What happened in Cambodia…

The details are sketchy but let’s try and reconstruct what had happened there to the Thai aviation engineer.

First, Thailand knew when Thaksin was about to fly to Cambodia, Thais knew when he was expected to deliver the lecture but there were rumors/reports that he’d be there a couple of days earlier. Perhaps that what has made all the difference.

When Thaksin’s plane entered Thai airspace it wasn’t obliged to declare all its flight information and passenger manifest, and though Thai aviation and military folks probably had a pretty good idea who was on it, the government was either not on the ball or chickened out. My guess is that it wasn’t fast enough to pass the information all the way to the top, get a decision, and then pass it all the way back down.

The plane was in Thai airspace for about an hour. About half an hour later it landed in Cambodia, and that’s when the first reports emerged. Another half hour passed and that’s when Foreign Ministry official at the Thai embassy called a Thai engineer at Cambodian traffic control to confirm that it was indeed Thaksin. According to an earlier report Siwarak called him back ten minutes after the landing, or it was a bad report and the request came in ten minutes after the landing, not the answer.

When Thaksin was due to fly back the government here was prepared to force his plane down and Thaksin had to fly around the country and then make comments about two Thai F16s shadowing him until he was way out of their reach. If he was crooning about his feelings when he flew over Thailand on the way in, it wasn’t reported in English media, afaik.

What was going on through his mind then? Was he banking on Thai incompetence? Did he have his people in key positions who made sure govt response was too slow? Did he ordered another plane to fly at the same time to confuse the Thais? Whatever his plan was, it was still risky and I think that’s why he doesn’t want to talk about it in public.

On the ground in Phnom Penh, when Thai embassy official called a Thai engineer, was it a case of spying? On one hand, Thaksin’s visit was well publicized and at the time of the call the press was already scrambling around the plane. Thais had the flight information already, it was not a state secret in any way. On the other hand, private plane flight information is not posted on airport websites, and what Thais wanted is a confirmation of plane’s identity from inside sources, not from airport information counter. Not exactly kosher either.

When Siwarak, the Thai engineer at CATS, Cambodian traffic control, asked his Cambodian colleagues they just told him what he wanted, meaning that until the information reached Siwarak it was not a secret. It became “spying” only Siwarak called Thai embassy back.

At this point, from the reports on the verdict, Siwarak didn’t make any hard or e-mail copies, he just talked on the phone, and there’s no record of that conversation and no one but Siwarak had testified about it. That means there’s no proof that he passed any confidential information that could have undermined Cambodian security, if there was any in the first place. I think I saw photos of Thaksin exiting the plane and I bet if that tail number got in the picture no one would sue the photographer, and so far that’s what Siwarak has done, except in words – confirmed that such and such plane really carried Thaksin. Again, an earlier report says he didn’t even say that much.

I don’t think he was charged with any transgression of whatever non-disclosure documents he had possibly signed when he got the job, and that brings us to Cambodian side of the story. How exactly Cambodian government got involved in this? How did they even know of the conversations between Siwarak and Kamrob, the embassy guy? It took them a couple of days to make their move.

Who exactly started the whole thing? Did the Cambodian guys at the CATS called the police, or did the police called them up first? Did the police decide to take action after Thai government declared they wouldn’t allow Thaksin to fly back over the country, and so Cambodians thought there must have been a leak? Do they routinely tape Thai embassy calls and it was just a matter of finding the right record, exactly as Jatuporn claimed a few days later? Of course they’d deny existence of any such practice but who can guarantee they never brought the tape up when they were looking for a confession from Siwarak?

I guess it doesn’t really matter given how the case was made a part of the political war with Thailand and so legal reasons and arguments probably don’t matter much anyway.

Another interesting point is how Thaksin’s flight has become a matter of Cambodian national security. I can accept prosecution and judges’ argument for that now, but how can they expect Siwarak to comply with it almost a month ago? Where does it say that once a foreigner gets a job with Cambodian government his movements become “national security” and his native country has no rights to know his whereabouts?

Regardless, Siwarak got seven years, but it’s a minimum sentence under the article he was charged with, so the court probably doesn’t take the case very seriously, and in political games the pardon is very likely, if the request comes from politically correct channels, and it means Thaskin and his friends.

Their role in this affair is murky. They’ve been accused of orchestrating the whole thing from the start and were linked to Siwarak’s release all along.

They can of cause claim that they got involved only after Siwarak’s mother asked for their assistance, but not many people take their words at the face value. Let’s see how it plays out before reaching any conclusions.

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4 Responses

  1. When Thaksin left Cambodia he was “forced to fly around Thailand” not because Thailand was preparing to force him down, but because Thailand refused his plane permission to enter Thai airspace. Thailand could have granted permission and then forced him down — if they really wanted to catch him, which seems doubtful.

    • They don’t want to jail Thaksin here against his will if they can avoid it. Public announcement that he’d be denied Thai airspace was probably a message to him not to force their hand.

  2. Wow loved reading this blogpost. I submitted your feed to my google reader.

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