Wikileaks, Thaksin and moral turpitude

21 08 2012

The Nation has another one of its yellow-hued anti-Thaksin Shinawatra articles for which it is well-known. This one, as well as citing unverified claims by ASTV (from where its whole story is derived), lists a Wikileak cable to ask why the United States permitted Thaksin to enter the country when, in 2009, it considered Thaksin “may or may not have committed crime of moral turpitude,” and “considered him a man unsuited for a US visa.”

It seems that The Nation is referring to a Wikileaks cable dated 7 May 2009 under the name of then Ambassador Eric John. As usual, The Nation gets the quote wrong, and fails to provide the context of the cable. The actual quote is, with a bit more than the report has, stating: “… the possibility that Thaksin may/may have committed a crime involving moral turpitude.”

Many readers will be stunned to know that Thaksin is accused of “moral turpitude.” Like PPT, most sensible people would consider “moral turpitude” to relate to sexual immorality, but as a quick search shows, the U.S. maintains a legal definition that is entirely 19th Century in its framing, referring to “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals.” In immigration law, it is a convenient and generally difficult to define concept that allows immigration officers considerable discretion.

The cable is interesting for the context it provides to this situation and, contrary to the claims of yellow-shirted commentators, that the U.S. Embassy under Eric John was not a nest of pro-Thaksin diplomats. In fact, it shows that John and the Embassy acting, in part, to curry favor with the royalist Democrat Party-led and military-backed government.

The cable’s summary states: “Post recommends that the Department prudentially revoke former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s U.S. non-immigrant visas. This recommendation is based on our belief that Thaksin has possibly committed a crime involving moral turpitude.” A prudential revocation is a kind of “just in case” revocation for, as is stated, the Post only believes that Thaksin “has possibly” committed a crime. By recommending the revoking the visa/s the post is suggesting that the revocation can protect the U.S. and its relations with Thailand’s government.

In any case, the cable states, “Thaksin currently fails to meet the requirements for entering the U.S. on his valid B1/B2 visa because the RTG has revoked all of Thaksin’s Thai passports.” If the passports with the visas have been revoked by the Abhisit Vejjajiva government, Thaksin could not enter the U.S. based on those previously issue visas and revoked passports. In fact, this is the lead point of the main body of the cable.

The cable also refers to two arrest warrants issued by the Abhisit government, one related to Thaksin skipping bail following his debated conviction in the lad deal case, and going into exile and the other related to his allegedly inciting violence in April 2009, where the post states:

While we do not have evidence that Thaksin intended for his supporters to engage in violent acts, and Thaksin has publicly denied orchestrating the mid-April riots, we believe that Thaksin’s rhetoric was inflammatory and could reasonably be interpreted as a call for unruly actions.

This leads the Embassy to conclude:

Given the above, post believes that there are grounds for a prudential revocation of Thaksin’s U.S. NIVs, based on the possibility that Thaksin may/may have committed a crime involving moral turpitude.

At the same time, the Embassy states:

Post has not at this time developed a view regarding whether grounds would exist for a finding of visa ineligibility in connection with a crime involving moral turpitude, but we note that the standard for a prudential revocation is lower than the standard for a finding of ineligibility.

The Embassy adds: “We make the recommendation for a prudential revocation having considered the political impact of such a decision, if it were to become public knowledge.” That said, the Embassy discloses:

We are confident that the current [Abhisit-led] RTG administration would welcome our revoking Thaksin’s visa. We hope to avoid a situation in which Thaksin manages to enter the U.S., which would ensure that issues surrounding Thaksin’s status would dominate the U.S.-Thai relationship, at least in the short term. We believe revoking Thaksin’s visa, and conveying that news to him, might help to deter him from trying to enter the U.S.

Finally, the cable notes that Thaksin is pragmatic and that he will understand this action: “We do not rule out the possibility that at some future date Thaksin may regain dominant influence over the RTG.” The implication being that the visa situation can be reviewed in the future. It is a pity The Nation engages in propaganda rather than journalism.


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