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PM not going to Russia ‘not because of Bout’

Posted by arnon_k On November - 19 - 2010

A planned trip to Russia by Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has been called off because of his parliamentary duties, and has nothing to do with the controversial extradition of suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to the US, said Panitarn Watthanayakorn, deputy secretary to the PM.
“The prime minister has been busy with parliamentary sessions involving amendments of the Constitution, and assigned Deputy Prime Minister Suwit Khunkitti to go to Russia [to attend the International Forum on Tiger Conservation from November 21-24] on his behalf,” he added.

Asked whether a written explanation extended to Russia over Bout’s US-bound extradition was needed, Panitarn said it remained to be seen depending on the “appropriateness”.

“Thai-Russian relations are indeed improving, and Thai and Russian delegations have had no problems [over Viktor Bout’s extradition] during recent meetings,” he added.

Abhisit had earlier said his cancellation had been conveyed to Russian President Dimitri Medvedev in a recent meeting.

The prime minister said he and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya had explained to the Russian authorities about legal channels through which they could resist or defend the extradition, prior to the legal deadline on November 20 when Bout could walk free if not extradited. “But no response or action was taken, and I don’t know why,” he added.

Asked about a statement by the Russian Embassy in Thailand that it had not received a written explanation about Bout’s extradition, Abhisit said the embassy staff should make an inquiry through the Russian Foreign Ministry. “I think the matter should not affect Thai-Russian ties. We would have sent Bout to the US long ago if we were manipulable to whatever requests the US makes,” he added.

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