Happy Hmong

Thailand’s “voluntary” deportation of 4,700 Hmong at the end of last year drew a lot of flak internationally and seriously affected Thailand’s (and possibly Abhisit’s) image. Human rights groups were outraged. Almost immediately there were reports of torture and imprisonment.

It was all bollocks.

As Nation’s Supalak reports from Vientiane all refugees have been treated well and decided to stay in Laos instead of hoping that some Western country takes them in. By now only less than two hundred remain in clearing center, the rest have been given some money, land, a year supply of rice.

Their leader, Blia Shoua Her, has changed his mind and decided to join his family. He was the one who was reportedly jailed and about to be tortured.

Lao government even let one US Congressman to come and see things for himself: “There is no indication of discrimination or harassment or mistreatment of the people in Pha Lak village.”

While it’s a good news overall there are potential implications for the future.

First, Thai military and Thai government appear to be more trustworthy then a brigade of human rightists.

Second, solutions to refugee problems lie with the governments, not with activists.

Third, international framework for dealing with refugees seems to be failing miserably, it was put there for a good reason and without it there’s a potential for abuse.

Human rights groups, in Asean governments eyes (forget myself), have lost credibility. They appear to be part of the problem rather than a solution. Last year Thailand tried to establish channels of communication within Asean between governments and human right representatives. What does Lao government think of this? After being accused of political persecution and even torture? Will Vietnam, the next Asean chair, even bother?

What are these people doing? They are severely undermining their own cause, nothing else.

Another aspect – Thailand’s attitude towards western governments. I don’t think they are going to pay any attention to “righteous condemnation” anymore. First they disagreed on Rohingya, rightly or wrongly, and now Hmong, that’s two strikes. No one will bother with the the next “wolf” cry. It’s just noise, however annoying.

Credibility goes a long way in Asia, and the West is losing it.


Thai Army Asserts Foreign Policy Role – allegedly

Marwaan Macan-Markar has a new article in Irrawaddy.

His main point is that “Thailand’s powerful military remains the dominant player in shaping the relationship between this Southeast Asian kingdom and its immediate neighbors.”

Does it now?

Where was the military in the latest Thai-Cambodia diplomatic spat? They were the cool heads, on both sides, practically ignoring the hysteria in political circles.

Where is the military in relations with Malaysia? Or Burma?

Where was the military when Thaksin unceremoniously sacked Surayud over disagreements on Burma policy? And it was in Thaksin’s years that Hmong refugees were given to the military to handle, and so they did, through five or six civilian governments.

I can’t see any reason for Marwaan to state that Thai military dominates Thai foreign policy. I think he just continues the tired anti-coup agenda, the staple food of FCCT of which he was a president during post coup years.

Besides, given the scum Thai politics has churned up over the past couple of years, the military double check on Thai foreign policies might not be such a bad idea. Prior to Abhisit Thai overtures to Burmese generals were really sickening, for example, and Noppadon’s secret agreement on Preah Vihear could have been stopped in time if he had to run it by Thai army that has its own views on sovereignty.

Ideally, country’s foreign policies must be under parliamentary control, but that had been seriously lacking during the past decade. Any double check, be it by the generals, courts or even Privy Councilors would have been welcome. In that vein even Abhisit should have run Hmong expulsion by the parliament. As for handling refugees – it’s either police, or the military, or ISOC – someone with physical power to control thousands of men.

Originally I’ve seen the article through Thai Political Prisoners but, apparently, comments don’t function there today so I have no other venue to vent my anger on that half-arsed assertion than my own blog.

Without TPP it wouldn’t have happened in the first place, of course.

Quick review of the last couple of weeks

This month I was pretty busy to blog on anything but I surely kept my eye open on what was going on. As things were, nothing seemed important enough to spare half and hour on a post. With every “breaking” news story I went “Arghhh, what a waste of time!”.

Let’s recap it quickly, in no particular order.

Map Ta Phut court ruling – things are moving along, Anand is working hard, regulatory framework is going to be set sooner rather than later. In the meantime projects that haven’t been approved can get their act together and seek court approvals. Thailand has passed the stage where environment was sacrificed to development, everybody, from politicians to policy makers to investors should get used to it.

Abhisit and the government performance polls – that was that really ticked me off at the time. What is the purpose in all this? People have absolutely no idea what the government does 99% of the time, what is the value of their assessment? Everybody can give a grade on one to ten scale in a couple of seconds, but that would be talking out of his ass, and the media spread those brainfarts into a week long affair. These polls can only testify to the perception of govt performance, nothing more.

What are they comparing the government to? What would be a ten? Perfect life in perfect times? What the ideal govt could have done during the world recession and massive layoffs? What the current government could have done if it worked at 100%? What would an alternative government could have done this year?

The Nation went a bit further and conducted their own polls among businessmen, political scientists and their own editorial team separately. The range of opinions and reasoning is telling only one thing – even these people, supposedly in the know, have no clue what they are talking about (not that I do either, and that is why I don’t give out grades).

As popularity contest these polls haven’t said anything new either – PTP is likely to win more seats than Democrats but whether they can form a working government is a big question, and it is likely to go south if they start pushing pro-Thaksin agenda again. Nothing changed, except Democrats, after eight year absence, have shown that the country can function reasonably well under a non-Thaksin government. People have a choice without fear of uncertainty now.

Hun Sen went barking mad, calling for regime change in Thailand and accusing Thais of hatching coup plots against him. Nothing new, he’s just collecting points to qualify for a mental asylum. Half way there already.

Thailand deported Hmong back to Laos. There’s public outrage, fueled most likely by ignorance and paranoia – I’ve yet to see any credible threat to their freedom and safety in any of the letters or editorials or blog posts. If someone knows something they keep quiet about it, leaving the stage to loud mouthed fools. I just don’t see how the Laotian government would suddenly change their minds and start prosecuting the Hmong instead of giving them options and funds to resettle as they promised. So far the fears are baseless.

Reds have postponed their rallies, again. Every time they do that the media starts scaring people that when they finally come out it will be a mother of all protests. Yeah, right. It takes months for protests to gain momentum and capture people’s attention. The longer reds postpone them the less mojo they have left. Despite all the scaremongering and predictions of doom for the next year, unless the govt screws it up itself it has nothing to fear from either the opposition or the reds, they are just minor annoyances.

Big shot at Thai Airways got busted for abusing his position when flying Thai. Next thing you know PTP comes with similar accusations against Korn, hoping for the same effect. Get lost.

Public Health minister resigned after allegations of improprieties (not corruption yet). It’s a third cabinet member in a year. By contrast I don’t remember Thaksin firing anyone in his six years in power over similar accusations.

Have I left anything “important”? Maybe, but, as I said, I watched the goings on this month with disbelief – these people got completely carried away with their political games and lost all sense of reality, and that is MY year end assessment.