PM: Thai FM will clarify on spy case to concerned agencies

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BANGKOK, June 11 — Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said Saturday that he had assigned Foreign Affairs Minister Kasit Piromya to clarify on the arrest of three men — a Thai, a Cambodian and a Vietnamese — apprehended earlier this week on charges of alleged spying of Thai paramilitary bases and bunkers built for Thai villagers at the Thai-Cambodian border to concerned agencies.

Mr Abhisit told journalists the clarification would be made after the Phnom Penh government reportedly issued a statement saying that it has never sent spies to gather intelligence in Thailand and alleged that the ongoing charges were made up by the Thai government on a pretext to invade Cambodia.

Although he had not yet seen the statement, Mr Abhisit said he has ordered Mr Kasit to clarify the matter to concerned offices.

On Friday, Mr Kasit said his ministry had informed the Cambodian and Vietnamese embassies in Bangkok about the arrest of their nationals for alleged spying, affirming that legal action would be taken under Thai law. The trio were identified as Suchart Muhammad, 32, a Thai national; Ung Kimtai, 43, a Cambodian national, and Nguyen Tengyang, 37, a Vietnamese national, and were arrested Tuesday evening at a Thai border village in the northeastern province of Si Sa Ket.

Mr Kasit said on Saturday the Thai government is willing to exchange the arrested Cambodian and the Vietnamese with two Thai activists now detained in Cambodia on espionage charges, but under the Thai law a prisoner must serve at least two-thirds of jail term before an exchange of prisoners could be possible.

A Cambodian court ruled on February 1 that Veera Somkwamkid, Thai Patriots Network coordinator, 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 a 1.8 million riel (US$450) fine, while Ms Ratree was handed a six-year jail term and a 1.2 million riel (US$300) fine.

Thailand has always cooperated with Cambodia, Mr Kasit said, adding that it would be better to wait for the Thai judicial process regarding the apprehended three men proceeded before the government issued further statement. (MCOT online news)