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Monday, December 14, 2009

Irate Sivarak demands answers

Govt, Kasit under fire to explain 'spy' drama

Pressure is mounting on the government and the Foreign Ministry to take responsibility for the arrest and conviction of Sivarak Chutipong who returned to Thailand yesterday.

Mr Sivarak was the first to attack Thai authorities, demanding that Kamrob Palawatwichai, the first secretary of the Thai embassy in Cambodia, speak out and restore his damaged reputation by confirming he was not involved in a government attempt to get the flight schedule of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The Puea Thai Party which, with the help of de facto leader Thaksin, pushed hard to get a pardon for Mr Sivarak after he was convicted last week by a Phnom Penh court for spying, vowed to take the issue to parliament to grill the government during the censure debate next month.

Yesterday the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, chaired by the opposition party, made further moves on the issue by demanding Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and Mr Kamrob appear before it to clarify the spying allegations.

Mr Sivarak, an engineer for Cambodia Airport Traffic Services, was sentenced to seven years in jail and fined 10 million riel (100,000 baht) on Dec 8 after being arrested by Cambodian authorities and detained since Nov 12. He was granted a pardon by King Norodom Sihamoni on Friday.

"He [Mr Kamrob] should come out and tell the truth to the public about whether he really made a phone call to me to ask about the VIP plane's schedule. I didn't know who was on board, especially Dr Thaksin," he told reporters shortly after landing at Suvarnabhumi airport from the Cambodian capital.

"I am not a spy. If I were a spy, there would not have been any evidence left," he said. "From now on I want to spend my life with my family. I have not decided yet whether to return to work in Cambodia."

Mr Sivarak denied widespread speculation that the entire incident was a plot by Puea Thai and Thaksin to discredit the government and boost the popularity of the convicted former prime minister, who on Sunday arrived in Phnom Penh to arrange for his release.

The 31-year-old engineer briefed Thaksin on every detail of his case, but said he had no political motive in talking about the issue.

His mother, Simarak na Nakhon Phanom, refused to accept she and her son were part of a political game.

"No mother in the world would set up a situation which would send her son to jail. If I were that type of mother, I would be a very bad person. I have to thank everyone for helping to get my son released," she said.

"I want everything to come to an end because my family wants to return to a normal life."

Puea Thai MP for Udon Thani Torpong Chaiyasarn, who heads the house foreign affairs committee, said Mr Kasit and Mr Kamrob had been sent a letter demanding they clarify the issue at a committee hearing.

"Even though Mr Sivarak has been released, the foreign minister should step forward to do something, or even apologise to Mr Sivarak. Justice must be served in this case," Mr Torpong said.

Mr Kasit was not available for comment as he was not in the country.

His secretary, Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, insisted there would be no reaction from Mr Kamrob and stressed there was no misconduct on the part of the first secretary or Mr Sivarak. "It will make no difference whether he speaks out or not," Mr Chavanond said.

A ministry source said Mr Kamrob was still turning up for work at the ministry after having been expelled by Phnom Penh in connection with the spying charge.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the government was already in possession of the information on Thaksin's flight schedule so there was no need to try to steal it as alleged.

The issue should now be laid to rest and should not be exploited to create further problems, he said.

Democrat Party spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks said he still believed the case was a publicity stunt.

Thepthai Senpong, Mr Abhisit's spokesman, said it was not beyond anyone's expectation that Thaksin would fly in to "inspect the filming of a drama which was coming to an end". As "a producer", Thaksin had to be there to see for himself and make sure the drama was properly done, Mr Thepthai said.

After his release from Prey Sar prison, Mr Sivarak went to the home of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen to be presented with his signed royal pardon.

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