Alleged Thai spy files bail request in Cambodia: lawyer

PHNOM PENH, Nov 23, 2009 (AFP) - The lawyer for a Thai national held on charges of spying on fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra said he filed a bail request to a Cambodian court Monday.

Siwarak Chothipong, 31, an employee at the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, was arrested on charges of supplying details of Thaksin's flight schedule to his country's embassy when the Thai tycoon visited Phnom Penh earlier this month.

His arrest deepened a diplomatic crisis between the neighbouring countries over Cambodia's appointment of Thaksin as an economic adviser and its refusal to extradite the ousted prime minister to Bangkok.

"I filed the bail request with the court this morning, and we assured the court that Siwarak will not return to Thailand before his trial," his Cambodian attorney Kao Soupha said.

The lawyer said Siwarak had confessed to court officials that he leaked information about Thaksin's flight to a Thai diplomat.

"Siwarak said he reported the information because the Thai diplomat asked him for it," Kao Soupha said.

Siwarak informed the Thai official after Thaksin's private jet landed, and had not known the ex-premier was in the plane, he added.

But the lawyer told AFP that his client said the information was not secret and not stolen.

Cambodia expelled the first secretary of Thailand's embassy in Phnom Penh after alleging that Siwarak had passed information to the diplomat. Thailand reciprocated hours later.

Both countries earlier this month withdrew their respective ambassadors in the dispute over Thaksin's appointment.

All Thai air traffic control staff were last week suspended from the Thai-owned civil aviation company, which oversees Cambodian air space, after a Cambodian government official was appointed temporary caretaker of the firm.

Thaksin was toppled in a coup in 2006 and is living abroad to avoid a two-year jail term for corruption, but he has stirred up protests in his homeland against the current Thai government over the past year.

Angered by his presence in Cambodia, Thailand put all talks and cooperation programmes with Cambodia on hold and tore up an oil and gas exploration deal signed during Thaksin's time in power.

Tensions were already high between the two countries following a series of deadly military clashes over disputed territory near an 11th century temple on their shared border.

Source: AFP

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