There are some interesting WikiLeaks revelations related to Thailand. Of the estimated 3000 cables sent by the United States Embassy in Bangkok to the US State Department, the most intriguing are those tied to the case of Russian businessman and alleged arms smuggler Viktor Bout, who faced trial in Thailand before being extradited to the United States last month. The documents have revealed the concerns expressed by the United States about the attempt of Bout’s associates in Russia (who were opposed to the extradition) to bribe local Thai officials and influence the court’s decision.
Outgoing US Ambassador Eric John allegedly sent a February 2010 report informing his superiors in Washington on the status of Bout’s case in Thailand that stated:
‘…there have been disturbing indications that Bout’s xxxxxxxxxx (names were removed by WikiLeaks) and Russian supporters have been using money and influence in an attempt to block extradition. The most egregious example was the false testimony of xxxxxxxxxx that Bout was in Thailand as part of government-to-government submarine deal. Thus, we felt it was time to once again raise the matter at the top of the government and make clear that, while we understand the judicial process must take its course without political interference, we insist that the process be free of corruption and undue influence. We will continue to do so in the months ahead.’Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
These exposed cables confirmed that the US didn’t completely trust the Thai legal system. Also, since the US evidently badly wanted to extradite Bout, many are now asking if it might have used its special relationship with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva to force the extradition of Bout, who’s accused of being the world’s biggest arms dealer.
Some pundits are even asking if the US negotiated the extradition of Bout with Abhisit in exchange for the extradition of Thailand’s fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Abhisit has denied this, saying he only discussed the iPad with US President Barack Obama during a November meeting, not Thaksin’s extradition.
It’s not certain whether unreleased WikiLeaks cables might reveal more information about this issue—particularly the extradition of Thaksin—but so far we’ve at least been able to confirm that Thailand felt some pressure from state and non-state actors from Russia and the United States in regards to the Bout case.
Meanwhile, Thai citizens are already eagerly anticipating the publication of other WikiLeaks documents that might cover controversial topics such as arms control, human trafficking, military operations, internal government affairs, war crimes and elections.
And as for Ambassador John, it’s unfortunate he’s going to be leaving Thailand while being suspected of interfering with the domestic judicial process of the country.