The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday handed down an eight-year jail term and a 1.8 million riel (US$450) fine for Veera Somkwamkid, coordinator of the Thai Patriots Network, and a six-year jail term and a 1.2 million riel (US$300) fine for his secretary, Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, finding them both guilty of espionage, illegal entry and trespassing in a military zone.
PAD ‘Yellow Shirt’ spokesman Panthep Puapongphan said the ruling against Mr Veera and Ms Ratree was unfair and the court has no authority to rule the case as the pair were arrested by Cambodian soldiers in Thai territory.
He said the PAD was disappointed that the government not only did not reject the Cambodian court’s jurisdiction, but also distorted the information suggesting that the Thais had actually trespassed into Cambodia.
Mr Panthep noted that the jail sentence was tantamount to forcing both Mr Veera and Ms Ratree to confess that they illegally entered Cambodian territory in order to force them seek a royal pardon which he described as showing disdain for Thai dignity.
The PAD spokesman said he believed the pair would fight the case to the end.
The Yellow Shirt protesters have been encamped on Ratchadamnoen Nok Avenue since Jan 25 with no sign that they would disperse unless Thailand withdraws from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee, revoke three memoranda of understanding signed by the members of the Thai-Cambodian Joint Boundary Commission (JBC), and eject Cambodian soldiers and villagers in disputed border areas the group claims belong to Thailand.
Mr Panthep said the PAD gave a 3-day ultimatum to the Abhisit government to bring home Mr Veera and Ms Ratree and if the demand was ignored, the PAD will on Saturday night seek a consensus from its protesters on how government should be held responsible for what happened to the two Thais.
PAD leader Maj-Gen Chamlong Srimuang said if the government successfully brought them home, it did not mean that the PAD would end its protest and the group will not hold talks with the government.
However he pledged that the Yellow Shirts would not take their protest to the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok nor plan to burn the embassy as the group would never apply pressure on any country through its embassy.
In a related development, Thai Patriots Network leadership group member Chaiwat Sinsuwong said he questioned the ruling as the court took only 30 minutes to hand down its verdict.
He said the network would petition any related international courts to consider the ongoing dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, and to protect the human rights of the Thais detained in Cambodian prison.
The network is camped on Phitsanulok Road, not far from Government House, to protest the government’s handling the issue.
He said protesters would march to the Foreign Ministry this afternoon to show support for ministry officials who had earlier issued a statement demanding that Cambodia remove both the Keo Sikha Kiri Svara pagoda, built by the Cambodian government, and the Cambodian flag flying over the pagoda.
However, the PAD protesters at the same time demanded the removal of Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya for not responding to its demand that he act to secure the release of the two Thais.
Report by: (MCOT online news)