Thai Charged Over Thaksin Flight Plans

A Thai national employed by the Cambodia Air Traffic Service in Phnom Penh was charged late on Thursday with threatening national security for passing the flight plan of Thaksin Shinawatra’s private jet to Thai embassy officials in Phnom Penh, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court and police said.

The suspect Siwarak Chothipong, 31, was arrested at his home on Wednesday night in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district, said Lieutenant General Sok Phal, deputy national police commissioner, who previously headed up the ministry’s police intelligence agency.

He added that Mr Chothipong confessed on Thursday to passing the flight plan to Kamrob Palawatwichai, first secretary at the Thai embassy, who was ordered by Cambodia on Thursday evening to leave the country. Government officials said they ordered the Thai diplomat’s expulsion for carrying out activities inconsistent with his official duties, but did mention the flight plan.

“He claimed that once he had the document he made a telephone call to the first secretary of the Thai Embassy in Cambodia to report,” Mr Phal said of the suspect who is currently jailed in Prey Sar prison awaiting trial.

“When we asked him to return the documents he said he had lost them. So we do not know which sources this man has sent the documents to,” Mr Phal added.

According to Mr Phal, the arrest was made after two employees working at CATS saw Mr Chothipong with the former Thai prime minister’s flight schedule.

Mr Chothipong is charged under article 19 of the Law on National Archives, Phnom Penh Municipal Court Deputy Prosecutor Sok Roeun said. According to paragraph three of article 19, those found guilty of threatening national defense, national security, or public order by leaking a secret government document face between seven and 15 years in prison.

When asked if national security or Mr Thaksin’s security was threatened because of the leaked flight plan, Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, declined to comment referring questions to Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak, who said he was too busy to talk.

Cambodia Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said Friday that the Thai embassy first secretary had been expelled for his involvement “with spying in Cambodia by cooperating with another Thai national.”

“Police arrested that Thai man and he will be sent to trial shortly. We have enough written evidence to prove their spying activity,” he said of the Thai CATS staffer.

The Bangkok Post reported on Friday that Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said Mr Chothipong was “not a spy” and that he had been framed by the Cambodian government.

“It is not true. It is a malicious and false claim,” he said. Commenting on Mr Kamrob, the expelled Thai first secretary, Mr Siphan said: “We gave him 48 hours starting from 5 pm on Thursday to leave the country.” The Thai embassy still has staff and had not ceased operations despite the withdrawal of the ambassador and the expulsion of the first secretary, Mr Siphan said.

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