Sunday, July 13, 2008

Former Thai deputy interior minister hiding out in Cambodia, eludes

BANGKOK, July 12 (TNA) - Thailand's former deputy interior minister Vatana Asavahame, wanted for jumping bail on his alleged involvement in a corruption case, was hiding out in a casino in the Cambodian border town of Poi Pet, at Thailand's border crossing town of Aranyaprathet, according to Thai deputy national police chief.

Pol. Gen. Jongrak Juthanont said some some witnesses had seen Mr. Vatana visiting the casino inside a resort hotel in Poi Pet, but so far had eluded Thai pursuers who intend to shadow him.

Mr. Vatana is reportedly the biggest shareholder in the Grand Diamond City Casino at Poi Pet.

He said Mr. Vatana had left Thailand by boat from his native province of Samut Prakan several days prior to his scheduled appearance in a Bangkok court to hear a verdict in a wastewater treatment plant corruption case.

According to Gen. Jongrak, Mr. Vatana was seen later landing in Cambodia's Koh Kong province, where he was met by unidentified persons who drove him to the hotel.

However, the Royal Thai Army's Burapa Task Force and provincial police had information of his presence at the casino and sent teams of detectives to search for Mr. Vatana but found no trace of him. The local authorities believed that the former deputy Interior Minister may no longer be in Poi Pet.

On Wednesday, the court seized his Bt2.2 million bail guarantee and issued a warrant for his arrest after he failed to appear in court. In his absence the court rescheduled the reading of the verdict to August 18.

Gen. Jongrak, however, said he is not confident that Mr. Vatana could be arrested before August 18 because the court has not ruled on the case yet. In addition Thailand and Cambodia have no extradition treaty for exchanging prisoners, so there is no mechanism to receive cooperation from the Cambodian government. (TNA)-E111

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