Saturday, November 14, 2009

The unlikely alleged "spy" named "Tao"

Sivarak "Tao" Chotipong, the Thai engineer being detained by Cambodian authorities on espionage charge, is known among his Thai friends in Cambodia as a jovial person with no particular political affiliation.

A blogger at Oknation who knows Tao well said he was "shocked" to get a phone call from a friend after reading the front page of Rasmi Kampuchea which played up the story as the main story Thursday morning, complete with Tao's picture, and the allegations that he had "stolen" documents pertaining to flight schedules of Thaksin Shinawatra and Hun Sen.

The blogger said he didn't believe Tao had done as alleged. "He would be the last person to get himself involved in any political activity like that," another friend told a Nation reporter.

Cambodian authorities were trying to link Tao to the First Secretary of the Thai Embassy, Kamrob Palwiwatchai, who was earlier this week expelled from Cambodia for being "persona non grata."

Tao is an employee of Cambodia Aviation Transport Services (CATS), a subsidiary of Thailand's Samart Group, that has a 35-year concession with the Cambodian government. He has been in Cambodia for about 7 years.

Nobody knows where Tao is being detained since he "disappeared" from home at around 3am Wednesday. The Thai Embassy says it is trying to locate him so that officials can visit him to provide help.

The incident reminds me of the Cold War era when rival countries would detain "spies" from the other side to boost their bargaining power in any confrontation.

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