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Pattaya Daily News

29 August 2010 :: 14:08:39 pm 36974

Thai MP Met Bout over Alleged Thaksin Arms Smuggling

Member of Parliament for the ruling Democrat Party, Sirichoke Sopha, said his meeting with detained alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout was done in accordance with correction facility procedure. He also admitted that a large part of the visit contained questioning regarding former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and allegations of his involvement in arms trading.
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Bangkok, the 28th of August 2010: Criticised by opposition MP’s, Mr. Sopha explained that his visit to see Bout in prison was done following all official procedures, was not recorded, but was observed by up to three correctional officers as is protocol with any isolated visit. “I visited Mr. Bout in my capacity as a member of parliament, no preferential treatment was afforded,” explained Mr. Sopha.

Friday’s statement by Mr. Sopha, in addition to Mr. Bout’s wife, confirmed the meeting, held on April 15th, contradicting a previous denial by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that the incident never took place. Opposition Puea Thai MP, Jatuporn Prompan, also a key leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), is now calling for the Prime Minister to step down from his post over the ‘outright lie’.  He also accuses Mr. Sopha of fundamentally abusing his position of power by visiting Bout in prison on a public holiday (visitors are not permitted in Thai prisons during public holidays).

Mr. Sopha explained that the intent of his visit was to clarify alleged credible information he had received implicating former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra with arms smuggling to the Sri Lankan rebel group Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE). He revealed that discussions with Bout in April centered on his knowledge of Mr. Thaksin’s dealings in  regards to arms-trading/smuggling.

Allegedly, the information implicating Mr. Thaksin in weapons smuggling, primarily the seizure of weapons at Don Muang Airport in Bangkok last December, was provided by an unnamed source within the Sri Lankan opposition party. The haul, a substantial amount of military grade weaponry, including rocket-propelled grenades, surface-to-air missiles and ammunition was confiscated from a military style Georgian registered cargo plane, arriving from North Korea. The crew included four Kazaks and a Belarusian who were summarily detained by Thai authorities over the seizure.

Information stemming from the Sri Lankan opposition party revealed Mr. Thaksin in fact flew into the country (Sri Lanka), the destination of the seized weapons, on the day of the Thai seizure before promptly leaving a day after the revelations of events in Bangkok surfaced. Ousted in a bloodless coup in 2006, Mr. Shinawatra is now in self-imposed exile from Thailand facing at least a 2-year prison sentence upon his return.

Finally, in a bid to erase suspicions over the meeting with Bout, Mr. Sopha explained on Friday that his visit with the alleged arms trafficker did not involve any untoward propositions regarding and exchange of information for help in his ongoing U.S. extradition case.

Reporter : John Weston   Photo : Internet   Category : Thailand News

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