The Bangkok Post is currently running an editorial headed ‘Close Net on the Slave Trade’. The newspaper refers to an investigation by the Guardian newspaper in London into slavery in the fishing industry – where troublesome Burmese labourers have been literally murdered and thrown overboard.
The details are horrific. One troublesome Burmese man was tied by his four limbs to four boats and his body literally torn apart – as a warning to others, claimed the report. These boats are selling trash fish to the giant CP conglomerate.
What is interesting about the editorial is not so much the noble sentiments – ‘There is no excuse that can save the country from being condemned as the regional slavery hub. Only the authorities’ real commitment to punish traffickers and corrupt officials can’ – but the fact that this sort of investigation is never done by Thai newspapers.
People are currently sounding off at the current restrictions on media freedom. Are they that dumb that they do not realise that they never had it? No. But they seem to think they have democracy without it.
Freedom of speech is one of the mainstays of democracy – but had the Bangkok Post embarked on an investigation naming the culprits and indeed naming CP – the boss of whom was one of Thaksin Shinawatra’s original backers – they would undoubtedly found themselves in debilitating court proceedings.
Thailand’s libel and Computer Crime Act laws have been rehashed from those adapted from Europe, specifically the UK. Truth alone is in Thailand not a defence.
It has to be coupled with high public interest. What is in the public interest can be left to a judge, who has spent considerably little time in the legal profession, because being a judge comes down often to who your family know.
Even if the Bangkok Post were to contest a libel case they could find themselves years in the legal system merely defending themselves against false allegations. And to get their cash back the newspaper might have to go another few years.
Currently I am fighting such battles. I have to. If I do not the people I am fighting will have carte blanche to swindle whomever they want.
Currently too we have two quite ridiculous but high profile cases going through the libel courts in Thailand involving foreigners. The first is the case of British human and labour rights activists Andy Hall who is accused of libeling National Fruit – over its treatment of migrant workers. And the second is the Royal Thai Navy which is also suing Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian of Phuketwan over its alleged treatment of ‘migrant workers’.
We all know that migrant workers are not going to be around to testify.
The Thai military appears to be chasing Thai migrant workers out of the country. I do not know the reasoning behind this move. But hopefully Thailand can start again and if it wants foreign labour it should register all that labour and give migrant workers the rights to which they are entitled – because having no rights is what encourages this slave trade. Those bidding for ‘democracy’ and free elections in Thailand, should support the rights of foreign workers – but we do not here a whisper on that front.
How Thailand treats its guest workers partly defines the country and its people. So does its justice system.
Alan and Chutima
Currently I am not attacking the military government. This seems to come as a shock to many. The reason is of course that all sides in this debate actually want democracy, one man one vote etc., but what is at issue is the type of democracy they get – and if they stick to the status quo there is no hope of getting it.
Reforms are needed right now to give people freedom of speech and cleanse the justice system. In civilized countries we can take to the streets and complain of failures in the justice system and win.
In Thailand criticizing a judge will land the critic in jail.
People have complained that the justice system has been unfair to Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra. That maybe the case, but then again Thaksin had considerably good luck when he hid his assets among his family, maid and chauffeur.
What the military has been doing has not merely been to remove Thaksin’s cronies from important positions in the police, civil service, and local government.
Though they have denied it, claiming no-one has been accused of anything, they have also removed some key figures benefiting from Thailand’s hidden corrupt economy.
It is particularly interesting that the Head of Immigration Police has been removed. Immigration police should be solving the migrant worker issues. I am not suggesting he is guilty of wrong doing. But this may be an area in need of reform.
Nigerian Ambassador under seige
Recently I have been following raids on West African communities in Bangkok. The perception of these communities is that they are 90 per cent involved in drugs trafficking.
While the figure is high – it is not quite true. Many are here seeking a better life. Many had been offered jobs which did not materialize.
Many are forced into the drugs scene as a result. The Nana area of Bangkok is clearly highlighted on UNDP map. And most are the victims of crime gangs with such names as ‘The Black Axe Brotherhood’.
Not so long Nigerians ago in Bangkok invaded the Nigerian Embassy in Bangkok and virtually kidnapped the Ambassador. They complained the Embassy had its own rackets. The Head of the Nigerian Association in Thailand, Gilbert Akudos Ngidwe, who led the attack is now in jail on cocaine and ‘ice’ charges.
Emeka Mbadinuj, who said he was a teacher at Ruam Rudee International School, went on the net to deplore the attack but he did offer the following:
“I came in contact with Kudos in November, 2010 when I came to Thailand. A friend of mine from Okija where Kudos came introduced me to Kudos because I was in financial difficulties.
I and my friend met Kudos at African restaurant at Sukhumvit soi 3 and Kudos gave me 300 us dollars for my house rent and visa extension.
“After two weeks, that my friend told me that Kudos wanted to see me and we went to his house at Airport road where I was asked to travel to Pakistan to swallow heroin for kudos, but I refused and told him that I had an operation in Nigeria two months before coming to Thailand and to my surprise he ordered me out of his house and ask me to refund the 300 us dollar or go to prison.
Kudos singing the Nigerian National Anthem with the Ambassador
I will compare Kudos like the Jamaican drug lord Christopher Dudus Coke because the two guys are philanthropist in nature when they know what they will gain from you. For me Kudos will be a nice guy to you if you are into illegal drug business because he always helps people who are in drug business. Other ethnic Nigerian groups are into illegal drug business here in Bangkok but they are less than 1% of our population in Thailand”.
I am not so sure of his 1% figure. But his letter shows what a mess the situation is in. West Africans regrettably are a lost cause.
Thailand has become a ‘source’ country or heroin, cocaine, and Ice. Yes that sounds unbelievable considering the coca leaf is not grown in these parts. But the worldwide network of drugs traffickers – which to high extent relies on West Africans recruiting women Thai and Filipino couriers – is here and wishes to stay. Thailand is not only being flooded with ‘Ice’ from the Golden Triangle but cheap ‘Ice’ from Iran and West Africa.
How can they do it? Well everything has a price it seems. Currently, I’m told, for 15,000 Thai baht one can buy a passport of Sierra Leone, Gambia, Zambia, Ghana, Mozambique and Guinea. For an additional fee 100,000 baht one can acquire a legal entry stamp and year visa.
Some West Africans wander the streets with ‘Get out of jail free’ cards. These are cards which state that they are a friend of the Thai police for which they pay a monthly fee. Of course it does not always work.
When a West African is arrested Thai police can never be sure of which country he is a native.
There are official police raids. There are unofficial police raids. Officers can become millionaires quickly in this business. All one has to do is round up ten West Africans and ask each for 100,000 each. Those who don’t pay go to jail. That is one form of justice Thailand is offering.
Boiler room – Massive international fraud – but nobody
The Army itself is of course not without sin.
Currently victims claim a 2 star General is protecting Thailand’s famous boiler operations at a cost to them reported to be of US$1 million per month. He has been approached and asked if he would consider withdrawing his support. But that is not going to happen without a better offer.
The army is raiding premises where illegal logs are held. But who controls the border trade?
The point of course is that you cannot have democracy coupled with the lack of free speech and corruption. It physically cannot work.
What the military is doing at the moment may be just a PR campaign as some people complain. It may be purely cosmetic. But clearly some of its moves have been popular.
It is possible though that after all this Thailand may end up at the starting block again if we find the military is merely there to put its hand in the till as it has done in the past.
But what you cannot do is go to the polls and vote for a corrupt politician because ‘He did all right by us’. You have to find a champion who is unblemished – someone who is not there for the money and does alright ‘by all’ or at least even handedly. There’s the problem. But these people do exist. Thailand just can’t seem to find them.
People walking around reading George Orwell’s 1984 only make themselves look silly. Not many Thais will have read it. Is ‘Big Brother’ looking over our shoulders? Certainly – all the time – in Britain we have MI5. I’m not going to be bothered unless I keep an arms stash in my cludgie.
Last week the Bangkok Post ran a ‘Spectrum’ piece over four pages which was supportive of the red shirts in Khon Kaen. Censorship, it appears, allows fair comment.
Quite clearly those in opposition to the military coup, if I can call it that, have the high moral plateau internationally. But their attempts to say we are living under a repressive regime are considerably weakened by the polite way the army is going about its business.
And the fact that Thais have stopped killing each other.
After coups, for the last 30 years Thailand has always been returned to democratic rule, well Thailand’s special form of democracy.
When that happens the government of the day can change the laws back – but there is just the chance that some reforms may be introduced which are good for the country. I’m not putting on my Che Guevara beret yet.
Now in the interests of balance in true Glenda Slagg style here’s the other side from Mr. Angry Andrew McGregor Marshall in Cambodia. Mr. Angry is living proof that amongst the so called experts in the region – who all take themselves very seriously – quite a few live up their own posteriors.
What great military victories have the Thai army won against foreign aggressors? Erm… They are the biggest mafia in Thailand, and they have the monopoly on state violence, so they always manage to whitewash themselves, and fools like you believe their propaganda and their claims to be some kind of moral institution. Amazing. You seem to be in cloud cuckoo land, If the current junta produces honest government and ends corruption in Thailand, I will publicly apologize for ever doubting your wisdom and donate $10,000 to a charity of your choice. I really find it extraordinary that an experienced journalist like Andrew Drummond would try to argue that a military junta that illegally seized power and is so afraid of scrutiny that it bans even the most innocuous protests and criticism would genuinely intend to make Thailand a democratic and corruption-free country. Nowhere else in the world in human history has this ever come close to happening. And a journalist’s basic instinct should be to be profoundly suspicious of powerful people with guns outlawing debate and discussion. I mean, seriously, WAKE UP! How many journalists anywhere in the world anytime in history who acted as apologists for repressive military regimes are respected now? None. Because any journalist who supports a military regime that bans debate has abandoned the most basic principles of their profession, and history has never, ever, proven them right. So kiss goodbye to your reputation. Events will prove you terribly wrong. Count on it. The clowns who are in charge now — and trying to silence all criticism — are the same idiots who bought hundreds of GT200 fake explosive detectors and, when caught out, claimed that the devices genuinely work. No serious analyst of Thailand would ever be fooled for a minute that this junta will reform Thai politics and root out corruption. They are just as crooked as the farang mafia in Pattaya, and far more dangerous
Above – a civilised British protest. Could it catch on in Thailand? Members of the ‘Nothing to Hide’ campaign got o work in their undies protesting bank charges.
Unfortunately my favourite charity is not going to get that $10,000 as not even I believe corruption will be ended by the Thai army. I am not of course an apologist for the Thai military. Nowhere have I stated I support the coup. But I have stated I am pleased with certain things that are happening and excesses of the military are being well and truly hyped. Having an election is a far cry from democracy if those elected do not give you democratic rights. It’s a bit like a coup. The guns are not out in the open. LINKS – THE GT200 EXPOSED