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Pattaya Daily News

03 December 2010 :: 00:12:44 am 47083

Abhisit denies phone talk with Obama on extradition of Viktor Bout

BANGKOK, Dec 2 - Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Thursday reaffirmed that US President Barack Obama did not call him to discuss the extradition of alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to the United States but conceded that the US envoy to Thailand has expressed worry over possible interference in the case by influential groups.
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The Thai premier made his remarks after WikiLeaks revealed a secret US diplomatic memo addressed to the US government saying that US ambassador to Bangkok Eric G. John warned the Thai prime minister last year that Mr Bout’s associates tried to bribe concerned people to prevent extradition of the Russian businessman to the United States.

Mr John told Mr Abhisit that “bribery had infected the Bout proceedings” and warned that false testimony could lead the Thai court to “possibly deny extradition.” He also advised US President Barack Obama to telephone the Thai premier directly on the matter, according to WikiLeaks.

“We suggest that the call be accelerated and that it include a serious discussion of our concerns over the implications of the Bout verdict, as outlined above. We believe (the president’s) involvement on Bout would have significant effect here,” said Mr John in the note.

Mr Abhisit said however that the released documents described what happened in Feb 2009 and have nothing to do with Thailand as they are the documents concerning the US government.

The prime minister said the US diplomat has met him to express concern over the Viktor Bout case but Mr Obama did not telephone him.

“When he (Mr John) came to meet me, he didn’t have any doubts or put pressure (on the Thai government),” said Mr Abhisit. “He simply expressed concern over reports that ‘influential people’ may try to interfere in the case.”

“I gave assurances to him that there will be no interference on the case and if the US diplomat has any doubts, the Thai government will clarify the case for him,” said Mr Abhisit.

The Thai premier added that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and his Deputy Secretary-General Panitan Wattanayagorn are following up the issue.

The 43-year-old former Soviet air force officer was arrested at a luxury Bangkok hotel in March 2008. His arrest was part of an elaborate sting in which US agents posed as arms buyers for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, which the US government classifies as a terrorist organisation.

Mr Bout, dubbed as “Merchant of Death”, was extradited to the US Nov 16 after the Thai Cabinet expressed no objection against the ruling of the Court of Appeals to extradite him.
Meanwhile, Thani Thongpakdi, acting spokesman for the Thai foreign ministry, said the ministry is now speeding up an investigation on the documents released by WikiLeaks, while asserting that they will not affect Thai-Russian relations.

Mr Thani said the US authorities had earlier informed the Thai government of the release of the documents in which content referred to Thailand, but the US embassy in Bangkok did not state whether the data was correct or not.

The spokesman, however, reaffirmed that Mr Bout’s extradition was done in accordance with the court ruling, asserting there was no pressure from the United States on the case.

Mr Thani also expressed confidence that the released documents will not impact the relations between Thailand and Russia as the Thai foreign ministry has regularly informed Russia about the case.(MCOT)

More info here
WikiLeaks cables show US envoy warned Thais that Russian arms suspect associates tried bribery
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Category : Politics News

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