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Two yellow shirts face espionage charges

New turn in the case makes it more difficult for govt to help: Foreign Ministry

Detained yellow-shirt activists Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary face
a new trial over charges of espionage, which could have them facing
severe punishment in Cambodia, while the Thai government faces more
difficulties in trying to help.
 
The Cabinet okayed a budget of
more than Bt500 million for preparing the military to protect the
border, as yellow-shirt activists mount further pressure on the
government to help their detained colleagues.
 
Only Veera, who is leader of a People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD)
faction called the Thailand Patriots Network, and his secretary Ratree
Pipatanapaiboon, will be tried today, while the other five Thai
nationals, including Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth, await court
decision on their bail request.
 
“The additional charge faced by
Veera and Ratree is causing more difficulty for the government to seek
ways to help them,” Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, the foreign minister’s
secretary, said.
 
The seven Thai nationals were arrested late last
month while allegedly inspecting the disputed border area near Sa Kaew
province’s Ban Nong Chan district. This was Veera’s second arrest since
he was briefly held once last August.
 
Thailand and Cambodia have
been disputing over this area since the late 1970s, but information
from the Royal Thai Survey Department and the Foreign Ministry
indicates that the group had walked 55 metres deeper into Cambodian
territory.
 
This statement infuriated the yellow-shirt PAD movement, who labelled Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and
many other ministry officials as “traitors”. They insist that the men
were on Thai territory when they were arrested, and dismissed
Cambodia’s authority to prosecute them.
 
Kasit instructed concerned
officials at the ministry yesterday to rephrase the statement, saying
that “the group had gone beyond the [existing but unsettled] boundary
line to an area that is effectively under the control of Cambodia”.
This is despite the fact that it was Kasit himself who had publicly
said earlier that the group had walked 55 metres into Cambodian
territory.
 
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said
yesterday that from now on, the Cabinet only authorised the Foreign
Ministry to provide information about the plight of the seven detainees
in order to avoid confusion. Even the prime minister would not say
anything on the matter, he said.
 
“All I have to say is that we
have three policies for this: first we have to take care of and do our
best to help the seven detainees; second we have to maintain good
bilateral relations; and third we have to protect our sovereignty,”
Abhisit said.
 
During the Cabinet meeting yesterday, Abhisit brought
up the issue of the detainees, saying that though Panich and the rest
were not too well, they were in good spirits.
 
Kasit, meanwhile, told
the Cabinet that he expected the Cambodian court to issue a verdict by
this week but he did not know exactly when.
 
In related news,
Defence Minister Pravit Wongsuwan has asked for a “secret” budget of
Bt517 million for the military to take care of security matters in the
border areas with Cambodia, a source said.
 
Thailand has boundary
conflicts with Cambodia in many locations, including the areas near Ban
Nong Chan and near the Preah Vihear temple.
 
The government
dispatched the Thailand-Cambodia joint boundary committee’s new chief,
Asda Jayanama, to Phnom Penh yesterday to help seek solutions for the
boundary dispute. Asda met his counterpart Var Kimhong and agreed to
carry on negotiations to settle the conflict peacefully. The JBC chief
is connected to the yellow-shirt movement.
The Nation
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Categories: Local News
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