WTF Friday, 9/19/2014

You know what is SUCH a drag? When you’re diligently trying to “bring back happiness” to your nation and interfering foreigners keep interrupting with pesky human rights concerns.

The latest annoyance for Thailand’s ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) comes via Amnesty International. Their report, “Attitude Adjustment: 100 Days Under Martial Law“, is a blistering indictment of the climate of fear and repression of political rights that has prevailed since the military took power in May. The NCPO, which has previously shown that it is quite concerned about its image, categorically denied the allegations last week.

So obviously, when academics at Thammasat University in Bangkok held a special seminar yesterday on “The Decline of Dictatorships in Foreign Countries” the regime had no choice but to round up the panelists and the student organizers and bring them down to the police station for (yes, you guessed it) an “attitude adjustment” session. That’ll show those judgy Amnesty researchers, right?

Cambodian Dissident Mam Sonando Sentenced to 20 Years for No Good Reason

Back in July I reported on the arrest of Beehive Radio owner and political activist, Mam Sonando. In an absurd abuse of legal process, Sonando was charged with participating in an insurrection and inciting armed rebellion following his public support of villagers protesting their eviction from land the Cambodian government has awarded to a Russian company, Casotim. In May, the government’s attempt to forcibly remove the villagers led to the fatal shooting of an unarmed 14 year old girl. Rather than investigating the girl’s death or issuing an apology, the government chose to double down on its repressive tactics, characterizing the protests as a secession attempt and accusing critics of the crackdown of instigating a rebellion.

Yesterday, Judge Chaing Sinat of the Phnom Penh Municipal Court handed down a 20 year sentence in Sonando’s case, prompting outcry from local NGOsinternational organizations, and donor governments, and demonstrating once again the dismaying complicity of Cambodia’s judiciary in the abuses of the Hun Sen regime.

WTF Friday, 2/18/2012

Biggest merger since peanut butter and jelly? I think we all saw both these coming.

I’ve thought about this a lot so I’m glad someone decided to write about it.

I’ll leave you all with a (rare) happy ending this week. We got a tip from Kim Yi Dionne earlier today about Ralph Kasambara, a political prisoner in Malawi who was being held in what are terrifyingly called “condemned cells.” Deets are here. But, in the time from when we got the tip to now, “a Judge has issued a High Court Order for the immediate release of Ralph.” Now, let’s not forget to knock on wood, but this actually sounds like good news. Don’t get used to it…

WTF Friday 2/11/11

All this revolution stuff has got Joe Biden “fired up” to bring us a piping fresh, hot metaphor: “All of this began when a fruit vendor in Tunisia, fed up with an indignity of a corrupt government and a stagnant economy literally set himself on fire, and in doing so ignited the passions of millions and millions of people throughout that region.” Keep bringin the heat, guys.

For all you gossip-hounds, here are some autocrats that America is chill with.

Uh, thanks but no thanks, China. Clearly I’m not the only one who prefers my tomato paste garden-fresh.

WTF Friday, 1/14/2011

So a quick breakdown of the guest list for Iran’s nuclear tour. The EU said no last week, while Britain, France, and Germany were never invited (awkward), nor was the U.S. (duh). China and Russia have declined (kinda rude honestly). Now only envoys representing “developing” countries such as Cuba, Egypt, the Arab League, Syria, and Venezuela (Iran’s bff’s) are expected to attend, while there seems to be no word yet on Turkey and Brazil (waiting to see if they get invited to something better).

“Well if the DR can do it, why can’t we?” The U.S. getting ready to resume deportations of Haitian immigrants.

The Tunisian government has declared a state of emergency amidst protest. A curfew has been imposed, people cannot gather in groups bigger then 3 in the open and security forces can open fire on those not obeying orders. The 1,800 tourists gathering at the airport to be whisked away by Thomas Cook may wanna divide themselves into 600 groups.

WTF Friday, 7/30/10

  • Found this list of dictator’s favorite movies. Pretty entertaining but I wish they would elaborate on Kim Jong-Il’s love for Barbara Streisand. Can’t leave me hanging on that! Also: Stalin tried to kill John Wayne?!?
  • In a case of art imitating life, Wyclef Jean may run for President of Haiti. The fact that he has never really consistently lived in Haiti may be a roadblock, but if he is able to run, he is apparently, like, the most popular person in the country. He should take caution, though. His cousin and former bandmate, Pras Michel, once threatened to “personally assassinate” former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide if he were to return to Haiti after stealing public funds. Clef would do well to keep his hands out of the cookie jar…
  • Dmitry Medvedev has passed a law granting more power to the Federal Security Service, a successor to the KGB. Political analyst Yulia Latynina has stated that, “In case a drunken FSB officer is shooting at you – and there have been many such cases – you might end up getting jailed 15 days for merely trying to escape.” It is unclear from the article how true this could be, but what is clear is that Vladimir Putin can pull off a mean Judo throw.
  • And for your viewing pleasure, here’s the terrifying music video for “Another Brick in the Wall (Hey Ayatollah, Leave Those Kids Alone).” I smell a hit.

WTF Friday, 4/9/10

  • “Let’s not be sensational, guys. Let’s just go to the statistically hungriest place in the world and take pictures of emaciated babies. Because as Rakiya Omaar and Alex de Waal say, Photogenic starving children are hard to find,’ but this has got to increase our odds.”

  • In case you haven’t heard (I know you have), protests resulting in violence have forced Kyrgyzstan President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, to flee the capital. Because the U.S. apparently has a military base there, the protest seems to have caused many Americans to “hear of” Kyrgyzstan. No word if this has affected American’s ability to pronounce Kyrgyzstan, spell Kyrgyzstan, or find Kyrgyzstan on a map. Will follow these stories as they progress.

  • Another one bites the dust as the Umma party, one of the main opposition parties in Sudan, has said that it will boycott the upcoming elections. As the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement has said it will only contest in the South, this leaves only minor parties to oppose in the North. What gives? Maybe these guys just need some encouraging words from a mock inspirational poster with a catch phrase from a Tim Allen movie from 1999. Got it. I think we can salvage this election, yet.
  • Gawker had two good pieces on Kim Jong-Il this past week. One focuses on an LA Times article about a new book by his former personal shopper. The man, Kim Jong Ryul, describes purchasing luxury goods such as Benz’s, weapons, and some Star Trek futuristic-type thing called a ‘mass spectrometer’ that could be used to identify uranium and plutonium, or even the dreaded protomatter. Gawker also highlights some made-up report from Rodong Sinmun, the North Korean Communist newspaper, that the Dear/Supreme/Great Leader’s suit is becoming a global fashion trend. Talk about a one-person trend story. Damn, if Gawker keeps running Kim Jong-Il stories through the snark machine, I may be out of an (unpaid) job.

Some Things Never Change

Another disastrous year for Zimbabwe, another absurdly over-the-top birthday party for Robert Mugabe.


Zimbabwe’s apparent president-for-life turned 85 today. According to the Associated Press, “[l]avish celebrations are scheduled for next Saturday for ruling party faithful.” Apparently, there will be vast quantities of champagne and caviar and 500 donated (commandeered) cattle will be slaughtered. Sounds even better than last year’s party,which cost $3 trillion (also commandeered) Zimbabwean dollars (current market value: two peanut shells and an unbent paperclip).

On top of everything else, doesn’t it just seem kind of in poor taste for him to live more than twice as long as the average life expectancy in his country? I mean, that’s like stealing your constituents’ money to throw a ridiculously extravagant fancy dress party at which you will waste a whole bunch of food while 7 million of them are starving to death. Oh wait.

I’ll say this for the man, he never stops trying to outdo himself. He may be old, but he just keeps giving it his all. I think somebody’s gunning for Parade Magazine’s Worst Dictator of 2009…

*Photo is from the NYTimes 2007 coverage of Mugabe’s 83rd birthday.

"I Will Never Never Never [Never Never Never Never Never...] Surrender"

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer announced yesterday that U.S. policy on Zimbabwe has changed: The U.S. no longer supports the worst idea of 2008, namely Zimbabwe’s “power-sharing” government.

Insisting that the policy change had nothing to do with Mugabe calling her a “little girl” last week (alright, she didn’t actually mention that), Frazer told reporters in South Africa that Mugabe has “lost it” and that “fresh elections are necessary but not possible under the current environment.”
The U.S. will now work to encourage African leaders to convince Mugabe to step down.

Mugabe responded by offering us all a rare glimpse into the inner monologue of a paranoid lunatic. He ranted (and this is verbatim): “They now want to topple the Mugabe government. Mugabe must go because Bush is going. Zimbabweans will refuse that one of their sons must accompany Bush to his political death. Is it a ritual now that Bush with his political death must be accompanied by some African from Zimbabwe, and that African must be the leader himself, and that leader is Mugabe?” He also continues to insist that the cholera crisis doesn’t exist and that nationalizing Zimbabwe’s banks and mines is a super awesome idea.

But it’s not all bad news.* Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) revealed today that Zimbabwe has earned a coveted spot on the “Top Ten Humanitarian Crises of 2008” list. Zimbabwe owes its strong finish to the food shortages affecting half of the population and a devastating cholera outbreak that is expected to worsen as the rainy season continues. Way to go, Zimbabwe!

*It is all bad news.

**Awesome cartoon from The Economist.

I’m Just a Bill…

Last week Senators Feingold and Leahy introduced the “Support for Democracy and Human Rights in Ethiopia Act of 2008.” It highlights the Ethiopian security forces’ use of violence against political opposition and criticizes a proposed NGO law that would “create a complex web of onerous bureaucratic hurdles, draconian criminal penalties, and intrusive powers of surveillance that would further decrease the political space available for civil society activities.”

The bill, described as “[a] bill to reaffirm United States objectives in Ethiopia and encourage critical democratic and humanitarian principles and practices, and for other purposes,” represents the latest phase in a protracted effort to get Ethiopian human rights legislation passed by Congress. Word on the street (and by “street” I mean “system of tubes”) is that the Ethiopian government paid DLA Piper a hefty sum to derail a previous incarnation of the bill.

One-man-diaspora and “13th Most Influential Ethiopian of the Year” Professor Alemayehu G. Mariam has played an active role in pushing for Congressional censure of the human rights violations perpetrated in his home country. He writes about the new bill in yesterday’s issue of the Ethiopian Review.

Professor Alemayehu’s piece offers a quick overview of the U.S. legislative process for outsiders and ten “Lessons Learned” for future lobbying efforts. However, the high point is his imagined conversation between an Ethiopian government functionary and a U.S. senator following the introduction of the bill, which concludes:


Apparatchik: “Senator, you know we don’t care about any law passed in Congress. It’s is not going to make one ounce of difference to us. We’ll just ignore it. We don’t need you measly $20 million. You can keep it. We’ll do something. I don’t know. Just something.”

Senator: “So why are you whining? If is not going to make a damn bit of difference to you, why are you so worked up? Let it go, man! Forget about it! Go with the flow. Roll with the punches, dude! Take it easy! Chill!”

Apparatchik: “Oh, man!”

If only…