SIWARAK Chotipong, the 31-year-old Thai national accused of espionage in the theft of fugitive Thai former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s flight schedule, has admitted to leaking information about Thaksin’s flight to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, Siwarak’s defence attorney said Sunday, though the attorney denied that this act constituted theft or espionage.
“I acknowledge that my client has confessed to the court that he leaked the information about Thaksin’s flight to the Thai embassy, but I want to confirm that he reported to the embassy 10 minutes after it landed, and he did not know that Thaksin was in the plane at that time,” said Kao Soupha, Siwarak’s attorney.
Kao Soupha added that allegations that Siwarak “stole” the flight schedule make little sense, given that it was his professional responsibility as an employee of Thai-owned Cambodia Air Traffic Services (CATS) to know the flight information.
“He did not steal the flight records because it is his position to know all the flights. He never thought it was a serious matter,” Kao Soupha said.
Siwarak was arrested on November 12, during Thaksin’s controversial visit to Cambodia in his capacity as government economics adviser. He is being held in pretrial detention at Prey Sar prison, though a date for his trial has yet to be announced.
On Friday, the government held a press conference at the Council of Ministers to explain its actions in taking control of CATS, which employs nine Thai nationals in Cambodia.
“We did not expel the Thai workers – we just banned them from coming near the operating equipment that is related to safety and security,” said Tekreth Samrach, a secretary of state at the Council of Ministers. CATS, he added, has been placed under the caretakership of an official from the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation.
Kao Soupha said the Municipal Court’s investigation of Siwarak had concluded after just one week. He added that he planned to file a bail request for his client on Monday.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY KAY KIMSONG