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The Ralph Boyce Fiasco
 
 
 
 

All news items on this subject that have appeared in print to date
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

M & C News

 

Thai anti-tobacco groups slam US ambassador

 

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa), Aug 25, 2006

 

http://news.monstersandcritics.com/health/article_1194787.php/Thai_anti-tobacco_groups_slam_US_ambassador

 

Bangkok - Thailand's leading anti-smoking group accused the US ambassador to Bangkok of breaching his country's tobacco policy by escorting American tobacco executives to a meeting with the Thai health minister. 

 

The executives went to complain to the minister, Pinij Charusombat, that cigarettes were being unfairly controlled, compared with other tobacco products like cigars and pipe tobacco which are less restricted, according to news reports Saturday. 

 

The Thailand Healthy Foundation said ambassador Ralph Boyce broke the US State Department's own directive on Tobacco Policy Abroad by adding his diplomatic weight to Thursday's meeting. 

 

The foundation will ask its counterparts in the United States to follow up this alleged breach of anti-smoking protocol, its president Hatai Chitanondh, told The Nation. 

 

The US embassy in Bangkok had no immediate comment. 

 

The US directive issued in 2000 says the US and diplomats abroad will not promote tobacco products or help US businesses promote them. 

 

'Ambassadors or embassy staff should not attend or otherwise support receptions, trade promotions or any events? where their attendance could be construed as United States Government support for the sale or export of tobacco or tobacco products,' the directive says. 

 

Hatai said the Thai health minister was also wrong to agree to a meeting that would have been better dealt with by an exchange of letters. 

 

Philip Morris, the world's largest tobacco company which was represented at Thursday's meeting, has previously called for fair treatment from the Thai government on the taxation of manufactured cigarettes and roll-your-own products. 

 

'A double standard remains in the Thai tobacco industry. Manufactured and roll-your-own products are similarly defined as tobacco,' said Paul Riley, general manager of Philip Morris (Thailand). 

 

'Currently, manufactured cigarettes have to pay excise tax at a rate of as high as 79 per cent, while roll-your-own products from native tobacco are subject to no tax.' 

 

At least 142 Thais die every day from smoking-related diseases, according to the Thai chapter of the international lobby Action on Smoking and Health Foundation. 

 

Many Asian countries are introducing and extending smoking bans, yet the World Health Organisation estimates that 50,000 Asian youths still take up smoking every day. 

 

Thailand sharply limits cigarette sales, advertising and permitted smoking areas, but a population of 64 million has 9.6 million smokers. Some 39 per cent of Thai males aged 15 or more smoke, down from 60 per cent 20 years ago. 

 

2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur

 

---------------------------------------------------- 

 

 

Anti-tobacco body slams US ambassador

 

The Nation, August 26, 2006 :

 

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/breakingnews/read.php?newsid=30012009 .


The country's leading anti-tobacco body said Friday that US Ambassador to Thailand Ralph Boyce had breached the US State Department Directive on Tobacco Policy Abroad by leading a group of giant tobacco producers to meet with Public Health Minister Pinij Charusombat on Thursday.

The group, which included US giant Philip Morris (Thailand), complained to the minister about unequal controls on all forms of tobacco products with cigar and pipe tobacco being less restricted that cigarettes.

"I will ask my colleagues in the US to follow up on the matter," said Hatai Chitanondh, president of the Thailand Health Foundation, the kingdom's leading anti-tobacco group.

The US directive, issued on January 2000 and shown to The Nation by Hatai, states that the general policy is that "… the US government will not promote the sale or export of tobacco or tobacco products or seek the reduction or removal by any foreign country of nondiscriminatory restrictions on the marketing of tobacco or tobacco products".

The guidelines of the directive also state that "[Diplomatic] posts should not promote the sale or export of tobacco or tobacco products, and should not assist the efforts of US firms or individuals to do so.

The Nation

 

-------------------------------------

 

Bangkok Post, August 26, 2006,

US envoy under fire after meeting Phinij

Ambassador 'supports alcohol, tobacco firms'

The National Health Foundation (NHF) yesterday denounced the US ambassador to Thailand and US alcohol and tobacco companies for calling for a revision of the Public Health Ministry's liquor and tobacco advertisement control act. The move came after Ambassador Ralph Boyce led representatives of the US-Asean Business Council, tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris, alcohol firms Diageo and Riche Monde, and pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly in a meeting with caretaker Public Health Minister Phinij Jarusombat and senior officials of the Disease Control Department and the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday.

Hatai Chitanondh, president of the Health Promotion Institute under the NHF, said in a statement that the move reflected Mr Boyce's strong support for the liquor and tobacco industries, despite the US government's policy instructing US embassies worldwide to refrain from supporting liquor and tobacco businesses. [ed. I hope this is the case. It is unconscionable for the ambassador of a civilized country to represent tobacco interests to the 3rd world.]

Dr Hatai said Public Health officials should not negotiate with the companies because their businesses will never benefit the public. He said he would coordinate with health advocates in the US to keep a close watch on Mr Boyce's actions involving the support of liquor and tobacco companies.

''The negotiation marks the first step for both the US and the Thai sides to work together. Hopefully we will have more opportunities in the future,'' Mr Boyce said after the meeting, which was held for the first time in 15 years.

Mr Phinij said the meeting mainly focused on bilateral cooperation in which the Americans called for help ''to strengthen alcohol and tobacco businesses in Thailand''.

A ban on alcohol and tobacco advertisements seemed to be the main trade barrier in the US' point of view. It also asked the ministry to ensure fair treatment as cigar producers were not facing the same controls, according to Mr Phinij.

Unlike cigars, the ministry employs strict controls on cigarette producers by imposing high taxes and requiring the manufacturers to print health warning labels on cigarette packets.

The advertisement of liquor products is allowed on television only after 10pm.

Watchara Panchet, assistant to the public health minister, said it was necessary to take the US proposals into account for the benefit of Thai entrepreneurs in the US.

However, the ministry did not make any commitments during the closed-door meeting, he said.

Narong Sahamethapat, deputy director-general of the Disease Control Department, said the authority would continue to discourage alcohol and tobacco consumption in the country.

He said tobacco manufacturers would soon be required to label the hazardous chemical contents of cigarettes that could cause cancer.

A regulation to ban the use of the terms ''light'' and ''mild'' on cigarette packets, which have misled people into believing that some brands were less harmful to health than regular brands, will come into effect in October.

The new regulation would also cover cigars and tobacco leaves, he said.

-----------------------------

Realthailand

http://realthailand.blogspot.com/ 

US Ambassador Ralph Boyce lobbies for more free trade in American cigarettes to Thailand

This is really sad and disappointing. Up until now, Ralph Boyce was one of the more respected members of the foreign diplomatic establishment in Bangkok. An affable and charismatic guy who learned to speak near fluent Thai in advance of his posting, he was the darling of the Thai media and an excellent spokesperson for US interests in Thailand. How he could rationalize lobbying the Thai government to relax it's smoking cessation measures on behalf of US tobacco firms, is beyond me. Totally despicable and immoral.

This also comes at a time of political turmoil, as Prime Minister Thaksin is widely seen as selling out the country for foreign interests, in particular the US , vis a vis the recently proposed US-Thai Free Trade Agreement. This finally gives the anti-US and anti-FTA contingent a really excellent case in point to work with.
 

US envoy under fire after meeting Phinij

Ambassador 'supports alcohol, tobacco firms'

The National Health Foundation (NHF) yesterday denounced the US ambassador to Thailand and US alcohol and tobacco companies for calling for a revision of the Public Health Ministry's liquor and tobacco advertisement control act. The move came after Ambassador Ralph Boyce led representatives of the US-Asean Business Council, tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris, alcohol firms Diageo and Riche Monde, and pharmaceutical firm Eli Lilly in a meeting with caretaker Public Health Minister Phinij Jarusombat and senior officials of the Disease Control Department and the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday.

Hatai Chitanondh, president of the Health Promotion Institute under the NHF, said in a statement that the move reflected Mr Boyce's strong support for the liquor and tobacco industries, despite the US government's policy instructing US embassies worldwide to refrain from supporting liquor and tobacco businesses. [ed. I hope this is the case. It is unconscionable for the ambassador of a civilized country to represent tobacco interests to the 3rd world.]

Dr Hatai said Public Health officials should not negotiate with the companies because their businesses will never benefit the public. He said he would coordinate with health advocates in the US to keep a close watch on Mr Boyce's actions involving the support of liquor and tobacco companies.

''The negotiation marks the first step for both the US and the Thai sides to work together. Hopefully we will have more opportunities in the future,'' Mr Boyce said after the meeting, which was held for the first time in 15 years.

Mr Phinij said the meeting mainly focused on bilateral cooperation in which the Americans called for help ''to strengthen alcohol and tobacco businesses in Thailand''.

A ban on alcohol and tobacco advertisements seemed to be the main trade barrier in the US' point of view. It also asked the ministry to ensure fair treatment as cigar producers were not facing the same controls, according to Mr Phinij.

Unlike cigars, the ministry employs strict controls on cigarette producers by imposing high taxes and requiring the manufacturers to print health warning labels on cigarette packets.

The advertisement of liquor products is allowed on television only after 10pm.

Watchara Panchet, assistant to the public health minister, said it was necessary to take the US proposals into account for the benefit of Thai entrepreneurs in the US.

However, the ministry did not make any commitments during the closed-door meeting, he said.

Narong Sahamethapat, deputy director-general of the Disease Control Department, said the authority would continue to discourage alcohol and tobacco consumption in the country.

He said tobacco manufacturers would soon be required to label the hazardous chemical contents of cigarettes that could cause cancer.

A regulation to ban the use of the terms ''light'' and ''mild'' on cigarette packets, which have misled people into believing that some brands were less harmful to health than regular brands, will come into effect in October.

The new regulation would also cover cigars and tobacco leaves, he said.

-----------------

 

http://atimes.com/atimes/Southeast_Asia/HI07Ae01.html

 

Online

Asia Times

www.atimes.com

 

Southeast Asia

     Sep 7, 2006

 

 

 

ASIA HAND


Stand up to Uncle Bully

 

By Shawn W Crispin

When US Ambassador to Thailand Ralph "Skip" Boyce led a peeved delegation of US companies - including Marlboro and big alcohol producers - to lodge their complaints with the Public Health Ministry about a national ban on cigarette advertisements and a pending one on liquor promotions, US commercial diplomacy toward Southeast Asia hit a new nadir.

If it seems odd that a senior US envoy would so publicly play the
role of US corporate spokesman, that's because historically it is. But Boyce, a career diplomat who speaks fluent Thai and often portrays himself as a friend to the country, has perhaps more than any other senior US diplomat in Southeast Asia pushed forcefully President George W Bush's many controversial policies in the region - regardless of the moral consequences.

After September 11, 2001, Boyce was Washington's point man in chastising Indonesia's government for not taking more seriously the "war on terror" in the region. Now, Boyce is the highly visible spokesman for Washington's new drive to reshape its commercial relations with Southeast Asia more to the United States' advantage, partly through lopsided free-trade agreements (FTAs) and partly through good old-fashioned bullying - as demonstrated through Boyce's lobbying effort at Thailand's Health Ministry.

Seasoned Southeast Asia observers now realize how tragically the United States' clandestine counter-terrorism campaign has played out across the region, giving new, US-backed life to the anti-democratic tendencies that many countries had tried to bury with their recent authoritarian pasts. Governments in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand have all created their own dirty little versions of Guantanamo Bay, detaining unknown numbers of terror suspects to satisfy Washington's demands.

What has gone less noticed, but with potentially far wider consequences for Southeast Asia's future prosperity, is the hard new turn in Washington's commercial diplomacy toward the region.

The US had first packaged its current drive to broker FTAs in Southeast Asia as economic rewards for governments' cooperation with its counter-terrorism policies. Singapore and Australia, both staunch supporters of US counter-terrorism policies, were first in line to receive bilateral trade pacts. Thailand, which serves as the Central Intelligence Agency's secret regional hub for counter-terrorism logistics and operations, was logically next. And now that Malaysia and Indonesia have detained, from Washington's perspective, a sufficient number of suspected Muslim militants, they too have recently been invited to join the bilateral club.

Throughout the Cold War, the US was eager to help capitalism take root in Southeast Asia as a bulwark against communism's spread - and provided generous aid and market access to budding capitalist countries such as Thailand and Indonesia. Nowadays, Washington's FTA drive is often framed as a parallel but more efficient free-trade track than the World Trade Organization's stuttering multilateral course.

The reality, however, is that the US prefers the leverage of one-on-one negotiations with the region's small, export-dependent countries, which, at least historically, have relied hugely on US consumer markets for their economic growth. But as the United States' demands become more apparent at closed-door FTA negotiations, regional governments are starting to realize that the FTAs on offer are not so much economic rewards as do-or-die propositions.

Reward cum punishment


Washington's current drive to renegotiate its terms of trade with Southeast Asia is, at least in part, symptomatic of its growing desperation in an increasingly competitive global economy driven by lower-cost Asian producers. That's evident by the United States' attempts to impose strict new intellectual-property-protection measures through bilateral pacts. Such measures would never pass muster at the WTO, but would provide substantial competitive padding for US pharmaceutical and media companies.

The United States' bilateral drive in the region also comes at a time when its own free-trade credentials are very much in doubt. The terror-obsessed US Congress moved to block China's proposed acquisition of US oil company Unocal last year on spurious national-security grounds. The same flimsy rationale was used to block a United Arab Emirates-based port operator from winning management deals for US ports. At the same time, the US is pushing through FTAs to gain greater access to sensitive Southeast Asian industries, including telecoms and energy.

In short, Washington is bidding to impose its more legalistic version of capitalism on Southeast Asia's more free-wheeling economies, which many US businesses, with their comparatively bloated costs and without preferential treatment, have difficulty competing with. And if the Bush administration can't have its way at the negotiating table, it's willing to resort to bullying.

Three months ago Asia Times Online first reported, and the mainstream media later followed up, that senior US officials pressured the World Health Organization to remove its representative to Thailand after the UN official publicly called into question the adverse impacts a US-Thai FTA would have on Thailand's public health (
World health: A lethal dose of US politics, June 17). The WHO official had noted that the stricter intellectual-property-protection measures in the pact would inevitably lead to higher drug prices and jeopardize hundreds of thousands of Thais, including a large number of the country's 600,000 citizens with the AIDS virus who depend on locally produced cheap generic medicines to survive.

US-Thai FTA negotiations, which Washington had hoped would serve as a model for other regional pacts, have recently stalled in the wake of a grinding political conflict, allowing Thai trade officials valuable time to assess the merits and demerits of a potential trade deal. Washington has threatened to make Thailand pay for the delay by suspending the country's GSP (Generalized System of Preferences) privileges, a move that Thai trade groups estimate would cost the country a million jobs through lost exports. Indonesia faces a similar US threat.

As the US flexes its economic muscles, it is prime time that Southeast Asian governments ask themselves whether further integration with the US economy on the proposed terms is truly in their respective national interests. America's hard trade stand also presents a golden opportunity for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to wade into the fray and through its collective numbers enhance its member states' negotiating leverage vis-a-vis the US.

Southeast Asian policymakers should bear in mind that very soon the US may not be as attractive a destination for their products as in the past. Collapsing housing prices and spiraling consumer and national debt levels promise to dry up America's once insatiable appetite for consumer goods. Rather, regional governments would be wise to expend their trade energies in forging closer ties with less demanding, higher-growth-potential China, India and petrodollar-rich Middle Eastern regimes, and less on deliberating unequal pacts with the US.

That way, when the likes of Ralph Boyce come knocking with US corporate demands, it will be that much easier for Southeast Asian governments to keep the door shut.

Shawn W Crispin is Asia Times Online's Southeast Asia editor.
Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved.