Sunday, 17 July 2011
The US connecting in Thailand
The personification of 'new' and interactive public diplomacy is Kristie Kenney, the US ambassador to Thailand. A google search reveals her presence all over the new and old media: Twitter; Facebook; blogs; ABC-CBS.com reported how she 'moonwalked' on television before she said goodbye to the Philippines, while on Youtube you can see her dance the 'Papaya' (http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/lifestyle/01/21/10/kristie-kenney-moonwalks-farewell-interview). She has even been pictured in Thai newspapers in a parachute jump, while just three days after Thailand's recent election she featured on both the front of the English-language Nation newpaper (with the incoming premier, Yingluck Shinawatra) and the back page (with outgoing leader Abhisit Vejjajiva). The Ambassador has nearly 20,000 followers on Twitter which, she says, is a way for her to connect with people 'and it allows people to feel that they can reach out to the ambassador who is not just a figure hidden in a big building.' She is anxious to make clear that herTwitter feed is purely personal and has nothing to do with the State Department, but arriving in Thailand only months after Wikileaks revealed her predecessor had made unflattering comments about the Thai monarchy, it is not difficult to assume that her outreach has greater strategic value. Tulsathit Taptim, a columnist Nation newspaper described Kenney as 'undiplomatically pleasant and gracious.' Perhaps the social networking is the future of public diplomacy and will allow more diplomats to be 'undiplomatically pleasant and gracious.'