WikiLeaks, Clinton and Yingluck

24 03 2016

WikiLeaks now has a Hillary Clinton Email Archive. Its pages states:

On March 16, 2016 WikiLeaks launched a searchable archive for 30,322 emails & email attachments sent to and from Hillary Clinton’s private email server while she was Secretary of State. The 50,547 pages of documents span from 30 June 2010 to 12 August 2014. 7,570 of the documents were sent by Hillary Clinton. The emails were made available in the form of thousands of PDFs by the US State Department as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request. The final PDFs were made available on February 29, 2016.

A simple search for “Thailand” produces 73 results, several of which seem barely relevant, with Thailand simply mentioned. PPT hasn’t been through all of these cables as yet.

One that has gained some social media attention, not least via a Facebook post by Andrew MacGregor Marshall, is about Yingluck Shinawatra, the 2011 floods and a visit by Clinton. It is originally from Karen Brooks and forwarded by Kurt Campbell, and dated 16 November 2011. Some interesting bits of this cable are clipped and included below.

Yingluck Clinton

On the politics of the floods:

To keep momentum, Yingluck will need to make changes in her team. Given the poor performance of the past two months, a cabinet reshuffle is a must do. Top of the list is Agriculture Minister Theera Wongsamut, who hails from the Chart Thai Pattana party – a coalition partner but at best a fair-weather friend. Not only has Theera been inept in his handling of the crisis since Yingluck took office (water management being part of his portfolio), but he also served as Agriculture Minister in the previous Abhisit-led government. He is thus seen (correctly) as guilty of either malice or incompetence (or both) for his failure to appropriately manage water levels at the country’s two biggest dams in the months preceding the inauguration of the Yingluck government – which greatly exacerbated the current crisis.

On Yingluck and her work:

She is tired…. Very tired. I saw her last night at her house at 11pm and she told me that she is up around the clock with very little support and a cabinet team that has proven weak (her words were less diplomatic) and unable to rise to the occasion. She said she always expected the job would be hard, but that learning everything about government, while managing. the complexities of the relationship with the palace and the military, while being slammed with a major national crisis – AND doing it all with a weak team – has taken its toll. Even so, she is determined and has fire in the belly. She emphasized that she had won an absolute majority for only the second time in thai history, and that she would not let the millions of thais who supported her down. If it means not resting until her term is over, so be it. She can handle it, she said, because she believes in what she is doing. She will make some changes in her cabinet in the coming weeks once the water has been drained, and then look forward to getting the A Team back in May of next year, when the ban expires on the 111 Thai Rak Thai politicians removed from politics by the courts in 2007 after the coup.

Yingluck on reconciliation:

She made a point of saying that she is ENORMOUSLY grateful that Sec Clinton is coming today. “It’s been six long years of turmoil in this country,” she said. “I’m determined to use my mandate to bring people together and foster reconciliation, like I said in the campaign. I’m working hard to win over the military and help them see they have a real place here without interfering in politics. I’m working hard to do the same with the palace. But let’s face it: democracy here is still fragile. We need the US engaged.”

On General Prayuth Chan-ocha and not bringing down the government (just then):

Yingluck tell me she has gone out of her way to work cooperatively with Prayuth, and Prayuth seems to have come to appreciate her sincerity and hard work.

On the relationship with the palace:

The Palace, similarly, has not shown any inclination to use the crisis to bring down the government. The King has given three audiences (made public) to PM Yingluck since she took office. (In the opaque world of the Thai monarchy, this is one key tea leaf to read.) Moreover, other members of the royal family have given the PM private audiences in recent weeks (not publicly known) – including the Crown Prince and two of the princesses. Perhaps most telling, however, is the recent appointment by the government of two palace favorites, Dr. Sumet [Tantivejkul] and Dr. Veerapong [Virabongsa Ramangkura], to the new reconstruction and water management committees. Sumet, who is a long time advisor to His Majesty and runs one of his foundations, would never have accepted the appointment if the King had not explicitly blessed the move. Two others on the water committee are similarly associated with His Majesty.

To be honest, PPT had not previously seen Virabongsa mentioned as a “palace favorite.”

On Thaksin Shinawatra and amnesty or pardon:

Yingluck told me big brother remains in a dialogue with the palace described as “constructive” and expressed hope that this would yield an amicable end to the five+ year drama of his exile – either through a royal pardon or through a parliament sponsored amnesty law, with support from the palace. This is, at best, a delicate dance, and any mishandling or miscalculation on Thaksin’s part could yet trigger another cycle of political drama here.

VOA on monarchy and democracy

20 11 2012

The Voice of America, as an official outlet of the U.S. government, tells us a little more about the Obama visit to Thailand.

It begins with a brief account of the visit by President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Siriraj hospital “for an audience with ailing Thai king Bhumibol Adulyadej.”

The report makes the usual fallacious claim that ” the king is a powerful unifying influence for the Thai people through decades of political upheaval, including military coups and a political crisis in 2010.” A proper reading of modern Thai history would show the monarchy at the center of conflicts most usually in alliance with the royalist military. More recently, the palace has been at the very center of activities to destabilize elected governments.

It cites Obama on democracy: “As in the United States, the president said, democracy is something that needs continuing work.” He adds, with some emphasis:

What you are seeing here in Thailand is a democratically-elected prime minister, who is committed to democracy, committed to rule of law, committed to freedom of speech and the press and assembly…. But obviously what is true in Thailand, as is true in America, is that all citizens have to remain vigilant and there is always improvement to be made.

While this is something of an exaggeration, the fact that an elected government is in place does change the dynamics of political conflict quite substantially. For one thing, it shows very starkly that the forces attempting to destabilize the Yingluck Shinawatra government are political dinosaurs committed to anti-democratic politics.

Significantly, Yingluck and her government are said to be : “committed to national reconciliation and stable democracy.”

The Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva and a host of yellow shirts, ultra-royalists and conspiracy theorists will again be angrily muttering that the U.S. has been purchased/duped by Thaksin Shinawatra and his lot.
There’s a different take on the visit here, from a tabloid, but with the photos used here and more, as well as a video from the visit.


Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Gordon

13 11 2011

Prachatai has another article by Lisa Gardner on the continuing lese majeste torture of U.S. citizen Joe Gordon, accused of translating works and posting links to Paul Handley’s widely available The King Never Smiles that almost anyone in Thailand who wants to has seen. Joe is was arrested in Thailand and accused of such “crimes” allegedly committed while he was living in the United States.

The report states that Joe is: “A political prisoner, no question; and a U.S. citizen, no less. A used car salesman from Boulder, Colorado. By international standards, the charges are conspicuously political as they are innocuous.”

Gardner refers to someone who goes by the apparently lightly worn moniker of “human rights advocate.” This person claims that his organization “can’t take up his case without knowing if he’s as pure as the driven snow…”.

That line and similar ones have been mouthed by several allegedly human rights advocates in Thailand, not least by the ever quiet Benjamin Zawacki at Amnesty International. As a major human rights organization, AI embarrasses itself and it supporters by its public silence on lese majeste. It has done nothing for the hundreds of victims of lese majeste repression and torture in Thailand.

Given that Joe has been forced through incarceration and multiple refusals bail – this is the torture in lese majeste repression – to plead guilty, he must now rely “solely on a royal pardon to ensure his release.

A correspondent to Prachatai states that he wrote to the U.S. Embassy and Ambassador Kristie Kenney on Joe’s case and received the following reply:

“Thank you for your letter to Ambassador Kenney of 3 October regarding Mr. Joe W. Gordon. While overseas, all private foreign nationals are subject to the laws of the country where they are located. Many of these laws are vastly different from U.S. laws. As you know, the Thai Department of Special Investigations accused Mr. Gordon, a private U.S. citizen, of lèse-majesté, specifically violating Section 112 of the Thai Criminal Code and Section 14(3)(5) of the Thai Computer Crimes Act.

Since Mr Gordon’s arrest in May, Ambassador Kenney and other Embassy officials have raised Mr. Gordon’s situation with the Thai government officials many times, urging fair treatment and respect for his rights to freedom of expression. Embassy officials visit Mr. Gordon in jail regularly and attended his court hearings, most recently on October 10. We remain committed to providing Mr. Gordon all possible assistance allowed a private citizen under international convention.


Chief of American Citizen Services Unit”

The essential element of this is that the embassy and ambassador are doing nothing for Joe. They are meant to visit all U.S. citizens in prison, showing up in their air-conditioned cars and neatly pressed clothes to provide faux sympathy for a citizen in leg irons and prison garb accused of a crime in the United States. Big deal that they claim to take the case up with Thai government officials several times, “urging fair treatment and respect for his rights to freedom of expression.”

That is, frankly, diplomatic speak for doing nothing. Where is the expression of a U.S. citizen’s right to free speech in the United States? All this lot are doing is following previous ambassadorial advice: keeping a quiet public front, urging a guilty plea from the defendant (whether they are guilty or not), and then hoping for a pardon. Despite the fact that its own Human Rights report complains of a generalized pressure to sign confessions, U.S. diplomats play the palace’s game with them and do nothing to confront a dangerous abuse of basic civil rights.

Now here’s a thought or perhaps a wild dream. U.S. President Barack Obama is about to visit the Southeast Asia region. In that visit he will, according to the State Department, amongst other things, “stand up for democratic values.” The State Department has commented, just in the past few days, on human rights abuses in Vietnam, Burma, Uganda, Syria and Afghanistan, just to name a few. Secretary of State Clinton, who is about to visit Thailand, has recently made several statements on human rights and democracy, praising the U.S. ambassador in Syria as one of our diplomats of courage, who “was mobbed, assaulted, and threatened, just for meeting with peaceful protestors, he put his personal safety on the line to let the Syrian people know that America stands with them.”

What about letting an American citizen know that America stands with him? Why not have Obama raise Joe’s case and the human rights abuse that is lese majeste? What about having Clinton do the same. What about having Ambassador Kenney be a diplomat of courage and visit Joe and other lese majeste victims? Maybe Clinton can specifically mention lese majste in a public way. Maybe the State Department can even list the victims of lese majeste repression as political prisoners in its annual human rights report, where its most recent 2011 report continues to state the ludicrously erroneous (and palpably stupid) single line: “There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.”

While we doubt such acts of diplomatic “courage” will be seen, it would be a welcome change to see the United States act in a way that at least appeared to be something other than a supporter of the royalist status quo in Thailand.

FACT on Joe Gordon

20 06 2011

Freedom Against Censorship Thailand has a post well worth reading in full. It is on the American Joe Gordon, currently incarcerated without bail in Bangkok for alleged lese majeste.

PPT won’t summarize it, but there are a couple of points to highlight. Joe is alleged to have provided links on a website that go to the banned book, The King Never Smiles. As we have also pointed out, this book, in Thai translation, “has been widely available on the Web at multiple hosting sites since at least 2007.” FACT states: “… we monitor such censorship issues and can confirm that none of the sites hosting such translations have ever been blocked in Thailand by govt’s Internet censors.” It is pointed out that the site that Joe is allegedly involved with is “not blocked in Thailand despite the arrest of its alleged webmaster for its content.”

FACT makes another excellent point: “… Thai police stated that Joe Gordon was webmaster for NorPorChor USA’s website. Wait just a minute here! Wasn’t Kenny, Tantawut Taweewarodomkul, convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison March 15 for that very ‘crime’?!? So who is really NorPorChor’s webmaster? Accusing Joe Gordon throws Kenny’s conviction into serious question and makes likely grounds for a legal appeal.”

On Joe’s failed bail attempts, FACT says: “To deny Joe Gordon bail, twice so far, despite posting a Bt.1.7 million ($56,000 USD), shows govt lack of good faith in its citizens. Denying an accused bail is tantamount to crippling efforts at mounting an effective defence.”

And FACT is appropriately cynical about the self-proclaimed protectors of human rights: “There could be no clearer censorship issue than the arrest of Joe Gordon. Hillary Clinton has been talking big about Internet censorship for two years. Joe Gordon’s case will probably prove the US was just blowing smoke. Similarly, there could be no clearer ‘prisoner of conscience’ for Amnesty International. Will they speak up?”

Probably they won’t say much. PPT has carried the lamentableAI record for several years. While Benjamin Zawacki remains in his position, AI continues to take a biased, royalist, political position on lese majeste. AI in Thailand is hopeless on lese majeste. On the U.S. blowing smoke, our post on U.S. support for the current regime is worth re-reading. The U.S.’s support has barely wavered through killings, illegal imprisonments, torture and massive censorship.

FACT also notes a disturbing new trend in censorship, with the current regime now seeking to block anonymous proxies for circumvention of censorship.

PPT reckons that if the Democrat Party manages to get back into government by military hook or by judicial crook, then it is the Chinese road for censorship. Thailand seems headed in the direction of massive web control. A Democrat Party government will have to deepen censorship and deepen repression.


Joe Gordon speaks

1 06 2011

As usual, Prachatai is following lese majeste cases assiduously and are to be congratulated for their efforts on the part of political prisoners who tend to be ignored in the mainstream media.

Today, Prachatai has an excellent account of an interview with American citizen Joe Gordon, who currently languishes in prison while the miserable political police at the Department of Special Investigations gets its act together to convict yet another person of lese majeste. PPT reproduced it in full:

On Friday Prachatai reported that dual Thai/U.S. nationality Mr. Joe Gordon had been charged “with lèse majesté, inciting unrest and disobedience of the law in public, and disseminating computer data which threatens national security… The DSI allege that he owns a blog which offers a link to download ‘The King Never Smiles’, a book banned in Thailand.”

There have since been reports that Mr. Gordon is alleged to have been involved in the online publication of a Thai-language version of the same title. So too that he had been charged as a Thai, rather than a U.S. national. If found guilty, he could face up to 22 years in prison.

“My name is Joe Gordon. I am a citizen of the United States,” he says, immediately, on picking up at the prisoner’s phone. He speaks quickly, short on time and energy: there are four others waiting to speak in this fifteen-minute allotment.

“My name is Joe Gordon.

(Last Tuesday) the DSI (Department of Special Investigations) came to arrest me. They brought twenty officials with them, to my house. I’d just come out of the bathroom. I was only wearing a towel around my waist. So I asked them, ‘Can I put some clothes on, please?’ They said, “No! Sit right there,” as they went through my things.

They searched through everything. Then they took all my money; my computer, my hard drive, and my phone.”

“They kept using my old Thai name. That’s what they had on the warrant. And that’s what they kept calling me! I told them: “I don’t use that name, anymore! I have not used that name in years. My name is Joe Gordon.”

“I had no intention of getting involved in politics, here,” he says. “Red shirt, yellow shirt?” He shakes his head.

“I taught some people how to make a blog,” he says. “In America. I taught those people how to cut-and-paste material. I think a blog is more like a personal diary. I had no intention of getting involved in this.”

“I feel as though I’m being held hostage,” he says. “That the DSI could invade my privacy – that they could plant anything they like on my computer – with me, having no way to prove my innocence.”

“I want President Obama and (Secretary of State) Hillary Clinton to intervene in my behalf – to pay attention to what’s happening to me,” he says. “To help me. I’m a citizen of the United States.”

A siren sounds, signaling an end to this brief, fraught interlude. He presses the receiver to his lips. “I want to be out of here,” he says, again. “I want my freedom back. In the United States, I can express my views freely, like any other American.”

A visiting friend, weary and distressed, watches as he leaves. Dust on the glass, like the grain of film, lends this scene a surreal, almost cinematic quality. Joe W. Gordon struggles to his feet, but his arthritic knees hold up the passing parade. With a strong grip on a neighborly shoulder, he turns. He gives the two-fingered signal – ‘peace!’ – before stumbling, limply, through the exit.

US Embassy officials would not comment on the conditions under which Mr. Gordon entered into Thailand. DSI officials and Mr. Gordon’s lawyers have yet to release the full nature of those charges; nor could they be reached for comment.


There are cluster bombs that our guys use and then there are bad cluster bombs

22 04 2011

In The Irrawaddy, this is stated:

The Obama administration said Thursday that Moammar Gadhafi’s government may be targeting Libyan civilians with cluster bombs, cautiously endorsing claims by rebels and human rights groups that the Libyan strongman’s troops are using the indiscriminate weapon on the western city of Misrata.

Attacks by Gadhafi’s forces have been deplorable, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. Despite outlining more examples of what she termed Gadhafi’s “inhumanity,” Clinton refused to signal any new course for the United States to help anti-government forces in their war to end four decades of dictatorship.

Indeed, deplorable if true.

But what happens when the ever-so-nice-English-speaking Abhisit Vejjajiva-led regime that includes the Thai Army and their royalist backers are the regime using cluster bombs? Nothing, zilch, silence from the U.S. Secretary of State (correct us if we have managed to miss the condemnation). Where is that cautious use of deplorable? PPT searched her official web page and found nothing that condemns Thailand’s soon-retracted admission of the use of cluster bombs (read our posts here, here, here, here, here and here).

PPT is not the only blog to notice these double standards – see this post at Asia Provocateur.

That's our boy!

PPT has a bit of a string of posts on these questions and issues. We earlier questioned Clinton’s position on Thailand and asked questions about her State Department’s recent human rights report.

It is worth setting out some of those earlier posts here:

… did she [Clinton] conveniently forget … [about] the Abhisit Vejjajiva government … presiding over events that saw the shooting of several journalists, with several witnesses, including journalists, claiming that the military deliberately targeted them. We don’t recall her condemnation of the monstrous levels of media censorship in Thailand….

Part of the propaganda benefit that the Thai government has in Washington is a long tradition of “advisers” telling the State Department that it is only the royal family that matters and that the monarchy is the source of stability. Even today, despite the clear evidence that the monarchy has destabilized Thailand’s politics over the past decade, there are academics with thin publication records who have moved from government to universities inside the Beltway and who regularly get inside the palace and in return provide the necessary propaganda as “advice.”

The official U.S. position on human rights is now so riven by contradictions that it can’t be a “position.” It is a hastily cobbled together sham and sick joke.