US Embassy Bangkok Celebrates Songkran Festival

Posted: 2:55 am ET
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U.S. Embassy Bangkok put out a video of its Songkran festivities with Ambassador Glyn Davies asking a few American officers to sample some Thai “summer foods.”

 

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Snapshot: Number of “T” Visa Applications, FY2005-2014

Posted: 12:24 am EDT
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Via DHS/OIG:

Congress passed the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (VTVPA) of 2000 (Pub. L. 106-386). Among other provisions, the Act created the T nonimmigrant status (T visa) to provide temporary immigration benefits to foreign nationals and aliens who are victims of severe forms of trafficking in persons.  To be eligible for a T visa, victims must (a) be in the United States on account of trafficking; (b) face extreme hardship involving unusual and severe harm if removed; and (c) with two exceptions, comply with reasonable requests for assistance from law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of the acts of trafficking.

USCIS data on trafficking victims were limited to foreign national victims who had applied for T or U nonimmigrant status. This included individuals who had entered the United States legally as visitors, temporary workers, or others without lawful status.8 According to USCIS data, fewer than 1,000 foreign national victims applied for T visas each year from 2005 to 2014. Figure 3 shows a steady increase in T visa applications for this timeframe. However, this number remains small in comparison with the estimated hundreds of thousands of human trafficking victims in the United States, and is far below the 5,000 T visas that Congress sets aside for human trafficking victims every year.

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As depicted in table 1, our analysis of USCIS data from October 1, 2005, through September 2, 2014, showed that 3 percent of T visa applicants were minors while 61 percent were between 30 and 49 years old. T visa applicants were evenly divided by marital status and almost equally divided in terms of gender. Further, 41 percent of T visa applicants were from three Asian countries. The Philippines had the highest number of applicants (20 percent), followed by Mexico with 16 percent. Most T visa applicants did not report the method by which they entered the United States, although 10 percent self- reported they had no lawful status at the time of application. While the information pertains only to those victims who applied for T visa status, it does shed some light on the characteristics of foreign national victims and their origins, and could be useful in identifying human trafficking activity.

 

US Embassy Thailand: Bangkok Police Launch Inquiry Into Ambassador Davies’ Speech. Huh?

Posted: 3:21 am EDT
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On November 28, Ambassador Glyn T. Davies presented his credentials to the Crown Prince on Bangkok.

Previously, Ambassador Davies gave a talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand on Nov. 24. A few days later, Ambassador Davies got his first protest in Bangkok (see US Embassy Thailand: Ambassador Glyn Davies’ Talk Sparks Protest in Bangkok).

Apparently the Bangkok police department has now launched an inquiry into “whether a controversial speech by US ambassador Glyn T Davies condemning long prison sentences for lese majeste convictions violated Thailand’s royal defamation.”

 

 

In related news, the British Ambassador to Thailand Mark Kent, tweeted this:

According to Bangkok Post, the government has also “slammed the British ambassador’s comments “supporting law-breakers” and is considering whether to summon him for talks.” Tsk! Tsk!

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US Embassy Thailand: Ambassador Glyn Davies’ Talk Sparks Protest in Bangkok

Posted: 1:22 am EDT
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The US Ambassador to Thailand Glyn T. Davies was nominated by President Obama on April 14, 2015, confirmed by the Senate on August 5, and sworn in on September 14, 2015.  A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Ambassador Davies also served as the Permanent Representative of the United States to the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Office in Vienna from June 2009 until November 2011.  He previously served as the Special Representative of the U.S. Secretary of State for North Korea Policy from January 2012 to November 2014.  Since his arrival in Thailand in September, he has traveled and acquainted himself with his host country.  Here’s Ambassador Davies during a local celebration:

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On November 23 Ambassador and Mrs. Davies celebrated their first Loy Krathong with Thai and American staff. The festival featured traditional Thai dances, Thai games, krathong making contests, in addition, to Ambassador and Mrs. Davies participating in a “ram wong” with other members of the Embassy community.

On Nov. 24, Ambassador Davies gave a talk at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club ofThailand. As of this writing, we have been unable to locate the transcript of Ambassador Davies’ talk at the FCCT.

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Ambassador Davies quickly became a target of a protest for his recent comments on the lese majeste law:

The BBC News explained Thailand’s lese majeste laws here. Al Jazeera notes that since taking power in May 2014, Thailand’s military government has come under scrutiny for their heavy-handed application of a decades-old law written to protect the Thai royal family.

The Asian Observer has posted a lengthy list of the lese majeste charges filed since 2007.  An Asia One report  in late 2014 says that the Thai Police have dealt with more than 10,000 cases of lese majeste in recent years.

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D/Secretary Blinken Swears-in Glyn Davies as U.S. Ambassador to Thailand

Posted: 2:02 am EDT
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Certificate of Competency via State/HR – Davies, Glyn T. – Kingdon of Thailand – April 2015

The White House released the following bio when it announced the nomination on April 13, 2015:

Glyn Townsend Davies, a career member of the Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is currently a Senior Advisor in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State, a position he has held since 2014.  Prior to that, he was Special Representative for North Korea Policy from 2012 to 2014.  From 2009 to 2012, he served as the United States Representative to the Vienna Office of the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency.  Mr. Davies served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 2006 to 2009.  Mr. Davies was a Senior Advisor at the Foreign Service Institute’s Leadership and Management School from 2005 to 2006, Acting Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in 2005, Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs from 2004 to 2005, and Political Director for the U.S. Presidency of the G-8 from 2003 to 2004.  From 1999 to 2003, he served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in London, United Kingdom.  Mr. Davies was Executive Secretary of the National Security Council staff from 1997 to 1999, State Department Deputy Spokesman and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs from 1995 to 1997, and Director of the State Department Operations Center from 1992 to 1994.  His earlier assignments include posts in Australia, France, and Zaire.

Mr. Davies received a B.S.F.S. from Georgetown University and an M.S. from the National Defense University.

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Embassies Kabul and Bangkok Issue Security Message on Potential CIA Report Fallout

— Domani Spero
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Below is a follow-up to out blogpost last night (see Impending Release of CIA Torture Report Prompts Embassy Security Review (Again). As of 7:15 am PST, Embassy Kabul appears to be the only post carrying this security message per updates via OSAC:

U.S. citizens in Afghanistan should be aware that release of declassified versions of the executive summary, findings, and conclusions of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s study on the CIA’s Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation program could prompt anti-U.S. protests and violence against U.S. interests, including private U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens should pay attention to their surroundings and take appropriate safety precautions, including avoiding demonstrations or confrontational situations.

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The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok has now released a similar message:

U.S. citizens in Thailand should be aware that release of declassified versions of the executive summary, findings, and conclusions of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s report of the CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program could prompt anti-U.S. protests and violence against U.S. interests, including private U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens should pay attention to their surroundings and take appropriate safety precautions, including avoiding demonstrations or confrontational situations.

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Tweet of the Day: Amb @KristieKenney Announces Departure

— Domani Spero
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Ambassador Kenney was nominated on July 19, 2010 by President Barack Obama to be the US Ambassador to the Royal Kingdom of Thailand. She was confirmed by the United States Senate on September 29, 2010.  She assumed charge of the US Embassy in Bangkok in January 2011. When she depart post next month, she’ll be a couple months short of a four year tour.

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Now This — A WH Petition to Remove Amb to Thailand Kristie Kenney For Twitter Selfies

— Domani Spero
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On May 24, 2014, somebody named T. D. from Garden Grove, CA created a White House petition asking the Obama Administration to remove Ambassador Kristie Kenney from her post in Thailand. Below is the purported justification for the petition:

 

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Our ambassadors serve at the pleasure of the president, but career ambassadors typically serve three years at their foreign posts. Sometimes, they’re extended for another year.  Ambassador Kenney has been in Bangkok since December 2010.  She is due for a reassignment not because of a petition but simply because that’s how the Foreign Service works.

We do not know Ambassador Kenney personally but we have followed her tenure in this blog and this seems not only unfair but steams from misunderstanding of an ambassador’s role.  Career ambassadors in particular are not rogue operators.  They do not originate an administration’s policy, they do not act on whims, they implement and defend the policy of the administration of the day and follow the instructions from the State Department. And when they can no longer do that, they quit as Ambassador Robert Ford did.

It looks like the petitioners were especially incensed by Ambassador Kenney’s  “never-ending Twitter selfies.” Are we proposing recalling our various ambassadors for conducting selfie diplomacy?  The thing is — ambassadors have marching orders for public engagement in social media. Some are more active and have better reach than others. @KristineKenney, one of the early adopters of Twitter among chiefs of mission currently has over 50K followers.  When Bush 43’s Karen Hughes talked about “a rapid response unit, ” Twitter was at its infancy.  Today, you have a chief of mission responding to rumors as quickly as you can say boo!

 

 

We looked at the ambassador’s timeline on Twitter, just because.  The recent selfies  had to do with  cotton and bagels, which may seem petty and all except that this is cotton USA and the bagels were from a partly US-owned business during American Restaurant Week in Bangkok.  We should note that economic diplomacy is the buzzword in Foggy Bottom — this includes not only in attracting direct private investment to the United States but also in helping to expand foreign markets for U.S. businesses.  In fact, State is proud to tout that it generates $150 billion in trade and even has a map that shows how the work of the Department benefits each U.S. State, and all for about 1% of the Federal budget.

So how can we fault her for these?

Photo via Instagram

Photo via Instagram

 

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In some places, commercial promotion becomes the main priority for chiefs of mission (see US Embassy Abu Dhabi: A+ for Commercial Promotion, “Below Average Scores on Every Leadership Category”).  And while this photo below is not a selfie but obtained via Flickr, note that we even promote U.S  beef in Africa.

U.S. Beef with Ambassador to Senegal Lewis Lukens

U.S. Beef with Ambassador to Senegal Lewis Lukens

 

The US Mission in Bangkok has about 10 social media platforms including Ambassador Kenney’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. Not sure what is its total reach like, but here’s a shoutout to its American Citizens Services @ACSBKK tweeting security updates, curfew reminders, as well as IRS, voting, and other relevant  and timely information to overseas Americans. No, we do not expect ACS anywhere to live-tweet a coup, good gracious!

 

 

We’re sure that our folks overseas, like most of us would probably like some quiet time to read a book or have a private dinner with family and friends. Instead — they’re promoting U.S. businesses because that’s part of the job.  Oh yeah, how would you like to be that guy promoting beef?

Whether the signature threshold in the WH petition is reached or not, Ambassador Kenney is expected to rotate out of Bangkok in the near future. We, however, imagine that the WH may opt to keep her at post for the full fourth year, precisely because of the petition. Thailand is a country of over 66 million people. Still, we do not think the WH would like to see a perceived precedence that a petition could unseat a president’s personal representative by way of a petition. But should this petition reach 100,000 signatures in 30 days, it is assured an official response from the Obama Administration.

Note that thousands of people petitioned the White House to “secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016.” It got an official response but sorry, we’re not gonna build a Death Star.

 

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Education USA: Where do you want to study? Las Vegas! With Marilyn Monroe?

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— Domani Spero

According to the   U.S. Department of Commerce international students contribute $24.7 billion to the U.S. economy, through their expenditures on tuition and living expenses. The Institute of International Education notes that “Higher education is among the United States’ top service sector exports, as international students provide revenue to the U.S. economy and individual host states for living expenses, including room and board, books and supplies, transportation, health insurance, support for accompanying family members, and other miscellaneous items.”

In 2008, the State Department issued 340,711 student visas (F1 visas for academic or language training program).  In 2012, the agency issued 486,900 student visas as well as 27,561 F2 visas for spouse/child of F1 visa holders. According to NAFSA, in 2012-2013 academic year, international students across the United States supported 313,000 jobs, a 6.2% increase in job support and creation.

It is no surprise then that our embassies and consulates overseas are working hard to attract foreign students to come to the United States to study. And while most of the videos we’ve seen have been sorta boring, a couple of missions have recently released YouTube videos that seems to be attracting attention.

Below is US Embassy Riyadh with Nawaf starting his journey to study in the United States. If you want to follow in his footsteps — and be more prepared — contact an EducationUSA advisor. Their advising services are free and available through the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh or the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah and Dhahran. Sign up for a pre-departure workshop at http://riyadh.usembassy.gov/education….” This is kind of an odd skit but it is getting a lot of views, currently at 254,866 273,668.

Update @8:17 PST:  The US Embassy in Saudi Arabia estimates that more than 100,000 Saudi students and their family members in the United States contribute roughly $6-7 billion to U.S. GDP.  The embassy told us that this video, made with a Saudi production house that produces Saudi Arabia’s most popular animated cartoon series is the second in its educational advising videos.  The first one received over 600,000 views. “Humor doesn’t always translate easily across cultures.  We ourselves don’t understand the elephant joke, but every Saudi we’ve tested it with falls out of their seat laughing so we left it in the video.” Apparently, since airing the series, visits to the embassy’s online educational advising resources have seen a 500% jump. “If elephant jokes and Marilyn Monroe is what it takes to get young Saudis interested in studying in the U.S., we’re happy with the results,”the embassy said.   Should be interesting to see how the spike in views translates into the number of Saudis getting an American education at Saudi government expense.

Here is one from from US Embassy in Bangkok with the staff showing off  their best school cheer in celebration of  Education Month.  Just debuted a couple days ago, the video currently has 1,655 views but they sure look like they’re having a lot of fun doing this!

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