Thailand, until recently one of Southeast Asia's most open democracies, has an increasingly brass-knuckled prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. It also has an growing sort of proto-insurgency in the Muslim south, which Thailand has dealt with by ruthlessly cracking down: Yesterday, 78 unarmed protestors somehow died after being arrested. They were either packed too tightly into trucks and suffocated or simply were murdered. "They might have had something stuffed in their mouths or nostrils," a Thai government forensics specialist said. Asked to comment on the police's actions--before the deaths were publicly known--the prime minister said, "They have done a great job."
I was curious about what the White House response has been to the Thailand's heavy-handed tactics. "Very muted," is how Sam Zarifi at Human Rights Watch described it to me. "What I really mean is that the administration has embraced the prime minister." I also put in a call to the State Department; they haven't responded (yet).