Deputy PM Chalerm to visit Cambodia, seeking to help jailed activists


BANGKOK, Sept 1 — Deputy Prime Minister Pol Capt Chalerm Yoobamrung on Thursday said he plans to visit Cambodia, seeking to help free two Thai Patriots Network (TPN) activists jailed in a Cambodian prison on espionage charges.

However, he emphasised that his trip would be after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s visit to Cambodia which is not yet scheduled.

A Cambodian court on Feb 1 ruled that Mr Veera Somkwamkid, a key network activist and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon were guilty of espionage, illegal entry, and trespassing in a military zone. Mr Veera was sentenced to an eight-year jail term and a1.8 million riel (US$450) fine while Ms Ratree was handed down a six-year jail term and a 1.2 million riel ($300) fine.

Capt Chalerm said he believed Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen followed his debate in Parliament, and after delivery of the government’s policy statement, Mr Hun Sen’s secretary telephoned to invite him to dine with the Cambodian leader.

The deputy premier said he would seek an opportunity to visit Cambodia but not until after the Thai premier’s trip.

Capt Chalerm said his sons have good relationships with the son of the Cambodian Deputy Navy Commander and the son of Cambodian premier. He hopes the closer ties would help facilitate the release of the two Thais.

Mr Veera and Ms Ratree were among seven Thais, including former Democrat MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth, arrested for illegal entry Dec 29 by the Cambodian authorities in Banteay Meanchey province contiguous to Thailand’s Sa Kaeo province while inspecting the disputed border area.

The five others were freed after pleading guilty to trespassing and received nine-month suspended jail terms on Jan 21 and returned to Thailand on Jan 22.