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Monday, November 23, 2009

Abhisit government lacks political maturity - Cambodia

By Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation

Cambodia defends control of CATS as Siwarak admits to report of Thaksin flight plan

Cambodia yesterday lashed out at the Thai government over an allegation of taking control of the Thai-owned air-traffic-control company.

Meanwhile, a detained employee of the company confessed to a Cambodian court yesterday about leaking ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's flight information to a Thai diplomat.

Cambodian authorities temporarily controlled Cambodia Air Traffic Service (CATS) operations for national-security reasons until the case of its employee, Siwarak Chotipong, who has been accused of spying, comes to an end, a statement in Phnom Penh said.

"Cambodia always fulfils agreements it signs, including agreements with the private sector, so as to enhance the confidence of local and foreign investors, including Thai investors," the statement said.

"Without a firm position concerning the respect for agreements and having violated the principles of international law, the Abhisit [Vejjajiva] government must think that Cambodia will follow Thailand's way," it said.

Cambodia accused the Thai government of failure to honour the 1962 ruling on Preah Vihear Temple by the International Court of Justice and a maritime deal signed in 2001.

CATS is at the core of the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia. Its employee was arrested on November 12 as Thaksin arrived in Cambodia to give a lecture on economic development strategy to government economists and the business sector.

Siwarak admitted he had reported Thaksin's flight plan to the Thai Embassy's first secretary, Kamrob Palawatwichai, 10 minutes after Thaksin landed in Phnom Penh on November 10, defence lawyer Kao Soupha said.

Siwarak did not know at the beginning that Thaksin was on the plane, the lawyer said.

"My client did not spy on Thaksin, since it is his responsibility as the official of the air-traffic-control company to know about the flight information," Kao Soupha said in a phone interview from Phnom Penh.

Siwarak has worked for the company for about eight years and knows very well that flight information is no secret, the lawyer said.

What Siwarak disclosed to the people who asked him about the matter was a confirmation that a charter flight had landed at Phnom Penh Airport.

The Thai employee did not pay attention to Thaksin's visit to Cambodia, because Siwarak was not in the country four days before the fugitive ex-premier landed in Phnom Penh, Soupha said.

"If he had really wanted to spy on Thaksin, he would not leave Cambodia, because Thaksin was about to arrive in the country," the lawyer said.

Siwarak is being held in pretrial detention at Prey Sor Prison, although a date for his trial has yet to be officially announced.

Soupha said he had filed a bail request for him yesterday and guaranteed Siwarak would not return to Thailand during the court trial. The court has 10 days to consider the bail request, he said.

The lawyer expects the Cambodian court will rule on December 8.

Thai authorities are going all out to provide assistance to Siwarak. A delegation from the Justice Ministry visited Cambodia yesterday, while representatives of the Law Society of Thailand and the Foreign Ministry will land in Phnom Penh today to see him.

His mother, Simarak na Nakhon Phanom, will have a chance to see him this week, a Thai Foreign Ministry official said.

Meanwhile, the local authority in Cambodia's Koh Kong province yesterday sealed its sea, barring Thai fishery trawlers from its water.

Thai Navy commander Admiral Kamthorn Phumhiran said fishery concessions granted earlier to Thai boats were terminated, because Cambodia had changed the Koh Kong governor.

It is a norm of Cambodia to review the concession each time people in authority are changed out, he said.

Kamthorn said the termination of the fishery concession had nothing to do with the ongoing diplomatic row between the two countries and that the concession would be renewed once the new governor was firmly in charge.

Koh Kong's new governor, Lert Promkesorn, will take his time to study the fishery concession before deciding whether to renew it, a source said.

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