Thai prince plane affair in hands of German justice: Berlin

Thailand's foreign minister flew into Berlin Friday for talks on the impounding of an aircraft owned by the Thai crown, but the German government insisted that it was a matter for the courts.

Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya met with German foreign undersecretary Cornelia Pieper to discuss the matter, foreign ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer told reporters.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is currently visiting Mexico.

Before the Thai minister's arrival however, he said the government could not comment on the affair "because we respect the independence of the judicial authorities" handling the case.

On Tuesday, German officials sealed a Boeing 737 often flown by the heir to the Thai throne Maha Vajiralongkorn, and banned it from taking off, Munich airport said. The move came because of a long-running business dispute.

"Legally, this is a huge mistake," Kasit told reporters in Bangkok before leaving for Europe. In Thailand the royal family is a revered institution.

In talks in Berlin, Pieper regretted "the inconvenience caused to the crown prince by this seizure."

But she reiterated Westerwelle's position that the matter was in the hands of the German courts.

In a statement the two ministers agreed that the matter should not harm bilateral relations.

Werner Schneider, insolvency administrator for the Walter Bau firm, said the seizure followed repeated refusals by the Thai government to pay money it says it is owed.

"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.

"The Thai government keeps playing for time and has not reacted to Schneider's demands. Even the involvement of the relevant departments of the German government proved fruitless."

The dispute goes back more than 20 years to the involvement of 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. A court ruled in his favour in 2009, Schneider said.

Kasit, speaking in Bangkok said Thailand wanted "the German court to act on our request revoke the seizure immediately."

He added that the plane belonged to the crown prince, not the government.

"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.

  • 2015 Chevrolet Trax small SUV rolls back to America 5 hours ago
    2015 Chevrolet Trax small SUV rolls back to America

    For the past two years, car shoppers from Acapulco to Winnipeg could wander into their Chevy dealers and kick the tires on a city-sized sport utility vehicle named the Trax — and about 90,000 have done so. Today, Chevy revealed the version of the Trax it will bring to the United States, for those less well-heeled buyers who want the shape of an SUV without the window sticker they usually carry.

  • Ford Transit Skyliner concept revives the ultra-luxury van 8 hours ago
    Ford Transit Skyliner concept revives the ultra-luxury van

    “Once you do stand-up, you don’t want to go back.” No, we’re not talking about comedy, but rather an emerging trend in luxury transport that’s bringing us ever taller, more capacious, more pimpdillyicious limousines. The quote came from a Ford designer, Tim Stoehr, predicting an increase in interest in limos based on big vans like the new Transit. Of course, these are nothing new; up-fitters have taken quite kindly to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and apparently Ford is chomping at the bit to get in on the action, too. So Ford enlisted the help of the largest Ford dealer in the world, Galpin Auto Sports in Van Nuys, Calif., to help design and build its first super-lux Transit concept, dubbed the Skyliner.

  • Driving the 2016 BMW X5 eDrive, the plugged-in SUV 13 hours ago
    Driving the 2016 BMW X5 eDrive, the plugged-in SUV

    Automakers worldwide have gradually (some would say grudgingly) attempted to make their high-profit and highly popular SUVs as efficient and clean-running as their lower weight passenger cars — namely through the grafting of a plug-in hybrid system.

  • Amazon to release smartphone later this year: report
    Amazon to release smartphone later this year: report

    Amazon is preparing to release a smartphone in the second half of 2014, thrusting itself into a market already crowded with Apple and Samsung models, The Wall Street Journal reported. The company aims to announce its new product by the end of June and ship to customers by the end of September in time for the holidays, the Journal said in a Friday report, citing unnamed people briefed on the matter. Amazon, it said, hopes to differentiate its phone from other models with a screen that displays hologram-like three-dimensional images, which can be viewed without special glasses. Earlier this month the retailer unveiled a new media streaming device, Amazon Fire TV, which it touted as simplifying the experience of watching video online.

  • Malaysia flight's co-pilot tried to make cellphone call - report
    Malaysia flight's co-pilot tried to make cellphone call - report

    Investigators probing the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 suspect that the co-pilot of the jetliner tried to make a call with his cellphone after the plane was diverted from its scheduled route, Malaysia's New Straits Times reported sources as saying on Saturday. The newspaper cited unidentified investigative sources as saying the attempted call from co-pilot Fariq Abdul Hamid's phone was picked up by a cellphone tower as the plane was about 200 nautical miles northwest of the west coast state of Penang.