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Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Thaksin my only hope

The Nation/Asia News Network

The mother of jailed Thai national Sivarak Chotipong yesterday pleaded with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to use his close connection with the Cambodian government to free her son who was sentenced to seven years' imprisonment for spying.

Sivarak was also fined 10 million Cambodian riels (S$3477.7) for passing on Thaksin's flight information to a Thai Embassy staff.

Sivarak's mother Simarak na Nakhon Phanom, who attended the trial in a Phnom Penh court yesterday, burst into tears when she heard the verdict. She rushed to call the opposition Pheu Thai Party's headquarters in Bangkok to seek assistance from the party's real boss Thaksin, and party chairman Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.

"I don't know where and from whom to seek help but, former prime minister Thaksin and General Chavalit, please help my son to get freedom," Simarak told reporters at Pheu Thai Party via telephone conference.

Simarak said her son would not appeal to a higher court. She pleaded with the Pheu Thai to seek a royal pardon for her son from the Cambodian king.

The mother did not want to rely on the government to help her son as she blamed the Foreign Ministry for moving slowly due to its sour relations with Cambodia.

In his Internet radio programme 'Talk around the world' yesterday, Thaksin did not mention Sivarak's case.

Ke Sakhan, presiding judge of Phnom Penh Municipal Court, convicted Sivarak, a 31-year-old employee at the Thai owned Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS), saying Thaksin's flight information was confidential and sharing it was a violation of national security.

"Thaksin is an adviser to Cambodia's government and Cambodia has the obligation to provide him security," the judge said.

During his hearing yesterday, Sivarak admitted that he had checked Thaksin's flight schedule but said it was only after the ousted Thai premier's private jet had already landed in Phnom Penh International Airport. He said he passed on the information to a Thai diplomat, Kamrob Palawatwichai, at his request after two phone calls.

"I took a look at the flight schedule and made a phone call to Kamrob about the flight schedule," Sivarak told the court. "But I didn't get a copy of the flight schedule and hand it over to anyone."

Two employees of CATS testified in the court that Sivarak had asked them about the flight schedule.

The Thai diplomat, Kamrob, was later expelled from Cambodia. Sivarak was arrested on November 12 when Thaksin was in Phnom Penh to lecture on economic matters.

In her telephone conference from Phnom Penh, an emotional Simarak pinned the responsibility for her son's plight on Kamrob. "I want to ask Kamrob, where are you? If you had not called my son, he would not have been in this condition," she said.

"He is innocent. Why should he take responsibility on your behalf. So please come out to take responsibility for your actions. My son has been in jail for nearly 30 days and I cannot tolerate anymore seeing him handcuffed," she said.

Thailand and Cambodia have been at loggerheads after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen appointed Thaksin as his adviser. The two countries have downgraded their diplomatic relations since late October.


Nov 10: Thaksin lands in Phnom Penh. Sivarak passes Thaksin's flight information to diplomat Kamrob.

Nov 11: Cambodia expels Kamrob.

Nov 12: Sivarak is arrested.

Nov 13: News of his arrest is broken by local media.

Nov 14: Thaksin leaves Cambodia.

Nov 16: Thai charge d'affairs visits Sivarak at Prey Sor prison. Sivarak's mother Simarak phones him for the first time.

Nov 27: Simarak visits her son for the first time.

Nov 30: Simarak seeks help from the opposition Pheu Thai Party, which arranges another meeting for her.

Dec 2: Simarak visits her son for the second time.

Dec 4: Simarak changes her son's attorney and withdraws his bail request.

Dec 7: Simarak arrives in Phnom Penh to hear the verdict for her son.

Dec 8: Sivarak is sentenced to seven years in jail and fined 10 million riel.

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