Amb Kenney’s comments came during a day trip to Phuket, which included a visit to the offices of the Phuket Gazette and a closed-door meeting with the island’s top-ranking police officer, Maj Gen Pekad Tantipong.
Speaking to the press at the Software Park on the outskirts of Phuket Town, Amb Kenney touched on a wide variety of topics, ranging from women in high positions of responsibility and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s responsibility to her voters, to tourist safety in Thailand to Rohingya refugees.
With reference to the quarterly meetings of Phuket’s honorary consuls with the island’s top officials, Amb Kenney upheld the US Government’s system of “volunteer wardens”.
“The system of wardens works well for us. The United States does not use the honorary consul system anywhere in the world.
“Wardens often help in dealing with local issues. They are our eyes and ears,” she said.
She went on to highlight the role of embassy wardens in providing assistance to Americans in need.
“About half a million Americans come though here each year, and about 14 [US Navy] ships [have called here] so far this year. That’s a lot of people coming here and we want to make sure that they are safe,” she said.
The guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd is currently at Phuket’s Deep Sea Port. The Gazette has been told that the USS Kidd is due to set sail tomorrow, immediately before the arrival of the USS Ford.
Speaking on the plight of Rohingya refugees – and acknowledging that she was aware of a boat loaded with Rohingya refugees landing in Phuket earlier this year, Ambassador Kenney said, “People who are fleeing persecution need and require humane treatment. These are vulnerable populations.
“It is not easy for any nation to deal with people who cross your borders because your country is safer.
“With cases not handled well, we go in and talk about what needs to be done. Sometimes it is an awareness issue. Sometimes there are people in the military or the police who have no idea know what to do when a boatload of people who speak a different language show up on your shores.
“It is our responsibility to remind them that nations have a responsibility to be compassionate and caring, but these are not easy issues, particularly for Thailand, which has had decades of being a home to refugees because they have been a compassionate home for so many years,” she said.