Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Treatment of Somyot Prueksakasemsuk and Hypocrisy by the U.S. Embassy

The Bangkok Criminal Court sentenced news editor and political activist Somyot Prueksakasemsuk to 10 years in prison last Wednesday (January 23rd) for two articles the court ruled had “insulted” the Thai monarch. Somyot didn't actually write the articles, he just published them.  And they didn't appear in articles of fact, but in two fiction stories. Oh, and they didn't even actually mention King Bhumibol Adulyadej by name. One of the pieces published in the now-defunct magazine centered around a murderous ghost that the court determined was a stand-in for the King, in a tale that "conveyed connection to historical events."

Somyot has been held since April 30, 2011 in the eastern province of Sa Kaeo, just 2 days after he participated in the launch of a campaign to collect 10,000 signatures to remove the lese majeste article from the Thai criminal code.  He was later reproached for refusing to reveal the identity of the author of the two articles, written under the pen-name of Jitra Polachan.

The court denied Somyot bail on twelve different occasions during his 20 month pretrial detention. He was also paraded around Thailand (four different provinces) in shackles. This wasn’t just meant to punish Somyot for his views but was what amounted to a demonstration for all to see how the courts could humiliate someone who doesn’t "toe the line" when it comes to their version of what to think.

Somyot in Chains - A lesson by the Thai Courts that this could happen to you.
The Thai justice system’s treatment of Somyot clearly illustrates the erosion of due process and the dilution of even the most basic of human rights.  Since the royalist courts have taken it upon themselves to be the defender of the monarchy, they have savagely used the lese majeste law; not to uphold justice, as the lese majeste law has nothing to do with justice. Instead they use the lese majeste law to exercise control, authority and power in the interests of oppression and personal gain.

But not all the disgraceful action was committed by the Thai courts.  Even though a representative of the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok attended the trial on January 23rd, there was no resulting public condemnation of Somyot’s conviction and sentencing. No comment at all.

Of course, the U.S. embassy had a perfect opportunity to speak out. After all, January 21st was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and President Obama’s Inauguration.

So, leading up to and the verdict on January 23rd, the U.S. Embassy was posting various quotes by Dr. King on their facebook page.

And on January 21, the U.S. Embassy posted this part of Obama’s inaugural speech:

All of these quotes are very inspirational. But it appears like the U.S. Embassy wasn’t too inspired by them because on January 22nd, when closing arguments by Somyot’s lawyers were being held, this was posted on the U.S. Embassy’s facebook page:

Yes, a posting of a picture of a monkey with an explanation of what the phrase "monkey see, monkey do" means. Well, at least the folks at the U.S. embassy know what that phrase means. Judging from the fact that there were no explanations of the Martin Luther King, Jr. quotes nor the Obama quote, should we infer that they have don't have a clue about their meanings? 

And on January 23rd, when Somyot’s sentence and conviction was handed down, the only posting on the U.S. Embassy’s facebook page was some pathetic fluff article about Obama surprising White House visitors.

As Americans, we should expect more from our Ambassador, Kristie Kenney.  

What about the facebook postings? "...with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals." - What voices? 

Personally, I’m at a loss as to why Ambassador Kenney did not speak out.  Was it because she supports the royalist movement in Thailand? Or is it because she is scared that royalist will protest against her and she’ll lose popularity – something she apparently craves?

From this picture of her, the answer is still elusive.  It could go either way.

Ambassor Kenney sporting a big yellow streak down her back
Of course, we can expect the “quiet diplomacy” spiel.  But “quiet diplomacy” has yielded scant results if any when it comes to protecting people from Thailand’s draconian lese majeste law.  So I expect that “quiet diplomacy” actually means "no diplomacy at all" and the American public is being lied to by representatives of the State Department, which wouldn’t be the first time.  By the way, just what really did cause that September 11 attack in Benghazi?  

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