We received an email from Senator Mike Lee concerning our editorial on Thailand. As you can see from the date, that was back in February. Today we got an email from Senator Orrin Hatch, about that same editorial that we sent to him back in January. We have no idea why he was so slow in responding to our message, but we think he’s burned out and it’s time for the old buzzard to retire to his cactus farm. Anyway, we are posting his tardy response, reposting Mike Lee’s response, and also the original editorial about the turmoil in Thailand.
Dear Mr. Torkildson:
Thank you for taking the time to write with your concerns regarding the ongoing situation in Thailand. I apologize for the delay in my reply.
As you may know, Thailand has been an American trade and economic ally since the signing of the 1954 Manila Pact of the former Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). For many years, Thailand was also seen as a model of stable democracy in Southeast Asia, although this image, along with U.S. relations, have been complicated by political and economic instability in the wake of a September 2006 coup that displaced Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
In recent years, Thai politics have been dominated by rivalries between populist forces led by Thaksin (now in exile) and his opponents. Mass movements both supporting and opposing Thaksin have staged vigorous demonstrations, including protests in 2010 that spilled over to riots in Bangkok and other cities, causing the worst street violence in Thailand in decades.
Despite this political uncertainty and human rights issues, shared economic and security interests have long provided the basis for U.S.-Thai cooperation. Thailand contributed troops and support for U.S. military operations in both Afghanistan and Iraq and was designated as a major non-NATO ally in December 2003.
As Ranking Member of the Senate Finance Committee which holds jurisdiction over U.S. trade, among many other issues, I am paying close attention to the ongoing situation in Thailand. In 2012, Thailand was the 25th largest goods trading partner of the U.S., with over $37 billion in two-way trade, and the U.S. is Thailand’s largest export market. I will continue to monitor the events in Thailand, and should any language be brought before the Senate regarding the countries ongoing issues, I will be sure to keep your thoughts in mind.
Orrin G. Hatch
United States Senator
February 3, 2014
Thank you for reaching out to Senator Lee regarding Thailand. He appreciates your engagement and knows that input from and dialogue with concerned citizens is critical to creating solutions that will address the problems facing Americans today.
As a new year commences, Senator Lee, through his legislative work, will continue to develop upward mobility for the poor and ease the pressure on the middle class by making education more accessible and affordable. He will introduce legislation that will give the poor a hand up, and advocate for legislation to help the unemployed re-enter the work force. Senator Lee recently gave a major policy speech in which he said: “Today, working families’ take-home pay is flat. But the staples of middle-class security and opportunity – health care, education, home ownership, work-life balance, and children – are becoming harder to afford all the time.”
Senator Lee is moving forward with a positive policy agenda to address the challenges of our time. Partnering with citizens and colleagues on both sides of the isle, he will continue to work to create a better economic climate for our country which will enable his constituents to be more secure, get ahead and realize their American dream.
There’s a world of trouble with Thailand. One of America’s staunchest allies in Southeast Asia, we have a vital interest in that country’s welfare, and so it’s not “sticking our nose in other people’s business” if we comment feelingly on that ancient and honorable constitutional monarchy that most people know only through the movie “The King and I.” Both India and China have strong historical ties with Thailand that reaches back centuries before America was even a country. If we’re not proactive, we may see those ancient nations once again in the ascendant with Thailand, to our cost.
If you’ve had the privilege of living in Thailand, as we have, you know that the people are warm-hearted, gentle, tolerant, and wise beyond their years with the stored power of Zen that comes from centuries of studying and implementing the teachings of Buddha. Their diet is wholesome and so delicious that it’s almost like having sex. Their beaches stretch for hundreds of miles along the Gulf of Siam and the Andaman Coast, and are cherished by millions of tourists each year, as well as by the Thais themselves. It is a truly blessed country, which escaped, in large measure, the ravages of the Vietnam Conflict 45 years ago.
The ruling monarch of Thailand is a remarkable scholar, musician, philanthropist, legislator, and peacemaker. He and his lovely queen have kept their country from the savage bloodbaths that have cursed that region during the past fifty years. But he is old and ill now, and ready to go the way of all the earth.
And so the political grubs and weevils, the jackals and buzzards, are closing in for their piece of the remains. No one is quite sure just what happens when the current monarch passes on. The situation has not arisen for more than fifty years, and the current Crown Prince may not be up to taking the reins and controlling the lusty steeds of Thai culture, tradition, and politics.
We won’t go into the confusing, often contradictory, details of the current political mess in Thailand, except to say that a rather large party of citizens, who feel they have been out of power for far too long, want to get back in power – but not by the election process. No, they’re afraid that they’ll be outvoted and outflanked by the vast majority of Thais, who, if they do not actively support the current administration, at least do not want to see it torn down in riot and chaos. This party, which we will call, for convenience’s sake, the Ninnyhammers, feel that the governing of Thailand needs to go back a century or two, when the monarch was an absolute dictator and the rich and cultivated formed an oligarchy that kept the common people down where they belonged – doing corvee labor and forbidden to have a voice in government.
The Ninnyhammers are shutting down central Bangkok even as we write this editorial. That is how they intend to bring back “the good old days”, to turn back the hands of the clock.
What the Ninnyhammers of Thailand, and of the world, never realize is that while you can turn back the hands on a cheap Timex watch with no damage, if you attempt to turn the hands back on a fine Swiss timepiece you ruin it forever – it becomes irreparable. And that is what the Kingdom of Thailand has become – a finely wrought piece of culture and government that is balanced delicately between reverence for the monarchy and pride in representative government. Fool with it in a brutal manner, as the Ninnyhammers are doing, and it will stop working – not just for some, but for ALL people in Thailand!
The United States must make it clear to the Thai Ambassador that we will never recognize a Thai government that seizes power through insurrection and terror, and that wishes to reverse the course of destiny and democracy. The Ninnyhammers of Thailand are NOT advocating anything revolutionary or experimental – they simply wish to take Thailand back to its barbarian medieval state. For their own ignorant benefit. We cannot let them highjack this beautiful land of Ten Thousand Smiles!
Uncle Sam should speak up, President Obama, and support the current Thai Administration, despite its faults and failures. The alternative would be worse for everyone.