Honor & Offer

When Lunghu recently remarked –in his customary offhand, casual style– that he expected the next few months to bring interesting news of Viktor Bout, he really didn’t have a 72-hour turnaround time in mind.   Still, there’s nothing quite like almost-instant gratification!  Wednesday e-ditions of the Bangkok Post report that:

1]  [Bout’s] sudden [attempted] extradition Wednesday  morning caught many Thai authorities by surprise as it was expected to be some time before he could be removed to US custody.  It is not known who orchestrated the rapid extradition of Mr Bout.
The Office of the [Thai] Attorney-General, upon hearing of his rapid extradition, yesterday tried to block the handover to the US authorities, who have sent a special jet and security personnel to Thailand.

2]   OAG said that Bout was required to appear before the Criminal Court on October 4th on the first hearing of new money laundering and fraud charges requested by US authorities. {Bout] cannot leave the country until the charges are heard and completed or are dropped.

3]  The [Thai] Corrections Department said it could not hand Bout over to the police until the new charges are dropped.

4]  The Foreign Affairs Ministry was also surprised at the swift extradition of Mr Bout [Wednesday] as it had not been made aware of it … normally, extradition proceedings need to go through the ministry first.

5]  Sirichoke Sopha, a close aide to the prime minister, admitted having visited Bout at Bangkok Remand Prison, but denied he tried to persuade Bout to implicate former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in arms dealing.  Sirichoke said that he [visited Bout]  to find out if the Russian arms dealer was involved in the transport of a large quantity of weapons found on a plane that made a stopover at Don Mueang airport in December last year.  The plane was heading for Sri Lanka at the same time Thaksin was in that country.

Apparently, none of this is considered newsworthy by US media, but Lunghu ain’t too surprised.  Although alternative explanations may abound, here are a few to consider:

1]  Perhaps US authorities leveraged their long-standing relationships with Thai military, intelligence and police notables to initiate a whirlwind expedited extradition process.   But rice bowls in OAG, Corrections, and the Foreign Ministry went unfilled, and objections were raised by those officials whose delicate sensibilities were offended.

2]  Thailand is renowned throughout the ASEAN region  –and perhaps the world–  for the scrupulous manner in which the rule of law is implemented.   Rules and processes are designed for sound reasons, and those processes must be honored in fact as well as in principle.

3]  When the United States Attorney General’s office says in an e-mail that “the prosecution of Viktor Bout is of utmost priority to the United States,” it sounds to Lunghu as though the inexorable economic law of supply and demand just sent the price of a scarce commodity way, way up.

4]  Aristotle’s Poetics calls for the explication of human drama through mythos, ethos, melos, and opsis (among other things).  Lunghu is supplying the dianoia and lexis.   Although there’s no absolute requirement for a third act in this Thai tragi-comedy, who knows what the playwright has in mind!

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