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Concern over new border protest

A nationalist group plans to stage a protest against Cambodia today
near the border in Sa Kaew province over the arrest of seven Thais last
week, including a Democrat MP.
The Thai Patriots Group, a faction that split with the People’s
Alliance for Democracy (PAD), claims that Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth
and six other Thais, including PAD member Veera Somkwamkid, were
arrested on Thai soil – so they will demand that Cambodian authorities
release them immediately.
Thai police and troops are expected to block the group from getting
close to the border and limit any negative impact on bilateral
relations.
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Panich, Veera and five other Thais were arrested last Wednesday while visiting Thai villagers near the Sa Kaew border.

Panich claims he was arrested while visiting Thai villagers on Thai soil.
But Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya admitted that the seven Thais were inside Cambodia when they were arrested.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdee confirmed yesterday that the seven had encroached on Cambodian land.
He said the Royal Survey Department and Foreign Ministry officials
had inspected the disputed area and confirmed that the seven Thais were
on Cambodian soil.
Thani said Panich and his group could defend themselves in the
Cambodian Court, and argue that they did not intend to encroach on
Cambodian territory.
Argument over land titles
Chaiwat Sinsuwong insisted yesterday the seven Thais were arrested in
Thailand because the villagers were holding Nor Sor 3 land titles.
“The Thai government is distorting information by saying they were
arrested in Cambodia. We would like to call on the Thai government to
urgently help the seven Thais,” Chaiwat said.
He said his group would leave Government House at noon for Sa Kaew, where they would organise a mass protest.
Chaiwat said his group would also demand that the Thai government
file a lawsuit against Phnom Penh for unlawfully arresting Thais, and
thus violating the Geneva Convention.
Karun Saingarm, another leader of the Thai Patriots, said local
villagers at the spot where the seven were arrested were calling on the
Thai government to issue them full land deeds, but state officials had
refused to do this.
Karun said the government claimed the area was occupied by Cambodian
troops. He said the Thai government’s inaction was tantamount to
accepting the 1:200,000-scale map of Cambodia and this would lead to
Thailand losing the disputed 4.6-square-kilometre block near Preah
Vihear Temple.
Also yesterday, the Thai Patriots submitted a letter to First Army
Area Commander Lt-General Udomdej Sitabutr, urging him to help the seven
Thais and protect Thai sovereignty at the disputed area.
The letter also informed the First Army Area of the group’s plan to hold a protest near the Sa Kaew border.
Meanwhile, Charnvit Kasetsiri, former rector of Thammasat University,
warned that the problem could escalate and harm bilateral ties with
Cambodia.
He noted that the seven Thais did not inform local Army officials of
their visit to the disputed area in Sa Kaew so their move was seen as a
plan to stir up nationalistic feelings that could hurt ties between the
two countries.
Also yesterday, Komsan Phothikong, deputy rector of Sukhothai
Thammathirat Open University, said Panich could lose his House seat if
he is convicted of encroaching on Cambodian soil by the Cambodian court.
Komsan said if Panich gets a jail term and is not released on bail, he may be regarded as having lost his MP status.
Komsan said the Election Commission would have to invoke Articles 91
and 106 of the Constitution to seek a ruling from the Constitution Court
on Panich’s status, if the MP was convicted by the Cambodian court.
Komsan said although the alleged crime did not happen in Thailand,
articles in the charter aimed to prevent people with tainted backgrounds
from becoming public representatives.
“For example, if an MP steals in the US and is jailed, or if an MP
enters Japan illegally and is jailed in Japan, he will also lose his MP
status,” he said. But Komsan noted that Panich might argue that his
arrest by Cambodian authorities was unlawful.
-The Nation/Asia News Network
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Categories: Local News
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