Thursday, November 29, 2018

Laggardly Reclaiming Honour Posthumously

"[Company involvement in the deportations of Jews] is a black page in the history of our country and our company."
"For us it is important to put care ahead of speed [in determining how many survivors or their families would be eligible for reparations]."
Erik Kroeze, Dutch national railway company spokesman
Groups of Jews boarding a train stopped in the middle of the countryside in the Netherlands
 Dutch Jews rounded up in cities were sent to concentration camps on state rail lines. (Wikimedia Commons: Albert Konrad Gemmeker)

"What this means for me is that the NS [Dutch railway company] sees that the suffering is not over; that very many Jews are still suffering."
"That is why I am so happy that they now see, on moral grounds ... that reparations will be paid."
Salo Muller, former physiotherapist, Amsterdam soccer club Ajax
Mr. Muller is the child of Holocaust victims. His parents under Nazi-occupied Holland were rounded up with the invaluable aid of Dutch police -- just as French, Polish, Ukrainian and other national police aided the Nazis in their determined and highly successful program of genocide, later to correct history by saying they had no choice but to obey the command of their Nazi occupiers -- and sent packing by rail to the Westerbork camp in eastern Netherlands.

Thanks to the cooperation of the occupied authorities 70 percent of Holland's Jews were sent to death camps, their lives destined to be summarily destroyed. And so it was with Mr. Muller's parents, transported to Auschwitz from Westerbork where they too were murdered in the gas chambers that so efficiently destroyed most of Europe's Jews. Over 100,000 Dutch Jews were murdered, representing a relatively small proportion of the six million Jewish lives that were exterminated before World War II came to an end.

Speaking for the rail company, Mr. Kreoeze is careful to remark that Dutch Jews died at the hands of the Nazis. On the other hand, in Holland as elsewhere throughout Europe the work of the Final Solution would never have been as successful as it turned out to be in terms of its horrendous effectiveness without the cooperation of the local populations, sometimes quite willingly, more often under the duress of occupation.

NS, the national railway, has decided that restitution would be a good move at this rather late date. As though money in any event could possibly compensate for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent children, of their parents and their grandparents, their cousins, their aunts and their uncles, their friends and their neighbours.
A rabbi places a rose on rail tracks near Westerbork, a former transit camp, on May 9, 2015.
A rabbi places a rose on rail tracks near Westerbork, a former transit camp, in the Netherlands on May 9, 2015. Jews were taken from Westerbork and then transported to Auschwitz.Peter Dejong / AP file

Through the ongoing horror Jews remained optimists. Reading the words of Anne Frank, a child of the Holocaust, a chronicle of a sunny child's yearning for freedom and trust that justice would prevail and liberation was nigh, one cannot help but sigh over the hopelessness, the helplessness of Europe's Jews never imagining that their plight of discrimination, anti-Semitism, isolation, rejection and pogroms could ever amount to wholesale slaughter.

The commission that will be tasked to write up who will receive payments, how many could be eligible, how much they would receive has not yet been formed. The announcement was made of the intention to proceed. Should anyone really feel grateful about this? Too little, too late. Even latent consciences must have their salving moments. Imagine yourself a citizen of a country you love and that country's authorities submit to the will of an occupying force whose agenda is genocide.

A small country like Denmark resisted. Denmark's Jews were saved. What repercussions sufficed to make the Danes regret their actions? None that history records. Yet Dutch Jews were disabused of the notion that their country valued them and would protect them. Most Dutch Jews rounded up in cities were taken by train to those camps established in their own country and then forwarded on to German trains headed for concentration camps, labour camps, death camps. Restitution for that?

It takes far more than releasing funds to victims to restore a nation's honour.

In this Monday May 9, 2015, file photo, Canadian World War II veterans put roses on the railroad tracks at former concentration camp Westerbork, the Netherlands, remembering more than a hundred thousand Jews who were transported from Westerbork to Nazi death camps. The Dutch national railway company NS says it will set up a commission to investigate how it can pay individual reparations for its role in mass deportations of Jews by Nazi occupiers during World War II. (AP Photo/Peter Dejong)

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Challenging Airbnb's West Bank Delisting

"[The BDS movement] is not interested in peace or a better future for the Palestinians, but rather in demonizing and discriminating against Israel, the one true democracy, and America’s strongest ally in the Middle East."
"[The new Airbnb company policy is] especially disturbing when one understands that it is a policy directed only toward Israel. Such a policy has not been applied by the company to any other country or region involved in a national dispute or conflict."
"This constitutes [one hopes unintentionally] the modern form of an anti-Semitic practice which applies a double standard to Israel in a way that is not expected or demanded of any other country."
"[I would urge you to] consider speaking out against the company’s decision, and taking any other relevant steps, including in relation to commercial dealings [between Airbnb and their states]."
Gilad Erdan, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister, letter to governors of Illinois, New York, Florida, Missouri, California: Airbnb bases 

"An American Jew with a rental property in the West Bank is barred from listing it for rent on the website. But an American Arab is welcome to list his home a few hundred metres away, even though the Palestinian law forbidding real-estate deals with Jews carries a maximum penalty of death."
"That openly racist policy doesn't trigger  Airbnb's delisting policy."
Eugene Kontorovich, Kohelet Forum legal expert

"The City of Beverly Hills hereby calls upon Airbnb to correct this act of disrespect to the land of Israel and restore its original services immediately."
"In the event that Airbnb does not stop [the blacklisting of Israeli homes], we call upon all civilized people across the globe to boycott Airbnb until such time as they desist from these despicable anti-Semitic actions."
Beverly Hills California city council declaration

"[Human Rights Watch [HRW] is] a powerful NGO ... [whose] publications reflect the absence of professional standards, research methodologies, and military and legal expertise, as well as a deep-seated ideological bias against Israel."
NGO Monitor, watchdog organization
Airbnb has explained where the rationale for its delisting policy of rental properties located in West Bank Israeli settlements emanated from, following an indignant flurry of responses to its announcement that it has decided to remove all listings from its accounts for Israeli settlements. A move that will clearly have an impact on those property owners who have listed with the globally popular Airbnb rental agency. The decision is one of deep mendacious hostility and is clearly libelous as well as certain to have a related response in delegitimizing Israel.

As such it represents a classic BDS ploy thinly disguised as humanitarian discrimination to hide its obvious anti-Semitic origins. It seems highly unlikely that property owners on the Turkish half of Cypress or ethnic Russian property owners in Crimea have much to worry about from Airbnb. Disputed Kashmir, occupied Tibet and the separatist portions of Georgia are not cringing in fear that they too will be distinguished by Airbnb withdrawing their recognition of legitimacy. Under the Airbnb aegis those disputed territories can continue flaunting their rentals.

Israel, however, represents the world's ultimate nation whose 'occupation' of its heritage geography is representative of a heinous crime against a population that migrated to it out of surrounding Arab territory to improve their lives in an area where Jews had a finer standard of stewardship and where the two communities -- Jews and Arabs -- are contestants in a land historically settled and treasured by Israelites from the past to the present. Israel is distinguished as a country that in asserting its heritage commits a criminal act, a charge and its consequences faced by no other nation.

"We know that people will disagree with this decision and appreciate their perspective. This is a controversial issue", agreed Airbnb. Which had decided on its blacklisting of the 200 Jewish homes in West Bank communities in consultation with Human Rights Watch. A group which was launched originally for a definite purpose and whose work was instrumental in furthering awareness of fundamental human rights, but which has since been repurposed as a hypocritical fountain of Israel-bashing on the international stage.

Airbnb has monumental influence among its 150 million app and website users, its 15 million Facebook followers and among the 590,000 who joined its community forum. While the company states that its boycott of certain Jewish Israelis will have the effect of advancing peace in the Middle East, there are no counterbalancing initiatives in recognition that peace requires partnerships and there are no partners to pledge alongside Israel for peace in the Middle East. Yet their half-baked statement will resonate with their gullible followers.

There are lawsuits pending against Airbnb, from among its U.S. Jewish compatriots claiming that Airbnb has erred under the U.S. Constitution. Israel has mounted a self-defence and has reached out to its friends for support in persuading the rental agency to recant. Just as private clubs and universities refused to permit Jewish entrants in the past, spurring Jews to build their own hospitals, clubs and universities that then became the envy of their non-Jewish counterparts for their quality innovation, perhaps it's time for Jews to challenge Airbnb by launching their own similar service with global outreach.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Cameroonian Migrant Returnees

"I was fortunate to cheat death on several occasions, but other migrants didn't have such luck -- they died in the desert. In fact, I have been to hell and back."
"Before I left Nigeria to Niger, I was robbed of all my cash. Fortunately, I had paid the connection agents ['passeurs']. When we got to Niger, the smugglers who received us locked about 200 of us in a room in a bid to evade a state crackdown."
"We were tortured several times with electric wires and given very little food and water. Two people even died."
Jean Toukam, 30-year-old Cameroonian, Yaounde, Cameroon

"I stayed for six months without the promised job upon arrival."
"I did a crash training course in transport and logistics and got a job with a salary of 100,000 CFA francs [about C$230], less than half of what I used to earn back home."
"At this time, I was sleeping on a bare floor in an air-tight room with no furniture."
Malvina, Cameroonian returnee

"We have so far chartered ten flights -- five from Tripoli and five from Agadez -- to bring home migrants who voluntarily wanted to come back."
Seybou Boubacar, UN International Organization for Migration, Cameroon Chief of Mission

Malvina who wanted her last name withheld is back home in Cameroon. She has set up a small business of her own and it is thriving. "Home is really home", she stated. She had decided to leave Cameroon when she was invited to travel to Mali by a friend who told her of a well-paying job. When she left, she took her three-year-old son with her. Before long the company she worked for was forced to perform a financial restructuring and her job was eliminated. She would go on to Algeria, crossing the desert on foot, carrying her son on her back. She was found and repatriated to Mali. Then made her way back to Cameroon. Her migration was not one of desperation.

As for Toukam, he set out to cross the Mediterranean Sea to arrive in Europe with the expectation that his life would change for the better. He was trained as an agriculture and livestock technician. Leaving Yaounde, he passed through Nigeria and Niger to reach Sabratha a city on the Libyan coast where he fell victim to slavery. He is only one among thousands of young people from sub-Saharan Africa feverish to migrate to Europe though it means traversing dangerous routes and enduring harsh climatic conditions in the Sahara and facing the risks of the Mediterranean.

These "adventurers" use trafficking networks of clandestine operations. According to the U.S. Department of State, their 2018 report states: "the Government of Cameroon does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking". When Toukam left Cameroon in 2015 he planned to meet up with a Libyan friend to find work on an agricultural project in Libya. He set out on a journey of over 3,000 miles to Libya, cash in hand. He ended up staying in a ghetto in Agadez, Niger for three months and spoke of his time there as "life-threatening".

Deciding to move on to Libya he and 25 migrants were packed into the back of a pickup truck and as they travelled through the Sahara Desert two of their company died of dehydration before the smuggler abandoned them all. Two weeks later he attempted again, and reached Libya where he was sold by his 'passeur', and locked up in an encampment by armed smugglers. Eventually his family sent back 800 euros to buy his freedom. Upon which he decided to cross to Italy; en  route being abducted by armed smugglers when he incurred bullet wounds attempting to escape following four months of captivity.

The European Union arranged for him to be taken to a repatriation camp in Tripoli, Libya. Now back in Cameroon, Toukam has created a returnees' association whose purpose it is to alert young people in Cameroon of the risks inherent in irregular migration. The United Nations is giving aid to migrants along the central Mediterranean routes if they voluntarily return to their home countries. There is concern that young girls are being trafficked to Europe and Middle East countries like Kuwait and Lebanon as domestics or sex workers facing forced labour, torture and other forms of violence.

Through this program in the last year and a half 2,397 Cameroonian migrants have found assistance to return home. Each returnee is given money for incidental expenses and seed capital to help them start up a business. The International Organization for Migration covers the cost of those agreeing to return on commercial flights back to Cameroon.

184 Cameroonian returnees have been supported by IOM to start their livelihood activities. Photo: IOM

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Condemning Russia

"I condemn Russian use of force in Azov Sea. Russian authorities must return Ukrainian sailors, vessels & refrain from further provocations. I discussed situation with Pres. Poroshenko and will meet his representatives later today. Europe will stay united in support of Ukraine."
Donald Tusk, President, European Council 

"[There was] irrefutable evidence that Kyiv prepared and orchestrated provocations ... in the Black Sea."
"These materials will soon be made public."
FSB, Russian Federal Security Service statement

"[What has occurred is] an invasion of Russian waters, [a] dangerous provocation."  
"Border trespassers are prosecuted according to the law, in strict accordance with legislation."
Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov 

"Martial law doesn't mean declaring a war. It is introduced with the sole purpose of boosting Ukraine's defense in the light of a growing aggression from Russia."
"[Ukraine’s intelligence agencies had information there was a] serious threat of a ground operation [by Russia]."
"[Russia must immediately release the ships and sailors who have been] brutally detained in violation of international law."
"[Moscow must] ensure deescalation of the situation in the Sea of Azov as a first step [and ease tension more broadly]."
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko
PHOTO: Three Ukrainian ships are seen as they are docked after being seized on Nov. 25, 2018, in Kerch, Crimea, Nov. 26, 2018.
Three Ukrainian ships are seen as they are docked after being seized on Nov. 25, 2018, in Kerch, Crimea, Nov. 26, 2018. AP

Three Ukrainian marine vessels have been impounded by Russia in Crimea. Russia considers their ownership of Crimea to be legitimate after having illegally wrested it from Ukraine, and the waters to be their territorial possession. The Kremlin claims that the Ukrainian ships had no business trespassing into Russian territory. Their having done so represents a provocation leading a Russian ship to ram one of the Ukrainian ships, a tugboat accompanying two gunboats sailing from Odessa on the Black Sea to Mariupol via the Kerch Strait en route to Ukraine's eastern port.

Russia, of course, can claim anything it wants to. And Ukraine can deny those claims. But in the face of reality, it is the bully who comes out on top. The situation is so dire that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has been pressed to declare martial law, a temporary situation to what he can only hope will be a temporary blockade of Ukrainian ships, falling into a trap of Russian intransigent malevolence, one quite familiar to Ukraine. As the sole passage into the Sea of Azov should the Kerch Strait be closed off to Ukrainian passage it would spell an economic blockade Ukraine can ill afford.

Ukraine insists its navy had contacted Russian authorities in Crimea of its ships' intended passage, an obligatory courtesy to avoid just such a situation. Despite which a Russian ship fired on the trio of Ukrainian vessels forcing them to come to a stop before seizing them and their crews. NATO and the European Union have called on Moscow to open access to the strait to enable Ukraine to move its vessels to its cities on the Azov coast. The Ukrainian navy could not possibly move aggressively against the much larger Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation.
PHOTO: A ship makes its way near to the Kerch bridge, in background, near in to Kerch, Crimea, Nov. 26, 2018.
A ship makes its way near to the Kerch bridge, in background, near in to Kerch, Crimea, Nov. 26, 2018. AP

As it is, having illegally annexed Crimea in 2014, building a bridge to connect Russian territory directly with Crimea, Moscow's move to block passage through the Kerch Strait separating the peninsula from the Russian mainland isolates Kyiv in a landscape already dominated by ethnic Russian Eastern Ukrainian rebels backed by Moscow. Tensions have been high for the past four years with Moscow forcibly challenging Ukrainian sovereignty, undermining a country that Russia has traditionally dominated, formerly part of the USSR.

Setting its coast guard up to open fire on three Ukrainian vessels in the process wounding two crew members has led to yet another violent standoff. It is clear who the aggressor always is and always has been. International indignation over yet another Russian violation of international relations seems to amuse Vladimir Putin. Enacting further sanctions on a country already under the burden of previous sanctions is functionally questionable. There seems to be no way to penetrate Russian imperturbability over its unlawful and destabilizing behaviour in Europe and the Middle East.

PHOTO: Russian jet fighters fly over a bridge connecting the Russian mainland with the Crimean Peninsula after three Ukrainian navy vessels were stopped by Russia from entering the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait in the Black Sea, Crimea, Nov. 25, 2018.
Russian jet fighters fly over a bridge connecting the Russian mainland with the Crimean Peninsula after three Ukrainian navy vessels were stopped by Russia from entering the Sea of Azov via the Kerch Strait in the Black Sea, Crimea, Nov. 25, 2018.  Pavel Rebrov/Reuter

Any such actions undertaken by Russia to continue reasserting its dominance in its near-abroad sends shivers of apprehension down the spines of Eastern Europe in anticipation of further, ongoing moves to alarm and threaten. The volatile nature of such eruptions are disquieting and there seems no solution in the offing, since Putin feels himself to be above the pedestrian concerns of all other nations critical of his leadership and the unease he brings to Europe.

Not only will there not be compensation of any kind to Ukraine for the damage done to its ships, much less guarantees for the safety of their crews, but Russia's belligerence and insistence that Ukraine is responsible for the standoff and the tension flies in the face of reality. Yet what is very real is the concern that Russia will be loathe to release the crew until it succeeds in draining Ukraine of patience, risking a further forced confrontation between Moscow and Kyiv, leaving NATO and the EU in a rather awkward position of incapacity to intervene.

The massive provocation of blocking the strait by blocking passage with a tanker ship leaving dozens of cargo ships frustratingly awaiting the possibility of passage represents a roguish move by a thuggish state. There appears to be no force on Earth that can stop Russia, China, Iran from their constant and concerning opposition to a world of settled order and security.

"[Russia's seizure of Ukrainian vessels represented] a dangerous escalation and a violation of international law." 
"The United States condemns this aggressive Russian action. We call on Russia to return to Ukraine its vessels and detained crew members, and to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, extending to its territorial waters."
U.S. Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo

"What we saw yesterday was very serious."
"All allies expressed full support for Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty. There is no justification for the use of military force against Ukrainian ships and naval personnel, so we call on Russia to release immediately the Ukrainian sailors and ships it seized yesterday."
NATO head Jens Stoltenberg 

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Caste, Class, Violent Dehumanizing in India

"You may talk about India being a world power, a global power, sending satellites into space."
"But the outside world has an image of India they don't know. As long as Hinduism is strong, caste will be strong, and as long as there is caste, there will be lower caste."
Avatthi Ramaiah, sociology professor, Mumbai, India

"Such incidents [as a Dalit man killed by higher-caste men for riding a horse] would not have happened in my childhood."
"In my childhood, a Dalit would not ride a horse. Before 1990, most Dalits worked for someone. Now they are paying a price for their freedom."
Chandra Bhan Prasad, Dalit commentator
There is a long-standing history of conversion of Hindu Dalits to other religions in various states of India [Reuters]
There is a long-standing history of conversion of Hindu Dalits to other religions in various states of India [Reuters]

Today in India it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of caste. When in the later 1940s the Constitution was being composed specific protection for Dalits, historically called 'untouchables', making up around 15 to 20 percent of the 1.3-billion Indian population was written into it. Since then affirmative action programs have lifted some Dalits from poverty to the point where today in India there are Dalit poets, doctors, civil service officers, engineers.

But the caste system is deeply ingrained in the culture. Moreover, it is part of the Hindu religious tradition. Experts point out that 95 percent of Indians marry within their caste and recent studies indicate income and education levels tend to correlate closely with caste. Dalits still suffer from caste discrimination. National statistics point to the number of caste-based crimes increasing 25 percent since 2010, with 41,000 cases registered in 2016.

Analysts point the finger at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party where Hindu supremacist roots embolden supporters to act out violently at minorities in the name of Hinduism. People are being beaten or killed for the Hindu crime of slaughtering cows, seen to be revered in Hinduism. Cow vigilante squads target Muslims or Dalits. Occupations were designated by caste in traditional Indian society where untouchables performed work no one else would touch.

At the very bottom of India's Hindu society for centuries the Dalits are estimated at over 300 million people who have suffered rank abuse through Indian history. And at a time when enlightenment and growing national prosperity should be reducing such crimes they are instead growing in prevalence. When women and girls are abused, violated and killed they are often the victims of higher caste men who view them with contempt by caste; in rural India Dalit women and girls are seen as easy prey.

A recent incident in Thati, India, in the rural community village, a Dalit man, Sardar Singh Jatav, had the audacity to speak with his son's employers to ask them to pay his son the back pay they owed him for work done. The 55-year-old Mr. Jatay was attacked by the high-caste men who punched him, broke his arm, pinned him down, stuffed a rag in his mouth while one tried to scalp him with a razor and nearly succeeded carving off his skin. "Take that! Tell everyone we scalped you!", they jeered.

They were of the Gujjar caste, inferior to the highest-ranking Brahmins, but ranking well above Mr. Jatav, a Dalit, so they felt entitled to chasten him for his arrogance in daring to suggest they pay his son what he was entitled to. Several of the men involved in the attack have been arrested by police who say that caste played "no role" in the crime that has left Mr. Sardar humiliated and with a scar that will remind him as long as he lives, that higher caste men can control his life.

Dalits took to the streets in protests across the northern Hindi-speaking heartland, where caste-based discrimination is still widespread © Reuters

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Saturday, November 24, 2018

Tears for Jamal Khashoggi

"Representatives of Saudi Arabia say that Jamal Khashoggi was an 'enemy of the state' and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood."
"[Although bin Salman may have] had knowledge of this tragic event -- maybe he did and maybe he didn't -- [the administration would stand by Saudi Arabia]."
"In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel, and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world!"
U.S. President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump (R) meets with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office of the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, DC.
"Khashoggi had always been close to the Muslim Brotherhood, the people who took over Egypt under Morsi following the so-called Arab Spring. The Muslim Brotherhood is a hard-line Islamist organization dedicated to the introduction of Sharia and the creation of an Islamic caliphate."
"Khashoggi -- a former Saudi intelligence agent, a man who was close to the Muslim Brotherhood and a sworn opponent of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's reform program -- was in the process of setting up a center to promote the ideology of the MB. He was setting it up in Turkey with Qatari money. The Saudis wanted to stop him In September, they offered him $9 million to return to Saudi Arabia and to live there unhindered. They wanted him out of play. Khashoggi refused and the rest you know."
"This man wasn't some Western-oriented liberal brutally murdered because of his passion for freedom. This man was a player."
"My intelligence sources tell me he had worked as an intelligence agent for the Saudi intelligence service, GID, for around 20 years. At one point, he was sent by GID to Sudan to meet Osama bin Laden and to try to lure him away from terrorism. He failed."
"Abandoning the relationship with Saudi Arabia would further weaken the interests and influence of the Western powers in the Middle East. And if you think that doesn't matter, you're quite wrong. The Middle East is volatile enough without adding to that volatility by creating new power vacuums."
Alexander Downer, Australian diplomat 
Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi, AFP

"Saudi Arabia has been an important partner to regional security in the past. I expect they will be in the future."
"...Their coooperation, their interoperability, in my judgement is a good thing."
"Their cooperation, interoperability, capability if you will, would be a stabilizing force on the region, has been a stabilizing force in the region."
General Joseph Dunford, chairman, U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, International Security Forum, Halifax
Turkey, which according to journalism's oversight body now represents the most repressive of countries for journalists, taking over the number one spot for its imprisonment of journalists, its closing down of media groups that fail to conform to Recep Tayyip Erdogan's idea of worthwhile news, earning his ire for a hint of criticism of his autocratic rule, has manipulated world opinion to shrink from Saudi Arabia's inept and audacious effort to rid itself of a political nuisance. Erdogan himself makes far wider use of cruder and more far-reaching steps to destroy the lives of his perceived opponents.

Both countries are tribal, sectarian, political theocracies each employing whatever means they feel necessary to achieve their ends; domination, control, influence. Neither is subtle about it and neither would get any awards for humanitarian concern. So why is Turkey so eager to diminish Saudi Arabia's standing with the Western world's political leadership? Erdogan himself knows few equals as an abrasive, venomous partner to any relationship he hopes to foster with the West; human rights is a non-starter with Erdogan, just ask the average Kurd for starters.

Turkey, now clearly Islamist, though a Sunni Muslim country, has decided to throw in its lot with Shia Iran, despite its presence in Syria in support of mass-murdering Bashar al-Assad, a man not to Erdogan's liking because of his opposition to Sunni Syrian demands for equality with Alawite Syrians reflecting the regime's lethal sectarian bias. Erdogan's rapprochement with Vladimir Putin, another supporter of Assad, places him in the company of Russia, Syria, Iran and Qatar, an emerging power bloc competing for influence in the Middle East with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the Gulf States and the United States.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the close to century-old Islamist movement that has stretched its tentacles of influence throughout the Muslim world into the world of Western democracies has been declared a terrorist group by Egypt where it began, and by Saudi Arabia. Under former President Barack Obama the Muslim Brotherhood had entry to the White House as an influence that boded ill for America's traditional Middle East partners. Qatar, in its support for terrorist groups Hamas and Hezbollah and partnership with Iran, has been ostracized by other Sunni Arab countries.

Placing Jamal Khashoggi's death in perspective of the assassinations taking place on a regular basis throughout the Muslim and particularly Arab Muslim world, not to mention the world of Vladimir Putin, becomes a lesson in Realpolitik and the successful manipulation of world opinion. The bit player that he was in the Byzantine covert destabilization efforts on the part of explicitly fascist Islam joined by his predilection for supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and his friendship and admiration for Osama bin Laden paint this man as a rather unsympathetic figure.

In a world of deadly intrigue and disregard for basic decency does his death really matter if to keep some semblance of peace the clumsy stupidity of the Saudis to pursue an avenue to shut down a critic has led to a glimpse into the overheated world of Middle East politics?

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Rest In Peace, Igor Korobov

"Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the friends and family of [Igor Korobov] in connection with his death."
"He died on November 21 after a serious and long-standing illness."
Kremlin statement
GRU HQ, 4 Oct 18
Modernisation of the GRU headquarters in Moscow was completed in 2006   Reuters

Falling out of favour in a regime like Russia's under a ruthless autocrat like Vladimir Putin can be deadly. A man evidently not known to have suffered any kind of chronic illness, much less a sudden illness is suddenly chronically dead. Although Mr. Putin is cocksure of himself, arrogant to the core he doesn't appreciate being embarrassed. And the botched assassination attempt of former Russian intelligence service member Sergei Skripal and his daughter in a quiet, historical British enclave was too amateurish for his liking. Having world attention focused on yet another clandestine Russian exploit gone wrong was a nuisance.

And since the head of the country's military intelligence service was responsible, it makes sense he would be dismissed from his leadership position a the GRU. Vladimir Putin knows all there is to know about such institutions since he was part of the predecessor institution, the KGB in his apprentice years as a Russian thug. He, however, is now the 'forever and ever' President of Russia an award for cunning manipulation that keeps on paying off, while the former head of the GRU is now a 'former' everything. That truly is a forever penalty.
Gen Korobov, Aug 2017
Gen Korobov served in the Russian air force before becoming GRU chief (Aug 2017 pic)    AFP

Rumours can be very informative and rumour has it that the 62-year-old GRU chief's illness struck him suddenly. All it took was a serious conversation with Vladimir Putin when Mr. Korobov was called to the President's Kremlin office for that very purpose. It must have been a particularly grim conversation one in which the president had plenty to say and Mr. Korobov listened as he was meant to do, for what might he have been permitted to explain in his defence, after all? Botched is botched.

The world now knows, however, that Mr. Korobov was a wonderful person, a true and faithful son of Russia, a patriot of the country. And we know that because this is how he was described post-mortem by the Russian Defence Ministry. And who is prepared to argue any of that? Although it is unknown when exactly Mr. Korobov first fell ill, when he did, Vice Admiral Igor Kostyukov filled the position temporarily. And now he may be appointed to it permanently. Fittingly, he has been sanctioned by the U.S.

That's because of his having been linked to GRU hacking and election interference in the United States. And for a clandestine outfit whose expertise in intelligence operations sends shivers of fear down some spines, another embarrassment ensued when Bellingcat and The Insideer (a Russian website) made claim to having identified yet another GRU officer involved in a Montenegro coup attempt in 2016. For a professional intelligence group the GRU disappoints many Russians who would prefer to fear rather than jeer their nation's military intelligence body.

Vladimir Putin at GRU, Nov 06
President Putin (3rd R) visited the new GRU HQ in November 2006    Getty Images

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Thursday, November 22, 2018

Poland Should Study Remorse and Humility

"During World War II, due to the demoralizing circumstances and German actions, it is true that vile-acting individuals could be found among Poles and Jews alike."
"Yet, we should remember that the objective of the Germans was also to 'eradicate the Polish nation' and 'completely destroy Poland'."
"In his numerous publications and public statements, he [Grabowski] falsifies the history of Poland, proclaiming the thesis that Poles are complicit in the extermination of Jews."
"The attempts to ascribe part of the responsibility for the crimes of the World War II and the Holocaust to the Poles are evidently actions damaging Poland and are based on Jan Grabowski’s unconfirmed estimated figures."
Polish League Against Defamation statement
Jews are loaded onto trucks in the Lodz Ghetto, to be sent to an extermination camp in 1942.

"What is important, from my point of view, is that the militant nationalists who nowadays hold sway in Poland be warned that they will be held to account, that they are wrong if they think that their outrageous statements and slanders will go unnoticed."
"The more I studied these issues, I saw a level of complicity of parts of Polish society in the destruction of Polish Jews."
"From among the approximately 250,000 Polish Jews who had escaped liquidations of the ghettos and who had fled, about 40,000 survived. We have thus more than 200,000 Jews who fled the liquidations and who did not survive until liberation. My findings show that in the overwhelming majority of cases, their Polish co-citizens were – directly through murder, or indirectly by denunciation – at the root of their deaths."
"Whether they lived or died depended to a large extent on the attitude of the Poles. [While some Poles did save Jews], Polish society demonstrated various behaviours, some of which were horrifying."
Jan Grabowski, Holocaust researcher, professor, University of Ottawa
Jews are liquidated from the Krakow Ghetto in 1943.
"[The Polish League Against Defamation] has attempted to silence Prof. Grabowski by criticizing both his academic credibility and his personal integrity. Most recently, the league circulated a letter to universities in Europe and North America – including the University of Ottawa – that questions Prof. Grabowski’s widely acclaimed scholarship and accuses him of defaming the Polish nation."
"The HRREC affirms our confidence in the highly respected scholarship of Prof. Grabowski and we underline his academic freedom to pursue and publish his research without fear of attacks on his person or reputation."
"The HRREC strongly denounces the attacks on Prof. Grabowski as well as any endeavour to interfere with independent research."
Human Rights Research and Education Centre (HRREC), University of Ottawa
After the Second World War, Jewish refugees who settled in Canada among the already long-settled Jewish immigrants from Europe, became aware that it was entirely conceivable that they might come across a former guard from any of the extermination or forced-labour camps operating in Eastern Europe walking the streets of Canadian cities. East Europeans, post-war, made application to leave their countries of origin and settle in Canada. They took steps to conceal their past during the war and succeeded in their applications for settlement in Canada.

Among them a good number of Ukrainian and Polish nationals who had collaborated with the Nazis taking up prison work with relish, work that made them complicit in the deaths of millions of Europe's Jews. When the Canadian Jewish Congress applied to the various governments of Canada over the years to establish a commission that would root out former war criminals living in Canada who took part in Nazi Germany's genocide against the Jewish population of Europe, nationalist Canadian-Ukrainian did everything they could to circumvent any such actions, denying that Ukrainians had ever been part of Germany's extermination plans.
Germany, by contrast, has a dreadful legacy to live down, responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of people -- among them six million Jews in a diabolical plan to exterminate European Jews -- through its plan for world domination, bringing the world to a second global conflict in the first half of the 20th Century. Had Nazi Germany with its Axis partners succeeded, there is little doubt that the Nazi killing machine would have continued to dedicate itself to a Jew-free world. Post-war Germany in its defeat had little option but to face its dreadful legacy. Successive German governments have acknowledged the horror of the nation's responsibility.

For the past few years Poland has been strenuously applying itself to teaching the world that it is morally incorrect to refer to 'Polish' concentration camps, though so many were located in Poland. The Nazis knew that in establishing death camps in Ukraine and Poland they could anticipate local complicity. Even in occupied France French police and authorities were swift to make common cause with the Nazis, helping to round up Jews to be dispatched to concentration camps from which they would never return. Poland prefers the descriptive of 'Nazi' concentration camps, never 'Polish' concentration camps. Clearly, Poland struggles with itself, unwilling to remorsefully indulge in introspection.

Dr. Grabowski, a highly internationally respected Holocaust researcher, has been the victim of a campaign of defamation by the Polish League Against Defamation, allied with the conservative ruling party of Poland which claims that his research uses wholly fictional accounts in a deliberate effort to slander Poland. History speaks for itself. There is more than ample documentation, from meticulously-maintained German archives, much less personal testimony of Holocaust survivors to attest to Polish complicity in Nazi atrocities. Ukraine's defence is Poland's as well. Most Eastern European countries lent themselves under Nazi occupation, to the hunt for Jews.

Poland's Law and Justice party attempted to make it a criminal offence to label the concentration camps in that country where millions were exterminated 'Polish' installations. International indignation convinced it to back down. Professor Grabowski wrote an historical accounting of Poland's complicity during the Holocaust years titled Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland, to document the involvement of Poles finding and killing Jews who managed to escape from ghettoes attempting to survive by installing themselves surreptitiously among non-Jews.

With its publication, heated debate ensued even as the book was recognized in 2014 for an award by the Yad Vashem International Book Prize for Holocaust Research. That award was not the only recognition given Dr. Grabowski for his research and writing; he received numerous death threats. A German newspaper review of the book recognized its quality of revelations and that favourable review saw a response from a far-right Polish website which chose to publish an article alongside a photograph of Joseph Goebbels, Nazi propaganda minister.

"Sieg Heil, Herr Grabowski, Three times Sieg Heil" ran the headline of the article. Leading to a successful libel suit. Now, with this latest besmirching of the professor's scholarship and literary and moral  integrity, the Polish organization is being sued for libel by him, in recognition of its public campaign accusing him of slandering Poland by writing of Polish violence against Jews. Should justice prevail, he will win this lawsuit as well.

Poland does itself no favours by their disingenuous efforts to exonerate their wartime record. Far better to be resigned to the reality of history, to express regret and shame and the intention to cultivate a more humane and responsible admission of wrongs done and deplored. What has passed is past; what is required is to ensure that there can be no repeats of the past. This offensive defensiveness does the country no credit whatever, other than bringing more shame upon it for denying its part in the horrors of genocide.

An inscription 'Arbeit Macht Frei' sits above the main gate at the Auscwitz-Birkenau concentration camp museum in Auscwitz-Birkenau, Poland, February 28, 2018.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Elaboration on a Crimes Against Humanity Trial

"Let bygones be bygones. To say who is wrong and who is right and who is doing this and who is doing that, et cetera ... "
"Please don't stir things up."
"It is normal that those who have lost their families, that they -- what to say -- feel some resentment."
"Sorry, very sorry."
"Please have some sympathy with me. I need to have some rest."
"[I was] not aware of the heinous acts committed by other leaders."
Khieu Samphan 87, Khmer Rouge head of state, Cambodia

"We are very sorry not only for the lives of the people of Cambodia, but even the lives of all animals that suffered because of the war."
"We only killed the bad people, not the good."
Nyon Chea, 92, Khmer Rouge leader 
Khieu Samphan (L) and Nuon Chea (R) at the trial in Phnom Penh on 7 August 2014
The pair are already serving life sentences  Nuon Chea, right, Khieu Samphan, left    Reuters

Well, thanks to the vigorous efforts of Nuon Chea, second in command after Pol Pot as leader of the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979, a paroxysm of mass murder overtook Cambodia when 1.7 million of its population were killed in a trajectory of violence that the Communist Khmer Rouge unleashed on the people of Cambodia. That trajectory was a familiar one, followed in lock-step with the experiment in social engineering that consumed the Soviet Union in its massive effort to produce a 'socialist' economy and society.

The Communist Khmer Rouge, taking its cue from the USSR was determined  to transform the country into an agrarian utopia. It began just as Stalin did, by killing the educated class and reorganizing the country into labour camps, forcing the population to bow to the rewards of collectivization of efforts to benefit all, particularly their leaders. An international tribunal delivered a verdict on Friday indicting the two surviving members of the Cambodian Communist leadership.

That verdict from the tribunal declared the Khmer Rouge to have committed genocide against the Muslim Cham minority and the ethnic Vietnamese. It took a decade for the tribunal, named the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, supported by the United Nations, to sift through hundreds of thousands of document pages, to call on hundreds of witnesses and to hear exhaustive detail of the Khmer Rouge killing fields. All of this judicial activity came in with a steep price tag of $300-million.

Eventually the Khmer Rouge were ousted when a Vietnamese invasion challenged their primacy, sending them to an escape in Cambodian jungles as a defeated insurgent army. Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan, the two men standing trial before the tribunal, defected in 1998. Prime Minister Hun Sen, himself a low-ranked Khmer Rouge cadre, welcomed the two with friendly overtures, counselling the country to "dig a hole and bury the past".

Both men in their senior years felt they were entitled to believe that the past was past and they could relax as simple citizens of Cambodia, enjoying the peace and quiet of those golden years in the presence of their children and grandchildren. They repaired to the remote border town of Pailin which had absorbed former Khmer Rouge members, and there they found comfort. Until 2007 when they were arrested and placed in prison to await trial.

The verdict passed down by the court mentioned murder, extermination, enslavement, imprisonment, torture, persecution and inhumane acts against human dignity, all of which these two elderly men were charged with and found guilty of committing. Forced labour, death threats, torture were all part of the narrative of their past occupation. Nuon Chen was fund guilty of genocide against both the Cham and the Vietnamese, while Khieu Samphan was held to be guilty of genocide against the Vietnamese, and both found guilty of crimes against humanity.

They were sentenced to life imprisonment. Which would have displeased them mightily. But following their exploits in destroying almost two million lives, there was a peaceful interim when they believed that 'bygones would be bygones', until justice finally caught up with them. Too late, but better than never....
When millions of people are killed and millions more have had their lives torn asunder, ordinary legal processes, or even extraordinary ones, are inevitably impotent to render anything resembling real justice to the legions of victims.
Many victims inevitably will be disappointed. What tribunals can do, however, is to deliver a form of symbolic justice by identifying the masterminds of the atrocities, and holding some of them to account.
For some victims, that is enough, and more justice than they ever expected to receive.                                                                                                          former crime scene investigator Craig Etcheson
Cambodian Buddhist wait outside the court hall before they attending the hearings against two former Khmer Rouge senior leaders, at the U.N.-backed war crimes tribunal on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018.

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Immigration to Canada Under Mister Dressup

"A frequent basis of claim cited by Indian nationals is the fear of arbitrary arrest or abuse by the police based on accusations of supporting militant organizations."
"It should be noted the vast majority of these claims are filed by Indian Sikhs."
"Contemporary support has re-emerged around proposals for an unofficial referendum of the global Sikh diaspora in 2020 on the question of independence..."
"As government pushback against the Sikh community continues, fear of arbitrary arrest and abuse by authorities will likely prompt more Indian Sikhs to leave the country."
Canada Border Services Agency report

"Canada is a preferred destination for Indian visitors, business travellers and students and we value their contributions to Canadian society. While the overall number of Indian TRV [temporary resident visa] holders claiming asylum has risen, these claims represent less than one percent of all Indian travellers to Canada. The vast majority of Indian nationals visiting or migrating to Canada do so through regular means."
"The onus is on the applicant to show that they meet the requirements for a temporary resident visa. All applications from around the world are assessed equally against the same criteria. Canada does not limit the number of temporary resident visa applications that are accepted from any country."
Mathieu Genest, spokesman, Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen

"There is a legitimate policy debate to be had. That shift from low 60s from the economic class to high 50s is not a major change but it is a significant number over time."
"...The Conservatives [previous government] were right to bump up the economic class because that's where public support is greatest."
Andrew Griffith, former federal director general of citizenship
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to the crowd during the annual India day parade in Montreal, Sunday, August 20, 2017. Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

Canada has absorbed an extremely large number of people from the Indian sub-continent. Many have settled on the West Coast of the country in British Columbia while many others have claimed cosmopolitan Toronto as their home base. In the aggregate they have been a true boon to Canada with their enterprise, intelligence, academic record and family values. On the other hand, the tensions in India between majority Hindus and minority Sikhs has also been brought from that continent to this.

Canada's first experience with terrorism that was not home-based (Front de liberation du Quebec) was a horror when Sikh separatists fighting a clandestine campaign for their Khalistan homeland to be carved out of India set explosives aboard an Air India flight from Canada to India, with disastrous consequences. And when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travelled to India ostensibly for trade talks he was embroiled in a contratemps over courting votes at home by appearing to India to encourage Sikh separatism to the point where a convicted Sikh felon was invited to Canadian embassy functions.

Now, a report by the Intelligence and Analysis Section of the Canada Border Services Agency makes the link between unease in India over Justin Trudeau's tolerance for separation in India while Canada itself has no toleration for separatism when it comes to Quebec agitation for complete sovereignty. The impression he has left with Prime Minister Narendra Modi is that he supports the Khalistan movement, the very movement responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Canadian Hindus in the Air India bombing of 1985 when over 300 innocent people lost their lives.

That the Punjab area of India which is home to most Sikhs is the source of the majority of East Indians coming to Canada has certainly influenced the Indian Prime Minister's opinion of Canada's liberal government coddling Sikh aspirations. They represent a sizable voting bloc, one that the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau is eager to continue cultivating for votes.
At the end of Roxham Road in Champlain, Fiyori Mesfin, 32, crosses into Canada with her 3-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter, both U.S. citizens. She had been living in Las Vegas for four years but was denied asylum status. (Andre Malerba/The Washington Post)

Canadians have been somewhat turned away from the human treasuries that await Canada in the person of new immigrants. The illegal entry to Canada over the U.S. border of Nigerian nationals has seen a 300 percent rise year over year, and that over 30,000 illegals have chosen to bypass legal crossings to declare themselves refugees has not endeared the process to the general public. That situation has led to Canadian cities like Montreal and Toronto straining their welfare budgets to provide housing and medical care to illegal economic migrants.

Legal immigration on the other hand, is a desired and necessary adjunct to building a competent and reliable workforce. A process that should come with a dedication on the part of the immigrants to fit into Canadian society, adopt its values, respect its laws and in the process prosper, along with their adopted country. In the first half of this year visa applications from Indian citizens rose 70 percent to 490,552 in contrast to the same period in 2017, with approved visas increasing 61 percent o 295,867 year-by-year.

Canada benefits most from the engagement as immigrants of economic class becoming permanent residents, far less under the family reunification program. But, as has been pointed out by analysts critical of government moves on immigration, the current Liberal government is enthused about reuniting families -- to please all those who succeeded in becoming permanent residents, anxious to bring over family members -- depending on immigrant communities repaying the Liberals with their enthusiastic votes.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Canadian Haven

"The onus is on the detainee to actually prove why they should be released."
"On the other hand, in a habeas corpus application, the government is forced to justify legally and substantively why that person is in prison."
"This is a really critical difference for anyone who is trying to challenge their detention."
Swathi Sekhar, End Immigration Detention Network

"[The current system involves] a complete, comprehensive and expert process [with an independent quasi-judicial board that provides] prompt, regular and meaningful review of detention, based on clearly articulated grounds."
Canadian government position
Supreme Court of Canada A pedestrian walks past the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Oct. 18, 2013. (Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Canadian law, according to a man from Pakistan, should give migrants held in detention the opportunity to challenge their imprisonment before a justice of the court. This is a case referred to the Supreme Court of Canada which agreed to hear arguments on the case for immigration detainees to be given access to "habeas corpus"; a legal provision which allows anyone held in custody the right to challenge their detention before a judge.

This, to accommodate migrants when Canadian courts are already backlogged with cases requiring attention. At the present time, migrants without Canadian citizenship may challenge detention only through an immigration tribunal, or a judicial review. This initiative was brought by Tusif Ur Rehman Chhna, a Pakistani who felt he should be offered refugee protection in Canada back in 2006, but who was detained once authorities discovered his criminal record.

So, a man with a criminal record feels he has the authority through what he might construe as humanitarian grounds to call the attention of the Supreme Court of Canada to a procedure to benefit migrants, further locking up courts in processes to complicate the already busy court system that has habituated itself to trials years into the future, at times feeling constrained to dismiss cases citing a too-lengthy period to come to trial.

The Immigration and Review Board held no fewer than a dozen reviews of this man's detention, each time ordering him to remain incarcerated. He has been deported back to Pakistan; however his lawyers have taken up his pursuit of improving Canadian justice on behalf of migrants. There has been no lack of interveners signing on to the appeal including Amnesty International, the Canadian Council for Refugees, the Canadian and B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Prison Law Association and Community and Legal Aid Services Programme.

All arguing that migrant detainees fail too frequently to benefit from a fair hearing by the current methodology, occasionally ending up in indefinite incarceration, like the poor man from Pakistan with his criminal record who felt his permanent presence in Canada would be of huge benefit to the country. The government's argument is that in extending habeas corpus to migrants detainees would result in uncertainty in the legal processes involving decisions made in the process.

With signs reading "Build communities not cages" a small group of advocates mingled on the steps of the Supreme Court building despite sub-zero weather expressing their concerns about the current system treating migrant detainees unfairly. "I think it's absolutely deplorable, I don't think anybody should be detained", according to Andrew Peters of No One is Illegal Toronto. Obviously open borders with no discriminating choices for the benefit of Canada is their choice.

Tarek Fatah would have a lot to say about the benefits to Canada of permitting more Pakistani Muslims to grace the country.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

"They think our country is beautiful and safe and they can do whatever they want, wear bikinis, wherever they like."
"I'm asking, if they wear bikinis in Thailand, will they be safe? Only if they are not beautiful."
Thailand Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha
Promoters call the Thai island of Koh Tao a paradise. Dive resorts boast of its crystal-clear waters, and Western tourists flock to its lively beach bars. Pic source Koh Tao Paradise Facebook

The island of Koh Tan off the coast of Thailand is recognized as a geological tropical paradise calling out for Western tourists to flick to its beach bars and wonderful waters, and they most certainly do. Increasingly, however, some foreigners regard the island as having been overtaken by a sinister influence dangerous to the presence of tourists from abroad. Nine tourists from Europe have died or disappeared since 2014 while vacationing in that paradise. Leading British tabloids to rename it Death Island.

Despite which Thailand remains one of the world's most popular destinations for tourists. Last year lone 35 million people visited, a source of pride and income for Thailand. Which doesn't the least bit appreciate the renaming of Koh Tan to Death Island. It is clearly a patriarchal society where any vestiges of equality between the sexes and respect for personal space is in short order. Leading some officials to suggest that visiting women bring rape on themselves wearing clothing that is provocative.

A short while after two British backpackers, David Miller 24, and Hannah Witheridge 23, were murdered on Koh Tai in 2014, the country's prime minister censured women tourists who think nothing of flaunting their physical beauty in scant apparel. A throwback to another era if you're in a Western country, but accepted wisdom in Thailand, evidently. Wearing scant attire earned Hannah Witheridge the rape she suffered before being murdered, according to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
Hannah Witheridge. Picture: Supplied
Hannah Witheridge. Picture: SuppliedSource:AAP

David Miller and Hannah Witheridge were found dead on Koh Tao in 2014.David Miller and Hannah Witheridge were found dead on Koh Tao in 2014.  Source:AAP

His statement didn't do much to embellish the reputation of Thailand and its beautiful island, and he later apologized. He'd meant, he explained that foreign visitors should exercise care. Two migrant Burmese workers were arrested and convicted of the murders, found guilty by a judge who sentenced them to death, regardless of  questions about DNA evidence and the manner in which police handled the case leading supporters of the two men to claim they were framed. Foreign workers, it seems, are to be treated as shabbily as foreign tourists.
Thai rescue workers gather the bodies of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge.
Thai rescue workers gather the bodies of David Miller and Hannah Witheridge.Source:AP

A Frenchman was discovered, hands tied behind his back in 2015, hanged. In that case police ruled suicide. A Russian tourist disappeared with her diving gear last year. After an investigation police drew the conclusion that she had unfortunately drowned at sea. Police ruled out foul play when a man from Moldova drowned in October out swimming late at night. In some of these instances family members of the deceased challenged police conclusions.

It doesn't help that Koh Tae has a reputation of hosting organized crime, and where police protect local interests. According to the police major general who led the rape investigation of a 19-year-old British woman, police cracked down subsequently on crime syndicates on the island since the killing of the backpacker's. As for the  young woman who claimed to have been raped in June while vacationing on Koh Tae, police announced in October no evidence has been found to support her claim.

The case was then closed. Police did say they were prepared to reopen the case should new evidence emerge. "The whole thing has been a farce from the very beginning. Why on earth would someone make this up?" demanded the young woman's mother, furious at the short shrift police gave her daughter's complaint. She was led herself to a conclusion, that the police were incompetent, bungled the investigation and were invested in covering up the island's crime reputation. "We know how lucky we are to have our daughter back home. Although she will be scarred for life, she is alive. Something needs to be done about the two mafia families who run Koh Tao, as one or both are knowingly harbouring a serial rapist and murderer."

The young woman's mother was informed of CCTV cameras near the beach which could have captured her daughter’s attack had they not been broken. The same broken cameras that missed the 2014 murders of British couple Hannah Witheridge and David Miller. As for CCTV footage from the bar where the 19-year-old thinks her drink had been spiked, it was erased. "Officers went to the scene and try to investigate and search for CCTV footage. Unfortunately, there was no evidence or any part of the footage showing the crime so the criminal case regarding this incident never been officially recorded in Koh Tao", explained an island police officer.

The police are busy, however, seeking the editor of an online news outlet that reported on the deaths and rape case. Suzanne Buchanan, the editor, laughs off the warrant issued against her, since she lives in Britain and likely wouldn't dream of going to Thailand for fairly obvious reasons. "They are accusing me of peddling fake news when it is not fake", she scoffed. And likely will continue going about the business of warning off would-be vacationers to the paradise of Death Island.

She has ample to write about, actually, a litany of crimes from rape to murder:
Nick Pearson, 25, from the UK. On New Years Day in 2014, he was found floating in a bay beneath a 15m cliff. He had no broken bones. Police ruled out foul play but his family believe he was murdered.
Hannah Witheridge, 23, and David Miller, 24, from the UK. In September 2014, the couple were found bludgeoned to death close to where they were staying. Ms Witheridge had been raped.
Dimitri Povse, 29, from France. On New Years Day in 2015, he was found hanging in a bungalow. Police ruled his death a suicide but couldn’t explain why his hands were tied behind his back.
Christina Annesley, 23, from the UK and born in New Zealand. In January 2015, she was said to have died of natural causes after mixing antibiotics with alcohol. No toxicology report was conducted. Her family are suspicious.
Valentina Novozhyonova, 23, from Russia. In March 2015, she vanished from her hostel, with her mobile phone, passport and camera left behind. She is still missing.
Luke Miller, 24, from the UK. In January 2016, he was found at the bottom of a swimming pool at the Sunset Bar at Sairee Beach. His family has accused police of a cover-up.
Elise Dallemagne, 30, of Belgium. In April 2017, she was found hanged in the jungle. Questions surround her death.

Party island Koh Tao, Thailand, has been dubbed ‘Death Island’.
Party island Koh Tao, Thailand, has been dubbed ‘Death Island’.Source:istock

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