Thursday, 3 February 2011

Cambodia finds two Thai nationalists guilty of espionage

Veera Somkwamkid
A Cambodian court has sentenced the remaining two of the group of seven Thai citizens who were arrested for illegally entering Cambodia on 29th December.
The other five, including Democrat Party MP Panich Vikitsreth, were released ten days ago. They were convicted of illegally crossing the border, and were given eight months in prison. Their sentences were, however, suspended, and all five were immediately released.

The two others, Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, were remanded in custody facing additional espionage charges. They were convicted and sentenced by a Phnom Penh municipal court on Tuesday 1st February; Veera receiving eight years in prison and his assistant Ratree, six years. They have one month to appeal against their sentence.
The Bangkok Post reports that the two have planned to appeal, and will stand firm in their assertion that they had been abducted from Thai territory and that the Cambodian court did not have jurisdiction to rule on the case.

Veera is the leader of the Thailand Patriot Network (TPN), a splinter group of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), better known as the 'Yellow Shirts' movement. The PAD have called on the Thai government to take a tougher stance against Cambodia over the boder issue.

PAD leader Chamlong Srimuang said on Wednesday 2nd February that the government must bring the two home within three days or face protest.

"If it fails to do so, PAD will call a mass street rally of yellow-shirts to pressure the government to take responsibility for such a failure,” the retired army general said.

He denied reports, however, that the yellow-shirts were planning to set fire to the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok. He said that TPN protesters would instead march to the Foreign Ministry to demand the removal of Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya for not working to secure the release of the two activities.

The Thai prime minister, Abhisit Vejjajiva called on the PAD to suggest what he should do to help free the two Thais, rather than just make demands. He added that the foreign minister, Kasit, would fly to Phnom Penh on 3rd February to meet with his Cambodian counterpart, Hor Namhong.

Panich, a Bangkok MP, said he felt sorry for Veera and Ratree and that he thought the additional charge of espionage was unjustified because they had no intention to steal anything from Cambodia.

Sources: BBC News, Bangkok Post
For more information on the Thailand-Cambodia dispute, see the Menas Borders website, here.

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