What really happened in Cambodia.

The word “really” in the title means I have no evidence to support what I’m about to say.

After withdrawal of ambassadors initiated by Thailand Hun Sen wanted to strike at Thai diplomats and focused on the next highest rank, the First Secretary. Sifting through their wiretapping data Cambodians discovered a few calls made by Kamrob to Siwarak.

It took them a day to put the plan together and next morning Hun Sen went ahead full steam. If there was any setup, as debated in Thai media now, it was a setup against Kamrob. His phone calls were incriminating and Siwarak was just a collateral damage. They didn’t really think it through, though – Kamrob was expelled and that was the end of it but Siwarak’s case lingered for nearly a month and made them look like cartoon Madagascar, run by King Julian, and everything in this trial reeked of incompetence and cheap soap, especially the grand finale. Kamrob was the original target there, not Siwarak.

They got Siwarak’s confession right away (probably thanks to the record of the phone calls) but when Phua Thai publicly announced they had a tape on Kamrob Cambodians realized they can’t admit spying on Thai diplomats, Kamrob is gone anyway, and they can’t take this tape to the court either, and they have no other evidence, and, theoretically, if the defense argued that the evidence against their client was obtained illegally they would have no answer. That’s where changing lawyers was very handy indeed. That probably explains why the new, Phua Thai approved lawyer, went for denial of all charges, having nothing to lose as pardon was imminent one way or another.

During all this time Thaksin and Co. simply milked Siwarak’s fate for all publicity they could squeeze. He was never a real target and not a part of any conspiracy, even though his dead father’s connection to Thaksin had been spun into repayment of old debts and his mother was painted a red shirt – it was just talking up whatever little they had to rely on.

Just look at Chavalit’s attempt at drafting a pardon plea – it wasn’t even accepted by Cambodians, they had their own sweet something going on with Thaksin and it moved a lot faster.

They all walked out smiling anyway, they thought they put on a good show and public liked it. The idea that they had to at least pretend that they are civilized people living in a society ruled by law and justice didn’t even entered their heads. Hun Sen probably wants to prove just the opposite, that he wields absolute power and runs the whole country on a whim. “Underdeveloped” would be an understatement there.

Kamrob’s involvement, however, refuses to go away and now PTP wants to use it their upcoming censure debate. Let’s see, they won’t be incriminating themselves but Hun Sen might feel uncomfortable if they bring his wiretapping into Thai parliament debate. They would probably be made into minced meat anyway, if they challenge Thai embassy’s right to know about the movements of Thai fugitives abroad, or that what Siwarak had disclosed during the trial constituted any kind of spying – they would need evidence to proof that Kamrob asked for substantially more, classified information, to accuse him of putting Siwarak in harm’s way.

Both Kasit and Abhisit came out in public and made sure that without admitting to spying on Kamrob neither Cambodia nor PTP have anything to go on. Thais know very well that the call was recorded, and, perhaps, a lot more information had been passed, and they also know that their adversaries can’t do anything about it. Thais have put out a list of demands for normalizing relationships and Cambodians realized that they played their “Spying Kamrob” ace already and got nothing for it. So they are hissing about Preah Vihear and sending Thai ambassador back first. Great game – what if Abhisit plays along, what they would do in return? Fire Thaksin? They’ve got nothing else left to offer.

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.