Hapless drug courier lucky to be aliveHaving recently...

the Forum

October 21, 1993

Hapless drug courier lucky to be alive

Having recently returned from vacation in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, I was saddened by the story of Janet Leigh Dettler, the 30-year old Baltimorean sentenced to life in a Thai prison.

However, she is lucky. In that part of the world the penalty for drug dealing usually is death.

Before we rush out the petitions or accuse Thailand and other Southeast Asian nations of excessive punishment, it should be mentioned that all visitors are warned before and during their stay of the penalty for drug trafficking.

At the airport in Singapore signs read, "Be forewarned, the penalty for drug trafficking is death." The immigration documents of these countries also spell out that drug dealing carries the death penalty, and until one leaves one carries these papers with one's passport.

Even if a tourist is "set up," as may have been the case with Ms. Dettler in Thailand, on leaving the country customs agents ask if your luggage has been out of your sight within the previous 24 hours or if you are carrying any packages out of the country for someone else.

While her family may hope for a royal pardon similar to the one Prime Minister John Major recently secured for two English women, I am not optimistic.

During my visit to Thailand I asked about the royal pardon, which had provoked considerable anger there. Apparently, when these women returned home they sold their story for a hefty sum. Needless to say, this has not gone down well with the Thai authorities.

I truly sympathize with Janet Leigh Dettler, but in fairness it should be noted that all tourists are given ample warning as to the penalties for drug trafficking in Thailand and neighboring countries.

Rosalind Ellis


Somalia and Haiti

There is an attitude among the media and the public these days that the United States is being rudely rebuffed by the people of Somalia and Haiti.

Yet we need to remember that in Somalia the U.S. government and U.S. weapons producers bear some of the responsibility for creating and perpetuating the violent climate there.

It does not help that the media continually label tribal leaders as "warlords." Would we put such a label on our president or military leaders? Such labeling is a form of verbal and emotional violence that further divides the parties involved and intensifies the conflict.

In Haiti we are faced with a situation for which we also must be held largely responsible. For years we trained Haiti's military leaders at the barbarous School for the Americas at Fort Benning, Ga, supplied their army with weapons and offered little help when democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was violently overthrown by the military a few years ago.

I would not be surprised to discover that the CIA participated in that coup. The Clinton administration needs to take strong leadership in restoring Aristide and democracy to Haiti.

Rather than send military advisers, why not send teams trained in nonviolent conflict resolution, such as the Fellowship of Reconciliation? It worked in the Philippines. Could it not be worth the risk in Haiti?

John Oliver


Gun control

It is the hope of legislators and citizens that banning or restricting the purchase and use of firearms will have a positive effect on crime.

This theory is just not supported by any facts or research. The only outcome of such legislation would be to remove firearms from law-abiding citizens and leave criminals armed.

The answer to the crime problem is to enforce the thousands of laws already on the books concerning the use of firearms, build more prisons and to hire more police.

It is absurd and unconstitutional to punish lawful gun owners with laws that will not have any positive effect in fighting crime.

Michael Mitchell


Wasting assets

People flee the city for rural and suburban surroundings.

People trapped in urban public housing plead for "something more." Yet, there is a mini-wilderness area within the city limits that is about to be trashed.

Cylburn, the home of Jesse Tyson dating back to 1863, and 175 acres were given to Baltimore City in 1940. Operated as an arboretum, maintained by the city and staffed by volunteers from the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland and other civic organizations, it is free and open to the public.

There are wildflower trails, naturalist programs, memorial gardens, greenhouses, meeting facilities, a spring fair; children's school classes frequently visit a fine bird and wildlife museum in the mansion.

An adjoining 18-acre tract is to be improved with 102 townhouses. With no setbacks, this existing buffer zone will be destroyed.

Established trees damaged by adjacent excavation will no longer shelter the wildlife habitat.

Rats may replace squirrels and chipmunks. The bird population, disturbed by sodium street lighting, will depart for a more hospitable environment.

The "something more" needed by 102 families will have been decimated before the new homes are ready.

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