Tweet of the Day: Commemorating the White House Burning, Sorry!

— Domani Spero
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Diplopundit’ ]

 

First the good news!  The British diplomats in D.C. enjoy a smokin’ good barbecue.  Apparently, they had a  a ‘White House BBQ’ to mark the 200th anniversary of a ‘rather unfortunate event in UK/US relations.’   The embassy even had a huge White House cake to commemorate the burning. Then tweeted about it:

 

In related news, the embassy’s social media ninjas in D.C. shortly thereafter had to apologize for their tweet. It looks like some in the Twitterverse did not appreciate the joke even if it came 200 years later with cake.  Some complained that this was  bad form, some blamed David Cameron.  No, no one has thought of blaming the Queen yet.

We hope they’re not going to fire the intern. Anyone from Foggy Bottom attended the barbecue?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

US Embassy Bangkok Issues Security Message on Thailand Protests

— Domani Spero

The US Embassy in Bangkok issued a security message to U.S. citizens in the country concerning the mass protests  in the capital city. BBC News Bangkok reports that today is the eighth day of protests aimed at unseating Yingluck Shinawatra, who became Prime Minister of Thailand following the 2011 general election.  Four people have reportedly died and dozens have been injured in the civil unrest that shows no sign of abating.

Domestic political activists in Thailand are holding large demonstrations at several sites throughout Bangkok. These demonstrations may continue in the coming days, including at several Thai government facilities in areas within and outside of Central Bangkok.

Violence, including gunshots, was reported on the night of November 30/morning of December 1st in the area of Ramkhamhaeng University in the Bang Kapi district northeast of Central Bangkok. At least two persons have been reported killed and several dozen have been reported injured. Police have used tear gas and other measures to protect government facilities at several locations in Bangkok.

Although the Thai government has not implemented a curfew, senior officials have recommended that residents remain at home from 10:00 p.m. Dec 1 through 5:00 a.m. Dec 2.

The U.S. Embassy in Bangkok will be open on Monday as usual. Please check the Embassy’s web page and Twitter feed for updates.

Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations. Be alert and aware of your surroundings and pay attention to local news media reports.

The UKFCO’s current Travel Advice on Thailand notes that “on 25 November the authorities in Thailand implemented the Internal Security Act in all districts of Bangkok and Nonthaburi as well as the Bang Phli district of Samut Prakan and the Lat Lum Kaeo district of Pathum Thani, which will lead to an increased security presence and possible disruption to traffic.”

Previous anti-government protests in Thailand occurred in March, April, and May 2010 which resulted in the occupation of  Bangkok’s business district. The government’s operation to clear the protesters led to multiple deaths and injuries, property destruction, and a closure of the embassy for over a week.  According to a 2010 report, the unrest also resulted in the  relocation of embassy personnel from residences close to the protest zone, issuance of a travel warning, and granting of authorized departure for family members.

The embassy estimates that regional services-related work occupies 51 percent of its personnel. The 2010 inspection report of US Embassy Bangkok notes that the country team at Embassy Bangkok is composed of representatives from 40 U.S. Government executive branch agencies and departments, plus one legislative branch agency.   The US Embassy in Bangkok has also doubled in size in the last 10 years largely due to the concentration of regional services in Bangkok.  At the time of the inspection there were almost 2,000 employees with US Mission Thailand, including local nationals and U.S. local hire.  The report cautioned that “The trend toward regionalization in Bangkok may have reached its limit, as its advantage as a politically stable location for regional operations is diminishing with Thailand’s rapidly evolving political situation.”

Prolonged protests have the potential to impact regional support on finance, payroll (for as many as 67 embassies), human resources,  regional training, customer services, as well as courier services and engineering services.  No State Department Travel Warning or Travel Alert has been issued as of this writing.

* * *

Snapshot: Highest Level of Youth Unemployment in the World – Middle East & North Africa

Via The Arab Spring and economic transition: two years on by Harry Quilter-Pinner (FCO) and Graham Symons (DFID):

“The Arab Spring, which led to a series of political changes in North Africa and the Middle East, was in part caused by economic underperformance and exclusion. The region has historically been marred by high levels of inequality and unemployment. MENA has the highest level of youth unemployment in the world (figure 1), whilst female labour participation (at 25%) is also the world’s worst. Significant state (and in some cases military) involvement in the economy has constrained private sector financing and growth (figure 2), and created large fiscal deficits.”

Screen Shot 2013-07-21

 

 

 

 

 

 

British Foreign Service Tackles Bizarre Requests: Monkey, Tattoo, Online Love and More

In 2012, Brits overseas asked their Foreign Office help in erecting a new chicken coop at a garden in Greece, help in finding false teeth, where to look for a dog-minder, help checking on livestock, help with plastic surgery unhappiness, and so on and so forth.

See our post:  UKFCO: Straight Talk on Consular Work, and Consuls Don’t Do Chicken Coops, All right?

On May 16th, the UKFCO released some more unusual requests for 2012/2013:

Via the UKFCO:

Silencing a noisy cockerel, supplying Olympic tickets and providing contact details for Sir Paul McCartney’s wife were among the most unusual requests to British posts abroad in 2012/13, according to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). These are often good natured but can take valuable time away from helping those in genuine distress.

Over the last year, the FCO handled more than a million consular enquiries and supported some 52,135 British nationals in difficulty abroad.* However, our consular staff overseas continue to receive a number of enquiries that they simply cannot provide assistance for.
[…]
Head of the Contact Centre, Steve Jones, said:

Our aim is to help staff at posts concentrate on what is important but some of the enquiries we received from British nationals last year were bizarre to say the least – for example, one customer contacted us to ask if we could provide the name of the watch that the Royal Navy sailors wore between the years 1942-1955.

Other inquiries received by FCO staff include:

  • A man who required hospital treatment in Cambodia when a monkey dislodged a stone that hit him demanded help getting compensation and wanted assurance that it would not happen again
  • A man asked FCO staff in Rome to translate a phrase for a tattoo that he wanted
  • Consular staff in Beijing were asked to help a woman who had bought a pair of football boots that were ‘Made in China’ but were poor quality
  • A woman requested that consular staff in Tel Aviv order her husband to get fit and eat healthily so that they could have children
  • Consular staff in Kuala Lumpur were asked if the FCO could help pay to send their children to an International School
  • A man asked consular staff in Stockholm to check the credentials of a woman whom he had met online
  • A man asked the Consulate in Montreal for information to settle a £1,000 wager on the colour of the British passport
  • A number of our staff across the world have been asked for the best place to watch the football
  • A number of British Consulates have been asked to book hotels or to advise on where to watch the football

The examples listed above indicate that some people do not know how the FCO can (and cannot) help Brits abroad. Recent research shows that 78% of people wrongly think the FCO could get them out of jail if arrested, and nearly half of 16-24 year-olds do not know what an Embassy or Consulate does.

Read in full FCO: “No sir, we cannot translate your tattoo for you”.

Since we started paying attention, this is the second year that the FCO has released such a list.  The list is bizarre and funny but at least once a year, the FCO tries to educate the British public about consular work, and what the consular staff can/cannot do for its citizens overseas.   We’re still waiting for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs to release its own list.

 

— DS