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Thai government fights back over seizure of prince's jet

The Local · 15 Jul 2011, 08:50

Published: 15 Jul 2011 08:50 GMT+02:00

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Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya is on his way to Germany to protest the matter personally, according to the Bangkok Post newspaper.

Should the plane not be released it could have serious detrimental effects on German-Thai relations, he told the newspaper, calling the move a “huge mistake.”

The Boeing 737 – which is said to be owned by the Thai Air Force but controlled by a crown prince – was seized at Munich’s airport this week in a long-running €30 ($57) million over money allegedly owed to the now insolvent Walter Bau construction group.

The dispute stretches back more than 20 years, to when the German construction firm Dywidag helped build a 26-kilometre road between Bangkok and the airport for which payment was allegedly never received. Dywidag merged with Walter Bau in 2001.

“We in the insolvency of Walter Bau AG have been trying for many years to enforce a legitimate demand of more than €30 million and this drastic measure is virtually the last resort,” said Werner Schneider, the insolvency administrator for Walter Bau, in a statement.

The Thai government has said that the dispute is being blown out of proportion and that the German action was illegal because the aircraft belongs to the crown prince himself and not the state.

Story continues below…

Piromya said he was already protesting the matter with Germany’s Foreign Office and demanded the German courts release the plane immediately.

DAPD/DPA/The Local/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

09:15 July 15, 2011 by TheCrownPrince
Let the Foreign Minister come and bring some money with him, then they can have their plane back. And when he is here, will somebody please explain to him that in Germany the courts are completely independent from the government, so he can complain to the German Foreign Ministry or the Chancellery until he is blue in the face. Let them take a lawyer and challenge the act of seizure in the courts, where the whole matter belongs. If the plane really is the property of the prince and not of the state of Thailand, and if the Thais can prove that, the courts will invalidate the seizure. Otherwise the plane will be sold in a public auction and the money will be paid out to the insolvency administrator, so that the debts are acquitted. Moral of the story: if you don't pay your bills, you have to face the consequences. "Diplomatic frictions" are completely negligible here.
09:28 July 15, 2011 by oldMoslin
What if the plane did not land here in German and let us assume that crown prince came to germany from some other EU country via train of germany. Then has the German comapny the rights to kidnap and keep him hostage?

Seems like, you poeple will also say it is OK. Strange feeling ....
09:47 July 15, 2011 by ChrisRea
Let's assume that prince would come to Germany. Would the Germans kidnap him and demand ransom? Wait, the prince actually came to Germany and he was not kidnapped. Strange how some people think it is OK to escape law when you do not pay your debts.
09:52 July 15, 2011 by wood artist

The answer is no. The courts apparently ruled that the debt is still owed and unpaid. Therefore, the debt holder can seek any assets in Germany to satisfy the debt. As observed, if the Thai government can show the plane isn't owned by them, the courts will release it...since there is likely no claim against the Prince's personal possessions. On the other hand, if it is shown that the plane is government property, then they can either pay and get the plane back or suffer the consequences. That's pretty much the law in most countries, at least in the US and Europe.

There's no personal liability for the Prince himself, and he can't be held without a criminal complaint...this is a civil case. If the Thai government doesn't like it, they can go to court to deal with it. That's where it belongs, and the German government has nothing to do with it, nor should they.

09:59 July 15, 2011 by jg.
"Then has the German comapny the rights to kidnap and keep him hostage?"

Nobody has done anything to the crown prince. A company owed money by the Thai state asked a court to order the seizure of some property of the Thai state, namely, an aircraft. The court probably only has jurisdiction over property in Germany or maybe, only Bavaria, so the plaintiff took the opportunity when the Thai state brought some valuable assets within the jurisdiction of the court. If the aircraft was really the property of the crown prince, his lawyers would likely have presented such information to the court. Instead, a representative of the debtors (the Thai state) is trying to bully the court into submission.

Given that the debt is 20 years old, it is fairly apparent that the Thai state had decided not to pay, so the seizure seems quite reasonable to me.
12:24 July 15, 2011 by freechoice
why wasn't every Thai Airways jets grounded when they landed in Germany? It's parent company is Thai Ministry of Finance! For God's sake pay up!
12:48 July 15, 2011 by auniquecorn
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
14:18 July 15, 2011 by Englishted
If the plane is freed after a court case then who pays the airport?
14:48 July 15, 2011 by eveningstar
freechoice the Thai Govt. only owns 50% of the publicly listed company Thai Airways. These debt collectors know exactly what they are doing.
15:29 July 15, 2011 by oldMoslin
I agree with "freechoice".

It is a strange rule and not civilized. It is kind of a trap for some gentlemen.

The company could have gone to international court rather than doing these kind of thing. This seizure is a kind of ransom demand.

Thai Airways also property of Thailand so why did you not seize that, answer is : germans do go thre for fun trips so did not want to harm their fun times.

Strange ..really .
15:49 July 15, 2011 by TheCrownPrince

The only strange thing here is your opinion. Maybe you are used to tribal law or judgement by ordeal, but here in this country you go to the courts and sue your debtors, whereupon you get a decision, which in turn can be executed. What exactly is not civilized here? "Trap for some Gentlemen"? Huh? It absolutely doesn't matter if the debtor is a state, a king, or even the pope. It is even possible in theory to sue God in Germany, but in the last case the problems begin with the serving of the plaintiff papers. Furthermore it is obviously NO matter of international law, but completely under german jurisdiction. So what is your problem? I am beginning to believe you are just "trolling" around, aren't you?
16:05 July 15, 2011 by oldMoslin
Hello CrowPrionce:

What if the plane did not come to this country at all. Then the 30 mil Euro would have reached to 3000 mill ( just imagine). The what will Germany do go to thailand and fight and loot there and bring up valuable goods!

So the guys were waiting , they set up a trap and caught the hunt when it landed. It does not seem to be normal or ? Or is it normal to you?!!

Have they ever tried going to interanaltion court and tried to solve thie business problems, diplomatically ministry of commerce to ministry of commerce in Thailand!

18:51 July 15, 2011 by jg.
"Have they ever tried going to interanaltion court and tried to solve thie business problems..."

Yes, they did and the court (in the USA) decided in favour of the German company - the judgement is here:

18:52 July 15, 2011 by Der Grenadier aus Aachen

Let's try to clarify this for you one more time, in bullet points:

1) The international court has no ability to make a sovereign body pay anything. Asset seizures, etc, are decisions of the hosting bank's national government, after a ruling has been made. Chance of recovery on the debt for a bankrupt company: 0%.

2) I guarantee you that the contract stipulated that the agreement was to be governed by the laws and regulations of the Federal Republic of Germany, in which case the international court has no jurisdiction. Both parties signed, both parties AGREED to this. The Federal Republic of Germany has jurisdiction, de facto and de jure.

3) The Federal Republic, or a lower administrative court thereof, has ruled in favor of the plaintiff and awarded a sum against the defendant, the Kingdom of Thailand. The registrant of the aircraft is the Kingdom of Thailand. It entered German jurisdiction - it was seized. Nothing about this is in violation of the law. As a matter of fact, this is, as you like to call it, the height of "civility".

4) The Kingdom of Thailand received $30 mil EURs worth of goods and services from a company protected by the Federal Republic of Germany. If the cash sum is not paid, the aircraft will be auctioned, the debt settled, and the excess revenue, if any, returned to the Kingdom of Thailand.

Now, explain to me exactly what part of this is supposedly uncivilized or illegal?
20:13 July 15, 2011 by Englishted
If as you say Der Grenadier aus Aachen then if Thailand has a embassy in Germany why not take that and build on it ?.

Because of diplomatic immunity? ,or the cars of the embassy staff ,etc. .

I understand your point but what if (for example ) the government that entered the agreement was a militarily dictatorship that has now been over thrown ,does that still make it right in German law.

Also for how long is this action allowed? 20 -40 -100 years?

Only asking as I'm not sure on German law (but is anyone).
00:25 July 16, 2011 by TheChanger
I would stop responding to the trolls. It's obvious this isn't an issue of not understanding, it is an issue with trying to deflect the blame.

These people don't care what the law says or what logic states, they only want to champion the cause of the debtor country for their own reasons.
09:09 July 16, 2011 by Shirazz
@ Der Grenadier,

That was quite comprehensive.
12:42 July 16, 2011 by Xazron1
So why the 20yr old debt? Why didn't they pay? Taking a debt problem out on the Crown Prince !! Did anyone ask the Crown Price to sort it before the seizure and the hugh public shaming? A 20 yr old debt...get over it... shd one go back 66 yrs and start seizing German 'goods' to make good debts incurred and never recovered... give the plane back..apologize... get on with life... all so very silly..
14:03 July 16, 2011 by alancamp
I have bias, but I feel I need to say a few things.

1) Thailand can easily afford to pay but, like many countries, they would only pay after they have exhausted all appeals. To do otherwise will be dereliction of duty.

2) There is no way that the government of Thailand would sign a contract that would subject itself to the courts of Germany. (This will make sense if you think in reverse.) Normally, there would be a third-party arbitrator.

3) The arbitrator just ruled against Thailand a few years ago. The arbitrator's ruling is not final unless the contract says so and a few years to appeal is not uncommon when a state is a party. More appeals are possible in case of fraud.

4) The strong reaction by the Thai foreign ministry is just a smokescreen to prevent this problem from exploding and causing both countries tons of money. Members of the Thai royal family has visited Germany many times. Their visits have been televised a lot. This increases cooperation, investment, and tourism between both countries.

5) If the administrator for the defunct German company has seized any other plane, there would be many Thais supporting the German company because they wanted the corrupted politicians of that time punished.
17:09 July 16, 2011 by Arthur chancellor
If you can read "Thai", it is written on the plane "Transportation of the Royalty" . Anywhere on the plane does not mention anything about the belonging to the Thai government . The Royalty is the most revered in the nation, Thais would consider this an insult to the Royalty and it's a big news in Thailand . The whole thing is doing no good to the long established relations between two countries. Let's get it over with before any Lufthansa can't be landed in Bangkok and German tourists will probably suffered most.
04:58 July 17, 2011 by Kobphong Neowakul
From these comments, I very much agreed that the Thai Government has to pay the debts and this is a very shameful to me. This case should have been solved years ago, if the Thai Government, at that time, took the responsibility and such unpresent event would not has happened today. The problem started with the a Thai Governmental's Department did not give the land for building the Toll Way for some reason and yet, the Thai Government lost their case in New York. But, this case should have been solved in a more gentle maner, with my respect to the German Court, the ruling which is correct and fair. I do apologized.
17:28 July 17, 2011 by jbaker
If these are all the facts about a 20 year old debt, then this would have been out in the public eye 20 years ago. Spolied Brats abound on both sides.

How many reading this article have had $1 million of any currency much less $57 million in their lives?
09:48 July 29, 2011 by Sathien
If you impound Thai Airways jet instead of Thai Crown Prince's jet then Thai people wouldn't mind at all. Thai consider as insulting and we may retaliate German business in Thailand if your government still holding our Crown Prince property.
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