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An open letter to US Ambassador Kenney

Dear Ms Kenney, I am an American. I know it's fashionable for some to bash America, because it's such a big target, like the Roman Empire during its heyday. Usually, I counter such bashing with (what I hope sounds like) sound reason.

As much as I love my country, two of its policies trouble me. One is relatively small and could be easily fixed: It's the policy of not giving refunds to foreigners who are turned down for visas. Is that a moneymaking gig for the embassy? I don't think so. That fee of several thousand baht should be refunded to any applicant who doesn't meet the criteria, with perhaps a limit of one application per person per six months. I was annoyed when fugitive from justice Mr Thaksin was granted a visa to visit the US, but that's a side issue.

The other "thorn in my craw" is in regard to DEA policies. It's no secret that America's DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) exerts massive pressure and lots of money to influence drug policy in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, DEA policy also causes dire harm. I'm referring to enforcing the death sentence for any person caught smuggling drugs.

As we know, there is only one legal recreational drug - alcohol. It's also clear there is massive lobbying by alcoholic-drink companies, to maintain it as the only legal drug. That's smart business: eliminate all the competition.

Alcohol is also the drug of choice used by those making and enforcing drug laws (Mr Chalerm, are you listening?). As if that's not enough, alcohol is the most harmful drug, when its cumulative affects are considered. Similarly, pharmaceutical drugs contribute to more harm and deaths than all illegal drugs combined. Whether pharma is more harmful than alcohol, is debatable, but both, individually, are more harmful than all illegal drugs combined.

Why, you may ask, am I asserting that DEA policy criminalises people, and causes their deaths? Here's why: It often happens that a man (usually a traveling African) will entice/cajole a gullible young woman in to carrying a package from one airport to another. Is the woman dumb? You could say so. Is being dumb and eager for quick money, grounds for killing someone? It is according to SE Asian officials, who are pressured by DEA to enforce draconian laws.

If someone makes a stupid mistake, such as taking a package to an airport, that person should be disciplined, perhaps harshly. But, put a not-so-bright girl in prison for the rest of her life? ....or have her executed? No. That's mean-spirited cruelty. That's something we would expect from Sharia law.

Have you, madam, ever made a dumb mistake when you were younger? I certainly made more than my share. Sometimes I got slapped in to shape or otherwise disciplined. But thank goodness I didn't get killed by SE Asian officialdom. Thank goodness I had fair-minded people deal with my mistakes, rather than DEA-influenced SE Asian officials who would hang me from the nearest tree.

The DEA is the same organization which spends millions of dollars each year convincing SE Asian officials that hemp is a dangerous drug. If you don't know what hemp is, I suggest you instruct your DEA staff members to google it. On second thought, don't ask DEA agents what hemp is, because they won't tell you the truth. Ask some well-informed fair-minded person instead. Then, after apprising what hemp is, tell me if you think it should still be used to criminalize people who grow it - to make rope from its fibers, or a highly nutritious breakfast cereal from its seed. P.S. hemp can't get you stoned, even if you smoke a trash barrel full. It's also a decent commercial crop in China, Canada, Australia, and half of Europe. Try telling that to a DEA agent, and he might have a brain aneurysm.

Ken Albertsen

American residing in Chiang Rai


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