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Friday, December 11, 2009

Sivarak pardon plans hit snag

The Puea Thai Party has postponed its plans to seek a pardon for Thai engineer Sivarak Chutipong and is considering other ways to approach Cambodian authorities.

Originally it had decided to send a team of lawyers to Phnom Penh on Monday to present letters to Cambodian officials pleading for a pardon for the Thai man convicted of spying and sentenced to seven years in jail.

But the plan was cancelled at the request of Sivarak's mother, Simarak na Nakhon Phanom, who raised concerns about how long it would take. Mrs Simarak is a teacher and has not been granted leave of absence by the Education Ministry, Puea Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said.

It was then decided the letters appealing to Cambodian King Sihamoni via Prime Minister Hun Sen would be formally handed to the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok today.

But late last night, Puea Thai told the media via SMS it was cancelling the plan.

A Puea Thai source said there had been a coordination problem with the Cambodian representatives. He gave no explanation, saying only the request would have to be postponed.

Three copies of the letter were to have been handed over, one signed by party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh, one by the party's MPs, and another by Mrs Simarak.

The engineer's mother has remained in Phnom Penh and was hoping to return home with her son if a pardon was granted, the source said.

Puea Thai lawyers will go to the Education Ministry today to submit a letter on behalf of Mrs Simarak, a teacher at Nakhon Ratchasima Technical College, seeking special leave to help her son.

Sivarak, a 31-year-old engineer with Thai-owned Cambodia Air Traffic Services, was sentenced on Tuesday to seven years in jail and fined 10 million riel (100,000 baht) for stealing information about former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's flight plans to Cambodia and giving them to a Thai diplomat based in Phnom Penh.

Mr Prompong said Mrs Simarak wanted Puea Thai to help her son because she believed the party had good relations with Cambodia.

"This is neither a publicity stunt nor a move to steal the show," Mr Prompong said.

He said Thaksin, as an economic adviser to the Cambodian government and a personal adviser to Hun Sen, had also spoken to the Cambodian leader in a bid to help Sivarak.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said the government was ready to support any pardon attempt for Sivarak.

He said it was understandable that Sivarak's mother and his family members chose to opt for the best course of action to obtain his freedom.

Mr Abhisit did not reject speculation Sivarak could be given his freedom soon after the request was submitted.

"That's possible. This issue has long been speculated," he said. "Those who have followed the developments from the beginning should know the reasons behind them."

Democrat Party spokesman Thepthai Senpong said: "I'm surprised by Mrs Simarak's decision to help her son without asking for the Foreign Ministry's assistance, because this is not in line with international practice.

"I wonder if Thaksin, Gen Chavalit and Hun Sen have more prominent roles than the Cambodian king."

Noppadon Pattama, Thaksin's legal adviser, said he had discussed Sivarak's conviction with Thaksin and what steps should be taken to help him.

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