Posts Tagged ‘Veera’
Cambodia officials yesterday said they would “consider” proposals reportedly advanced by their Thai counterparts involving the exchange of high-profile prisoners Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, who are now serving time at Prey Sar prison.
The Bangkok Post reported on Thursday that Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul had said he would discuss with Cambodian officials a possible exchange between the two countries that would release the convicted spies.
Veera, a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, also known as the “Yellow Shirts”, and his secretary Ratree were arrested in December 2010, along with five others after crossing the border into Banteay Meanchey province.
The pair are serving sentences of eight and six years, respectively, after being convicted of illegal entry, entering a restricted military base and espionage.
The Thai Foreign Minister reportedly conceded that given their high profile, Cambodia may request more prisoners be released in the deal.
“Such an exchange might not be on an equal basis,” Surapong was quoted as saying.
“Thailand might offer to hand over four Cambodian prisoners…in exchange for the two Thai activists.”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Koung told the Post yesterday that an exchange would only occur if Veera and Ratree were part of a larger “package”.
“If Thailand requests to exchange the prisoners in a package, then Cambodia will consider that,” Koy Kuong said, adding: “I don’t want to focus about the case of Mr Veera”.
Koy Kuong also said that any exchange agreed to by Cambodia would have to include all Cambodian prisoners currently serving time in Thai prisons.
The idea for a prisoner exchange was first floated in September during a visit to Cambodia by Thai Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha.
A few months later, in December, Foreign Minister Hor Namong broached the subject as an alternative to a Royal pardon.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has shown an intention to help Thai Patriots Network coordinator Veera Somkwankid and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon get a royal pardon, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said in New York on Tuesday.
Mr Surapong said the matter was discussed with Hun Sen when he and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra visited Cambodia on Sept 15.
The Cambodian prime minister said he would help by getting a reduction of the jail terms they were sentenced to by the Phnom Penh Court. This would enable them to meet the requirement for seeking a royal pardon.
Steps must be taken before reaching that stage but it was unlikely to be too long before they were freed because Hun Sen had expressed his intention to help, said the foreign minister.
Mr Surapong said this move to help Veera and Ratree out under a royal pardon was not the same as that mentioned by Justice Minister Pracha Promnok on Monday.
Pol Gen Pracha said the two could not be freed early under a presoner exchange programme, in which a prisoner can be sent home after having served one-third of the sentence first and the case must not concern national security.
Veera and Ratree were among the seven Thais arrested by Cambodian authorities for illegally crossing the border into Cambodia on Dec 29 last year. Five of them confessed to the illegal entry charges, were sentenced to jail terms, and released shortly after some time in jail.
Veera and Ratree were additionally charged with spying. The court sentenced Veera to eight years in prison and Ratree to six years after finding them guilty as charged.
Under Cambodian law they must first serve two-thirds of their sentences to be eligible for a royal pardon.
Mr Surapong also said representatives of all countries he met with had asked about the state of Thai-Cambodian ties and they were pleased to learn from him that the two countries could now resume their normal relationship.
Relations between Thailand and Cambodia soured during the Abhisit Vejjajiva government because of internal political pressure within Thailand.
Prospects for improved relations came with the Pheu Thai Party’s victory in the July general election.
“Many countries are glad that Thailand can now talk with Cambodia, so the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean) can now move toward becoming a single community in 2015,’’ said Mr Surapong.
They included German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
Mr Thailand is expected to expand relations with Germany through exchanges of science, renewable energy and other innovations in which Germany has expertise.
During a meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Thailand asked to opt out of hosting the CICA meeting because of budget and personnel constraints.
However, Thailand affirmed its firm policies on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) promotion and drug suppression as it wanted CICA to promote the cooperation of the border security and transnational crimes.
With Ukraine, Thailand has sought cooperation with it on trade expansion.
Thailand has asked Ukraine to allow multiple visa entry for Thai agro-business giant CP Group and Boonrawd Brewery, which have started doing business in that country.
In return, Ukraine asked Thailand to consider a 30-day visa free privilege for its citizens to visit Thailand, said Mr Surapong.
He also said Iran has asked Thailand for support it during the Human Rights Council meeting after it Teheran was condemned for not allowing women to drive cars.