Democrat’s attack Sivarak’s mum

11 12 2009

Also available as: Demokraten greifen Sivaraks Mutter an

After the initial hoopla about the arrest of alleged Thai spy Sivarak Chutipong in Cambodia, the government seemed unable to do anything much for the jailed man and it was Thaksin Shinawatra, red shirts,  the Peua Thai Party and its leader Chavalit Yongchaiyudh making the running. Now the Democrat Party is attacking the now-convicted Sivarak for turning to these opposition figures for help. In fact, as readers will see below, the government and its supporters are now claiming that Sivarak was a red shirt plant from the beginning, and that this was an elaborate plan to make Thaksin and his men look good.

When Thaksin showed up in Cambodia and Hun Sen rolled out the red carpet, the Democrat Party-led government was outraged. When Sivarak was arrested, the government claimed that he was innocent and that the whole thing was part of a plot to further damage relations between the two countries. Having a foreign minister who had personally insulted Hun Sen not once but several times, and encouraging PAD rallies that attacked Cambodia and demanded the return of the Preah Vihear temple, might have assisted that decline in relations.

Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya was clearly a lame duck in dealing with Cambodia, the government had attacked Hun Sen over the Thaksin appointment, and the withdrawal of senior diplomatic  representation meant that the Thai government had few cards to play.

Seemingly damaged by the dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over Thaksin’s appointment and visit, the red shirts and Peua Thai stepped in on the Sivarak case and have looked pretty good in the press and on television (Bangkok Post, 10 December 2009: “Chavalit signs request for help letter”). So the Democrat Party has attacked Sivarak’s mother for seeking this help and for not going through official Ministry of Foreign Affairs channels (Bangkok Post, 10 December 2009: “Democrats criticise Sivarak’s mum”). She’s accused of not following “international practice.”

Over at The Nation (11 December 2009: “Spy he may not have been…”) the tone is snide. With this headline, the smarmy writers say that they can’t believe the Sivarak-as-red-shirt-plant story, but state it anyway: “It’s too far-fetched, of course, to assume that Sivarak Chotipong was in fact a red-shirted agent who was “planted” as a Thai government spy so that he could be arrested on charges of espionage in order to embarrass Bangkok and allow Thaksin Shinawatra to play a heroic saviour.” That can’t be so they say because, well, Sivarak was in cahoots with the Thai Embassy.

But the boys at the Nation – described by one a loyal readers as “fish wrap” – won’t even let their own facts get in the way of a Thaksin plot story: “We can’t blame critics, though, if they feel that the aftermath of the man’s arrest has been politically manipulated.” By the red shirts, of course. The evil master Thaksin told us that: “His [Sivarak’s] mum is my supporter,” so that he had to get Sivarak out  of jail. She’s a red shirt! And of Sivarak:  “Spy he may not have been, but pawn surely he has become.”

The smear is clear, at least for the Nation’s paranoid writers. [Update: Bangkok Pundit thinks this story is a denial of the plot. We don’t think so as the Nation is pushing the story in several ways – see below].

Still more amazing is the Bangkok Post’s editorial (10 December 2009: “A pawn’s trial and conviction”) leaping on a high horse about the poor judicial system in Cambodia. PPT, recalling all that advice about glass houses and throwing stones, wonders if the Post’s editorialist has looked at how Thailand’s judicial house is constructed of ultra-thin glass?

Sure, Human Rights Watch is right to criticize Cambodia’s  judicial system, but when the Post states: “… the track record of Cambodia’s judicial system in general on several core human rights issues _ including judicial independence and rule of law, freedom of expression, prisons and arbitrary detention, forced evictions and land confiscation _ leaves much to be desired,” they could just as easily be writing of Thailand.

Update 1: The Nation has another article on the alleged under-handed red-shirt plot (10 December 2009: “Mother justifies seeking royal pardon for her son”). It cites former Foreign Minister Prasong Soonsiri who says that “the opposition Pheu Thai Party had used Sivarak’s case to discredit the Thai government.” He adds:  “It has been a set-up from the beginning. The man will eventually get a royal pardon as requested by [ex-prime minister] Thaksin Shinawatra … and then they would blame the government for lacking the ability to help a Thai national.” Prasong is a former security chief who has been in the vanguard of the anti-Thaksin opposition.

The Nation cites Sivarak’s mother on the case. She says that she relied on Thaksin and Peua Thai because the “Foreign Ministry is not in a position to help as it is in conflict with Cambodia,” adding:  “I think the Foreign Ministry should stop providing any assistance to my family, since it could make things more complicated…”. Pleading with the Abhisit government, she says: “Please don’t fear losing face as the real loser is my son. He has lost everything – his reputation and his job…”. On the idea that  this is a red shirt plot, she states:  “I beg understanding from those who think this is a set-up. That is a very bad attitude. No mother could take her son into such a risky situation. Our family would get nothing from this incident. Do you think any mother is happy to see her son in jail?  It is hurtful to hear some government officials saying Sivarak is a troublemaker…”, adding that: “It is diplomat Kamrob who caused trouble for my son. He made a phone call and said a few sentences asking about the flight, but my son has been jailed for seven years.”

Interestingly,  Foreign Ministry deputy spokesman Thani Thongpakdi doesn’t deny this, and defends Kamrob, “saying that the diplomat had been performing his foreign-service duty and did not need to take any responsibility for Sivarak’s fate.”

Update 2: The Bangkok Post and several agencies are reporting that Sivarak was pardoned by Cambodia’s King Norodom Sihamoni following a request by Hun Sen.


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