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Thailand 'misinterpreted Bildt' over intelligence handover

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09:56 CEST+02:00
The Thai government reckons that Sweden is willing to hand over information about militant Muslims in the country to Thailand's military junta, according to Thai newspaper The Nation.

However, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt has denied the claims, saying that the Thai government has misunderstood what was said in a recent meeting.

Following a meeting between Bildt and Thailand's foreign minister Nitya Pibulsonggram in Hamburg last Tuesday, The Nation interviewed Tharit Charungvat, a spokesman for Thailand's foreign ministry. He said that the meeting addressed cooperating over the supervision of Muslim radicals exiled from Thailand,

"Carl Bildt informed us that Sweden was watching this group of people carefully. The Swedish authorities are ready and willing to share intelligence at our request," said Charungvat.

He added that the cooperation would be in accordance with Swedish law so that the freedom of movement for Swedish citizens and foreign citizens in exile would be protected.

But now Carl Bildt has claimed that Charungvat misinterpreted what was actually said at the meeting. On Saturday morning Martina Ränk, an advisor to the foreign minister, read a short statement from Bildt about what he said in the meeting:

"I spoke about freedom of speech and organisations in Sweden, irrespective of where one comes from, but also that we obviously do not tolerate violence and that in this case I am aware of certain tendencies in that direction."

Precisely what Bildt meant by that is unclear but he has declined to comment further. Earlier in the week Sweden's foreign minister wrote on his blog that discussions related to reinstating democratic order in Thailand.

The Patani United Liberation Organization (PULO), a militant group fighting for the independence of the province of Patani in the south of Thailand, has previously had ties to Sweden, with PULO members and Muslim leaders from southern Thailand said to be living here.

The group has been linked with the troubles afflicting Thailand's south, where a majority of the population are Malay Muslims. Separatists have been conducting an armed campaign against the Thai authorities since 2004.

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