand.
"Americans are lucky to live in Thailand and receive Thai hospitality and friendship," she said, adding that she hoped more Americans would visit the Kingdom.
Kenney said that the US embassy had held talks with all religious leaders and voiced the country's sincerity toward all faiths. She said the US government had also attached importance to all religions, especially since there are 2 million Buddhists and more than 11 million Muslims living in the country.
As for Muslim protesters' call for the United States to take responsibility for the controversial film, Kenney said peaceful expression had to be respected, even though the US government did not support the film or the use of violence.
"I would like to extend my admiration to Thailand for respecting the liberty of all religions," she said.
However, despite her playing down security concerns, security in Chiang Mai was tightened yesterday as up to 20 Thai-Muslims gathered in front of the US Consulate-General's Office and at Chiang Mai University, where she delivered the speech.
The Chiang Mai rally followed a peaceful protest at the US Embassy in Bangkok on Tuesday.
The protesters in Chiang Mai waved placards reading: "We want to condemn the US for its support in insulting our Prophet" and demanded that the filmmaker be punished. The also submitted a petition to Kenney via an embassy representative.
Meanwhile, the US Consulate-General in Chiang Mai was closed to the public yesterday following a tip-off about a demonstration being planned. It also issued a warning on its website advising Americans to exercise caution and monitor the local media for up-to-date information about protests and areas to avoid.