Home > Local News > [Thai] PM pulls out stops for detainees

[Thai] PM pulls out stops for detainees



Thai
Patriots Network and People’s Alliance for Democracy demonstrators
gather in front of Aranyaprathet Municipal Office in Sa Kaeo yesterday.
The demonstrators held talks with the provincial governor and local
security authorities on their plan to rally near the Cambodian border
in Khok Sung district to press Phnom Penh to release seven Thais. THITI
WANNAMONTHA
Seven Thais expected to face court tomorrow
The government is doing all it can to free seven Thais being held in a Cambodian prison, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva says.
Mr Abhisit said after the cabinet meeting yesterday that all contacts at the Foreign, Justice and Defence ministries were being deployed to help the seven.
However, the prime minister made it clear that no high-level contact with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was needed at this time as it could only complicate the issue.
“This incident happened at the border. It will be best if the judicial process does not take too long,” he said.
The issue was tabled yesterday at the cabinet meeting attended by top-level security officers.
The seven Thais being held at Prey Sor prison outside Phnom Penh are expected to appear in court tomorrow.
They include Democrat MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth and Veera
Somkwamkid, a leading member of the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

The seven face charges of
entering Cambodia illegally and going into a Cambodian
military-controlled area without permission. They were arrested by
Cambodian soldiers last Wednesday.
They entered Cambodia from Ban
Nong Jan in Sa Kaeo’s Khok Sung district to inspect an area which a
Thai villager claimed was part of Thailand.
High-ranking Thai officials,
including Mr Abhisit, sent a message yesterday that the seven had no
intention of entering Cambodia if it is proved that they did enter the
country.
Mr Abhisit said that based on
the arrested Thais’ explanation, he believed they did not intend to
trespass because they thought the area belonged to Thailand.
“We have to look into it,” he said.
But video footage posted on
YouTube at the weekend shows Mr Panich engaged in a telephone
conversation with his aide. He is heard saying that he and the six
other Thais “were on Cambodian soil”.
The former vice minister for
foreign affairs also told the aide to pass the message to the prime
minister through Mr Abhisit’s secretary that he was in Cambodia.
The prime minister told
reporters yesterday he had sent Mr Panich to the border to inspect an
area which had not been demarcated.
“I assigned Mr Panich to
coordinate with a group of people who do not understand the
Thai-Cambodian problem, to ease the conflict in Thai society and
prevent it from expanding and affecting the Thai-Cambodian
relationship,” he said.
But the prime minister stopped short of making clear whether he knew that the MP had decided to cross into Cambodia.
“We should not make an
assumption from the cut version of the video clip [in which Mr Panich
was seen speaking on the phone] that he was going into Cambodia and
that I was aware of it,” he said.
Acting government spokesman
Panitan Wattanayagorn said yesterday Mr Panich’s delegation did not
intentionally intrude on Cambodian soil. He also said Cambodian
authorities refused to release the group because a member of the group
had previously entered Cambodia. Mr Panitan was apparently referring to
Mr Veera.
Chavanond Intarakomalyasut,
secretary to the Thai foreign minister, said the Foreign Affairs
Ministry would seek bail for the seven if the court allowed their
temporary release.
Pracha Prasopdee, an opposition
Puea Thai Party MP and chair of the lower house committee on justice
and human rights, said the video clip of Mr Panich should prompt
Cambodia to question the intention of the Thai prime minister.
Mr Pracha said he was ready to
ask former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is close to Hun Sen,
to lobby for the release of the seven Thais if the Thai government was
unable to do so.Defence Ministry spokesman Thanathip Sawangsaeng said
the ministry was considering filing a lawsuit against Chaiwat
Sinsuwong, a leader of the Thai Patriots Network, after he accused
Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon of asking a Cambodian general to
arrest the group of seven Thais and of seeking their release when he
learned later that the group included Mr Panich.
The spokesman denied the allegation.
Meanwhile, Suthiphon
Thaveechaiyagarn, secretary-general of the Election Commission, said
the commission was looking into the Panich issue and would review his
status as an MP. An MP will lose his seat if he is jailed by a court
order.
The EC wants to know if Mr
Panich’s present detention was ordered by a court. He is a first-time
MP who won his seat in a Bangkok by-election last July.
Bangkok Post

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Categories: Local News
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