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Monday, November 16, 2009

FM claims Thai 'spy' is isolated

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya has dismissed a report that a high-level Thai diplomat had met Siwarak Chotphong - who is accused of spying - at a prison in Phnom Penh.

Mr Kasit denied a Thai diplomat was allowed to meet the Cambodia Air Traffic Services engineer who is being detained at Prey Sar prison.

Mr Kasit said he had checked the report with the Thai embassy in Cambodia and believed the meeting did not take place.

His statement countered Cambodian foreign ministry claims that a Thai embassy official was allowed to visit Mr Siwarak, who was arrested on Thursday on charges of supplying details of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's flight schedule to his country's embassy.

"Today, we agreed to allow [a Thai diplomat] to visit the man at 2pm in the prison where he is being temporarily detained," Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said.
Accompanying story: Siwarak's Mom: My son is not a spy

Mr Kasit confirmed that no visit was allowed by Phnom Penh despite requests through Cambodia's Foreign and Interior ministries and Corrections Department since the 31-year-old Thai was arrested.

"We are still waiting for a reply from Cambodia," he said, referring to Thai attempts to meet him.

A Foreign Ministry official said Chalotorn Phaovibul, the embassy's minister, informed the Cambodian government about the Thai request to meet Mr Siwarak at 2pm but he had not been given the green light from Phnom Penh.

The spy allegations prompted Phnom Penh to expel Kamrob Palawatwichai, the Thai embassy's first secretary, on Thursday and Thailand reciprocated hours later.

Mr Kamrob reported to the Thai Foreign Ministry yesterday and Mr Kasit insisted that the Thai diplomat was not a spy and did not collaborate with Mr Siwarak to obtain detailed flight plans of Thaksin's movements.

Thailand appears to be growing frustrated at the denial although Bangkok has insisted that it is international practice to visit those who are arrested and face charges.

Mr Kasit was trying to contact his Cambodian counterpart Hor Namhong, who is on the way to Italy, to get access to Mr Siwarak.

Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the foreign minister, said Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, Mr Kasit and security officials planned to hold talks to find a way to help Mr Siwarak if Mr Siwarak is not released.

The conflict between Thailand and Cambodia started after Thaksin was appointed as an economic adviser to the Cambodian government and a personal adviser to Cambodian Premier Hun Sen.

Thailand was also outraged after Hun Sen called Thaksin a victim of Thai politics and rejected Thai attempts to extradite him.

Thaksin left Cambodia for Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, ending a contentious four-day visit that deepened a diplomatic storm between already bickering Bangkok and Phnom Penh.

Thailand yesterday stepped up calls for the UAE government to send the convicted former prime minister back to Thailand.

Panich Vikitsreth, an assistant to the foreign minister, supplied UAE ambassador to Thailand Mohammed Ali Ahmed Omran Al Shamsi with more information about Thaksin to back up the Thai attempt to seek cooperation from the Middle East country. The information included the interview by Thaksin in the London-based Times online edition.

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