PM pledges to secure release of 2 detained Thai activists


BANGKOK, Sept 14 – Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Wednesday said she has not received official confirmation from Cambodia over the possible release of two Thai activists detained on espionage charges, but pledged to help secure their release during her official visit to Phnom Penh Thursday.

The prime minister is scheduled to leave for Phnom Penh as part of a round of official introductory visits to Thailand’s ASEAN neighbours, her first since assuming her post last month.

Following reports that Cambodia plans to release the two activists of the Thailand Patriot Network, Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, now detained in a Cambodian prison for illegal entry and spying charges, Ms Yingluck said there has been no coordination on the matter from Cambodian authorities yet.

A Cambodian court on Feb 1 ruled that the two were guilty of espionage, illegal entry, and trespassing in a military zone. Mr Veera was sentenced to an eight-year jail term while Ms Ratree received six years in jail.

The Thai premier said the release of two Thais depends on the consideration of the Cambodian government but she, on behalf of the Thai government, will discuss with her Cambodian counterpart to help set them free during her visit.

Whether the pair will be released and return home with the premier or not, Ms Yingluck said she cannot answer but will do her best to secure their release.

As Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen confirmed that the fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra will visit Phnom Penh on Friday, Ms Yingluck, who is the deposed premier’s youngest sister, said it’s a personal matter and has nothing to do with her visit.

Meanwhile, a Thai court on Wednesday allowed three Red Shirt leaders charged with terrorism to attend a friendly football match with Cambodian politicians in the neighbouring country.

The match between politicians of Pheu Thai Party and Cambodia’s political figures is scheduled to be held Sept 24. Four Red Shirt leaders now working with the Pheu Thai government sought court permission to leave Thailand Sept 15-19 and 23-25, saying they must enter Cambodia prior to the match for the preparations.

The four are Veerakarn Musikapong, Pheu Thai MP Natthawut Saikua, Pheu Thai MP Weng Tojirakarn and Yosawarit Chooklom aka Jeng Dokjik, now secretary to the deputy interior minister.

The court however granted permission only to three of them with each person posting Bt600,000 as bail bond and required them to report to the court before Sept 26.

Regarding Dr Weng, he must submit a request on Thursday for the court’s consideration.

The Red Shirt leaders have been charged with terrorism in connection with last year’s violent Red Shirt demonstrations against the Abhisit administration and have been released on bail on condition that they must not join any political gathering or leave the kingdom without permission.