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Cambodia convicts 5 Thais of illegal entry

A Cambodian court on Friday convicted five Thais,
including a member of Parliament, of illegally entering Cambodia but
freed them with suspended sentences in a high-profile case that
underlined long-standing political tensions.
The defendants had gone to the border in connection with claims by Thai nationalists that Cambodia is encroaching on Thai territory.
Judge
Suos Sam Ath sentenced each to nine months in prison, but credited them
with time already served and suspended the remainder. He fined each 1
million riels ($250) and allowed them to return to Thailand.
They
were arrested Dec. 29 on charges of illegal entry and trespassing in a
military zone after they crossed into northwestern Banteay Meanchey
province. One defendant is a lawmaker from Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s ruling Democrat Party.
Two other Thais
detained with them are to be tried separately on Feb. 1, with an
additional charge of spying. They are the leader of a political
pressure group, the Thailand Patriot Network _ which claims that border territory held by Cambodia actually belongs to Thailand _ and his assistant. The group’s members in Thailand have been demonstrating for the release of all seven, accusing Abhisit’s government of failing to help arrested Thais. Their protests have attracted much attention in the press, but small crowds.
The case has its origins in a dispute between Cambodia and Thailand over land near a landmark temple on their border, but has evolved into a Thai domestic political issue.
The
International Court of Justice in 1962 ruled that the 11th century
Preah Vihear temple belongs to Cambodia, but the decision rankled Thailand, which still claims land around the temple.
The
issue was virtually dormant until Cambodia applied in 2008 to UNESCO to
have the temple declared a World Heritage site, an application backed
by the government in power in Bangkok at the time.
Thai nationalists protested that the action threatened Thailand’s sovereignty, though their protests were seen as mainly a way of rallying criticism of the Thai
government. Both countries’ leaders, defending their patriotic
credentials, then built up military forces at the border, which have
engaged in several brief clashes.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen also used the issue to build political support.
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Categories: Local News
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