Monday, November 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Ambassadors

Kristie Kenney, the US Ambassador to Thailand, has ignored the plight of Joe Gordon and the trumped up charges of lese majeste for almost 6 months now. She has sat by quietly, while her poor fellow American citizen rots in a Thai jail for allegedly exercising his right to free speech in Colorado:  something that was so clearly protected by the First Amendment of a document she has sworn to protect.

But lese majeste is another thing. The Thai government is claiming jurisdiction over free speech performed by a US citizen from within US borders and on servers in the US. Perhaps Ambassador Kenney’s silence signifies her agreement with a supra-national application of Thai law over the sovereignty of the US Constitution and rights to free speech?

Or perhaps she's afraid that if she appears to be defending a US citizen accused of "insulting the King," some Thai people in high places will complain to Washington and get her in trouble and she may lose her cushy job of tweeting all day?

No matter what the reason, Kenney’s refusal to publicly do anything to help her fellow American is nothing more than a disgrace. But contrast Ambassador Kenney’s performance (or lack of performance) to that of the US Ambassador to China, Gary Locke.

For Locke, quiet diplomacy on human rights has been a regular part of his portfolio in China. Shortly after he took up the post, Ambassador Locke actually met with an American citizen, imprisoned in China for his role in the sale of an oil database to a US company.

He was convicted of violating the state-secrets law for simply downloading material that was readily available on the Internet,” Ambassador Locke said in the interview. “We have been meeting with a lot of organizations and representatives of activists and organizations that are concerned about human rights,” Locke stated. “That's of great concern to me and to the administration, so we have plans to reach out to many of the activists.”

Ambassador Locke’s performance should be commended while Kristie Kenney’s refusal to publicly do anything to help her fellow American is nothing more than a disgrace. 

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