Category Archives: Ethics, Law, Religion & Evolution

Guns, Violence and Roses in America: The Seven Years of the Obama’s Administration

Americans, we’ve come a long way. We have passed through stages and decades of exploitation, physical violence, annihilation, war, racial slavery, hate, racial segregation, power and control, military industrial complex, divide and conquer, The Industrial Revolution, exceptionalism, isolationalism, The Wall Street, NRA, Tea Party, Republican, Democrat, Federalist, Constitutionalist, The Bush’s Wars, The Clinton’s mayhem, The Occupy Movement, Police Violence, and now Trumphism. Americans are good people and we should not forget that. Some would correctly argue that we are still dancing to the drums of some of those periods or events listed above. But as a nation, we’ve come a long way and yet to make this nation great.

Yet, there are those among us willing to do significant harm to others and I don’t think religion is fundamental to that process unless we are spoon-fed with information by the media powered by political motives and selective bias in news reporting to influence us to think how “they” want us to think, act and behave. Humans by nature like to cast blames on others for their errors. If you are a christian we see that from the very genesis of the biblical account of our origin.

We create the images of the violence we see in our streets and in our neighborhoods of our towns and cities each day. A society breeds what we put into it just like a computer processes what we input into the system. If we input trash, we get trash out. Violence breeds violence!! Hate breeds hate. Yet, we can conquer violence with non-violent acts.  Society shapes us and we also shape society.

Today, we have more guns in America than any other time in our history and on planet earth. Guns are now cheaper than food and now proponents see guns as a fundamental human rights contextually contradicting the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Are we “more Americans” with a gun? Or should I say, do we feel more safe with a gun?” Certainly, gun does not make us more American or any safer either. The more guns we have the more it is likely for gun-related crimes to be committed. Guns by itself do not kill people, but people use guns to commit crimes. You could say well I possess gun not to kill anyone except someone who traspasses on my property or someone who breaks into my home, etc and I am within my legal right to defend myself, my family and property. That is a valid point. However, with the number legally own guns and those that are unknown out there our society is doom to see guns-related crimes each and every day!

Guns are now available everywhere and even a little toddler can easily access one from his or her parents. Our obsession with guns and violence are reinforced by video games, movies and the violence that we see in the streets of our cities and towns. Today, we think we are safer when we have guns. Guns don’t make people safe. It is people who make people safe.

More guns mean someone will be shot and killed. More guns means more violence and more violence means insecurity, mayhem, total anarchy, deaths, and injuries, which has physical, economic, social, health, and emotional consequences.

Today in America, mass shooting has become the new normal. We hear about it almost each month somewhere in this country. America is the only industrial country in the global north and east where the obsession with guns breed violence, more violence begets deaths and deaths beget pain and pain begets sorrow, while sorrow begets anxiety of individuals and society. Today, society has become immune to guns, violence and deaths using each to justify the other. Whether guns breed violence or violence is a consequence of our obsession with guns is yet to be answered. However, we need to change this paradigm.

As the news of mass shootings flood the various media outlets in this country both offline and online, one thing is assure….individual and public fear, total trepidation, nervousness, unease, fright, disquiet, dismay, consternation, anxiety, and the most effective emotional state of all “ALARM.” The media in a way reinforce all these aspects and yet waiting for the next hot spot for another mass shooting coverages of all sort.

Right on all of that, we have a very ineffective political system that is bought by lobbyists of all sorts who drag their feet to make decisions on guns control.

We cannot make America great again by allowing our children to be killed. It is our right to defend our country and home and that is why we have military experts for that. Today, one-in-nine Americans has anything between 2-3 guns at home. This excludes illegal guns possessions.

Regretfully and somewhat appreciated for the sake of victims of mass shootings, the President of this country has spend more time giving speeches after the event of a mass shooting than any other issue. It now looks certain that Obama or any other president after the November 2016 election will give some sort of funeral-related speech of a mass shooting or visit those affected areas and families, which is a good thing. However, the frequencies of these trips and speeches seem to be the new normal from the White House.  What we need is not an emotional 30 second tear from a President and the so-called moments of silence for the victims, but action on guns control and an end to it!!! It almost appears certain that our president is ready to give another speech each month as mass shootings become “normalized.”

“We shouldn’t kill people who killed people to tell them that killing people is wrong.”

President Obama has had hard time trying to nail a deal with congressional leaders and those of the house to put some very “tight jeans” on guns.

During the first seven years of the Obama’s administration, we have had 22 violent mass shootings events accomplished cross 14 US States, which include Washington D.C. During this period, we had 240 confirmed deceased (including the perpetrators) with 280 injured.

Understanding this simple principle and rule of life promotes a peaceful world, love and stability. Violence can be defeated by love and love overcomes violence. Love breeds love and not hate. Violence is a product of hate and other bunch of stuff.

Frankly, the violence we see today are not so much about guns control as much as those violence are indications that we as a nation have to come together and really heal our wounds.

Figure 1: Location or Place of Mass Shootings

Figure 2: US States in which Mass Shootings Occurred in the current 7-years of Obama’s Administration

Figure 3: Mass Shootings by States [including D.C.]

Figure 4: Mass Shootings by US Cities

Where the Governors Got it Wrong: Resettling Syrian Refugees in the United States

Source: Jakarta Post

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.”

Overview

In the last few days, the world witness one of the horrible terror attacks against humanity – the terrorists attack in Paris, which led to 129 people dead. Terror has no place in this world and now it is the time for us to unite to fight terror to the end. Those killed in Paris and other parts of the world were killed because they were free people. People who believe in freedom, liberty, justice, and free will.

The terror attack in Paris unearth issues that need to be addressed diplomatically to bring to an end the Syrian crisis. It is now time to unite our forces and energies against this terror, which means focusing our strategies, tactics, resources, and man power as a united force against IS.

Nevertheless, in the midst of all this people are victims and Syrians and those of North Africa are the primary victims of terrorism. Syrians in particular had to go through all the hardships to escape terror at the front of their homes.

They walked thousands of miles, starve in most instances for days, weeks and months just to survive this terror. Many could not make the journey as they involuntarily fled from their homes. No one really wants to leave the place they consider home and everyone who is a refugee knows that that is a fact even if they are resettled to heaven. Home will always be home and nothing earthly can replace it. The meaning attached to home are not easily transfer to places refugees eventually seek refuge. It takes time to call a new place home.

Source: Rescue

It is not the time for us to turn away from those who fled violence and terror in their home country. The moment we stop helping others is the moment we deny our humanity and undermine our values, principles and all that we are and so dearly believe in. Today, they are refugees and seeking our help – tomorrow we could be in need of something else and we might seek help from others.

The United States is a great nation not because we have powerful weapons and large guns. We are great as a people because of the values, principles and believes that we stand and live for. I do believe that we can do this. We can shelter, provide medicine, food, clothes and peace of mind for Syrian refugees that need our help.

The United States refugee resettlement program is one of the rigorous resettlement programs in the world as far as I know and experienced. I had conducted over 10 different presentations across this country creating awareness of refugees’ issues and also about how the US Refugee Resettlement process works. If you are interested, please click below.

The US Refugee Resettlement Program

Refugees are not just taken out of a refugee camp and displaced setting and resettled to a third country. The process of resettlement takes between 1-2 years and even longer depending on several factors. The processes listed as “durable solution” to end “refugeeness” are a). local integration (in the primary host country), b). repatriation (going back home) and resettlement (relocated to a third country.

Resettlement is the last resort of all three durable solutions and the most preferred of all the three options. Thus, before discussing how the US Resettlement Program works for the benefits of Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and his colleagues from other states across the political divide and for those at the senate who plans or are planning to pass a legislature to restrict or block the resettlement of Syrian refugees to the United States.

IT SHOULD BE KNOWN THAT STATES DO NOT HAVE ANY LEGAL OR LEGISLATIVE SIGNIFICANCE TO DETERMINE WHETHER OR NOT REFUGEES CAN BE ADMITTED TO THE UNITED STATES AND FOR THAT MATTER IN THEIR RESPECTIVE STATES. The admissions of refugees in the United States is the sole responsibility of the Federal Government of the United States.

a. Local Integration

When refugees flee from their home country and enters another country in most cases bordering their home country. They are in most instances welcomed and registered by the appropriate refugee agency of the country.

Usually, this prior registration process is jointly implemented by the government of the host country and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Thus, the point here is that, if well coordinated, each refugee is registered and provided with some sort of identification. At that point, they officially gain refugee status. The process of local integration in the primary host country is a long process and also depends on the state hosting the refugee population and thee refugee themselves.

For the state, aspects that are considered include, but are not limited to the population, economy, national security, the refugee population itself, etc. For effective refugee management, the moment refugees are admitted, the process to find a durable solution should start immediately, because you want people to settle and live freely.

However, local integration in the host country should be encourage since refugees can easily transition back home once the situation, which caused them to flee cease to exist in their country of origin.

Also, one reason while local integration should be encouraged is because in most instances the primary host country shares similar cultural and ethnic diversity of the seeking refuge. This is not to say that the relationship is perfect, but people relationships cross national borders.

However, one reason why most refugees don’t seem to choose local integration as a durable solution is that, they are easily targeted due to cross borders attacks. I am not very sure if they might be the case in Libya and Syria, but in West Africa for example, rebels from Liberia were accused of staging attacks of refugee camps in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Similar incidence were reported in the Great Lakes Region in Eastern Africa. If well planned, local integration in the primary country of refuge can be an effective solution to cease refugee status.

b). Repatriation

Unlike local integration, repatriation is done when a refugee decides to return to his or her home country when the condition of fear, which causes the refugee situation cease to exist back home. Again, like local integration, voluntary repatriation is done at the free will of the refugee.

However, if the conditions back in their home country for which they fled cease to exist and refugee population still refuse to return home voluntarily and local integration is rejected by the refugee population and the resettlement isn’t possible, their refugee status can terminated because cessation clause in the host country’s refugee policy specifies that “once the condition of fear for which the refugee fled his or her country cease to exist” their refugee status can be terminated by the government of the host country.

The good thing about voluntary repatriation is that, if well planned, returnees (i.e. former refugees) can be relocated back to their communities and start the rehabilitation, reintegration and reconstruction process back in their country. In most cases in the event of a voluntary repatriation, refugees returning home are provided with some assistance (financial or logistical) to help facilitate transition when they return.

c). Resettlement

Within the refugee cycle, resettlement is the optimal choice, but the most difficult stage of the durable solution to the refugee crisis. Usually, the initial determination to resettle a refugee family is a product of several processes. First, in the traditional sense; that is, resettlement that is initiated from the UNHCR is conducted after several interviews (aka counseling sections with a refugee/a refugee family) and a UNHCR Case Worker.

When it is determined by the UNHCR staff that a refugee or a refugee family life is at stake in the host country and the prospect of returning home is unlikely, that individual and his family are recommended to the consulate of a refugee resettlement country. Once that process gets started, the consulate in question takes over the process and all files relating to that individual and his/her family members are turned over to the consulate office responsible for resettlement processing. This process according to the US Refugee Resettlement Program is known as Priority I.

Secondly, for humanitarian reasons, refugees can be resettled to a third country. That is, special humanitarian concerns could warrant the US to issue the admission of refugees in the United States. The current humanitarian crisis of Syrian refugees falls into this bracket of the US Refugee Resettlement program known as Priority II.

Thirdly, another way a refugee is resettled to a third country (third country in this narrative means resettlement country and usually means a developed country that can provide the needs of the refugee family that is consider for resettlement) at least for the case of the US Refugee Resettlement Program is through Family Reunification, which is Priority III.

In this refugee resettlement program,refugees are admitted to the United States through a family member (parents), spouse and unmarried child under 21 years of age, who was a refugee themselves and are either a permanent resident or citizen of the United States. Even given that, the person being applied for by his relative in the US has to demonstrate refugee status in the country where the application is sent to the US Consulate for processing.

Thus, now that we know that refugees are not just resettled once they leave their country, even though the case of Syrian refugees could challenge this convention, because we have thousands of people landing on the shores of Europe. It is paramount for countries that are interested in resettling Syrian refugees to coordinate their efforts and also work with those countries like Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, etc to see how those already undergoing some sort of biometric processing could be resettled.

Also, the massive influx of refugees in Europe is also creating a humanitarian crisis and in this case, the UNHCR and other agencies needs to work with the governments of resettlement countries to start processing refugees for resettlement, but first addressing their immediate needs.

Now, with a clear picture of what resettlement is like and the various types of resettlement listed in the US Resettlement Program, I will now focus on more specifically how the resettlement process, irrespective of which type works.

Source: US Department of State

Step # 1. Overseas Processing Entity (OPE)/UNHCR

US Refugees resettlement is a tough process. The resettlement process starts with initial interview of the refugee applicant by a UNHCR staff or a staff member of an Overseas Processing Entity (OPE), a contracting firm of either the UN Refugee agency or the Department of State or the country initiating the resettlement process.

The goal of the interview with OPE or UNHCR staff is to work with the refugee seeking to be resettled to make sure that their records are right and to also determine if their case merits resettlement. This is usually called pre-screening. Some refugees get denial letters from this process if they failed to justify why they need to be resettled or denial could be if their names are red flag or had prior criminal records that could serve as a ground to deny resettlement.

All along the resettlement process, prospective refugees to be resettled get letters of approval after each stage of the resettlement process. However, the three most important stages are during the pre-screening, interview with the US Immigration staff and after the results of medical examination. Now a days, refugees don’t get deny because of their prior medical conditions. This used to be the case in the past in the early 1980s, 1990s and early part of 2000, but things change after 2003.

That is, refugee application for resettlement has to justify why resettlement is the optimal choice over local integration and repatriation. Simply put why can’t you integrate in your current host country and why can’t you return home? If the responses to these two questions along with other questions that may be asked by the interviewer are not satisfactory or there are misleading information in the story-line, they can be denied resettlement and their case will remain at that level…done!!

However, if they have a solid reason why resettlement is the optimal choice over other options, than a staff of the OPE will schedule a second interview. This time to prepare and finalize paperwork after which it will be forwarded to the US Consulate and a State Department or Department of Homeland Security staff will schedule an immigration interview, we is thorough and comprehensive and scary, at least to the refugee applicants.

Step # 2. Interview with USCIS Staff

Typically, the wait time between the last interview at OPE to the interview held by member of United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) staff from the US Consulate usually takes between 3-4 months interval. This off-course depends on the case load available.

This time doesn’t account for relatively 6-7 months wait period going through the OPE Pre-screening processes. Prior to meeting with the USCIS/State Department staff, name checks are conducted to make sure that the individual is not flag in anyways and has no prior arrest warrant or anything that could cause national security concerns once admitted in the United States. Once that is done, the staff of the US Consulate conducts a face-to-face interview only with the individual and or his family and member and a decision of their refugee resettlement application are verbally announced at the end of the interview follow by a letter.

Once it is determined that they have legitimate reasons of fear for which resettling in the United States surpass local integration in the primary country of refuge and repatriation is not possible, their case are approved at the scene or few days letter and an admissions letter issued by the US Consulate. If their stories are inconsistent or information became available is security concerns, the staff more reason to have their resettlement application in the US denied.

The result of such process is made know in a letter signed by the US Department of State official who conducted the interview for which you were under oath. Not every refugee is interview by the FBI and or CIA. The determination as to whether or not an individual refugee applicant seeking resettlement in the United States will be interview by one or either agency is based on the national origin and the high risk country outlined by the US Department of State and the US Department of Homeland Security (USDHS).

Step # 3. Medical Examination and Screening

This stage is where all the medical conditions for resettlement in the US are met. It is a comprehensive medical examination, which involves physical, blood works, malaria treatment (if the refugee is originating from a malaria-induced eco-region), etc. About 15-30 years ago, refugees applicants used to be denied due to HIV + status, but now with the advancement in medicine against the fight with HIV, the conditions for denial based on HIV + status is no longer effective and outdated and those refugees who are HIV positive are provided treatment starting in the country of host until to arrive in the US.

Step # 4. Cultural Orientation

Cultural orientation is usually conducted by OPE or the appropriate agency contracted to educate newly “to be resettled” refugees to the United States. The cultural orientation class usually last for 14 days at the hourly duration of 7 hours daily. Trained educators go through every aspects of the American ways of life from accessing public transportation, to banking, how to dial 911, etc. A certificate of completion is awarded to each participant. Participation and completion of all classes/sections is mandatory to the resettlement process or you forfeit eligibility.

Step # 5. Travel Arrangements

This is one of the joyous stage as a refugee when you know that you are about to travel, but not just yet. At this stage, the airline ticket(s) are booked and you signed a promissory note to repay the money used to purchase the ticket on your behalf. Usually, repayments of the airline ticket is done through the resettlement agency in the US. However, each refugee can elect to send their checks or payment directly to the collection agency, which will most likely be the resettlement agency. Each refugee and or a refugee family is given about 12 months after arrival to start repayment. At least grace period is better than that of the student loan repayment. Lol!

Step # 6. The Resettlement Agency (US Based)

This stage is done without the prior consent of the refugee applicant. Resettlement agencies such as Catholic Charity, Church World Service, and Lutheran Immigrants and Refugees Service or Ascentria Care just to name a few are assigned refugees cases to facilitate the process of integration into American ways of life.

The resettlement agency prior to the arrival date of the refugee receives all the document on each family member per refugee family and start putting things together. Once the refugee and his family arrives, the agency helps with attaining SSN, State ID, process application for the Department of Homeland Security Work Authorization Card for the next three months, healthcare or health insurance, public library cards for those interested, schools and colleges, etc. Basically, it is expected that within 9-12 months, each resettled refugee family will be able to navigate the system and gradually start to face out of the resettlement agency. However, that is just talk as most refugees take more time to get adjusted to the system and be able to stand alone.

Step # 7. Departure to the United States

Once all of steps 1 to 6 are satisfied, it is that time that we can say good bye to friends on the refugee camp or displace center. It is usually a time of joy and sadness. Joy because as you look behind you once saw mayhem, but in front you finally see peace, peace of mind, love, happiness, and safety. Sadness because many of your friends and even family members are left behind at the refugee camp.

All departures transportation services are coordinated between the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, TSA, and USDHS. Usually, refugees admitted to the United States are transported on regular transport planes accompanied by a convoy from IOM and in some cases UNHCR.

Each refugee is given a white plastic bag, which contains all their relevant documents sealed for US Immigration Official to open and evaluate for screening and verification purposes at the port of entry (i.e. where they first land in the US). At the immigration desk, each arriving refugee are further screened by the immigration official, biometrics are taken including photos and the sealed brown envelop taken and the admissions letter stamped and an I-94 issued. The I-94 is a legal entry document, which can be used until a green card/permanent resident card is mailed and returned once the refugee becomes a US Citizen.

Step # 8. In the US

At the port of entry, resettled refugees are met by a case manager or staff from the refugee resettlement agency and a family member, if they have one. From there, the resettlement agency takes charge and helps the newly resettled refugee integrate into the American society, which can be a long process depending on the individual, the resources that are available and their willingness to work things out as quickly as possible. The rest now becomes the normal routine.

In these processes, we collect significant amount of data can I share some light on whether or not someone is an extremist. The US has one of the rigorous resettlement screening processes in the world. If we allow ourselves to be carried away by fear because of IS and other islamic extremist entities, we only undermine our strengthen, the values and principles we stand for.

The Syrians people do need our fullest support and this is not the time to turn away from our neighbors when they need our hand.

So, Governor Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, while the decision to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States is out of your power. The federal government has put in place a system with years of credible work that can yet be used to provide Syrian refugees with the assistance they need to resettle in the US and also ensure the American people that their safety is at the alter-most center of the process. I have written this post because I was a product of the US Refugee Resettlement Process and I am not a Terrorist.

China in Africa: Environmental Implications and the Law

IISH


Written by:  10.25.15


China’s rapid economic development over the last three decades has led to significant environmental pollution and some poor policy choices. With more than 1.3 billion people, China has the world’s largest population and has been the biggest energy consumer since 2010. As the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, China is also the highest emitter of carbon dioxide that contributes to global warming, although the United States remains the highest per capita emitter. China does understand, however belatedly, the seriousness of these challenges and is taking steps to address them.

A huge continent of 54 countries and several island nations, Africa has many climate and ecological zones; it is difficult to generalize about its environment. It now has 1.1 billion people and sub-Saharan Africa has the world’s most rapidly growing population. Africa is believed to be the continent most vulnerable to global climate change and the least able to adapt. Key environmental problems today in parts of the continent include deforestation, desertification, reduced soil productivity, pollution, and the depletion of fresh water sources. Africa has a history of periodic droughts, floods, and serious outbreaks of a wide variety of disease. While most African countries are paying more attention to environmental issues, the topic remains a relatively low policy priority.

Defining China’s Foreign Direct Investment

Chinese foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa is often confused with its aid projects, commercial deals, and implementation of contracts for African governments and other organizations. Most of the large infrastructure projects built in Africa by Chinese state-owned companies fall in the category of commercial deals or winning of contracts. Most of the financing for these contracts and investments comes from African governments, Chinese companies, and institutions such as the Export-Import Bank of China

It is not always clear what Chinese activities qualify as FDI in accordance with commonly used definitions. China has an official definition of inward FDI, which is different than the one used by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). China’s definition refers to investment in China by foreign enterprises and economic organizations or individuals to open solely foreign-funded enterprises. It also includes the running of Chinese-foreign equity joint ventures and participation in cooperative joint ventures or co-development of resources with any enterprises or economic organizations within China in the form of spot exchange, real object, or technology.

The OECD countries define FDI as having the goal of establishing a lasting interest by a resident enterprise in one economy (direct investor) in an enterprise that is resident in an economy other than that of the direct investor. This implies a long-term relationship between the direct investor and the direct investment enterprise and a significant degree of influence on the management of the enterprise. Direct or indirect ownership of 10 percent or more of the voting power of an enterprise resident in one economy by an investor resident in another economy constitutes such a relationship. China does not have an official definition for outward FDI.

Relative Concern about the Environment in Africa and China

It is useful to put the relative importance of environmental concerns in both Africa and China into perspective. Protection of the environment has never been a high priority for African governments. African leaders have traditionally been much more concerned about issues such as disease, poverty, civil conflict, ethnic violence, and religious extremism. While this remains the case, there is a growing awareness of the importance of good environmental practices and a concern that global warming will have especially negative implications for the continent.

A study by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project surveyed five of the greatest dangers in the world: religious and ethnic hatred, inequality, AIDS and other diseases, nuclear weapons, and pollution and the environment. The 44-country survey included nine African countries. All but one of the nine African countries ranked pollution and the environment as the least important of the five concerns. The situation for China is different. China was also part of the 44-country study. Of the five dangers surveyed, pollution and the environment ranked in first place.

The Environment and Chinese Companies Investing Overseas

Environmental concerns were not a significant part of China’s dialogue with Africa until recently. China took a disengaged approach to the environmental practices of Chinese companies operating overseas. In 2006, Chinese and African leaders agreed to intensify cooperation in environmental protection, to share experiences, and to boost sustainable development. In 2009, Chinese and African officials agreed to use FDI to bolster economic growth and sustainable development but did not address environmental practices of Chinese companies in Africa.

Today, China is encouraging its companies as they invest in Africa and elsewhere to follow better environmental practices. Chinese companies are making more frequent use of environmental impact assessments, sometimes even drawing on the expertise of Western companies that specialize in these studies. This development is not surprising in view of the growing concern about environmental problems in China and a deeper understanding by the government that it is not in China’s interest to export its bad practices overseas.

In 2013, China’s Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Environmental Protection issued voluntary guidelines that encourage companies investing overseas to follow local environmental laws, assess the environmental risks of their projects, minimize the impact on local heritage, manage waste, comply with international standards, and draft plans for handling emergencies. An official in China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection commented that “no side will win if the environment is neglected, and we have many lessons in this regard.”

The government-affiliated China Chamber of Commerce for Minerals, Metals and Chemicals Importers and Exporters announced in 2014 guidelines to regulate overseas mining investments and operations. They encourage Chinese companies that invest overseas to pay careful attention to labor issues, environmental protection, supply chain due diligence, and human rights concerns. While it is too soon to judge the impact of these guidelines, initial reactions have been positive.

Chinese state-owned and private companies are also demonstrating greater interest in protection of the environment. The United Nations Global Compact is a voluntary corporate responsibility initiative that commits businesses to align their operations and strategies with ten universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption. Principle Seven urges businesses to support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges. Principle Eight asks signatories to undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility such as self-regulation, fostering dialogue with employees and the public, and adopting appropriate codes of conduct. Principle Nine says businesses should encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies such as those that use materials more efficiently and cleanly.

More than 13,000 corporations and other stakeholders from about 170 countries have signed the Global Compact. As of 2015, 272 Chinese private and state-owned businesses, non-governmental organizations, and business associations were signatories. They include small, medium, and large companies; most are private but a number of the large state-owned companies with operations in Africa are also signatories. These member companies represent a modest percentage of the several thousand Chinese companies operating in Africa. It is also one thing to sign the Compact and another to implement its guidelines. In fact, little is required of signatories. Chinese companies, as is the case for companies in other countries, have demonstrated a mixed response to the Compact.

In 2012, the China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (SINOPEC), which has been active in Africa, issued what was announced as the first white paper on environmental protection by a Chinese enterprise. SINOPEC committed to providing sufficient funds for environmental protection and agreed to adhere to clean production, to raise resource efficiency and develop green energy, and to improve emergency response systems aimed at preventing environmental risk. SINOPEC also underscored its commitment to the Global Compact.

Chinese companies most resistant to improved environmental practices in Africa are the small private companies and the medium-sized ones affiliated with Chinese provincial and municipal administrations. China’s largest companies are primarily owned by the central government. Together with state-owned banks, they control more than half of the revenue of China’s 500 largest companies. Companies owned by Chinese provinces control about a quarter of the revenue. These distinctions are important for a Western audience where the overwhelming majority of companies investing in Africa come from the private sector.

Chinese Environmental Practice and Law

A basic understanding of China’s environmental practice and law is necessary as Beijing’s domestic policies eventually tend to be reflected in its approach elsewhere, including Africa. There has been a recent focus in China on the need to confront environmental challenges. In 2008, China upgraded the State Environmental Protection Administration to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and placed it under the control of the State Council, which is the approximate equivalent to the American cabinet.

In 2012, the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China adopted “ecological civilization” as one of the five pillars driving policy. China’s National People’s Congress approved ten environmental laws and 30 resource protection laws. Local people’s congresses and governments adopted more than 700 local environmental rules and regulations and the departments of the State Council issued hundreds of environmental regulations. China’s first environmental non-governmental organization appeared in 1994. By the end of 2012, almost 8,000 environmental non-governmental organizations had registered with the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The China Council for International Cooperation on Environment and Development is a high-level, advisory body authorized by the Chinese government. The Council argues that transformative change concerning environmental protection is underway in China although desired results will not be achieved until there are additional tools, capacity, and financing. So far, the emphasis has been on controlling basic air, water, and soil pollution. While progress is being made on some problems, new ones emerge such as wider ground water pollution and more complex air pollution.

SarahTz-Flickr

Photo Credit: Chinese construction site, Ethiopia. (SarahTz/Flickr)

The National People’s Congress adopted in 1989 the comprehensive Environmental Protection Law of the People’s Republic of China. Article 1 states that the law is intended to protect and improve the environment by “preventing and controlling pollution and other public hazards, safeguarding human health, and facilitating the development of socialist modernization.” Article 2 defines environment broadly as “the total body of all natural elements and artificially transformed natural elements affecting human existence and development, which includes the atmosphere, water, seas, land, minerals, forests, grasslands, wildlife, natural and human remains, nature reserves, historic sites and scenic spots, and urban and rural areas.”

Article 6 says that “all units and individuals shall have the obligation to protect the environment and shall have the right to report on or file charges against units or individuals that cause pollution or damage the environment.” While Article 9 gives the State Council responsibility for establishing national standards for environmental quality, Article 16 assigns responsibility to the local people’s governments to take measures to improve the quality of the environment for areas under their jurisdiction. According to Article 35, violators of the law shall “be warned or fined by the competent department of environmental protection administration or another department invested by law with power to conduct environmental supervision and management for” a specified list of infractions.

As China’s environmental challenges have become more serious, there has been growing interest in the use of the court system to deal with polluters. Traditional environmental litigation includes tort cases that seek compensation for harm caused by environmental pollution and “administrative failure to act” cases brought by local citizens against polluters, property developers, and others. The rights of individuals and other bodies to take environmental complaints to court are contained in Article 6 of the Environmental Protection Law cited above and Article 124 of the General Principles of Civil Law, which states that “any person who pollutes the environment and causes damage to others in violation of state provisions for environmental protection and the prevention of pollution shall bear civil liability in accordance with the law.”

The primary criminal law provision in the event of “major environmental pollution accidents” has historically been Article 338 of the Chinese Criminal Law, which allows for a maximum criminal sentence of seven years. In egregious cases involving fires, explosions, and the breaching of dikes, Article 115 allows for life imprisonment or even the death sentence.

There is increasing support to establish an environmental public interest litigation system, which allows any citizen, social organization, and state organ to bring a lawsuit in a state judicial organ for the sake of the public interest. A related recent development, especially since 2007, has been the rapid growth of environmental courts in China following a pollution crisis in parts of the country. More than 130 environmental courts developed between 2007 and 2013. They include environmental divisions within Intermediate People’s Court and environmental divisions or separate tribunals at the basic court level. They also include environmental panels and environmental courts, which usually allow judges to work onsite at agency offices. China’s move into environmental public interest litigation and the creation of environmental courts has been a significant legal and judicial development.

One study of the environmental courts suggests that economic growth in China has trumped environmental concerns. The courts demonstrate responsiveness to environmental concerns while sometimes aiding or at least not obstructing economic development and social stability by local officials. One expert concluded that “China’s environmental courts are not a step toward judicial empowerment, as they might appear at first glance, but an effort to shore up state capacity through an institution designed to coordinate and act as a backstop for government agencies.” The courts are part of a broader effort to encourage environmental protection as a policy priority. Judges do not necessarily see neutrality as part of their job. The courts also fit into a tradition of socialist courts as consciousness-raising institutions and serve to support social control.

In 2015, China began to implement its updated 1989 Environmental Protection Law (EPL), which suggests that China has become more serious about improving environmental quality. The most significant additions and provisions to the EPL include (1) more serious consequences for violating China’s environmental laws, (2) expanding the scope of projects subjected to environmental impact assessments, and (3) allowing nongovernmental organizations to take legal action against polluters in the public interest. Article 58 allows nongovernmental organizations to file claims in the People’s Court if they (1) are registered with the civil affairs department at or above the municipal level and (2) have been focused on environment-related public interest activities for five consecutive years or more. Only about 300 nongovernmental organizations meet both of these requirements.

China’s environmental legislation is strong on paper, but its implementation tends to be weak. Much depends on the efforts of local governments, which have considerable autonomy, and other state agencies. Policies implemented at the provincial and municipal level are often determined by apathy and lack of oversight. Some large state-owned companies have adopted a series of rigorous environmental protection standards. At the same time, Chinese enterprises still appear to be 15-20 years behind their Western counterparts when it comes to the adoption of modern social and environmental approaches to their outward FDI. China has made steady progress on environmental legislation but still has an unsatisfactory enforcement system. In particular, there are inadequate sanctions for those who damage the environment and too few incentives for those who protect it.

African Environmental Practice and Law

With 54 countries in Africa, it is impossible except at the most basic level to generalize about African environmental practice and law. The 1963 Charter of the Organization of African Unity contained no reference to environmental protection. The African Convention of Nature and Natural Resources adopted in 1968 in Algiers was the first Africa-wide effort to deal with environmental issues. In 1985, African governments established the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment to promote regional cooperation in addressing environmental concerns. This Conference is now the main policy-making forum for discussing Africa’s environmental problems. In 2003, the African Union replaced the Organization of African Unity and adopted the comprehensive Revised African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. It makes a strong commitment to poverty reduction and socio-economic development. Once it comes into force, it will replace the 1968 Algiers Convention for those African states that ratified it.

The 2003 Revised Convention will be an improvement only if its provisions are adequately financed, effective institutional mechanisms are put in place, and there is a strong non-compliance mechanism. The African Court of Justice and Human Rights, which will have jurisdiction over matters concerning the Convention, has not yet been ratified. So far, only eight countries have ratified the Revised Convention; it will not enter into force until it has been ratified by 15 African countries. This fact and the subsequent lack of discussion about the Revised Convention in African Union meetings suggest a continuing lack of priority that African governments give to environmental protection. African leaders understand the link between natural resources and economic development. They must now demonstrate that protection of the environment is not a competing interest for scarce financial resources, but a complementary one.

The approach of individual African countries towards protection of the environment varies enormously. Some countries have impressive legislation in place while others are lagging behind. Even in the case of countries with a relatively strong commitment to the environment and reasonably good legislation, however, there are serious shortfalls in funding and human capacity to implement programs to protect the environment.

In 1997, Ethiopia approved its first comprehensive environmental policy and subsequently put in place strategies and laws designed to support sustainable development. Ethiopia has implemented a wide range of legal, policy, and institutional frameworks on the environment, water, forests, climate change, and biodiversity. Ethiopia has also signed a number of international environmental agreements. While Ethiopia takes environmental issues more seriously than most African countries, there continue to be problems because of inadequate implementation and enforcement. Pollution monitoring, reporting, and verification of abatement measures have been weak. The key constraint is lack of human capacity.

Mali has relatively well developed environmental legislation and was in the process of establishing a political and institutional framework for improving the environment and dealing with climate change. In 2010, it established the National Agency for Environmental and Sustainable Development, which had responsibility for implementation of environmental policy and integrating responses across the bureaucracy. Mali has a strategy for a green economy and climate change. A coup and government crisis in 2012 resulted in a 90 percent reduction in the budget of the environmental department of the Ministry of Environment and Sanitation. There is also a low regard for environmental legislation and weak human capacity in the government for improving the environment. Progress is dependent on international financing, better legal frameworks, and strengthened human capacity.

Zambia’s body of environmental law is contained in more than 33 pieces of legislation; it is fragmented with responsibilities assigned to at least ten line ministries. The 1997 Environmental Impact Assessment regulations require assessments for all investments that have a major impact on the environment and require adequate environmental mitigation measures. The Ministry of Tourism, Environment, and Natural Resources and the Environmental Council of Zambia have a comprehensive environmental mandate. In practice, however, environmental management is largely dependent on the interest and competence of line ministries, which do not give it a priority. The environmental institutions are not strongly linked to development planning, finance, and sector institutions, and are politically weak and lack human capacity. They also face severe funding constraints; environmental issues are heavily dependent on international funding. As a result, Zambia largely fails to manage sustainably its environment and natural resources.

Most African states have weak bureaucracies. While their environmental laws are sometimes impressive, implementation is usually lacking. In most African countries, the environmental laws and standards are much lower than accepted international norms. African governments have signed large numbers of treaties and agreements but have largely failed to articulate coherent solutions to their environmental problems. Because of the weakness of African institutions to monitor and enforce environmental protection measures, it will be primarily up to individual Chinese companies to assume responsibility for sound environmental practices.

Chinese FDI and Economic Sector Impacts

As is the case for most FDI in Africa, Chinese investment is concentrated in sectors of the economy that are especially vulnerable to environmental concerns. While major Western companies developed most of Africa’s oil and gas resources and continue to be the most important players, Chinese companies have joined the sector. Oil companies from China, the West, and elsewhere have been criticized for their environmental practices.

Chinese companies have also invested heavily in mining projects throughout much of Africa. Because these projects usually require large initial investments in technology, equipment, and infrastructure, China’s state-owned companies tend to dominate in this sector. The mines are sometimes located in ecologically fragile areas where there is a higher risk of environmental degradation. They also generate greenhouse gases, solid and liquid waste, including hazardous products such as cyanide and mercury. Chinese companies often negotiate mining concessions without competitive bidding and in the absence of environmental assessments. African governments contribute to the problem by not insisting on environmental impact statements and not enforcing existing environmental regulations. In recent years, Chinese companies have given more attention to mitigating harmful environmental impacts.

China is the largest importer of Africa’s tropical wood, receiving more than three-quarters of its timber exports, most of it in the form of raw logs until African governments began to prohibit this practice. While most of this activity constitutes trade, some of it involves FDI by Chinese logging and timber trading companies. Poor forest governance in Africa has resulted in serious unsustainable or illegal harvesting. This has led to the loss of biodiversity and the abuse of forest communities’ rights.

Chinese companies have a tendency to violate local forest practice laws together with African counterparts and even some European companies. The illegal practices include abuse of permits and concession licenses, bribery, operating without management plans, under-reporting export volume, smuggling raw logs, and harvesting and transporting undesignated species. The greatest threat to the environment is the unsustainability of Africa’s hardwood timber if these practices by both Chinese and non-Chinese companies continue. African government officials were often complicit in the illegal activities.

The government of China is sensitive to the criticism its companies have encountered in the forestry sector and has made progress in countering illegal logging. In 2009, the State Forestry Administration and Ministry of Commerce issued voluntary guidelines which encourage Chinese companies to manage, utilize, and protect overseas forests in order to play a positive role in sustainable development of global forest resources.

The environmental issue for which China has attracted the most criticism is the importation of products taken from African endangered species, especially elephant ivory and rhino horn. China is the world’s largest importer of illegal ivory. The poaching of African elephants has reached the point that it threatens the long-term viability of the species. While most of this activity falls in the category of illegal trade involving African suppliers and Chinese merchants living in both Africa and China, some of it has indirect links to Chinese FDI.

Conclusion

Chinese environmental law, policy, lending institutions, and companies investing in Africa are playing catchup. China’s Export Import Bank adopted voluntary environmental guidelines in 2004 and made them public in 2007. They state that projects that are harmful to the environment or do not obtain environmental approval will not be funded. If there are unacceptable environmental impacts during project implementation, the Export Import Bank requires immediate remedial action or will discontinue financial support.

The government of China has become more sensitive to criticism of overseas investment by Chinese companies and has made a concerted effort to improve environmental guidelines and encourage their implementation. It also encourages Chinese companies to apply Chinese laws and standards in their overseas operations. Large state-owned companies have generally been more responsive than medium and small companies, especially those in the private sector. So far, all of the guidelines that apply to Chinese companies operating overseas are voluntary. Unless China makes them mandatory and attaches penalties to infractions, they will not likely change the behavior of many companies.

It is important to acknowledge the difficulty of enforcing environmental guidelines on Chinese companies operating in Africa, especially when the press in China and many African countries is carefully controlled by the government and environmental advocacy organizations are weak. One area where Chinese companies have consistently performed poorly, although some are improving, is a relative lack of transparency in the handling of sensitive environmental issues. The United States has had considerable success, for example, in stemming bribery overseas by enforcing the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977. China could develop similar legislation for environmental standards.

Many African countries attach a low priority to environmental protection, have understaffed environmental bureaucracies, and have even worse records for countering corruption than does China. Numerous African officials are also reluctant to call out Chinese companies that engage in unacceptable environmental practices because they do not want to jeopardize Chinese investment or good relations with the government of China. This situation does not provide an incentive for companies that are focused on making a quick profit to engage in responsible but more expensive environmental practices, especially where there are many African nationals who are prepared to accept the lower standards. It will often be up to the Chinese company to take the initiative.

In the final analysis, it is in the interest of both China and the African countries to pursue sound environmental practices and sustainable development. In addition, Africa’s development partners, including the United States, could improve the environmental situation by building the human capacity in African countries to monitor and regulate the environment.


Article Disclaimer: This article was published at International Policy Digest and was retrieved on 10/28/2015 and posted here at INDESEEM for educational and information purposes only. The views, opinions and thoughts expressed in this article remains those of the author. Please cite the original and this source accordingly.


 

 

Reasonable concern about domestic security? Islamophobia?


By Dr. Richard Schmitt, Author of Out of the Woods


The comment by a presidential candidate that he would not allow a Muslim to run for president, has raised an interesting controversy. Shall we say that this candidate has reasonable concerns about our domestic security and the maintenance of our Constitution and political system? Or shall we say that his statement was a clear example of  Islamophobia? Or, to speak plainly, a clear example of racism?

Those who agree with the presidential candidate point to what they see as the unwillingness of Muslims in the US to assimilate. Many Muslims maintain their native language, many Muslim women cover their heads, among Muslims gender roles are different from what they are in other parts of America.

But none of those differentiates Muslims in America from other groups. Most immigrants hold on to their native languages, sometimes because their English is not so good and sometimes because their language of origin is dear and beloved. Religious Jews will cover their heads but are not, for that reason, accused of unwillingness to assimilate. Women hailing from India often wear saris but no one thinks that politicians, whose families immigrated from India, are therefore not qualified for holding public office. Bobby Jindal, governor of Lousiana, is actually at the moment running for president.

Distrust of Muslims is also often justified by saying that they want to impose sharia law on everyone in the United States. But again, think of all the others groups, that we regard as good Americans, whose religion imposes on them specific rules that are quite different from those of mainstream America. Think, for instance, of the dietary laws followed by orthodox Jews. Think about the rules promulgated by the Catholic Church about families, divorce, reproduction, the role of women in the family.

Here we have two examples of reasons given to justify special treatment of Muslims. But these reasons would also demand that other religious groups such as Jews and Catholics should be excluded from being candidates for political office. But the same reasons are not used to exclude Jews and Catholics.

It is currently customary to call these prejudiced attitudes “Islamophobia.” That has a clean, clinical sound to it like “acrophobia” (fear of heights) or “agoraphobia” (fear of open spaces). Such fears may be irrational but should be treated more like a disease than a moral failure.

But it is clear that excluding Muslims from our democracy is not merely irrational, but is utterly reprehensible like any other example of racism.


This opinion piece was published at Out of the Woods and was retrieved on 10/09/2015 and republished here for educational and information purposes only.


 

 

How to change the world?

 

This post was originally posted by Dr. Richard Shmitt blogger at: Out of the World
Change is, in part, what got Obama elected. Everyone talks about making the world a better place. People want “to give back,” they want to foster kindness, they want to end bullying among children and war among adults.

The dream is an old one. The prophet Isaiah in the Old Testament looks forward to a time when “the lion will lie down with the lamb.” The dream is still very much alive. In our Christmas cards we wish each other peace.

But world peace seems to be just pie in the sky. Very many people despair of making significant change in our world. Our political system is coercive through and through. It takes the form of constant coercion of the weaker by the strong, the poor by the rich, of black by white, women by men, children by adults. This pervasive violence is often thought to be the effect of “human nature.” We cannot help ourselves. So you hear, only too often, that “you cannot change anything.”

Change is imposed by force on the unwilling. If advocates of gay  marriage win victories in the courts, the court order is enforced by police. The opponents are coerced into acquiescence. If legislators vote for a law limiting union activities, the laws will be enforced by courts and police. Legislative decisions, decisions reached through voting always leave a minority of dissenters in a position of being forced to accept what they despise. When there are more than two parties in a debate, the winners may well be less than half of the participants. More than half of the voters are then forced to accept a distasteful decision.

What we call democracy is a competition between groups each of which is trying to impose its own interests and beliefs coercively. The victims of today’s coercion will seek to turn the tables and coerce todays dominant group tomorrow. As long as everyone is open to coercion, the peaceful society remains elusive.
But there exist peaceful ways for groups to make decisions and to better their conditions. By supporting those who practice these peaceful and non-coercive methods, you too can work for peace.

More than three hundred years ago, long before the development of our current electoral system, Quakers and other religious groups in England understood that very different ways for communities to make decisions would be needed in a truly peaceful society. They developed techniques of decision making known today as “consensus  decision making.” Groups come together to discuss issues facing them. The goal is not primarily to make decisions but to re-enforce the unity of the group. That unity does not so much consist in agreement among members but in strengthening their ability to reach decisions after careful, cooperative  reflection about  difficult problems facing the group.

In these proceedings, the first step is for everyone to understand precisely what is under consideration. A facilitator chosen by the group will provide all the necessary information or ask others, better qualified, to do that. The entire assembly ask questions and works towards perfect clarity of what is being discussed, what are possible alternatives, what information exists about possible pitfalls and disadvantages of different possible proposals. Only when the group feels well-informed can the facilitator raise the question about proposals for action. Different members of the group may make proposals, they will explain them as fully and lucidly as possible. They will provide supporting evidence. Compare this to existing democratic practice where deception is the rule when politicians present their proposals.

It is important to notice however that the proponents of a particular proposal are not there to convince anybody. There is no room for competition for having the most glossy, attractive, emotionally seductive proposal. The goal of the discussion is not to win. The goal is for the group to make the best choices that are in everyone’s interest.

Different proposals will be discussed. If everyone agrees there is no problem. Some people may not be completely convinced but are willing to allow the group to follow what many desire with the understanding that everyone will carefully monitor future outcomes. At times some people may feel unable to join the majority because the proposal, they think, will do serious damage to the group. In that situation different groups have developed different techniques for dealing with fundamental disagreements. In some cases the whole project is shelved. In others the dissident minority is ignored. In other cases committees convene to work further on the serious disagreements and bring the proposal up at a future meeting.

The goal is never for one party to win. The goal is for the entire group to fortify its ability to make decisions particularly in very controversial and difficult situations.

During the upheavals of the 1960s secular groups discovered this alternative technique of decision making. The Occupy movement invented many interesting methods for peaceful, non-coercive group deliberation. It has been adopted by a wide range of groups such as cooperatives, enterprises owned and run by its workers. It is in widespread use in Japanese businesses; The Federal Bureau of Land Management encourages consensus decision making in negotiations among stakeholders. Many Courts in the US encourage parties to a civil lawsuit to try to resolve their conflict in a way acceptable to all the parties rather than having a judge imposing a solution coercively.

You can contribute to a peaceful society by supporting these efforts. If you need repairs made to your house, find out whether there are any local cooperatives or worker owned businesses that offer services you need. Buy your vegetables from a cooperative grower, if you can. If you have conflicts with your neighbors seek out mediation before you go before the judge.

Everyone can participate in making the world more peaceful. Don’t wait. Start today.

Arrest of Thai Politicians: Do it the Army Way?

The full story upon which this narrative is base was published by BBC on 23rd May 2014 covering the latest development of the political situations in Thailand referenced at the end of this post. The Thai Army has long-held back its involvement in the political upheavals in Thailand since the current situation ignited about a year ago. Democracy was given birth to in Thailand about 82 years ago. Since that time, it has taken the Thai’s army under different regimes to hold on to power on several occasions in the midst of varying political nightmares. Given the army’s role in the past during those periods when they seized unto power, the current Thai Army resisted getting involve in the political game plan staged between those of the Red color and their brethren of the Yellow.The army emphatically stated that politicians of both fronts needed to solve the problem quickly, amicably and peacefully so that life in Thailand can go on as before.

However, few weeks ago, a Thai court removed the PM and she did. A new PM was appointed with the hope of restoring order, peace and stability within the country. Instead, protests staged by proponents of both the Red and Yellow continue in Bangkok and other areas throughout the country. I believe that it was against this background that the Thai Military decided to step into the game and change the status quo. As the military legitimize its hold unto power and to let every citizen of Thailand know, that look, we are here for you and if these politicians are not willing to do their job, sit down and talk things out and come up with a credible and doable plan, we will! That was exactly what the military seems to be doing in Thailand. Politicians across the Red and Yellow ticket seems to be failing the Thai people. Nevertheless, as the army solidifies it hold unto the Thai leadership many questions come to the mind of the ordinary man. How long is the military going to hold unto power? When will general elections be held? With the military in the game plan now, will politicians across the political divide be willing to consciously sit down and talk like brothers and sisters? The army did indicate that it was neutral? Well, now what? Well, current situation depicts that the army “once neutral” is no longer neutral and the reason their neutrality was breach is because politicians across both colors were not willing to solve the problems and come up with a negotiable solution. So, given this situation, it was prudent and necessary in the minds of the Thai Army to act in order to reinstate law and order in a country that is at the verge of political instability, social and civil upheavals.

With these being said, the main question now is “what’s next?” What is the Thai’s military plan since the civilian government failed after being given all the time they needed to solve the problems they created and bring Thailand back on track. Yes, so what next? Well, first thing first! Let us arrest all those politicians that were involved in the political nightmare, which brought about all this fiasco. With the politicians arrested or after they turn themselves in to the military, maybe it will bring back to their consciousness that we are always around to break the coin. One would willingly ask, well, will this plan work? How would those arrested be treated? Will their human rights be protected? These, the Thai Military are responsible to protect in the midst of international law and the human rights of those politicians MUST not under any circumstances be violated or threaten to be violated. Each politicians irrespective of his or her political affiliations is a Thai Citizen and must be protected by the laws and constitution of Thailand.Suspending the constitution does not provide you with the escape plan to treat people whatever you want and however you want it be done. There is something call “international law,” which also protects them plus the “common sense law.” Nevertheless, in the situation where the constitution is conditionally suspended, they are still protected by international laws to which, if violated, you will be held accountable. But, we should not go that far, because I believe the military has provided us with enough information (claims of not being affiliated or favoring any one camp in the political game). So, we hope the military will keep its words and stay truthful to the Thai people and that they will treat every politician respectfully and in accordance with national and international laws. I just wanted to point this out first before going any further with the rest of this post. Thumps up!!

Many questions are now being asked “how long will these people be held and what is the plan after they are arrested or turned themselves in to the military?” I think without being subjective here is where the Thai’s military leaders need to be very careful since the world is now watching what’s going to be next? We all know that the military held a high level profile of neutrality in this entire political frustration when it all started. The military had announced during several occasions that it didn’t want to get involved in the government’s and oppositions’ propaganda, but what it was only interested in is that these leaders bring the situations to a close and by find a solution. Did it happened after the PM was removed from power? No! The oppositions staged new campaigns that the entire government be removed and an unconstitutional and “people’s appointed committee” be putted into government duties to run the country, this was their initial protest. Was it too ambitious? Who knows?

Well, that is it! So, it seems that the military ran out of the oil that keeps lubricating their patience not to get involve. Was it right for the military to get involved at this point when Thailand that should be moving towards national reconciliation and paving the way to restore democracy, law and order. Some would say that the military should stay out, while others would yet hold up their hands and yell, hell yes. Enough is enough! Well, the question is not whether the military should or should not get involve. The question is, if they do, what’s next? To be realistic, I can’t answer this question, but what I can say is that we will all follow the situation in Thailand very closely and see what’s next. With some or most of the politicians that are involved in the political upheavals being held at various undisclosed locations in the country, we will keep our finger cross that only one result would come out of this current situation, which are for peace, stability, freedom of movement, and the return to democratic rule in Thailand. So, readers if you have any comment, please feel free to add your voice and let us pray with the people of Thailand, that in the “near future,” peace, law, order, stability, freedom and democracy will be restored in its totality.

God bless!

Original BBC News Post: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-27544972. Accessed:23/05/2014 at 10:00 PM Indochina Time.