Plane hopeless

30 07 2011

The saga of the seized Boeing 737 goes on. What began years ago as an internationally-arbitrated case by the administrator of an insolvent German country to seek compensation for contract failures has now become an international farce for Thailand.

The seizure of Thailand state property – the 737, which the Thai government claims is now the personal property of Prince Vajiralongkorn – is such a shamozzle that responses from Thailand authorities are becoming ever more bizarre.

The Nation says that the “Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) yesterday challenged the German construction firm Walter Bau to bring the investment conflict case over Don Muang Tollway to a Thai court to enforce the compensation awarded by an international arbitration tribunal.”

What? The Thai government’s senior legal office is challenging the company to deal with Thai courts? This amounts to an admission that the Thai case is so weak that the only way the government could win would be in biased local courts that move glacially slowly and are subject to corruption? The Thai government is saying that international courts are simply to, well, legal in their interpretations.

The Attorney-General, Chulasingh Vasantasingh, has the hide to state: “If they really want compensation, they should bring the case to a Thai court. There is so much Thai government property here…”. We say he has the hide to do this because he should be joking.

His question is: “The arbitration tribunal awarded the company two years ago, why haven’t they brought the case to a Thai court for enforcement? Why ask the German court to enforce the case and seize the royal plane?” The answer is simple. There is no international confidence in Thai courts.

Then the Attorney General became curiously vague, arguing that the “OAG will file a lawsuit against Germany for unfair seizure of the plane, Julasing said, but declined to disclose whom he would sue, on what grounds, when or where.”

He then gets stupidly illegal: “If they are still bothering us, we have to do something to pay them back…”. Remember that this is one of Thailand’s top legal officials making this threat!

The Nation points out: “On July 1, 2009, an international arbitration panel in Geneva made a final judgement in favour of Walter Bau. The Thai government was ordered to pay Euro36 million in damages to the company for breaching obligations set out in the tollway contract. The decision was final.” None the less, Thailand appealed.

On the plane seizure, this seemingly incoherent Attorney General stated that “he would bring a key witness to the trial to prove that the international tribunal mishandled the case. Thailand had a witness who was very familiar with the investment contract from the beginning, but the international arbitration tribunal refused to take this witness into account and made an unfair judgement against the Thai government…”. Yes, the mystery witness will save the plane!

Chulasingh states: “If the German court in Berlin learned about this key witness, I believe the court would agree with Thailand that the tribunal made the wrong decision on the case…. Therefore enforcement to compensate the company would be impossible.”

And, just to help make the case Thai-style murky, the “OAG also filed a case at the Thai Administrative Court asking it to terminate the international arbitration tribunal’s decision. The Primary Administration Court forwarded the case to the Supreme Administrative Court for consideration…”.

What does all this mean? It shows that the Thai government has no case to make that would work in an international court, so they need their own rules. Of course, the Thai government originally agreed to international arbitration. Foreign investors must be getting very worried by the essentially illegal acts of the Thai government.



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