Thai Culture: America “Fine Tunes”, as Thailand “Falls Apart”


My Siamese friends lost me

The following are some stories playing in Thailand and the US. If you look at the US, obviously it is a different set of stories that the Americans are looking at, than the Thais-but the differences is telling on many level as to the state of Thailand and the Americas.

If you are looking for commonality, there are little. There is no big divide in America, as the US is pretty much in the grip of its president and a functioning congress.

But the big differences, between Thailand and the US, are that it looks like the US is “Fine Tuning” how the government works. But for Thailand, it looks like “All Hell is Breaking Loose.” And policy wise, the US is still fighting for freedom, justice and clean government.

Well in Thailand, is is quite the opposite-don’t you think. Like the government just shut down the very liberal website Liberat Thai, and the DSI has accused journalist as causing the stock market to crash. It is still very much repressive and anti-freedom and democracy here.

In Thailand Thai Rath and Matichon, both mass circulated Thai daily, have been SMSing the following stories to its thousands or followers. The stories, in the past few days are: 

  • Ministry of Justice deny freezing Taksin petition
  • Attorney General delay Yellow Shirt government house occupation case
  • Yellow Shirt surround Cambodia’s embassy
  • DSI issue statement that the 2 arrested for spreading rumors have hidden agenda
  • Senator on the verge of asking the courts to rule if government budget was passed according to law
  • BOT first says it will go after politicians involved in the BBC bank fraud case, but then said it can not
  • Soldiers destroy RKK terrorist bomb making camp, and key Red Shirt strategist meet in a seminar.

In the US, the following are hot issues at the US Congress:

Keep Vulture Funds from Preying on the Poor:

Vulture funds are private equity funds that purchase the debt of impoverished countries, often for pennies on the dollar.  When a country receives debt cancellation from international financial institutions, vulture funds then sue those countries for up to ten times the purchase price.  The “Stop Very Unscrupulous Loan Transfers from Underprivileged countries to Rich, Exploitive Funds Act” (VULTURE Act) was introduced on June 18th by Representatives Maxine Waters (D) and Spencer Bachus (R).  This bill  would prevent vulture funds from making excessive profit from the debt of  the world’s poorest countries.  Ask your Representative to co-sponsor this legislation and  stop this predatory practice today.

Phones: The new ‘blood diamonds’? Should Leonardo DiCaprio’s next movie be “Blood Cell Phones”?

A few years ago, activists around the world focused attention on the role of brutal African militias in the diamond business, highlighted in the Oscar-nominated movie “Blood Diamond.” Now some are warning about similar problems with the minerals that are in your cell phone, according to our sister publication CQ Weekly ($).

Some of the world’s most popular electronic devices, including cell phones, GPS systems, music players and computers are made using tantalum, tin and tungsten, minerals that are relatively rare in the world but can be found in abundance in the Democratic Republic of Congo , an African nation gripped by a ghastly civil war.

As with diamonds, some of the mineral ore mines of the Congo region have been seized by militias, who brutalize the local population and collect cash for selling raw ore into an international market that doesn’t keep detailed records on what material comes from where.

A pair of senators, Richard Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois, and Sam Brownback, a Republican from Kansas, have teamed up to introduce S 891 , a bill they hope will force U.S. electronics makers to demand better records on the mining of these so-called conflict minerals. The House is working on similar legislation.

The Information Technology Industry Council, a trade association that represents the electronics industry, says a new law isn’t necessary and wouldn’t work. Electronics companies agree with the goal of the Senate bill, but they say the international market for ore has so many middle men it’s impossible to track where particular shipments of ore were mined. The Congolese ore is mixed with ore from Australia, Brazil and other countries in smelting plants around the world.

Some international groups are trying to focus attention on the issue. The Enough Project added the issue to its broader anti-genocide agenda, and Global Witness , a group that focuses on conflicts in the use of natural resources, is involved.

Meanwhile, the electronics industry has formed two groups to come up with solutions to the problem. One is called the Electronic Industry Citizenship Coalition and the other is the Global e-Sustainability Initiative. Scott Montgomery is the managing editor of

National and International Anti-Corruption Movements Need Your Help 

In April 2007, Bradley Birkenfeld, an employee of UBS bank, blew the whistle on illegal offshore banking practices.  His disclosure directly led to an agreement by UBS to pay the United States government $780 million in fines and turn over 19,000 secret accounts owned by U.S. “taxpayers.”  Despite Mr. Birkenfeld’s invaluable contribution to uncovering this unprecedented amount of tax fraud, he is now facing over 3 years in jail.

In 2006, Congress passed the IRS whistleblower provision to encourage people to come forward and report tax fraud by offering them a financial reward. Now, the Department of Justice is rewarding the first major whistleblower under the program with a jail sentence.  This is clearly NOT the way to encourage other whistleblower to step forward and fight for justice.

Major international conventions have recognized that corruption, which stems from banking secrecy, threatens the rule of law and jeopardizes human rights around the world.  These secret accounts provide sanctuary for the worst criminal elements in the world including those who siphon money from humanitarian projects and who bribe government officials. For more information on how this case affects international anti-corruption efforts please listen to this interview on World Swiss Radio with NWC Executive Director Stephen M. Kohn.

Mr. Birkenfeld was courageous enough to ruin his entire career in order to stop these corrupt practices.  However, this case is not just about Mr. Birkenfeld.  It is about whether or not there will ever be another Bradley Birkenfeld.  Attorney General Holder must immediately conduct an independent review of Mr. Birkenfeld’s case in light of its impact on national and international law enforcement efforts to stop corruption.  Show Mr. Birkenfeld, and every other person waiting to come forward with information, that we appreciate their efforts to make this world a better place.

Helping reporters keep their secrets; should journalists be forced to reveal their sources?

Does the First Amendment trump law enforcement?

A number of high-profile cases in recent years have raised the question of whether prosecutors should be able to force reporters to reveal their confidential sources. Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed for contempt of court when she refused to speak about her off-the-record chat with a Bush administration official.

In response, some Members of Congress have restarted an effort to extend new legal protections to journalists. Here’s the rundown:

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is trying to pass legislation that would establish a shield law to protect reporters from having to reveal their source. Many states have some version of a shield law to protect reporters from subpoenas demanding disclosure of sources, notes or other materials.

The purpose of these laws is to encourage whistleblowers, particularly in government, to go public with problems they see without fear that their identities will be revealed if they talk to a news reporter.

Republicans and Democrats alike have been pushing for a federal shield law for years, but Bush administration and Senate Republican opposition combined to stall the measure.

President Obama — who co-sponsored a Senate bill in the 110th Congress as an Illinois Senator — supports the concept, but not necessarily the specifics of the legislation now pending in Congress.

The House passed a bill (H.R. 985 ) in March. The Senate Judiciary Committee is working on its version (S. 448 ). The two bills differ in several respects, but both contain exceptions to the shield for some circumstances.

Reporters need to be able to protect their sources, their notes, and material they gather, in order to be the robust check on the government and the private sector that is protected under the First Amendment. A federal shield is needed because of inconsistencies in the various state laws. Although law enforcement officials should be able to obtain information needed to protect national security or prevent or prosecute crimes, they shouldn’t be able simply to demand information from journalists in lieu of performing their own investigations

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