Monday, April 30, 2007

Washington Times: USA for Innovation's Attack on Thailand

Troubles from Thailand

By Ken Adelman
April 27, 2007

America's critical efforts to promote good governance around the world face several obstacles. At the World Bank, for example, the lavishly paid globocrats seem incapable of stopping payment to Third World kleptoptocracies. And its president, Paul Wolfowitz, has had his good governance reform agenda stalled as he is embroiled in a scandal over payments to his Bank-employed lady friend.

But the importance of good governance has never been clearer. Let's take as a "case study" something relevant this week when yesterday saw the celebration of World Intellectual Property Day, and the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is expected to release its "Special 301 Report" on Monday -- an annual listing of IP violators around the world. Numerous organizations, including USA For Innovation, believe Thailand should be elevated to the Priority Watch List, a special section reserved for the worst offenders.

What happened to Thailand? We've long regarded Thailand as a fine little country, friendly to America, nice rulers -- the stuff of "The King and I."

Thailand has for years been one of the rising Asian tigers, growing rapidly as it harnesses the global trading system to its benefit. And since World War II, when Thailand became an ally of the United States and deepened its business and commercial ties with the West, it has grown at an average of almost 8 percent annually. It rose to become the second largest economy in Southeast Asia. But it's no longer your grandfather's Siam.


2 Bangkok did his own interesting expose here, which Hobby kindly pointed out to me.

First, let me say that this attack against Thailand by this USA for Innovation non-profit in the media recently is very serious. Full ad in the Wall Street Journal and an op-ed in the Washington Times is not insignificant. Somebody is angry. Is it Thaksin who is behind it? It is plausible, but I have my doubts. I am putting my money on the pharm industry or another US company that has recently been screwed by the Thai government. Anyway, here is why I don't think it Thaksin.

First, why would Thaksin attack his own government's policies? Theft of US intellectual property happened under his regime just as much as under the current government. Thaksin made his billions taking western technology and re-marketing it to Thai people.

Second, Thaksin is not in favor of protecting intellectual property of foreigners. During the recent US-Thai FTA talks, Thaksin's government resisted the intellectual property provisions when it came to pharmaceuticals.

Third, if Thaksin ever came back to Thailand to seek power, it would not be in his best interests
to be behind an ad or pro-US intellectual property "non-profit" that has waged war against Thailand.

Fourth, if I was Thaksin and truly behind this "non-profit organization"and saw this editorial or ad, I would not approve of it because it would be personally destructive and it wouldn't be helpful to Thailand as a country.

Lastly, if this is truly a Thaksin conspiracy to come back to power, he should be ashamed of himself for a couple reasons. 1. It was sloppily executed. 2. It doesn't endear him to Thais when he is attacking his own country abroad. In other words, no matter how angry you are for being ousted, you don't ally yourself with the US pharmaceutical lobby in attacking your own country. That is just moronic. Most people all over the world hate the US pharmaceutical industry.

If Thaksin really wanted to do damage to the junta and come back to power, instead of playing golf with Jack Nicklaus, or buying mansions in England and Australia, and purchasing an English Premiere League football club, he would have worked with pro-democracy groups, university professors, NGOs, or other groups that are traditionally associated with getting rid of military regimes. Seriously, if Thaksin's strategy to get rid of the junta and come back to power is to ally with big Pharm, he really is a fool. And I doubt Big Pharm would want to work with Thaksin.

And what of this Adelman, Edelman connection? Just because these two guys have similar sounding names doesn't mean there is a conspiracy. Further, Washington is an incestuous town. Meaning, former ambassadors, senators, congressmen work for many non-profits, law firms, NGOs and lobbying groups as rain-makers. In other words, a famous person sits on a board as an adviser and that brings in high value clients and/or prestige.

But the Thai half-assed way of doing things is to say, "Look, Edelman, Adelman know each other, and Thaksin hired Edelman, so now we know he is behind these attacks on our country."

In the non-conspiratorial world, it doesn't really work that way. There could be an Edelman, Adelman, big pharm or other IP dispute connection without the Thaksin element.

This is what I predict. I doubt one single Thai newspaper or Thai politician will pick up a telephone and call to verify Adelman, Edelman, Thaksin theories.

Will The Nation or the Bangkok Post pick up a phone or write an e-mail to Adelman or Edelman? Nope. Will any Thai newspaper call Thaksin and ask him for a comment? Nope. Will any Thai newspaper call Abbott pharm and ask them if they are behind this campaign? Nope.
Will any Thai newspaper look at the financial disclosure forms of USA for Innovation? Nope.

This is what the worthless, conspiracy loving Thai media will do. It will quote Thai politicians, like Korbsak Sabhavasu, to discuss their conspiracy theories, but won't actually do any work to verify if any of the conspiracy theories are true.

It will also go on a right-wing anti-American crusade.

Will the Thai media actually made an effort to uncover the truth? Never.

Why do that when it can rely on lies, innuendo, conspiracy theory and quotations of wacky Thai politicians.


Anonymous said...

Have you seen this Salon article? It basically backs up what you are saying- that it's the pharma companies behind the whole thing:


Anonymous said...

But surely anybody that criticizes Thailand is secretly being bankrolled by Thaksin?

Unknown said...

"Intellectual property" is an ambiguous word which refers to several mostly unrelated laws. It is misleading, as it implies that all of copyrights, patents, and trademarks are most reasonably treated as physical property, with the implied rights of traditional hard property ownership.

For clarity, consider using exactly the term you mean: patent infringement. In this situation, that is a grave accusation already.

Please see Richard Stallman's essay on intellectual property for more information. Thanks.

(Finally, in addition to the patent problem, I would mention that Thailand makes no effort to enforce copyrights for foreign (read: "US") software and media, although some have told me that Thai animations are not subject to bootlegging. The "market value" of all the unlicensed software and bootleg DVDs is probably comparable to these lost patent license revenues.)

Unknown said...

IMO, about Thaksin's involvement:

From the perspective of a beltway insider lobbyist, Thaksin is just a dark-skinned foreign nobody from some country which is lucrative to exploit sometimes. To think that Thaksin can get that much action from a lobby group (even as a direct customer) in the big leagues is naive and chauvinistic. It is much more reasonable to assume big pharma is the cause here and not some foreign has-been whose home country neither has nor ever will get its shit together.

I'd love to be proven wrong by some exposure, some following of the money trail; but I suspect most media wouldn't make the effort.

Bangkok Pundit said...

I am not sure it is just Big pharma, but entities wanting to protect intellectual property rights. I do think it was Big Pharma moving against the govt which proved fatal as the lobbying has been successful within Thailand been downgraded to Priority Watch and subject to trade retaliations. The ball is in Thailand's court.

Anonymous said...

And the Thai Govt saw it coming but really thought it would be OK if they mounted a few high-profile raids. Oddly I think the recent raids (one attended by a minister I believe and the other attended by the Top Cop himself) will only have served to make the perception of Thailand even worse.

The thinking must have been "if they knew this was going on why did they not have lower-profile but effective campaigns before now?' and 'the buggers knew about all this all along and when they think we are too dumb to notice, they wheel out a few sacrificial lambs. When all the fuss dies down, a few 1000bt fines, a smack on the wrist and can I have one of the recent movies please?.

Yet another classic Thai foot-shot.