Thailand slams Germany for holding prince's plane
Thailand's foreign minister embarked on an urgent mission to Germany on Thursday, accusing authorities there of making a "huge mistake" in impounding an aircraft owned by the Thai crown prince.
A Boeing 737 often flown by Maha Vajiralongkorn himself, the heir to the Thai throne, was sealed and banned from taking off late on Tuesday, Munich airport said, as part of a long-running business dispute.
On Wednesday Werner Schneider, insolvency administrator for the Walter Bau construction firm, said the seizure followed repeated refusals by the Thai government to pay money it owes the company.
"Legally, this is a huge mistake," Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya told reporters in Bangkok, before departing for Europe.
"The thing that we want urgently is for the German court to act on our request revoke the seizure immediately."
Kasit said the plane belonged to the crown prince, not the government, and that the issue had "nothing to do" with the royal.
"If this takes too long it might affect the feelings of Thai people towards German people and the country because this is related to the monarchy," he warned.
The commercial spat goes back more than 20 years to the involvement of the company DYWIDAG, which merged with Walter Bau in 2001, in building a motorway link between Bangkok and Don Muang airport.
After "numerous breaches of contract by the Thai government", Walter Bau, by then insolvent, in 2007 claimed for damages, the legality of which were confirmed by a court in 2009, Schneider said.
"We have been trying for years... to have our justified demands for more than 30 million euros ($42 million) met, and this drastic measure is basically the last resort," Schneider's firm said in a statement.
Kasit said the government had written to and spoken with German foreign ministry officials and appointed a lawyer to defend the case.
"All of the Thai people are worried about what happened," he said, although none of the mainstream Thai media reported the incident on Thursday.
Discussion of the monarchy is extremely sensitive in Thailand, where lese majeste legislation bans perceived criticism of the royal family and the institution.
Munich airport spokesman Robert Wilhelm told AFP on Wednesday that the crown prince had been regularly coming to Munich for years.
"He is probably in Munich right now, in some hotel or other," he said.
© 2011 AFP