Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cambodia allows diplomats to visit alleged spy

The Thai charge d'affaires in Phnom Penh and other embassy officials were allowed to visit Thai engineer Siwarak Chutiphong at Prey Sar prison this morning, the foreign minister's secretary Chavanond Intarakomalyasut confirmed on Tuesday.
It was the first time consular access had been allowed since Mr Siwarak was arrested on Thursday for supplying details of fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's flight schedule to the Thai embassy.
On Monday, Cambodian foreign ministry spokesman Koy Kuong claimed a Thai embassy official was allowed to visit Mr Siwarak in Prey Sar prison where he was temporarily detained. Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said this was not correct and that Phnom Penh had declined to allow a visit.
Mr Chavanond said charge d'affaires Chalotorn Phaovibul reported that Mr Siwarak was receiving proper treatment at the prison.

Mr Chalotorn was talking to Cambodian officials, trying to obtain details of the charges against Mr Siwarak so that defence lawyers could prepare a case.
He said Mr Siwarak was also allowed a five minute phone conversation with his mother Seemarak na Nakhon Phanom in Nakhon Ratchasima. He told her he was being well treated by Cambodian authorities and was in good health.
Mr Chavanond said he saw this as a good sign that could lead to talks to normalise relations between the two countries.
Mr Chalatorn, as charge d'affaires, is temporarily in charge of the Thai diplomatic mission in the absence of the ambassador, who was recalled two weeks ago.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva welcomed the Cambodian government's response, and said that the government has hopes that Mr Siwarak would be soon released.

"There is hope [for his release], but we have to first follow legal procedures. The precise charges against him are not yet known. I think this should be clear by tomorrow," he said. "This will allow us to follow legal procedure and assign a lawyer to help him."

Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga had ordered two high-level ministry officials to travel to Cambodia to visit Mr Siwarak, Department of Special Investigation director-general Tharit Pengdit said.
Deputy justice permanent secretary Pol Col Tawee Sodsong and Suwana Suwannajutha, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, had been instructed to visit him as soon as possible to make sure he is accorded his rights.
The Rights and Liberties Protection Department had also been insructed to liaise with Mr Siwarak's family and the Foreign Ministry to arrange legal assistance.

Thai officials would not attempt to interfere in Cambodia's investigation process, Mr Tharit said.
Mrs Suwana said she would first visit Mr Siwarak's mother Seemarak in Nakhon Ratchasima to find out if she needs any help.

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