Home > Local News > Court frees Panich, 4 others

Court frees Panich, 4 others

Five of the seven Thais charged with
trespassing on Cambodian territory have been freed after the Phnom Penh
Municipal Court gave each of them a suspended jail term.
The three-member judge panel yesterday found each of the five Thais
_ Panich Vikitsreth, Narumol Chitwaratana, Samdin Lertbutr, Tainae
Mungmajon, and Kojpollathorn Chusanasevi _ guilty on two counts of
trespassing on Cambodian territory and illegal entry into a military
area.
The judges said the five had entered Cambodia deliberately and
sentenced them to nine months’ imprisonment and a fine of one million
riel (around 7,590 baht) each.
However, as the Thais had already served almost one month in Prey
Sar prison, the court decided to suspend the remaining eight months.
The seven Thais were arrested on Dec 29 as they investigated claims
by Thai residents living along a disputed part of the border that
Cambodian military officers would not allow them to enter the areas
where their homes were located.
The five Thais are now free to go home, but they will have to serve
their jail terms if they enter Cambodia illegally again, the court said.
Upon leaving court to travel to the Thai embassy in Phnom Penh, Mr
Panich, who wore a blue cap with the Asean logo, said that the whole
affair showed “the spirit of Asean”.
“I would like to thank all concerned parties. [The verdict] is a
good sign for the Asean community and shows the Cambodian court has
mercy,” he said.
The verdict date was moved forward from the original schedule of Feb
1 to yesterday after the five Thais petitioned the court to speed up
the proceedings.
The court read out the verdict at 7.35pm after a five-hour hearing.
The five Thais testified that they had no intention of trespassing on Cambodian soil and did not realise that they had done so.
Mr Panich told the court that the group met a villager, but did not
talk, so he did not know that he was already inside Cambodia.
The Democrat MP also denied recording or taking photos of the area.
He said he only had a mobile phone without a built-in camera.
A verdict has not yet been passed on the cases of Veera Somkwamkid, 
a Thai Patriots Network coordinator, and his secretary, Ratree
Pipatanapaiboon.
Mr Veera and Ms Ratree face allegations that they spied on Cambodian military affairs and have been charged with espionage.
Mr Veera has been denied bail and remains at Prey Sar prison.
Ms Ratree was granted bail and is staying at the Thai embassy.
Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the Thai foreign minister,
said the five Thais are expected to return home today(saturday).
Mr Chavanond will fly to Phnom Penh to meet them.
“We will try to bring them home as soon as possible,” he said,
adding that the verdict was good news and that the ministry would
continue to help Mr Veera and Ms Ratree as best as it can.
Mr Chavanond said the verdict for the two is likely to be handed down on Feb 1.
Mr Panich’s mother, ML Sompongvadee Vikitsreth, said she was glad the case was finally over and that she could see her son soon.
Mr Panich talked to his mother on the phone after the verdict.
Soonthorn Rakrong, coordinator of the Thai Patriots Network, congratulated the five
Thais on being granted their freedom.
“However, it would be better if Mr Veera and Ms Ratree had been released too,” he said.
The network has been staging a rally at Government House since
Sunday to pressure the Abhisit Vejjajiva government to do more to help
the seven Thais.
The group will announce their next move after the release of the Thais today(saturday).
Meanwhile, People’s Alliance for Democracy  spokesman Panthep
Phuaphongphan said his group will continue with its plan to hold a mass
rally on Tuesday to persuade the government to revoke the memorandum of
understanding signed in 2000 between Thailand and Cambodia, which they
say is disadvantageous to the country.
They also want the government to force Cambodian people out of every
disputed area and are requesting Thailand withdraws its membership of
the Unesco’s World Heritage Committee.
Bangkok Post
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Categories: Local News
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