Thursday, June 21, 2012

Human Trafficking Tier 2 Watch List for Thailand… Again!

The State Department released its 2012 human trafficking report on Tuesday and for the third straight year Thailand was placed on the Tier 2 Watch List. But there is more to this than meets the eye.
The Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report is the U.S. Government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking. It is also the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts and one of the good things the U.S. Government actually does in the world. I have pulled out the part of the 2012 report on Thailand and made it available here. The entire world report can be found on the U.S. Department of State website here.

The TIP report is mandated by the Trafficking Victims Prevention Act (TVPA) passed by the U.S Congress in 2000. In the TIP Report (released annually in June), each country is placed onto one of three tiers based on the extent of their governments’ efforts to comply with the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” found in Section 108 of the TVPA.


Countries whose governments fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards.

Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.

Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards 


a) The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing;

b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or

c) The determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year.

Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.

The TVPA lists additional factors through which to determine whether a country should be on Tier 2 (or Tier 2 Watch List) versus Tier 3. First, the extent to which the country is a country of origin, transit, or destination for severe forms of trafficking. Second, the extent to which the country’s government does not comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards and, in particular, the extent to which officials or government employees have been complicit in severe forms of trafficking. And third, reasonable measures required bringing the government into compliance with the minimum standards in light of the government’s resources and capabilities to address and eliminate severe forms of trafficking in persons.

As I’ve reported before, after Thailand’s military made Abhisit Vejjajiva the Prime Minister, Thailand’s Tier ranking slipped from being Tier 2 previously under the democratically elected PPP led government to being on the Tier 2 Watch List for 2010 and 2011.   
This consecutive Tier 2 Watch List ranking is important in that in 2008, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act included a provision (Section 107) that any country that has been ranked Tier 2 Watch List for two consecutive years and that would otherwise be ranked Tier 2 Watch List for the next year will instead be ranked Tier 3 for the next year. 

And if a country is ranked as Tier 3 then several penalties could be levied. Penalties such as the withholding or withdrawing of non humanitarian, nontrade-related foreign assistance, the withholding of funding for government employees’ participation in educational and cultural exchange programs, and U.S. opposition to assistance (except for humanitarian, trade-related, and certain development-related assistance) from international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.

So, by being placed on the Tier 2 Watch List and allowing human trafficking to flourish in Thailand for two consecutive years, Abhisit not only embarrassed the Kingdom but he put the country at risk of economic penalties.  

However, Section 107 of the 2008 Act also provided a waiver of the consecutive Tier 2 Watch List rule. 

“The President may waive the application of clause for up to 2 years if the President determines, and reports credible evidence to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, that such a waiver is justified because - (I) the country has a written plan to begin making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking;  (II) the plan, if implemented, would constitute making such significant efforts; and (III) the country is devoting sufficient resources to implement the plan.

This is how Thailand received another Tier 2 Watch List ranking and not the otherwise required downgrade to the Tier 3 ranking. The government led by PM Yingluck Shinawatra provided a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. Her government also continued implementation of its human trafficking law and conducted awareness-raising activities on human trafficking.

Also, during Yingluck’s first month in office, UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, was invited to visit.  In a press statement following her visit, the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons noted, among other shortcomings, weak enforcement of the country’s legal antitrafficking framework, inadequate efforts to address trafficking of migrants, endemic corruption among law enforcement officials, and a systemic failure to properly identify victims and protect their rights and safety. Yingluck’s government agreed to fund and open five national verification centers for Burmese migrant workers inside Thailand. These centers opened in late April 2012.

Although much more progress is needed, the democratically elected government led by PM Yingluck Shinawatra has at least started tackling the problem of human trafficking in Thailand exacerbated by a military installed government led by Abhisit Vejjajiva. Under his regime, Thailand’s image in the world’s eyes were tarnished. Instead of focusing government resources insanely on apprehending Thaksin Shinawatra and staying in power, Abhisit should have addressed the needs of Thailand’s citizens – but, of course, Thailand’s citizens weren’t the ones Abhisit had to report to.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Thailand’s Got Double Standards and Not So Much Talent

I’d like to weigh in on the latest controversy from Thailand that is making news across the world.

The “Thailand’s Got Talent” television show, broadcast last Sunday, featured 23-year-old Duangjai Jansaunoi, who walked onstage barefoot in jeans and a baggy men's button-down shirt. She introduced herself as an independent artist from northern Thailand.

She then turned to a large canvas and painted a yellow outline of a person.

Afterwards, she removed her shirt and unhooked a black bra.

Then she doused herself with several tins of paint before turning to the audience with a broad smile to display her multicolored torso. The area around her breasts was blurred out by censors.

As dance music played, the contestant used her body as a paintbrush to fill in the outline.

Some in the audience gasped with hands over their mouths, while others cheered her on. Well, just watch for yourself the entire act and subsequent drama.

"If I paint in a normal way, then it would be too ordinary," Duangjai told the judges after being handed a towel to cover up.

The judges then debated whether her act could be considered art.

"This is an art form. If we were in Italy, like Florence or Milan, or the Czech Republic, say Prague, this would be OK," said singer Jirayut Wattanasin. The audience roared in support, many flashing "V for victory" signs.

"I'm not saying this is not good, but it's not appropriate," said the panel's only female judge, actress Pornchita Na Songkhla. "Within the Thai cultural context, I don't support this."

By now she appeared as if “her pantieswere all in a bunch.” But I can’t be too sure Pornchita was actually wearing any panties as she obviously wasn’t in this famous fashion shot of hers (within the Thai cultural context, of course).

Pornchita Na Songkhla
The other male judge then said “I want to look in the aspect of art since coincidentally it is also my background. Speaking in the sense of artistic talent, I can identify and accept your show.

That comment seemed to push poor Pornchita over the edge. “Are you all for real?” she asked. “Unfortunately I don’t have an artistic mind so I am going to say not pass.

Pornchita na Songkhla (nicknamed Benz) doesn’t have an artistic mind?  So it wasn’t art when she posed naked covered in chocolate? Perhaps she just enjoys having chocolate poured on her – nothing artistic about that.

Is this next picture of Pornchita not art either?  Perhaps she actually uses two naked black men as her couch (special order from IKEA?).

But Pornchita had a duty to fulfill by judging Duangjai’s performance as not being “within the Thai cultural context.” After all, Pornchita is a Deputy Spokesperson for the Thai Ministry of Culture.

Obviously, much of Pornchita’s work isn’t “within the Thai cultural context” either. But that’s not the point.

As Deputy Spokesperson for Thailand’s Ministry of Culture, Pornchita is supposed to accurately promote and project Thai culture to the Thai people and the rest of the world. And one of the most prominent aspects of Thai culture is the blatant use of “Double Standards” – especially by judges.

Now being a judge on a nationally televised talent show is not quite at the same level as being an actual judge in a court of justice but it is a judge nevertheless and a high profile one at that. Now the entire world knows a little more about Thai culture thanks to Pornchita.

Thailand’s Ministry of Culture has been successfully trying to project Thailand’s culture of hypocrisy for some time now. The most famous of their efforts was in 2011 when they admonished three young girls for going topless during Songkran (Thai New Year) celebrations while having this picture on their own website.

Now if I were a judge on “Thailand’s Got Talent” I would have given a fairer evaluation to Duangjai’s performance and her finished painting.  To me art is in the eye of the beholder and it has to represent something. It has to “stir my soul.”

Duangjai’s initial drawing of the yellow outline of a person obviously represented the PAD movement. But what she did afterwards totally lost me.  She used her breasts to aptly deface the image representing the PAD.  Had she used her feet or, more appropriately, her buttocks then that would have convinced me that she was a true artist and had true talent. And the finished painting seemed unremarkable to me.

Sorry, I’d have to give Duangjai a “No Pass.”

Now as talent goes with regards to painting with body parts, nobody matches the fine artistry as that of Pricasso, an Australian painter. 

I wonder what Pornchita would think of Pricasso?

My thoughts exactly, Pornchita.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Kangaroo Court's Monkey Trial - Dissolution is No Solution

Earlier this month, Thailand’s Constitution Court justices showed the world that it is nothing but a Kangaroo Court, a political tool of the military/amart which instated them.  Instead of interpreting the statutes fairly and reasonably, they used some creative manipulations of the language in order to issue an injunction for Parliament to suspend its vetting of the charter amendment bill.  Their only purpose it seems was to delay if not stop entirely the bill.

Now, in what appears to be a blatant attempt to partially legitimize their miserable institution, the Constitutional Court judges accepted a petition that could dissolve the Democrat Party under the same Section 68 of the 2007 Constitution using the same warped reasoning.

Of course, these judges are now digging themselves deeper in the hole of political activism and unreasonable interpretations but now they are screaming from the depths of their self-made “chasm” (some call it “judicial mining” but justice really gets the shaft) that they are at least impartial in their hearing process to both political sides. 

At the heart of this dissolution case is whether or not the Democrat Party-led government under Abhisit Vejjajiva had assumed power over the country's administration by unconstitutional methods. If the Constitution Court rules that the Democrats contravened the Constitution then it could dissolve their long-established (in deceit and corruption) political party.

So, are the Democrats being sacrificed (thrown under the yellow bus) in order to slightly improve the Constitution Court’s legitimacy?  

It’s not as if the Democrats have been real effective for the military/amart.  Abhisit squandered the power gifted to him in 2008 by the Constitution Court when they dissolved the ruling People’s Power Party and when the military strong-armed other political parties to support the Democrats.   As the incumbent party going against political third stringers (and with some of them thrown in jail to boot), the Democrats were set up to win the general election last July.  Instead, they were handily trounced.   

If the tree isn’t bearing any fruit or producing any shade then one might as well chop it down for kindling wood.  Burn, baby, burn.

Now this isn’t the first time the Democrats faced party dissolution by the Constitution Court.  In 2010, there were two charges against them.  First, for misusing 29 million baht ($907,000) allotted to the Democrats from a government fund and second, regarding failing to report a donation of 258 million baht ($8.4 million) from petrochemical conglomerate TPI.  

Some compromising videos were leaked during that time to the public showing outrageous improprieties involving several judges with regards to that case.  Nevertheless, the Constitutional Court ultimately allowed the Democrats to weasel out of these charges by pulling a technicality from out of the back end of their robes.   

But that was then, this is now. And what a difference 19 months makes.  Now the Democrats, the so-called political party of the elite, have been behaving badly recently in parliament; watching porn, physically attacking opposition MPs, saluting Hitler, etc…

In essence, the Democrat Party has been behaving like a bunch of monkeys throwing their own feces around.  

Their usefulness to the military/amart has not only come to an end but now they are an embarrassment and may need to be removed.  Has some deal with Pheu Thai been made?

Personally, I’m against the dissolution of political parties in Thailand. It was wrong to dissolve Thai Rak Thai in 2007 and the People’s Power Party in 2008 and it is wrong to dissolve the Democrat Party now.  The dissolution of political parties only weakens the democratic process – but that’s how the military/amart wants it.  It’s a whole lot easier for them to step in and have a dictatorship that appears "to save the day."

The electorate should be the ones who ultimately determine who should govern and who shouldn’t – and not some unelected jurists. The electorate have shown much better wisdom by continually, over the past 20 years, not electing the Democrats to control Parliament. This is because they know that if the Democrats control Parliament then... the Democrats control Parliament. It's as simple as that.  And who really wants a bunch of monkeys who throw their own feces around to run their country? 

Monday, June 11, 2012

Thailand’s Humpty Dumpty Court

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less." "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things." "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master – that’s all."
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

It’s a Humpty Dumpty Court when seven unscrupulous judges on Thailand’s Constitutional Court had to resort to inventing a new meaning to the word “and” in a desperate effort to block the democratically elected government from changing the junta-inspired 2007 Constitution, which is the key to maintaining power for the military/elite.

You see, it’s extremely important for military/elite to not have their precious constitution tampered with. It puts elected governments suffering at the whim of the military/elite. If they don't like the government then they can easily find a pretext to remove them. Their constitution itself makes parliamentary democracy weak and vulnerable… which why they introduced it in the first place.

However, the document that was foisted on the citizens (it was illegal to campaign against the “referendum” that brought in the new constitution while the junta poured millions into the "yes" campaign) was hastily written by people who had no business writing a constitution in the first place. But the junta had the foresight to know there would be times when their document just would not “work” for them. 

That’s where the junta-installed Constitutional Court judges come in. They would be the ones to interpret the statutes to mean whatever guaranteed a so-called “victory” for their masters. And these judges have been quite busy the last five years: throwing out one prime minister for cooking on TV, throwing out his successor and dissolving their political party to allow the Democrats to obtain power, dismissing the dissolution case of the Democrat party, disqualifying a Red Shirt MP because the Democrats threw him in jail without bail and no judge would release him to vote, etc… The list goes on and is quite impressive if one believes in judicial dictatorship.

The most recent brouhaha by the Constitutional Court revolves around the first sentence in paragraph 2 of Section 68 of Thailand's Constitution which reads:

“In the case where a person or a political party has committed the act under paragraph one, the person knowing of such act shall have the right to request the Attorney General to investigate the facts and submit a motion to the Constitutional Court for ordering cessation of such act without, however, prejudice to the institution of a criminal action against such person”.

Paragraph one, by the way, reads:

"No person shall exercise the rights and liberties prescribed in the Constitution to overthrow the democratic regime of government with the King as Head of State under this Constitution or to acquire the power to rule the country by any means which is not in accordance with the modes provided in this Constitution."

Paragraph 2 is an example of how poorly the Thai constitution was drafted linguistically. Technically both "the person" and "the Attorney General" could be the subjects of the verb submit. The question is:  should the sentence be read "the person knowing of such an act shall have the right to request… and submit..." or should it be understood that "the person" has only the right to request "the Attorney General" investigate while the verb "submit" belongs to "the Attorney General"?

Of course, it doesn't make any sense at all that the person aware of "wrong-doing" must make a request to the Attorney General and submit a motion to the court. This cannot possibly be what was intended and only paste-eating morons or die-hard royalists with a political agenda to stop any change to the constitution would think otherwise.
Meechai Ruchupan           Kaewsan Atibodhi
Paste-Eating Morons or Die-Hard Royalists
(or both)

Plus, it is doubtful that the five motions filed directly to the court were accompanied by requests from the same individuals for investigations to the Attorney General. So, in order to fix this and allow them to act, the judges changed the meaning of the word "and" to "either/or" effectively making the sentence read:

"In the case where a person or a political party has committed the act under paragraph one, the person knowing of such act shall have the right to either request the Attorney General to investigate the facts or submit a motion to the Constitutional Court for ordering cessation of such act without, however, prejudice to the institution of a criminal action against such person." 

But there’s another creative interpretation by these judges in that they view Parliament as "a person or political party". Of course, Parliament is obviously not regarded as "a person or political party" nor should they be. The Parliament is authorized by Section 291 of the Constitution to undertake charter amendment legislation.

Of course judicial decisions are supposed to be made based on the laws and precedents. However, these judges have thrown precedent out the window too as Kaewmala at Siam Voices points out:

“In May 2006, the Constitution Court rejected a petition by a former MP submitted under the same section in the previous constitution on the basis that Section 63 (which became Section 68 in the current constitution, containing the same text) did not allow the complainant to directly submit the petition to the Constitution Court. The Court then ruled that the petition must first be considered by the Attorney General. The rejected petition in 2006 was filed to request the Court to disband the Democrat Party.”

Judges take oaths to support the law as it is and not as they might prefer it to be. The bad eggs at the Constitutional court have substituted their own fascist opinions and ideas for the laws and precedents upon which judicial decisions are supposed to be made and are headed for a great fall; a fall so great that, like Humpty Dumpty, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t be able to put them back together again.

I say it’s high time to ‘break a few eggs’.  Figuratively not literally; no violence please - just impeach the bums.

Just as I suspected – there’s a whole lot of slimy yellow inside these eggs.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Celebrating Royalty - American Style

I’d like to present a couple of funny little videos which illustrate some feelings we have toward the British monarchy.

The first video is from this past Monday's "The Daily Show" with John Stewart. Stewart doesn't seem to be impressed by the Queen's jubilee celebration. 


The next video is from "The Colbert Report" with Stephen Colbert. This clip aired about a year ago just prior to the royal wedding in London.  Colbert enlists a royalist Englishman to help him prepare to meet the Queen. 

Some would say that Americans should be more respectful of the beliefs and traditions of other countries.  That may be true to some extent but not with respect to monarchies.

Before our Constitution and before our Declaration of Independence, there was Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense.” That was the pamphlet -- widely circulated in the colonies in early 1776, that convinced our forebears that they should declare independence.  Paine, a recent immigrant from England and the most radical and most working-class of the Founding Fathers, is scathing and brilliant in his denunciation of the British monarchy.  Read it and remind yourselves why Americans are all supposed to be republicans (small "r"), meaning foes of royalists.

Speaking of our royalist foes, here’s the Thai granddaddy of them all, Prem Tinsulanonda, who celebrated the Queen Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee in his own strange way.