"I've heard that Thailand is one of the most beautiful countries in the world," someone said at a reading I did recently. "Would you recommend going there?" Well, it is indeed gorgeous, and 'tis the season: Each spring, millions of tourists, hundreds of thousands of them Americans, rush Thailand like so many Leonardo DiCaprios. Last year, the country's massive tourism sector took a hit when people were scared off by political instability and swine flu. And though Thailand's Tourism Authority expects growth of up to 10 percent—some 15 million visitors—in 2010, perhaps it's time vacationers again ignore the package deals and student discounts to protest the Royal Thai Government's insistence on trying to get innocent civilians and babies killed.
Though you've undoubtedly heard criticism of the country's failure to curb sex trafficking and child prostitution, you may not know that Thailand is actively terrorizing some of the world's most vulnerable people: refugees. Unfortunately for Thailand, it's neighbor to plenty of conflict-ridden countries, like Vietnam, Laos, and Burma. Unfortunately for the people fleeing those countries, Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, so it doesn't have to recognize and protect refugees if it doesn't wanna. And, well, it doesn't wanna. Granted, I have a huge hard-on for refugee causes, particularly re Southeast Asia, but anyone would find the country's behavior in the last few months appalling.
1. In late December, the Thai army started trucking thousands of ethnic Hmong refugees back to Laos, many of them against their will, despite concerns that they'd be persecuted when they got there. The reason that's a possibility, let's not forget, would be that the Hmong fought and died on the side of the United States in the Laos edition of the War on Communism, which we lost. But since refugees in Thailand aren't recognized as "refugees," they are treated as illegal immigrants: The United Nations can be prevented from offering them assistance, and they can at any time be deported back to whatever horror they fled. This was not the first time Thailand took such action against the Hmong.