By Andrew Spooner
It is now 36 days since US citizen, Joe Gordon, was arrested in Thailand under the kingdom’s draconian lese majeste laws.
Just to re-cap, Joe was arrested because in 2007, while living in the USA, he happened to post a link on his blog to a Thai translation of a book by Paul Handley called The King Never Smiles (published by Yale University Press). That’s it. And, he is facing a decades-long prison sentence for this terrible crime.
Once again the international human rights’ NGOs, such as Amnesty International (who have a long record of being absolutely cowardly and pathetic on lese majeste, as well as directly colluding with the Thai state on the issue) have been silent. Maybe they are preferring to work in secret, with secret lists of secret prisoners of conscience that only their Thai-based researcher, Benjamin Zawacki, is allowed to know?
It is also widely reported that Joe Gordon is very sick and needs the kind of proper medical care that can only be gained from a stay in hospital. On two separate occasions Joe has applied for bail so he can get this medical care – both of these applications have been refused, the last one only a few days ago on 29th June 2011.
Of course Joe, as a naturalised US citizen, someone who resided in the U.S. for over 20 years, likely paid 10s of US$1000s in taxes and taken part in all that being a US citizen means, should expect his ambassador and the consular staff of the US Embassy in Bangkok to do everything in their power to make sure he is freed. After all, the US has avowed principles that lead it to publicly condemning regimes that engage in human right’s abuses. In fact the USA invades, attacks and stages tough economic sanctions against countries that breach human rights and denigrate freedom of speech.
Unluckily for Joe he was arrested in Thailand. The USA never publicly condemns Thailand even when the Thai Army is shooting unarmed civilians in broad daylight on Bangkok’s streets in front of the world’s media. Instead of condemning Thailand the USA actually trains and arms more of the same soldiers, so that they are even more properly prepared for the next round of slaughter.
Also unluckily for Joe, Kristie Kenney is the USA’s Ambassador in Bangkok – the one time US Ambassador to the Philippines was famous there for not only performing the papaya dance on Filipino TV but was also someone who played a key role in helping a US Marine avoid jail time for a rape conviction (an assessment of Kenney’s abilities by former US assistant secretary of state and Georgetown University professor, W. Scott Thompson, can be found here).
Of course, Ambassador Kenney is familiar to many readers for her social media presence and her fondness for “chicken on a stick”. She is often found on twitter worrying if someone’s cat is dry or saying good morning to her “tweethearts” . On the morning after the news of Joe’s arrest was announced, Kenney shot from the hip with a tweet as vacuous as the thin air of outer space. Then there are the parties. With wonderful people or Embassy staff and all those hip, cool, social medja types. Oh my.
Does the fact that a US citizen is incarcerated, in terrible conditions, under one of the most oppressive anti-freedom of speech laws on earth, while being denied medical treatment and all for posting a translation of book while he was resident in the USA, even enter Kenney’s head?
And against all this comes a rumour that Kenney is due to leave Thailand. That she has applied for a job back home in Washington DC. Let’s just hope, if that does come to pass, that this time, the US government puts someone in Bangkok who is up to the job.