Last week the US Ambassador for Thailand held a party for bloggers and I wasn’t even invited. Surely my invitation must have gotten lost in the mail, right? No? Oh, well. At least one of the notable local reporters for the English speaking population appears to have been less than thrilled about it, seeing as the party was what he called a decidedly average restaurant, the Great American Rib Company in Bangkok . Still, average steaks are nothing to sniff at for those of us long deprived of the comforts of home.
Of course, perhaps a blogger like myself would not be so welcome at a party thrown by the US Ambassador to Thailand, if the embassy staff has even heard of me. For one, I’m not from the right area–Ambassador Kinney seems to have chosen mostly Bangkok-based bloggers, not an obscure scribbler from the far North (aka a tiny village north of Chiang Mai). Apparently most of the guest list was made of apolitical bloggers, a label that doesn’t quite suit my own writings, as I admit politics is a subject that interests me greatly. Additionally, the social media party’s star guests were fiercely pro-royal and anti-red shirt bloggers, and my feelings are far less partisan and far more ambivalent about both sides of the Thai political divide to suit any political grandstanding on the part of Ambassador Kenney.
On a more serious note, though, it troubles me greatly that an Ambassador from my own nation in the nation where I happen to be for a considerable length of time is spending the time (and money) to throw some sort of party for PR purposes while letting a seriously, possibly deathly ill American citizen rot in a Thai jail because she does not want to deal with thorny issues of freedom of speech on blogs and would rather invite a bunch of sycophants to a dinner party. That is unacceptable. As an American citizen with a somewhat fierce tongue and an active blogger, I expect that in a nation where freedom of speech is sharply limited with regards to political matters (it is against the law, subject to very stiff penalties, even for foreigners, for insulting the king or the institution of royalty or how it behaves in Thailand), that my ambassador is going to go to bat for me and stand up for my interests (and the interests of others who think and feel and write as I do). To let a gravely ill American citizen rot in jail and throw a party instead of dealing with the serious issues that led to his imprisonment is a shameful act of cowardice.
But it gets worse than merely that, though that would be bad enough to upset someone like myself who is concerned about what (if anything) this particular Ambassador would do on my behalf should (God forbid!) something similar happen to me. I can’t say the thought hasn’t crossed my mind a few dozen (or maybe a few hundred) times that a obvious and openly expressed democratic worldview and a fierce hatred of tyranny, the abuse of the people, and military dictatorships may be hazardous for my health and freedom in some parts of the world. Such facets of my own worldview are not because I am particularly hostile to other cultures (I’m not, quite the contrary), but because my Christian and biblical worldview has political consequences.
What makes this situation even worse is that Ambassador Kenney was previously the Ambassador to the Philippines, and during her time there she spent a great deal of political capital defending an American serviceman guilty of leading a gang rape of a drunk Philippine young woman, using loopholes in law and the character assassination of the rape victim to keep him out of jail when he deserved to be killed under biblical law. Anyone who reads this blog or is familiar with my own personal life will understand that I have few kind things to say of scum like rapists. And I have few kind things to say about those who slander or consent to the slander the victims of rape while supporting criminals, especially when they refuse to do anything for American citizens whose worst offense is translating books that someone else doesn’t want to be read. If an Ambassador can go to bat for an American citizen guilty of rape, who dishonors the reputation of our decent and good men (and women) in military uniform, she can do the same for an American citizen who is at worst guilty of overly political blogging (four years ago! while he was in the United States!). And certainly she can do far better than to throw a party with some cronies and brown-nosers while letting him rot in jail without speaking or acting a word in his defense. Is that the sort of person we as a nation wish to represent our nation and defend our interests and citizens abroad? Certainly not I.