Did Thai PM really say the Saudis were ill-informed?
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Did Thai PM really say the Saudis were ill-informed?

The Bangkok Post runs with a headline “PM meets ‘ill-informed’ Saudi envoy”:

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has met with Saudi Arabia’s envoy to Thailand to clarify the controversial promotion of Somkid Boonthanom to the position of assistant national police chief.
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/>Mr Abhisit met with Saudi charge d’affaires Nabil Hussein Ashri at Ban Phitsanulok.
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/>He explained to Mr Ashri that under Thai law, the senior policeman’s promotion was appropriate due to a blanket amnesty given to all state employees facing disciplinary charges on the occasion of His Majesty the King’s birthday in 2007.
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/>Pol Lt Gen Somkid was given amnesty relating to the disciplinary measures facing him, thus enabling him to be promoted to a higher rank.
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/>The amnesty does not pertain to criminal matters.
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/>Pol Lt Gen Somkid has been indicted for alleged involvement in the 1990 disappearance of Saudi businessman Mohammad al-Ruwaili.
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/>Mr Abhisit said he wanted to speak to the Saudi envoy personally, as it would be a more efficient than explaining the matter via documents.
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/>According to Mr Abhisit, the Saudi envoy seemed to have insufficient information about the matter.
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/>The Saudi embassy has repeatedly expressed concerns about the promotion of Pol Lt Gen Somkid, but the government has steadfastly defended it.
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/>Saudi Arabia, citing Thailand’s National Police Act, claimed Pol Lt Gen Somkid should be suspended from active duty because he faces a criminal trial.

BP: The being called “ill-informed” was something that the Saudi charge d’affaires did not take sitting down lightly. The Nation has a copy of a new statement issued by the Saudi Embassy (not on their website yet):

Mr. Ashri noted that “Nonetheless, I strongly object to comments made by Thai officials to the public claiming my misunderstanding or ‘ill-information’ of local issues and laws regarding the promotion of Pol. Maj. Gen. Somkid Boonthanom who is currently indicted in the case of the disappearance of a Saudi citizen and charged with murder, among other serious crimes, in the criminal court”. Mr. Ashri said that “I maintained our courteous approach to the sensitive situation which is why I have resolved to work at bilateral diplomatic levels with the Thai government instead of publicly addressing every single comment made by officials regarding the issue”.
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/> Mr. Ashri added that until now, the afternoon of 19 September 2010 “the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Bangkok has not yet received any clarification or official notice regarding the issue of promoting Pol. Maj. Gen. Somkid Boonthanom, therefore hoping that I, or the Saudi authorities will understand this issue will not be an easy matter, because it seems that different officials refer to different sets of laws and regulations to clarify this issue to us”. He added that “Every time I meet a Thai official, a different article of law or law or set of laws is mentioned to me, and my government will surely not accept an unsupported explanation from my side, so until then our stance remains“. Mr. Ashri said “perhaps the confusing and unclear statements made by officials on this subject have led to the assumption that the issue was cleared to us but that we misinterpreted the laws which is absolutely not true; and we have no official clarification until now.
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/> Mr. Ashri referred to the various comments by Thai officials to the media justifying the decision to promote Pol. Maj. Gen. Somkid Boonthanom and citing – without further explanation – a number of complex and various laws and regulations relevant to the promotion, and said “My comments regarding these complex and various laws that many officials have referred to defending the promotion of Mr. Somkid, are that all laws are usually drafted and applied with the view of the general public, so I would assume that no law is too complex to understand – no matter how many there are – and their primary purpose or goal misunderstood”.
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/> Mr. Ashri noted that “the purpose of the laws, regulations, and the constitution IS TO BENEFIT THE GENERAL PUBLIC and not a certain individual. Therefore it is utterly incomprehensible, or justifiably that a person charged by the highest state justice authority with a serious crime such as murder be considered for promotion let alone permitting and defending such a decision. I also note that promotion is normally a reward for outstanding performance in serving the public coupled with other criteria related to good conduct policies such as ethical qualities and integrities in the line of law enforcement agencies which should demonstrate and uphold the highest standards”.
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/> Mr. Ashri further added that “I have studied the relevant laws relating to disciplinary measures and all other relevant parts of laws whenever mentioned or referred to by any Thai official in defense of the Government’s decision to promote Mr. Somkid, and found that on the contrary, there is an array of questionable issues that need urgent clear explanation, and an apparent effort by some people to persistently confuse the situation and distort the facts around the criminal case of the missing Saudi citizen and the defendants charged with his murder”, Mr. Ashri said that “the goal seems to rush assumptions to be facts, and put the blame on misinformation or misinterpretation”, adding that “I also have received the proper legal consultation and advise with regard to these laws hence our objection and protest was based since the beginning on valid and legally disputable arguments”.
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/> Mr. Ashri stated that “this particular case [of Mr. Al-Ruwaili] had been classified as a special case according to the Thai justice system, so far we have seen nothing special about it, it has dragged on long enough along with the other two cases”. The Chargé d’Affaires also renewed his personal worries that the issue may directly affect diplomatic relations saying that “I am trying my best to come to terms with Thai officials on the diplomatic level, so that the current situation is not seen as an indication undermining the seriousness of the Thai authorities to resolve issues currently hindering restoring bilateral relations, or escalating the current situation, I also stress that it is the duty and obligation of the Thai authorities to see that these issues are resolved properly”. Mr. Ashri added that “despite the slow and lack of progress, we continued to extend our understanding and patience in the past in pretext outcomes put forward to us by 17 past governments.  Nevertheless at the current level of the situation, we are well within our rights to express our astonishment, request the Thai Government to clarify this unacceptable situation in-order to rectify any subsequent consequences, and urge the authorities to take the necessary measures to mend diplomatic ties with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.
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/> Mr. Ashri noted that besides not receiving any official clarification on the issue “obviously the sentiments of the Saudi People who have received no answer or justice for two decades on the three serious cases that have damaged diplomatic relations, have not been taken into account“, he added that “additionally intricate and interrelated issues on all levels should have been carefully considered based on unrestrained views of international relations between countries”.

BP: Abhisit said yesterday that it was taking a long time to translate the regulations as as there were many documents. MCOT has the direct quote from Abhisit:

“It must be accepted that there are many laws that are complex so I explained to the Saudi charge d’affaires so they knew because he may have received information that was incomplete. Whether he will understand this or not, it will take time to create an understanding, but we must continue to work together and after he has received his explanantion, everything will be ok and he will send this information to report to his country” (“ต้องยอมรับว่ามีกฎหมายหลายฉบับที่มีความสลับซับซ้อน ซึ่งได้อธิบายให้อุปทูตซาอุฯ รับทราบ เพราะทางอุปทูตซาอุฯ อาจจะมีข้อมูลไม่ครบถ้วน ส่วนเขาจะเข้าใจหรือไม่ ก็ต้องใช้เวลาในการทำความเข้าใจ แต่ก็ต้องทำงานด้วยกันต่อไป และหลังจากที่ฟังคำชี้แจงจากเรา ทุกอย่างก็น่าจะเรียบร้อยดี และเขาก็จะส่งข้อมูลต่าง ๆ ไปชี้แจงกับประเทศของเขา”).

BP: Abhisit didn’t use the words “ill-informed” although this is what his statement conveys. To BP, Abhisit is trying to explain to the domestic audience that the problem is the Saudis don’t understand the law so I have told them what is what and it will be okay now. Hence, he is trying to downplay the problems. Clearly, things are not “okay”. Merely stating that everything will be okay doesn’t mean they will be.