Saturday, August 29, 2009

Thailand's BAFS: Jet fuel demand to sink by 7%

Positive growth likely to start from Q4

Writer: NANCHANOK WONGSAMUTH
Published: 28/08/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Business

Demand for jet fuel is expected to fall by 7% this year due to the impact of the global economic crisis, domestic political instability and the H1N1 pandemic on tourism, says Bangkok Aviation Fuel Services (BAFS).

The company estimated fuel sales this year at 4.048 billion litres, down from 4.313 billion last year, said M.R. Supadis Diskul, managing director of BAFS.

The company, which provides aviation fuel services at Suvarnabhumi Airport, reported second-quarter fuel volume of 972.7 million litres, down 12.1% year-on-year. First-quarter fuel volume fell by 14.9% year-on-year to 1.035 billion litres, as air traffic sharply declined after the December closure of Suvarnabhumi Airport by anti-government protesters.

According to Airports of Thailand, passenger traffic at Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports fell by 15.3% year-on-year in the second quarter, with the number of flights down 10.6% to 34,485.

Jet fuel consumption had been falling since November 2008 as political turmoil hurt tourism traffic, said M.R. Supadis, speaking at an investor briefing at the Stock Exchange of Thailand.

National carrier Thai Airways International, which accounts for 41.1% of BAFS' sales, cut its daily traffic by four flights in May and 11 in June.

But M.R. Supadis said BAFS was hopeful the aviation sector would recover in the second half, with fuel demand returning to positive growth year-on-year from the fourth quarter.

Next year should also produce a clear pickup in sales, said Chathaya Bandhaya, senior finance and accounting manager at BAFS. "The economy is reviving as is the domestic political situation. The flu epidemic is also easing. We expect a pickup in traffic in 2010," she said.

BAFS estimates fuel demand to rise 4% in 2010 from this year.

BAFS reported first-half net profits of 231.27 million baht, down 12.7% from the same period last year. First-half revenues totalled 992.89 million baht, down 9.7% from the same period last year. For the second quarter, BAFS posted profits of 129.86 million baht, down 1.4%. Revenues slid 10% to 482.35 million baht in the same period.

Shares of BAFS closed yesterday on the Stock Exchange of Thailand at 6.75 baht, down 15 satang, in trade worth 0.93 million baht.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Airlines to extend flight services to Myanmar


YANGON, Aug. 27 (Xinhua) -- Some international airlines are making arrangement to extend their flight services to Myanmar in the coming open season running from October to next March, the local Yangon Times quoted airline sources as reporting Thursday.

The four days a week's flight services between Yangon and Singapore of the Jetstar Airline will be rescheduled to daily services.

The Myanmar Airways International (MAI will change its services between Yangon and Bangkok from five days a week's to daily's, the report said, adding that it will also operate the new route of Yangon-Gaya on every Wednesday and Saturday, while the other five days to Kuala Lumpur during the season.

The MAI, a Myanmar-foreign joint venture and the sole national flag carrier, is now flying the route five days a week.

The MAI resumed its normal flight to Bangkok in July last year with a newly-hired aircraft as an alternate arrangement after its former's was stopped flying Bangkok's new international airport earlier.

The 150-seat aircraft of Boeing 737-400 was hired from the Thai-based NOK airline.

Earlier, the MAI once also hired airbus-319 from Bhutan's Druk Air and has been flying under code-sharing systems with Singapore's Jet Star, Malaysia's MH and Thailand's TG for Yangon-Bangkok and Yangon-Kuala Lumpur routes.

According to the civil aviation authorities, 12 airlines including the Myanmar international airline and 11 foreign airlines are operating at the Yangon international Airport with about 85 flights per week in total between Yangon and eight destinations, namely Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Beijing viaKunming, Calcutta, Chiang Mai, Chinese Taipei and Doha.

The 11 foreign airlines flying Yangon comprise Air China, Thai Airways International, Indian Airlines, Qatar Airways, Silk Air, Malaysian Airlines, Bangkok Airways, Mandarin, Jetstar Asia, Phuket Airline and Thai Air Asia.

Man challenges Vietnam's aviation authority to $5 million bet


Tran Dinh Ba at a conference to introduce a planned air route that could cut travel time between Hanoi - HCMC by 20 minutes
A man who challenged Vietnam’s aviation authority to a US$5 million bet that a new Hanoi-HCMC air route would be more efficient than the agency’s estimate said the authority would not have to pay if it loses.

Tran Dinh Ba, a businessman in the southern province of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, said Tuesday he changed the terms of the bet proposal initially made earlier this month after the Vietnam Civil Aviation Administration (VCAA) deputy head Lai Xuan Thanh said state-run agencies like VCAA were not allowed to gamble.

Ba said just wants to prove his point, not take money from the administration.

If the VCAA accepted the new bet, Ba said the agency would only have to admit its mistake if it lost.

But he also said he was still prepared to fork over the dough if the organization wins the bet.

“This is a scientific wager, not gambling,” said Ba in the revised bet suggestion.

On May 11, the VCAA said in a report to Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung that direct flights from the capital to HCMC would be reduced to 1,058 kilometers from 1,200 kilometers under a straighter air route announced to the media by former airline pilot Mai Trong Tuan in April.

The administration said the new route would also cut travel time by nine minutes, but it argued against the plan because each flight would cost the airline $364 extra to use neighboring countries’ airspace.

The route was “neither technically reasonable nor economically efficient,” according to the VCAA.

However, Ba said Tuan’s idea to fly straight over Laos and Cambodia, instead of veering east over the East Sea, would be 20 percent more efficient than the VCAA had estimated.

Indeed, Tuan had already said that the flights from Hanoi to HCMC could be decreased to 1,000 kilometers while flight time would also drop to only 80 minutes from 105 minutes, adding that the new route could also save one fifth of the 25,000 liters of gasoline now used per flight. He also estimated ticket prices could be 16 percent cheaper.

In a note sent to VCAA earlier this month, Ba bet the agency that its figures were incorrect.

The original bet was that if VCAA’s calculations underestimated the efficiency of the new route by 20 percent or more, it would have to pay Ba $5 million.

However, if Ba was wrong and VCAA could prove that its calculations were within a 5 percent margin of the exact figures, he would have to dole out the sum to the agency from his own pocket.

Domestic airlines provide 50 daily flights between the two hubs.

Reported by Hoang Ly

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thai Navy apologizes for flying into Khmer territory

This is the first time Thai aircraft flew into Cambodian land

Phnom Penh - Cambodia has received a letter of apology from the commander of a Thai airbase apologizing for a series of Thai air force flights that crossed into Cambodian territory in the past week, local media reported.

A Cambodian general told the Phnom Penh Post newspaper that the commander of Thailand's Chantaburi-Trat airbase, whom he did not name, had written that the incidents were due to bad weather affecting the navigation systems of the aircraft.

"We accepted the letter of apology by the Thai military but we have warned Thailand's airbase that we will not take responsibility for a second repeated airspace violation," General Bun Seng said .

The general said incursions usually took place over disputed areas on the border between the two nations, but said this time Thai aircraft had flown 30 kilometres inside Cambodia.

"This is the first time they have flown so far into Cambodian territory," he said.

A spokesman for the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the government accepted the apology, but warned that subsequent incursions would "be dangerous."

Cambodia and Thailand have a longstanding dispute over their 804-kilometre common border.

In the past year several Cambodian and Thai soldiers have been killed and injured in skirmishes around Preah Vihear temple on the border in the north of Cambodia.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Rock-bottom air fares on offer

International airlines are offering extra-low prices both inside and outside of Thailand in a bid to attract more passengers during this low season.

Turkish Airlines yesterday announced its "Great Surprises" promotion for the month of September. Round trips from Istanbul to Casablanca, Tel Aviv, Abu Dhabi, Amman, Nice, Berlin, Beirut, Stockholm, Frankfurt, Chisinau, Gothenburg and Hanover will be priced from ค111 (Bt5,400), excluding taxes, for economy class and ค333 for business class.

Long-range flights will also be included in the campaign, with round trips from Istanbul to Lagos, Singapore, Jakarta, Bangkok and New York priced from ค333, excluding taxes.

Jetstar Asia CEO Chong Phit Lian yesterday introduced its new promotion in Thailand as part its expansion. Passengers with only carry-on luggage can fly one way from Phuket to Singapore for Bt299 net for travel during certain periods next year. This offer ends at noon today, or when seats are sold out.

Jetstar will operate two flights a day between Singapore and Phuket from December 15. Starting late next month, it will increase its frequency between Bangkok and Singapore from two flights a day to three.

AirAsia recently announced a new service between Kuala Lumpur and Abu Dhabi on subsidiary AirAsia X to begin on November 23.

The airline is now offering an attractive all-inclusive price of Bt1,020 one way, available exclusively online via its website until next Wednesday for travel between November 23 and next July 31.

Thai Airways International recently launched a new Royal Orchid Holidays "Historic Legendary Mosques in Bangkok" package. To promote the package, the airline flew in Pakistani reporters to visit the Bang Luang, Ton Son and Charoen Pasana mosques in Bangkok.

The promotion is aimed at attracting Muslim passengers during this low season.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pacific Blue will launch new flights to Phuket

Perth Airport is looking forward to welcoming the launch of Pacific Blue Airlines flights Phuket this winter.


The airline will introduce the direct, twice-weekly service to the sought-after Thai resort on November 14th.

Flights will depart on Tuesdays and Saturdays at 10:35 (local time), while incoming flights will arrive on Wednesdays and Sundays at 21:35 (local time).

It is expected that the flights will prove popular as a result of increased demand among western Australians for cheaper and convenient travel options to Thailand.

Commenting on the route, Perth Airport chief executive officer Brad Geatches said: "The introduction of Pacific Blue's new service to Phuket will be perfect for those looking to escape to south-east Asia.

"This service offers more travel options to western Australians and highlights the popularity of this region."

Pacific Blue Airlines is part of the Virgin Blue Group, which recently increased its presence in Asia with the introduction of daily flights to Bali.

From October 2nd, cheap flights carrier Jetstar Airways will launch daily
flights to Sydney from the Perth.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thailand’s secondary gateways holding up better than Bangkok

Airports of Thailand (AoT), operator of the country’s major international airports, reported a 6.3% year-on-year reduction in passenger numbers in Jul-2009, but passenger numbers had already started falling in the same month last year (by 1.3%), meaning the decreases are now compounding.

On the surface, AoT’s premier airport, Bangkok Suvarnabhumi, appears to be holding up, with total volumes down just 1.4% last month, but the figure reflects the transfer of domestic volumes from Don Muaeng Airport. Domestic passenger numbers rose 51.5%, while international traffic at Suvarnabhumi was down 12.9% last month (following a 1% increase last July).

AoT’s combined cargo traffic entered negative territory in Aug-2008, and it looks likely that decreases could also start to compound when traffic figures for Aug-2009 are released.

AoT total passenger number growth and cargo volume growth: Aug-08 to Jul-09

Overall domestic passenger volumes at AoT airports are back into positive territory, rising 5.9% in Aug-2009, erasing all of the previous year’s fall. But even bigger reductions were recorded in subsequent months last year, while could make for quite spectacular increases in coming months. The reality is, growth could be little changed from 2007 levels.

AoT domestic, international and total passenger number growth: Aug-08 to Jul-09

Phuket, Chiang Mai/Rai performing better than Bangkok

Traffic at the two Bangkok airports was down a combined 9%+ last month, whereas Phuket was down just 3.1%. Chiang Rai Airport has recovered last year’s fall, while Chiang Mai came close to doing likewise.

Airports of Thailand traffic Jul-2009 vs Jul-2008 (% change year-on-year)

Segment

Pax Jul-2008

% Change Jul-2008

Pax Jul-2009

% Change Jul-2009

Total AoT pax

4.6 million

-1.3%

4.3 million

-6.3%

- International

2.9 million

+1.3%

2.6 million

-12.9%

- Domestic

1.6 million

-5.8%

1.7 million

+5.9%

- Suvarnabhumi

3.4 million

+3.5%

3.3 million

-1.4%

- International

2.8 million

+1.0%

2.4 million

-12.9%

- Domestic

606,557

+17%

919,434

+51.5%

- Don Mueang

377,477

-28.2%

129,107

-65.8%

- Chiang Mai

257,294

-5.0%

252,317

-1.9%

- Hat Yai

103,489

-12.7%

114,085

+10.2%

- Phuket

445,989

+2.6%

432,207

-3.1%

- Chiang Rai

46,642

-22.3%

59,727

+28.1%

Total AoT cargo volume (tonnes)

113,260

+3.3%

94,569

-16.5%

Outlook: Challenging times ahead for Bangkok

V Australia’s announcement to launch direct services to Phuket from Melbourne and Brisbane later this year could reflect a growing trend of airlines (and passengers) wishing to avoid the Bangkok hub. Thai Airways’ financial troubles, relative to its Asia Pacific and Middle East peers are also expected to weaken the Bangkok hub’s outlook.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Thailand: Viktor Bout wonders why the US wants him so badly

In a series of exclusive interviews, Viktor Bout talks to the press outside Russia for the first time about his arrest in Bangkok and the failed effort to extradite him to the US

Writer: Maxmilian Wechsler
Published: 16/08/2009 at 12:00 AM
Newspaper section: Spectrum

After the surprise court ruling in Bangkok last Tuesday when the United States was denied the extradition of Viktor Bout, the man they have dubbed the Merchant of Death flashed a "V" for victory sign as he was led in leg irons and an orange prison suit from the Criminal Court.

PENSIVE: Viktor Bout in a cell at Bangkok’s Criminal Court on Tuesday during his extradition hearing.

The once burly 42-year-old Russian military officer, visibly thinner after 17 months in detention at Bangkok's maximum-security Klong Prem prison, was nonetheless beaming at the thought of escaping the reach of the US justice system.

For the Americans, who trumpeted his arrest at the Sofitel hotel on Silom Road on March 6 last year following an international sting operation involving dozens of US undercover drug agents, it was a bitter blow. After all, Bout was the man the US wanted the most after Osama bin-Laden, accused of supplying arms and logistics for bloody conflicts in Africa, Eastern Europe and Afghanistan.

See also: US to oppose bail for Bout

Despite his denials of wrongdoing, Bout is on a number of international most-wanted lists, the subject of UN sanctions and an Interpol notice over weapons trafficking. The US has also frozen his assets.

''We're disappointed and mystified by the lower court ruling,'' said James Entwistle, deputy chief of mission at the US embassy immediately after the decision.

Prosecutors announced on Friday that they had launched an appeal against the extradition ruling, which could see Bout held in custody for a further three months to three years. But Bout's lawyer Lak Nitiwatanavichan was confident the appeal would be rejected, saying they would use the same defence. ''They have no case,'' he said.

FAMILY MAN: Viktor Bout, left, carries his daughter Elizabeth on his shoulders during a trip to Brussels in 1996. His wife Alla and Elizabeth, right, on a visit to Klong Prem jail on Friday.

But for Viktor Bout, a man who has repeatedly claimed he is nothing more than a businessman, it's also a case of ''V'' for vendetta by his American pursuers.

''These accusations made by the Americans are totally ridiculous and without foundation,'' he said. ''In fact, it is very hard to do it [arms trafficking]. The missiles are not available, even from the Russian Army. This is crazy. It is someone's imagination only.''

In a series of exclusive interviews with Spectrum conducted inside the prison visiting area over recent weeks, Bout spoke bluntly of his rage at a friend of 20 years who he said betrayed him to US law enforcement officers and fears that he would be assassinated inside the jail.

His arguments about the case go some way to explaining why the final act of the US sting operation failed in Thai jurisdiction. A senior police officer told Spectrum US law enforcement agencies had chosen Thailand over other Asian destinations because the local constabulary was seen as compliant.

Further complicating the case was the pressure placed on Thailand at the diplomatic level by its traditional ally, the United States, and a re-emergent post-Cold War Russia. ''We view this decision with satisfaction, and we hope that in the nearest future, Viktor Bout will return to the motherland,'' Interfax quoted a Russian foreign ministry spokesman as saying.

EARLIER TIMES: Bout exercising the dog in Moscow in 1993, and, centre, wearing a Kavkaz sheep hat at a party in Moscow in December 2007. A 17-year-old Bout, right, snapped in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

Bout's wife Alla was far more circumspect. ''We have won the battle, but not the war yet,'' she said.

But Bout was never confident about victory. When Spectrum spoke to him in prison he was clearly agitated and angry and already planning an appeal against the decision which he felt would go against him.

''If I lose the appeal and I am sent to America, maybe they will put me in Guantanamo prison,'' Bout said only days before the verdict.'' I am afraid of being extradited to the US and to end there.

''The Americans claim that they want to close it, but in reality it is still open.''

Six-foot tall and with a military background, Bout said he had not been harmed while in detention as ''I can defend myself'' and ''I don't behave in such a way that someone could attack me''.

However, he did express concern for his future safety after rumours circulated at the prison that he would be murdered. When asked if he was concerned, he said: ''You bet I am. I am afraid that I will be killed. Maybe someone will poison the food or I will get hurt another way. Also, I am afraid that I won't live too long if I am extradited to jail in the United States.''

At the time of his arrest, US prosecutors said the capture of Bout was the result of a long-term sting operation led by undercover US drug agents posing as members of the Colombian rebel group Farc, which the US categorises as a terrorist organisation. Michael Garcia, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York, alleged that it was the final stage of ''arranging the sale of millions of dollars of high-powered weapons to people he believed represent a known terrorist organisation, the Farc''.

The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) led the sting operation, which started in November 2007 and centred on an unidentified paid informer described only as ''CS-1,'' for confidential source No1. After the arrest, the federal prosecutors said they would seek the extradition of Bout and an associate, Andrew Smulian, a 68-year-old British passport holder, who was also arrested at the Sofitel.

The New York Times reported that a criminal complaint unsealed in Manhattan showed the Bout assignation in Thailand had taken shape after earlier meetings, most of them conducted by Smulian, with informants posing as members of Farc, in the Netherlands Antilles, located off the coast of Venezuela, Denmark, and Romania.

The informer sent email messages to Bout through Smulian asking for a meeting about a possible deal, referring to Bout as ''Boris'' and weapons as ''farming equipment''

It is here that the details of the American ''sting'' operation start to become shaky. While the US was requesting the extradition of Bout and Smulian, it emerged in a report on March 12 that Smulian had already appeared in a Magistrates court in Manhattan and been charged.

This coincides with confusion in Bangkok over how many of the alleged arms dealers were in custody; there can only be one answer, either Smulian was an informant or had agreed to testify against Bout.

When asked by Spectrum why he did not leave the Sofitel after the undercover US agents said they were from Farc and started to talk about weapons, Bout replied: ''Because Andrew and I have known each other for over 20 years.

''Andrew Smulian told me that he has a client who wants to buy two cargo aircraft from me,'' Bout said. ''When he called me we always discussed the sale of airplanes. That's why I came to Bangkok. But once we were inside the business centre of the Sofitel hotel ... he introduced me to two crazy guys who started to talk some bullshit things _ left and right, this and that. They acted like clowns, with the meeting going nowhere.''

Bout says they ''started to provoke'' him ''It was not my business and I was not dealing with that or had anything to do with it. At that moment they arrested me,'' he said.

According to the US grand jury charges, at the Bangkok meeting Bout indicated he could supply Farc with 700-800 surface-to-air missiles, 5,000 AK-47 firearms, three million rounds of ammunition, an unspecified number of land mines and C-4 explosives and ultralight planes fitted with grenade-launchers and missiles.

Bout also stated he could arrange an airdrop of the arms to Farc in Colombia, and drew a diagram for two of the ''confidential sources'' (CS-2 and CS-3) to explain the delivery route, according to the charges. He also produced a map of South America and asked them to identify US radar locations in Colombia.

The charges also say Bout offered to sell Farc two cargo planes and added he needed ''at least 15 to 20 million'', no currency specified, to begin supplying the arms.

But Bout told Spectrum that no evidence was produced during the extradition hearing to back up the allegations. Exhibits the American legal team produced included pictures of two cargo planes and Bout's alleged notes during the meeting (more correctly, scribbled numbers, letters and doodles ) with apparent references to weapons and aircraft.

''They said that I had written something about the weapons, but where is it? Anyone can write 'AK' or whatever else on this piece of paper and call it evidence. They didn't put it in the report or produce it as evidence after I was arrested. Where is it? The Americans said there is a map. Where is it? Where is the evidence? Do they need over one year sitting on the evidence and not submitting it together with other documents of arrest and detention? How come? What do the Americans want from me?''

Bout says Smulian was also arrested at the hotel's business centre, but they were later separated at the Crime Suppression Division. Bout's bodyguard, Mikhail Belozerskiy, who arrived with him from Moscow in the morning and didn't join the meeting, was also detained in another section of the business centre, but later released. This is confirmed by court documents seen by Spectrum.

The confidence the US had in the success of the undercover operation is borne out in a letter from their embassy to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Thai government dated February 29, 2008. It requests the ''provisional arrest for the purpose of extradition'' of both Bout and Smulian as a matter of urgency.

''I am in jail because of Andrew Smulian,'' Bout said from prison. ''He was my friend and I don't understand why he joined with the Americans against me and for what reason he set me up. Most probably it was for money.''

But, there was a major flaw in the US extradition case, according to Judge Jittakorn Wattanasin, who ruled last Tuesday that while America may view Farc as a terrorist organisation, Thailand does not.

''The US charges are not applicable under Thai law. This is a political case,'' the judge said while reading his verdict. ''The Farc is fighting for a political cause and is not a criminal gang. Thailand does not recognise the Farc as a terrorist group. We will not extradite him to the United States.''

In response to reports on the day of the arrest that US officials tried to force him on a plane, Bout said ''no, this didn't happen, nor was I taken to the airport. The Americans tried to convince me a few times to go to the United States voluntarily''.

Bout's claims to legitimacy and an ordinary life as a businessman differ vastly from the repeated allegations made against him as a weapons dealer to dubious regimes, most notably in the book Merchant of Death by Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun.

Bout says he moved to the United Arab Emirates in 1993 where he opened an air freight company. At the end of 2000 local security agents told him to close the company and leave the country within four days without giving a reason. Bout said he complied and this was effectively the end of his air-freight business.

After returning to Russia, Bout said he had nothing to do except sell his planes, which he did not own 100%. He said he was living quietly in Moscow with his wife Alla and daughter Elizabeth, spending most of his time at home reading books and watching TV. Alla Bout was running a fashion design shop which ''didn't do badly'' and they had enough money to live on.

Bout said after 9/11, the Western media started a new campaign against him, accusing him of various wrongdoings. Alla Bout said the reports were reprinted in the Russian media without verification. Bout says he maintained his silence until October 2001 when, after the accusations piled up, he decided to be interviewed on a Russian television channel, Echo, during which he strongly denied the allegations. Even after the interview Russian law enforcement agencies did not accuse him of any wrongdoing, he said.

Bout says he spent most of the time living in Moscow, with the exception of a few trips to some states in the former Soviet Union. His only trips ''abroad'' after returning to Moscow were a family holiday to China in 2000, a visit to Montenegro in 2005 or 2006 and the 2008 trip to Bangkok, Alla Bout said.

Bout becomes incensed at the suggestion he supplied weapons to Farc or other terrorist organisations.

''No, I didn't. Never! This is all bullshit,'' he says. ''Everything is in the Americans' minds. They don't know what to do anymore in the world. During the past eight years the Western media didn't want even to talk to me because they knew that they would have problems.''

Bout is particularly angry about the 2005 film Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage as Yuri Orlov, which is allegedly based on his life story and details the gruesome trade of weapons-trafficking in Africa.

''The movie is pure fiction, fantasy and fabrication which has nothing to do with me or my previous business. The movie didn't make much money either. I used to admire actor Cage, but not anymore.''

However, when asked if his air-freight company shipped arms before it went out of business, he replied: ''Some cargo shipped by my air-freight company included weapons, but it doesn't mean that I am an arms dealer.''

When asked if he was involved in air freighting goods for America's war in Iraq after 2003, he said ''I can categorically state that I have never shipped anything to Iraq as reported by the BBC and other news organisations, nor did anything for the Americans there whatsoever.''

He added: ''I must condemn reputable news organisations such as the British Broadcasting Commission, the Cable News Network and other Western media for totally distorting the facts about my past activities. I would describe most of what they say about me as lies and fabrications.''

When asked why the Americans wanted him so badly, Bout became visibly angered at suggestions there may be other reasons behind their pursuit of him or that he may be privy to embarrassing information that is trying to be kept secret.

''I don't know any secrets!'' he said. ''Why do they need me so badly? Why did they want so badly to be in Iraq? Why did they need so badly to be in Afghanistan. Why do they need so badly to keep Guantanamo detainees? Why do they bring them there and not to American soil? They commit one crime and try to cover it by committing another crime. They cannot stop. Once you start a lie, you need to lie thousand times more.''

Since his incarceration, Bout said he had ''enough help'' from the Russian consular staff in Bangkok. ''They come here regularly. They are doing a lot of liaison with my family and helping me with the legal things as much as possible. They are also helping me to prepare the appeal and supporting me morally.''

He also said that he had heard Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had raised his case with Thai officials when he was here for the Asean meeting last month, but added he did not know what was said.