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Thailand: How the cops failed a tortured girl from Myanmar

A maimed 12-year-old mishandled by police
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An image published by Daily News, a Thai-language outlet, of a 12-year-old from Myanmar who was allegedly kidnapped and forced to work for a Thai couple under torturous conditions for five years. (Screengrab)

Old-school newspaper editors call it the "breakfast test."

If an image is vile enough to cause readers to upchuck into their cereal while perusing the paper, it doesn't make the front page.

Well, I hope you're not eating breakfast.

This is the full photo, taken in a rural Thai police station, of a 12-year-old girl -- shirtless and pigtailed -- facing away from the camera. Her back has been boiled to the raw meat. She's surrounded by grown men taking snapshots and it appears she's being examined by a cop.

As the Thai-language "Daily News" reports, the girl hails from the persecuted Karen ethnic group in Myanmar. She's reportedly told police that a Thai couple kidnapped her, forced her tend to their house pets like a slave and tortured her with boiling water. As she told the Daily News, it was "like falling into hell."

For the full details of this sickening saga, I defer to a Thai writer who blogs in English, Kaewmala, who has posted a lengthy account on the Web site Asian Correspondent. Her excellent post explains how this case is reverberating throughout Thailand.

Instead, I choose to focus specifically on Thailand's police.

Last year, GlobalPost published "Seafood Slavery," my investigation into migrants (mostly from Myanmar) duped into servitude on filthy fishing trawlers. As with this girl, those victims were failed by Thailand's police. 

A pertinent quote from the series:

The accounts of former captives portray local police as vultures, not liberators. “The Thai government must address the fact that most Thai police at local and provincial levels are predators of migrants,” said Phil Robertson, the Bangkok-based deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division.

“Let me use that word clearly,” Robertson said. “Predators. Who will extort and abuse migrants. If a migrant goes to make a report at the local police station, they will not be listened to and, in fact, will likely be arrested.”

Three years ago, this girl slipped away and made her way to the police.

They reportedly returned her to her captors.

There she remained for two more years. When she finally got up the nerve to escape once more, the Daily News reports, she was coerced by local villagers to try her luck with the cops once again.

She's now safe in a government shelter. The couple face serious charges.

But this photo reveals that, while in the hands of the police, she was brought out -- topless and scarred -- before grown men with cameras and inquisitive cops.

A little girl, failed once again, by the police.

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Like? Unfriend? Message? At one homeless shelter, New Delhi street kids use Facebook to live vicariously -- with invented identities. (SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Weird wide web?  Definitely.

The Globe and Mail's Stephanie Nolen reports that India's savvy street kids have taken to Facebook to make new friends -- and new identities.

Yep. It sounds like a scam. But it's not. These are ambitious young homeless kids with big dreams. And they're practicing on Facebook. Here's Nolen:


Thailand up in arms over Saturday Night Live

Culture czar fears Thailand's reputation in peril after a sketch about the Rosetta Stone and sex tourism.
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A screen grab from a Saturday Night Live sketch depicting American men using "Rosetta Stone" language software to study Thai in advance of sex tours. Thailand's Ministry of Culture wants U.S. assistance in removing the video from all Web sites. (YouTube) (YouTube)

NBC's "Saturday Night Live" has aired a throwaway sketch about American losers using Rosetta Stone language software to study Thai.

Why Thai? So they can travel to Thailand and parlay with prostitutes.

I shouldn't know about this video. I stopped watching SNL in eighth grade. But thanks to Thailand's stuffy Ministry of Culture -- forever at war with those who might darken Thailand's image -- the video is circulating through Thai social media and the Thai-language press.

The ministry is aghast that the video depicts Thailand as "a source for sexual services," the TV outlet Thai PBS reports. And as Thailand's largest newspaper (Thai Rath) reports, the ministry plans to file a complaint with the U.S. embassy with hopes that the American government will rid this sketch from the Web.

The sketch's premise is actually quite promising. But the execution is hacky and mediocre at best. You can imagine how it unfolds: a series of dumpy creeps like this guy pore over Thai phrases such as "How much?" and "Is that for the whole night?" And, of course, there's an unoriginal zinger about ping pong balls.

I'm left thinking that far funnier sketch comedy shows -- like this one -- could have twisted this concept into something obscenely hilarious.

In complaining to the U.S. embassy, Thailand's culture ministry is propagating the same misguided beliefs we saw during the "Innocence of Muslims" protests -- that the American government is in the business of ridding the Web of shlocky online videos deemed offensive.

The U.S. government isn't going to take that route. So here's an idea for any Thais intent on a rebuttal.

Film a Rosetta Stone parody of misfit Thais learning English.

Why English? So they can fly to America and purchase assault rifles.


Inside Baseball: Why Nandy's mistake matters

An Indian sociologist's remarks on caste and corruption should shine a light on stereotypes
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Mad or what? Sociologist ignited a firestorm by suggesting that India's lower castes are responsible for most of the country's corruption. (AFP/Getty Images)

When the inside baseball of Indian politics makes it to the pages of the New York Times and the website of the New Yorker, it's time to weigh in. Leaving the background to the hyperlinks, here's my take:

Indian sociologist Ashis Nandy's remarks at Jaipur, and his later clarification, are not important simply because the attempt to prosecute him for insulting Indians from lower castes represents yet another attack on freedom of speech in the name of “sensitivity,” as Manu Joseph aptly lampoons in the New York Times and Basharat Peer ably explains for the New Yorker.

The main issue is the content of his statement, which sneakily confirms as “fact” a widely held public perception for which there is no hard evidence, and, in truth, seems patently false based on common sense.

The statement in question?

“It is a fact that most of the corrupt come from the OBCs and the Scheduled Castes and now increasingly Scheduled Tribes and as long as this is the case, Indian republic will survive.”

Much has been made of the context for that statement, which you can read in full here. But in my reading of it nothing undercuts the essential assertion.

Nandy is sincere and sympathetic. He is saying that the corruption of India's lower castes is justified, even desirable. And Nandy admits that corruption of a kind is common among the elites. But it's interesting, to say the least, that he compares the assistance of an old boys' network in getting into Oxford or Harvard to the “millions of rupees” amassed by “the only unrecognized billionaire in India today” Madhu Koda – which were allegedly earned through illegal manipulation of the mining laws and perhaps selling his support, by turns, to the Bharatiya Janata Party and later the Congress. (So much for the context).

Nevertheless, whether Nandy means well or not is immaterial. So is whether or not he suffers from some unwitting prejudices, even as he thinks he is being radical. The most important thing here is that he claims something as “fact” for which he offers no evidence and that he cannot support. Namely, he says that most of the corruption in India can now be attributed to the lower castes, which comprise the mid-level Other Backward Classes (OBCs) and the formerly untouchable Dalits or Scheduled Castes. (Yes, there's also the Scheduled Tribes, but only so much inside baseball for one blog post).

This is a widely held perception that I suggest is based solely on a handful of high-profile prosecutions: the notorious “fodder scam” case against Bihar's Lalu Prasad Yadav, the “Taj corridor scam” case against Uttar Pradesh's Kumari Mayawati and, more recently, the “2G telecom spectrum scam” case against former telecom minister Andimuthu Raja.

That's called “believing is seeing” – you only process the evidence that suits your preconceptions, if you bother with evidence at all.  Surely there were corruption cases against high-caste Indians as well.  And if they didn't generate as much heat, one might say with equal authority that Mayawati & co were targeted for serious criminal investigations, and the others ignored, precisely because of their respective castes.


Ukrainian woman throws sauerkraut at Russian politician

Shouting "Ukrainophobe!," an angry woman seasons insults with sour cabbage.
Food often surfaces in political debate in Ukraine. Here, security personnel protect with umbrellas Speaker of Ukraine's parliament Volodymyr Lytvyn during a fight at a parliament sitting in Kiev on April 27, 2010. Smoke bombs and eggs were thrown as Ukraine's parliament ratified a bitterly controversial deal with Russia extending the lease of a key naval base. (SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Sour cabbage takes center stage in Ukraine.

Not everyone likes big boobs — for example, North Korea

North Korea's outlier status extends to feminine beauty.
Large breasts are no asset in North Korea, a South Korean paper reports today. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
No love for well-endowed women in North Korea.

Vietnam's execution cocktail dilemma

Firing squads are out. Injections are in. But who'll supply the poison?
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Nguyen Thi Ha, aunt of Ho Thanh Tung, one of six defendants sentenced to death, sits crying next to her grand-son outside Ho Chi Minh-City's Court where the judge announced the sentences of the country's biggest ever corruption scandal, June 5, 2003. (HOANG DINH NAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Like many of its Communist brethren, Vietnam enforces the death penalty. The European Union abhors it.

This is a dilemma for Hanoi, which wants to use lethal injection drugs on its 500-plus prisoners on death row. Germany is a major supplier of sodium thiopental, a standard execution drug that's also used to induce anesthesia. But modern European mores dictate that enabling capital punishment is unethical and that Vietnam is unfit to receive the drug.

So, as the BBC and many other outlets are reporting, Vietnam now intends to create "domestic poisons" that will end the lives of its death row inmates.

Vietnam doesn't profess to care much about its death row inmates' condition. There's a reason Vietnam is suddenly seeking lethal drugs: last year, the government opted to quit using firing squads because it worried about the psychological toll on the shooters, not the anguish of the executed.

Those bound for execution — many of them drug traffickers — are reviled as "the seeders of white death to society," according to this excellent series on Vietnam's firing squads by the outlet Tuoi Tre. As Tuoi Tre uncovered, the firing squad was typically treated to an "alcohol-fueled party so that they could air their grievances and relieve their minds before going home."

Lethal injections are certainly easier on those tasked with carrying out state executions. But whether Vietnam's homegrown death cocktail will prove as painless to the executed as sodium thiopental — or offer a more painful death experience — remains to be seen. If it's the latter, the EU ban may inadvertently play a role in making the capital punishment system it disdains just a touch less humane.


China censors Cloud Atlas

Authority claims Chinese audience wanted more of a "popcorn movie," whatever that means.
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Actor Tom Hanks attends the "Cloud Atlas" photocall during the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival on September 9, 2012 in Canada. (Jemal Countess/AFP/Getty Images)
China chops out 23% of "Cloud Atlas."

Changing the rhetoric from gun control to gun insurance

Could the NRA's own tactics be used against them?
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Jonathan Schwartz, a salesman at the National Armory gun store, helps Reese Magnant as he looks to buy a National Armory AR-15 Battle Entry Assault Rifle on January 16, 2013 in Pompano Beach, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Could the NRA's own tactics be used against them?

Man dies after pet dog accidentally runs him over

A 68-year-old Florida man has died after pet Boxer accidentally ran him over in a freak accident.
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A pet Boxer dog accidentally ran over and killed a 68-year-old Florida man Monday, in what police deemed a freak accident. (Wikimedia commons)
A 68-year-old Florida man has died after a pet Boxer ran him over in a freak accident, the Florida Highway Patrol has confirmed.