In reference to the the BP article on Tuesday, ''Can India and China keep rising if their brightest leave?'', it is no coincidence that America remains an epicentre for research and innovation, as one the most important principles of the US Constitution is that citizens are guaranteed freedom of thought and expression. Americans are born with these values and the education system further strengthens them. On the other hand, the educational systems in India and China have never been competitive for the simple reason that they lack an environment that nourishes free thinking. Authoritarianism, cronyism and rampant corruption have turned most universities in India into teaching factories that shell out meaningless degrees, and the same is true of most Chinese universities.
As long as the education systems in the US and the rest of the West provide students with freer learning environments and better research facilities and career prospects, the brain drain will continue. Innovation requires an environment that nourishes freedom of thinking, and India and China, as well as most members of Asean with the exception of Singapore, have a very long way to go in this regard.
AMNESTY CORRECT ON DRONE ISSUE
The outrage expressed by ''Sir Lance'' (BP, Oct 25) in his letter on Amnesty International's report on US drone strikes in North Waziristan, Pakistan, between January last year and August this year is misinformed.
He says he read ''with disbelief'' that AI called the use of drones crimes against humanity. But the report says no such thing. It says that the drone attacks have led to unlawful killings which in some cases may amount to war crimes.
Sir Lance claims a detailed procedure by the US military ensures that drones are not used if civilians are thought to be too near the target. If this is so, the procedure is clearly not working.
The AI report details a missile attack that blasted into pieces a 68-year-old grandmother who was picking vegetables in a field. The only people anywhere close to her were her grandchildren. When they rushed to the site, they were hit by a second strike seemingly intended to kill anyone providing assistance.
The US has not acknowledged responsibility for this attack (or others) and has offered no explanation, no justification and, of course, no compensation.
Sir Lance brings up suicide bombings and says they cannot be equated with the use of drones. The AI report makes no such equation and the organisation has repeatedly condemned violations of human rights by all sides. But clearly when it can be shown that drone attacks kill innocent civilians, they should be strongly condemned.
MILITARY SOMETIMES BEST OPTION
I personally do not support a general amnesty because I do not want to see Thaksin Shinawatra return to pick up where he left off, adding more corruption to his already corrupt dealings. To blame the Democrats is silly and illogical. Former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was more than fair to those taking part in the 2010 red-shirt rally before he was forced to order in troops to control them. Look at the chaos in Egypt, Mali, and other countries where leaders have used the army to control rioting. The army should never have given up power after the 2006 coup until it consolidated the country and found responsible, respectable leaders to run it.
DANGER AT EVERY CORNER
I am alarmed at the public transport system in Thailand and its abysmal safety record.
Tour buses and minivans crashing and killing passengers due to unsafe drivers, almost weekly train derailments, taxi drivers unwilling to take you to your destination or refusing to turn on the meter _ and don't get me started on motorcycle taxis who care nothing for the safety of their passengers.
The mass transit rail systems are overcrowded, mismanaged, limited in coverage and inundate passengers with constant noise pollution with their whistles and loud video commercials.
Even if you decide to walk, you have to dodge the vendors and motorbikes. It's beyond my comprehension how Bangkok has been voted best city for four years running by a leading travel magazine.
GET TOUGH AND SAVE LIVES
I was amazed at the decision last week from the Appeals Court which overruled the guilty verdict handed down by the Criminal Court against Santika pub owner Wisuk Setsawat for gross negligence in connection with the horrific fire at the club on Dec 31, 2008. The fire is still unforgettable for me and many others. The owner was not directly responsible for the fire, it is true, but he showed extreme carelessness with regard to safety. There were no signs for fire exits or emergency lights. Worse than that, the management allowed fireworks indoors.
The compensation paid to the severely injured and the families of the dead was totally inadequate. Many people have been left disabled and unable to earn a living for life. In the future I hope the legal system will be much more strict in placing responsibility on owners and management because this is the only way such tragedies can be prevented.
NO PARDON FOR RIGHTS ABUSES
Regardless of what the final amnesty bill says, those who have committed gross human rights abuses may not be off the hook. As international law expert Robert Amsterdam said of an amnesty that covers gross human rights abuses: ''It breaches international law; one has only to look back to Argentina as proof that blanket amnesty laws are ineffective and will neither survive the test of time nor the challenges of law.''
In most cases the international courts will only become involved when citizens have been denied justice under their country's legal system; therefore the passing of an amnesty bill in Thailand may open the way for intervention by an international court.
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