gets day in court to
explain leaflet assault
late' to participate in probe
The former Vietnamese army fighter pilot who hijacked a plane to dump
anti-Hanoi leaflets in Vietnam will testify in Rayong on April 18.
Ly Tong, 52, who hijacked the two-engine plane and its pilot in November
during the visit to Vietnam of former US president Bill Clinton, will be
represented in court by Somsak Samrej.
Mr Somsak told the Bangkok Post the US citizen had yet to sign
documents formally appointing him as his lawyer.
The hijacker was admitted to Niti Jitwet (Forensic Psychiatric) Hospital on
Bhuddhamonthon 4 road in March after he went on hunger strike, sources
said. Bail was refused because of the seriousness of the crime.
Ly Tong entered Thailand on Nov 14 and hired a four-seat two-engine
plane from Hua Hin for the Nov 16-17 mission. He forced the pilot, Teera
Sukying, to fly the plane through Cambodia and into Ho Chi Minh City, and
was subsequently arrested by Thai police on his return.
In January, police charged the Vietnam War veteran with hijacking,
unauthorised control of outbound aviation, forcing others to commit an
offence, and travelling out of Thailand through unpermitted ports.
According to 1978 Aviation Act, he could be sentenced to death, life
imprisonment, or 10-20 years behind bars if found guilty of hijacking.
For unauthorised control of aviation out of the country, he could be fined
50,000 baht or sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, according to the 1954
Article 309 of the Criminal Act could put him behind bars for three years or
exact a fine of 6,000 baht or both if he is found guilty of forcing others
commit a crime.
For travelling out of the country through non-permitted ports, he could be
imprisoned for two years, or fined up to 20,000 baht, according to the 1989
The US embassy provided Ly Tong with a list of lawyers but he has not
decided to appoint anyone yet.
"Our position is to ensure he receives basic welfare as a United States
citizen but we will not give him any special treatment or get involved in
judicial process," a US embassy official said in a statement.
Ly Tong had been taking fluids and fruits and was no longer considered in
danger, the official said.
"He has gained weight and seems to be in good humour. He has also
received lots of visitors, mail and magazines, and is probably planning his
own defence."Hanoi has taken the case seriously and regards Ly Tong's
actions as a threat to the country's sovereignty and national security.
Ly Tong escaped from a Vietnam "re-education" camp in 1981. After
gaining US citizenship, he hijacked a Vietnam Airlines plane in Bangkok in
1992 and forced the pilots to dump anti-communist leaflets on Ho Chi Minh
City. He was imprisoned in Vietnam for 20 years but released after six
Vietnam's request for participation in the investigation came too late, said
Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, during his March 7 visit to Hanoi.
Police had already completed the process and prosecutors brought the case
to court in early February.
Hanoi has yet to decide what further action to take other than seek his
Thailand would be willing to co-operate with Vietnam on the basis of
reciprocity, even though the two countries do not have an extradition
agreement, a ministry source said.