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12 December 2009

Thai-Cambodia Diplomatic Row:
Abhisit welcomes royal pardon, says spying not the root cause

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Thailand's Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Friday said that the royal pardon granted by Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni to a Thai engineer convicted of spying is good news, while at the same time reasserting that the diplomatic rift between Thailand and Cambodia was not caused by Thailand, state news agency TNA reported.

The Thai premier commented after Cambodian government spokesman Khieu Kanharith confirmed that King Sihamoni on Friday pardoned Siwarak Chutipong who was sentenced seven years in a Cambodian jail on charges of espionage, and will be released on Monday.

Siwarak, an employee of Cambodia Air Traffic Service (CATS) was arrested, tried, sentenced to seven years jail term and fined Bt100,000 ($3,000) for releasing the flight details of fugitive ousted Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra when he visited Phnom Penh last month on his first trip there after being appointed economic adviser to the Cambodian government.

Abhisit said that it is good that Siwarak's case is finally ending. The most important thing is that the Thai national is being freed.

The Thai premier said he does not think that the issue will be magnified for political reasons, as Siwarak has always insisted that the information he had shared was not a secret.

Abhisit said it is the consideration of the Cambodian court that releasing the flight information affected Thaksin’s security, but said he is unworried about explaining the matter to the international community.

"I think we can see the cause and origin of what has happened recently and that other countries understand well that the Thai government has done nothing to affect the situation," said the Thai premier. "Some people want this issue to be politicised.

“I think that most Thai people understand the situation,” Abhisit said. “We did not intensify the matter.” He reaffirmed that Thailand is still a good neighbour and will not interfere in Cambodia's internal affairs.

The Thai premier reiterated that Thailand has not started the current diplomatic row with its neighbour and Siwarak is not the cause of the problem. Abhisit however said his government is keeping seeking extradition of ex-premier Thaksin.

If Thailand receives information that he is revisiting Cambodia, extradition requests would be made to Cambodia. If he flies over Thai skies, Thai authorities must also try to arrest him.

Thaksin was ousted by bloodless coup in September 2006 and was sentenced in absentia to two years in jail for corruption and fraud in a Bangkok land purchase scandal in July 2008.

Thaksin's visit to Phnom Penh last month fueled already existing tensions between the two neighbouring countries. The Thai and Cambodian ambassadors were recalled respectively, while Cambodia rejected Thailand's request to extradite the ousted premier to the kingdom.


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