With several updates: Teflon Mark and the Cambodian lies

3 01 2011

In our recent post on the yellow-shirted Thai border crossers, we added an update which said: For those who think he wasn’t in Cambodia, watch this clip and hear Democrat Party MP Panich Vikitsreth on the phone asking a colleague to tell the prime minister’s secretary that he was inside Cambodia.

http://www.youtube.com/v/5YTbiVA16Ss?version=3

This issue is now taken up by the Bangkok Post. The Post story begins: “Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva knew Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth had intruded on Cambodian territory before Mr Panich and six other Thais were arrested by Cambodian soldiers, video footage posted on YouTube shows.” The story continues:

One of the video clips shows Mr Panich making a phone call to his secretary, named in the conversation as Q. Mr Panich asked Q to inform the prime minister through Mr Abhisit’s secretary, Somkiat Krongwatanasuk, that they had crossed the border into Cambodia.

“Please tell Somkiat to inform the prime minister that we are already inside Cambodia. I planned to call the prime minister myself but it is okay now,” Mr Panich says on the phone to his secretary .

“Call him [Somkiat] so in case there are problems, we can coordinate because we are already in a Cambodian area. And make sure that he does not tell anybody because only the prime minister must know this.”

The story then cites acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn saying the clip “could not be interpreted … [that] Mr Abhisit had ordered him to enter Cambodia.” Panitan added that “Panich was doing his duty as a member of the lower house committee and was unaware he had entered Cambodia at the time of his arrest.” Oops, the clip shows that’s a (deliberate) lie.

Added to that lie, we wonder if the PM we have labeled Teflon Mark can squirm out of earlier statements in the Bangkok Post: “Prime Minister Abhisit said earlier today that the seven Thais should be released immediately and without conditions. He appeared to blame the Cambodians: “Both countries have agreed that there must not be soldiers from either side in the area where the seven Thais were apprehended. We should not talk about them [the seven Thais] appearing in a Phnom Penh court now, the main point is no armed forces should be in the area in the first place.” And, “Abhisit admitted that he had assigned Mr Panich to discuss the Thai-Cambodian border dispute issue with the PAD yellow-shirt group.

In that report there is a note saying that “Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon and armed forces commanders this morning had a serious discussion with Privy Council president Prem Tinsulanonda about the arrest of seven Thais by Cambodia for trespassing.” The report says this:

Gen Prawit, who looked tense, said to reporters: “We are following up the matter and coordinating with Cambodia.” He said the seven had probably not trespassed into Cambodia as the boundary has yet to be clearly defined.

A source said Gen Prem told Gen Prawit and other military leaders to quickly find ways of helping the seven Thais. The generals questioned whether it was the seven Thais or the Cambodian soldiers who had trespassed, but said Mr Panich and Mr Veera should have asked soldiers or police to accompany them if visiting an area in dispute, said the source.

Prem really can’t stay out of politics. It is as if he is the senior minister mentor, a la Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore.

The next part of this story is how Teflon Mark deflects criticism. A bit of a military clash on the border? A vigorous PAD response to take the heat off the government? Or another set of lies?

Update 1: Readers might be interested in the Bangkok Post’s Veera Prateepchaikul’s rapid defense of Prime Minister Abhisit. Clearly Abhisit should be in trouble on this one. The evidence is that the premier ordered Panich to deal with the yellow shirts on this issue and the video evidence suggests a determination on the part of Panich to provoke a Cambodian response. Veera’s call for Panich to be dismissed from the Democrat Party would seem flawed if the man was on a mission for his boss.

Update 2: The spin has begun. At the Bangkok Post it is reported that “Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva explained to the cabinet on Tuesday he knew only that Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth would go to a border area, but did not know exactly where where, acting government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said after the cabinet meeting.” Abhisit has admitted sending Panich to the border. Remarkably, and in the face of all the contrary evidence, Panitan said that “When Mr Panich called on the telephone, it was not known for sure if he and six other Thais were in Cambodia, making it difficult for the government to help when they were arrested.” Likewise, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs “insisted that Mr Panich and his team did not have the intention to trespass on Cambodian soil.” Watch the video and Panich say something completely different and ask for the information to go to Abhisit. To say that the “team sincerely believed the area was Thai soil and had no intention of causing a problem for relations between the two countries” is bizarre.

Abhisit’s line on the clips, which he claims to have viewed is is that they are “being used by Cambodia against the seven Thais. The total length of the clips was 20 minutes, but was cut to only one minute. The clips must be viewed in their entirety and a map drawn up to show the exact location so as to confirm that the Thais had no intention to trespass on Cambodian territory, the prime minister said.”

If any reader has seen all 20 minutes, let us know what difference it makes. There are 5 minutes of video at Siam Voices. Does Abhisit have all the video? If so, then he could easily release it. A question to be be asked is why was so much videotaping being done by Panich and the accompanying yellow shirts? What was the purpose?

We expect that this mapping exercise will try to roll back the story and claim that the land where they were is “really” Thai land. This raises the specter of an ongoing conflict at the border.

Update 3: As we were writing Update 2, the Bangkok Post has re-posted its story cited above as “Abhisit’s spin”. It includes 5 minutes of video that are a little different from that at Siam Voices. In this clip it seems the team wanted to be detained.

Update 4: For the latest twist in this increasingly bizarre story, see Bangkok Pundit’s latest post suggesting collaboration in having the border crossers arrested.


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