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Finally reported: Kasit off to Germany to retrieve royal jet


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A few comments:

 

1. The plane was seized pursuant to an order from a German court to satisfy an arbitration award the Thai government refused to pay. This is not a case of the German government seizing the plane for itself. It's a civil matter where an administrator - representing the company that obtained a sizable arbitration award against the Thai government - convinced a German court that it was entitled to seize the plane.

 

2. The Thai Foreign Minister, Kasit, claims the plane does not belong to the Thai government. No comment for now on that one. He also claims that the seizure was wrong because the Thai government is appealing a judgment from the Southern District of New York confirming the arbitration award. On that point he is wrong.

 

3. A judgment in the US can enforced immediately unless the trial court or the appellate court orders a stay on enforcement. No mention of such a stay. There isn't one.

 

4. This is really a legal dispute between a German company and the Thai government over an arbitration award the Thai government has refused to pay. It really has nothing to do with the German government or anyone else.

 

5. If the Thai government had simply honored its obligations under the arbitration award, all of this could have been avoided. This is what happens when you don't comply with arbitration awards and other international obligations.

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By JUERGEN BAETZ

The Associated Press

updated 7/15/2011 7:39:22 AM ET 2011-07-15T11:39:22

 

BERLIN — Thailand's foreign minister was visiting Germany Friday in a bid to retrieve a plane used by the Crown Prince that was impounded earlier this week in a long-running commercial dispute.

 

Kasit Piromya requested a meeting Thursday and will discuss the matter with German deputy foreign minister Cornelia Pieper Friday, the Foreign Ministry in Berlin said. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is currently in Mexico.

 

The Boeing 737 "Royal Flight" was seized in Germany on Tuesday as part of a long-running court battle over payments between a German construction company and the Thai government. The company maintains the plane belongs to the government. Thailand, however, says it is the property of Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn, and therefore can not be impounded in the commercial dispute.

 

The bankruptcy administrator of German construction firm Walter Bau AG said this week the plane was seized at Munich airport on court order because of the Thai government's refusal to pay €30 million ($42 million) it owes the company under a contract agreed to more than 20 years ago to build and operate a toll highway in Thailand.

 

A spokesman for the firm, Alexander Goerbing, maintained Friday that the plane was a legitimate target because aviation registries showed it as the property of the Thai government.

 

"We got this impounding order based on an excerpt from an aviation registry saying that the plane belonged to the government," he said. "The court viewed those documents as being valid."

 

Germany's Foreign Ministry said the government could not comment on the ownership of the plane.

 

But Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said the embassy in Bangkok had previously contacted Thai authorities over the long-running commercial dispute, and the German government respects the decision to impound the plane made by the independent judiciary.

 

Deputy minister Pieper "will have polite, friendly and dedicated talks" with her Thai counterpart, he added.

 

The Boeing 737 has sat idle at Munich airport since Tuesday, with photos showing the court order "against the Kingdom of Thailand represented by the Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva" affixed to its door.

 

Government planes usually have diplomatic status — making them mostly off-limit to the judiciary of foreign countries — but that only holds when they are traveling on official purpose, not private trips. Vajiralongkorn is a frequent visitor to Germany.

 

Vajiralongkorn, 58, is the designated heir to the Thai throne, now held by his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is in poor health.

 

The 83-year-old is revered by most Thais for his dedication to public service, but Vajiralongkorn has not yet had a chance to earn the same level of respect. A qualified military pilot with the Air Force rank of Air Chief Marshal, in recent years he has also learned to pilot civilian craft.

 

Thailand's foreign minister was visiting Germany...

 

 

 

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/43765946/ns/world_news-europe/

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For all I read about this incident, it is pretty obvious that the liquidator of Walter Bau got all necessary information and approvals before seizing the jet. Looks like pretty water proof.

 

The Thai answer...at least what I can read from the local press...is a typical case of TIT. No admission of any fault (like not paying a debt for many years and disregarding several international arbitrary courts seems to absolutely Ok) but blaming the Germany for a big mistake and threatening that relationship between both countries will affected if Germany does not release the plane immediately, shows an incredible arrogance. After all this Germany not Thailand, so things will hopefully follow the rule of law and not the Thai way.

 

Yes, the balance of power is shifting towards Asia but I can't see that China or Japan or any other significant Asian power will side with Thailand and risk to strain their relationship with Germany. I rather see that the European Union will respond with unified retaliation if Thailand really imposes some sanctions on Germany. Kasit is overestimating his powers and the importance of this case for the rest of the world. Outside Thailand nobody really cares.

 

The quickest way out of this would be that Thailand finally pays up the long outstanding amount and I am sure the plane will be released immediately.

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German court hearing ongoing but no statements as of today. but the 'interesting' bit of news seems (from Thailand) to be...

 

""The German government has provided legal assistance to the Thai side. This is a case filed by a private business and the administration has no power to intervene," Abhisit said.

 

The prime minister said a separate legal battle between the German company and the government was underway in New York, and that the Thai side was going to file an appeal with a court in the United States on July 29. Therefore, he said, there should have been no urgent need for German authorities to impound the plane.

 

"Thailand is ready to follow the final court verdict even if it means we will have to pay the money. The government will not escape from the responsibility. Besides, we have lots of assets," he said."

 

http://www.nationmultimedia.com/2011/07/16/national/Kasit-seeks-a-meeting-with-German-deputy-FM-over-i-30160380.html

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The prime minister said a separate legal battle between the German company and the government was underway in New York, and that the Thai side was going to file an appeal with a court in the United States on July 29. Therefore, he said, there should have been no urgent need for German authorities to impound the plane.

 

"Thailand is ready to follow the final court verdict even if it means we will have to pay the money. The government will not escape from the responsibility. Besides, we have lots of assets," he said."

 

A judgment in the US can be enforced when it is issued unless the court orders a stay or the appellate court orders a stay. No stay here.

 

The point of international arbitration is that arbitration awards are enforced and recognized internationally and the grounds for appeal are very limited. Abbhisit is dragging this out and his excuses for failing to honor the award are incredibly weak. Makes Thailand look like a deadbeat nation.

 

This is is not the only case where Thailand has stiffed creditors, but this is one is getting attention because of the high profle parties involved. Maybe Thailand will learn its lesson and start keeping its commitments? But I doubt it.

 

I was here during the 1997 financial crisis and saw how wealthy Thais reneged on commitments and debts left and right. I recall how one Thai billionaire (still rich) said "we won't run and we won't pay - what are you going to do about it?"

 

Thailand re-wrote the terms on international acquisitions of local banks after foreign bankers put their in money and made the acquisitions. But now Thai officials have to deal with an independent German court. Must be frustrating for them to deal with an independent court where they do not automatically get their way.

 

But I am curious about why the administrator filed a confirmation case in New York? This is what has been done in cases against Indonesia since so many financial transactions clear in New York. When the Indonesian government refuses to pay on an arbitration award (a common practice), creditors look for assets in New York - even if owned by Indonesia for only a nano-second while a transaction is cleared - to recover on the arbitration award, and that requires a U.S judgement confirming the award. Was that what the administrator was trying to do here? If so, more problems for Thailand on this one.

 

The NY proceedings are essentially irrelevant to what is happening in Germany and, to the extent they are relevant, the the New York ruling was against Thailand. That certainly doesn't support the Thai position. So why did Abbhisit even bring this up, unless he thought this bit of misdirection would fool people. It just makes the Thai government look even more ridiculous.

 

I am going to sit back, watch the show, and comment, calling them as I see them.

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