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Panich plans parliamentary return till ruling

Democrat lawmaker Panich Vikitsreth says he will perform in
Parliament until the Constitution Court rules on whether his conviction
in Cambodia disqualifies him as an MP.
“If the hospital allows it and my physical health recovers, I will join
the parliamentary session on Tuesday,” Panich told a press conference
yesterday.

Panich was hospitalised after returning from Prey Sar prison in
Phnom Penh, where he was detained during a trial on charges of
illegally entering Cambodia.
He was arrested on December 29 while
inspecting disputed border areas near Sa Kaew province’s Ban Nong Chan
with six yellow-shirt activists including high-profile nationalist
Veera Somkwamkid.
Five members of the group received suspended
nine-month sentences and fines of 1 million riel (Bt7,500). Veera and
his aide Ratree Pipatanapaiboon faced additional charges of espionage
and remain in Phnom Penh. Veera is still in Prey Sar prison, though
Ratree was bailed.
Article 106 (11) of the Thai Constitution
prohibits anyone jailed by a court ruling from serving as an MP, even
if the sentence is suspended.
The Election Commission will
consider Panich’s legal status today and forward the case to the
Constitution Court if commissioners agree he should be disqualified
from continuing as an MP.
The Democrat Party argues that the Cambodian court’s verdict should not have legal consequences for a Thai politician.
Panich spent 16 days in the notorious Prey Sar prison, on the outskirts
of Phnom Penh. He caught an illness in the prison and has been
receiving treatment in the Bangkok hospital in which yesterday’s press
conference took place.
Panich said conditions in the Cambodian prison were not good, although he and his group received special treatment.
Panich
was jailed alone in a small 1×4-metre room. “They said it was a special
room but I saw nothing special, it was just a small and empty room,” he
said.
For the first two days, Panich and the other detainees ate
prison food, which the MP described as “very salty”. Subsequently they
were given food by the Thai Embassy.
“Nevertheless, officials at
the prison were kind and friendly,” he said, adding that regulations
were strict and information from outside was forbidden.
“My mother sent me a magazine but the prison did not allow it in,” he said.
Panich said the imprisonment was an important life lesson. “But I have nothing to fear as I perform my duty as an MP,” he said.
The
lawmaker said he needed to inspect the disputed areas after complaints
from local residents of losing their land to a Cambodian community,
which had occupied the area for more than 30 years.
“I know the
area is under dispute with Cambodia but I never said, even in the court
testimony, that the land belonged to Cambodia,” he said. “Initially, we
wanted to see the 46th boundary pillar but we could not find it so we
mistakenly crossed the line. But I did not intend to go into Cambodia.”

The Nation

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Categories: Local News
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