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Yellow Shirts issue warning

Yellow Shirt supporters protest outside the Thai Ministry of Foreign
Affairs in Bangkok yesterday, calling on Prime Minister Abhisit
Vejjajiva to act more decisively on the territorial dispute with
Cambodia and demand the release of two Thai nationals convicted and
jailed on Tuesday. Photo by: Reuters
Thai Yellow Shirt protesters vowed today to intensify street protests
in a bid to pressure Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva into securing the
return of two Thai nationals from Cambodia, a day after they were
convicted on multiple charges and handed hefty jail terms.
The Bangkok Post
reported that Chamlong Srimuang, a core leader of the People’s Alliance
for Democracy, has threatened mass street rallies if the pair are not
returned by Saturday.
“If [the government] fails to do so, PAD
will call a mass street rally of Yellow Shirts to pressure the
government to take responsibility for such a failure,” the paper quoted
him as saying.
On Tuesday, Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced
core Yellow Shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid to eight years in jail
after finding him guilty of espionage, illegal entry and unlawfully
entering a military base.
His secretary, Ratree Taiputana Taiboon, received a six-year prison sentence on the same charges.
The
pair were part of a group of seven Thais who were arrested in Banteay
Meanchey province’s O’Chrou district on December 29, while they were
“investigating” the demarcation of the two countries’ contentious
shared border.
The arrests have stoked nationalist sentiment in
Thailand, prompting Yellow Shirt protesters to call for the Abhisit
government to take a stronger stance against Cambodia.
The Bangkok Post
reported today that security had been strengthened at the Cambodian
Embassy in Bangkok due to the heightened tensions surrounding the
verdict.
Thani Thongphakdi, deputy spokesman of the Thai Ministry of Foreign Affairs, could not be reached for comment today, but the Bangkok Post reported that Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has issued calls for moderation.
“The
case is not yet over and [Veera and Ratree] can still file an appeal.
All sides have to respect the verdict and refrain from inciting
conflict between the two countries,” the paper quoted him as saying.
Pich Vicheka, Veera’s Cambodian defence attorney, said today that it was not yet clear whether his client would lodge an appeal.
“I have not yet discussed with my client about this issue,” he said.
“I will follow his will – if he decides to appeal then I will do it.”
The defence has 30 days in which to appeal the verdict.
The
trial also came amid an increase in tensions near Preah Vihear temple,
where the two countries have reinforced troop numbers in a spat over
the flying of flags over Wat Keo Sikha Kiri Svara, a small pagoda
nearby.
Bangkok has demanded that Cambodia remove its flag from
the pagoda, which it claims lies inside disputed territory – an
assertion Cambodia has dismissed as a pretext for Thai military action.
Yim
Phim, commander of Royal Cambodian Armed Forces Brigade 43, said today
that despite the heightened tension, the situation was stable at the
frontline.
“The situation until this hour is normal, but our
troops are on alert and watching them closely,” Yim Phim said. “We
absolutely will not allow them to get into Cambodian territory. Every
soldier knows their job.”
Phorng Eurng, a military officer
stationed at the frontline close to Preah Vihear temple, added that
Thai soldiers have begun digging trenches with excavators.
Ou
Virak, president of the Cambodian Centre for Human Rights, said the
Cambodian government would be smart to damp down the tensions
surrounding the verdict.
One option, he said, would be for the
government to extradite the two Thais and allow them to serve their
jail terms in Thailand, a move that would shift nationalist attention
away from Cambodia.
“The one thing the Yellow Shirts need to an
external target to push [the] movement. I think the best thing is to
stay away from the potential armed conflict at the border,” he said.
“Keeping
the two in prison in Cambodia would just allow the pressure to continue
in Thailand and will keep Cambodia as the target for a lot of anger and
protests.”
He said, however, that the outcome of the recent cooling of tensions would be determined by the domestic situation in Thailand.
“Cambodia is in a much easier position,” Ou Virak added. “All it needs to do it wait and do nothing.” ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHEANG SOKHA
Phnom Penh Post
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Categories: Local News
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