Home > Local News > Jailed Thai MP questioned

Jailed Thai MP questioned

A group of Thai nationals, including Thai Democrat Party lawmaker
Panich Vikitsreth (second from left), are escorted into Phnom Penh
Municipal Court yesterday. Photo by: Heng Chivoan
A Thai parliamentarian arrested for trespassing in Banteay Meanchey
province last week told Phnom Penh Municipal Court yesterday that he
had “unintentionally” crossed into Cambodian territory, his defence
lawyer said.

Cambodian lawyer Ros Aun, who is defending Panich
Vikitsreth, a lawmaker from Thailand’s ruling Democrat Party, said his
client told investigating judge Chang Sinath that he had traveled to
the contentious Thai-Cambodian border to meet with Thai villagers who
claimed border markers had been moved by Cambodians onto Thai territory.

“He
said he crossed the border unintentionally,” Ros Aun said. “His visit
to the border area came at the request of the [Thai] villagers.”

Panich
was arrested last week along with six other Thais near a military
encampment in Banteay Meanchey’s O’Chrou district. The group were
charged last week with illegal entry and unlawfully entering a military
base, charges that carry a combined maximum sentence of 18 months in
prison.

Ros Aun said yesterday that the investigation remained
ongoing despite a day-long questioning session. A trial date in the
case has not yet been set.

Arrested along with Panich was Veera
Somkwamkid, an activist from Thailand’s “Yellow Shirt” movement who has
staged repeated rallies at the border to protest against alleged
Cambodian encroachment.

Panich’s claim that he accidentally
entered Cambodia is seemingly at odds with statements he reportedly
made in a video of his expedition that surfaced in the Thai press this
week. In the video, Panich is seen talking on the phone to his
secretary, asking that an aide to Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva be
informed that the group had crossed into Cambodia.

Abhisit has admitted sending Panich to investigate the border area, but has denied ordering him to enter Cambodia.

The
arrests followed several months of relative amicability in the
oft-strained relationship between Thailand and Cambodia. In August, the
countries normalised ties that had been downgraded in 2009 following
Cambodia’s provocative appointment of ousted former Thai premier
Thaksin Shinawatra as an economics adviser to the government.

Cambodian
Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said the case was “separate from
our diplomatic relations”. He declined to speculate on whether Prime
Minister Hun Sen would request pardons for the group following a
possible conviction.

“Right now, it’s in the hands of the court,” he said.

Phnom Penh Post
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Categories: Local News
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