By SOPHENG CHEANG (AP)
(Posted by CAAI News Media)
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia — Cambodia's king pardoned a Thai man Friday who had been sentenced to seven years in prison for spying on Thailand's fugitive ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a case that soured relations between the neighbors.
Government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said Thai national Siwarak Chothipong would be released from prison Monday following his pardon by King Norodom Sihamoni.
The conviction Tuesday in the capital of Phnom Penh followed Cambodia's decision last month to name Thaksin, a fugitive from justice in Thailand, as its special economic adviser. The appointment and Thaksin's subsequent visit to Cambodia angered the government in Bangkok and resulted in a recall of ambassadors from both sides.
Kanharith said Siwarak's formal release would take place during a visit to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen by the prisoner's mother and members of a Thai political party loyal to Thaksin.
Siwarak, an employee of the Cambodia Air Traffic Service, which manages flights in the country, was accused of stealing Thaksin's flight schedule before his Nov. 10 arrival and sending it to the Thai Embassy in Phnom Penh. Thaksin stayed five days, getting red-carpet treatment as he talked to Cambodian economists.
Siwarak, 31, was arrested Nov. 12 and charged with stealing information that could impact national security.
Municipal Court Judge Ke Sakhan ruled that Thaksin's flight information was confidential and sharing it was a breach of security protocol for dignitaries.
Siwarak acknowledged earlier in court that he saw the flight schedule and passed the details on to Thai embassy First Secretary Kamrob Palawatwichai who was later expelled from the country. But he denied stealing the document.
Thaksin went into self-imposed exile last year before a Thai court found him guilty of violating a conflict of interest law and sentenced him to two years in prison. He had served as prime minister from 2001 to 2006, when he was ousted in a military coup after being accused of corruption and showing disrespect to the monarchy.
Thaksin's supporters and opponents have repeatedly taken to the streets since then to spar over who has the right to rule the country, sometimes sparking violence.
Thaksin's visit to Cambodia led to allegations he was trying to ignite a new political crisis from across the border.
Critics, including Thailand's government, have portrayed Thaksin as a traitor for accepting the Cambodian appointment and have lambasted Cambodia for hosting him while he is a fugitive. Relations have already been roiled by several deadly skirmishes over the past year and a half over land surrounding the ancient Preah Vihear temple.