Thai authorities working for release of 49 detainees in Myanmar: Army chief

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BANGKOK, July 9 – Thai army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha said on Monday that Thai officials are seeking to secure the release of 49 Thai nationals detained for encroaching into Myanmar territory, while expressing hope that the good relationship between the two neighbours will result in their early release.

The Thai commander-in-chief made his remarks after three companies of Myanmar troops last week detained the Thai nationals who allegedly cut trees and clearing a forest area to plant para rubber trees in Myanmar territory at Koh Song, opposite Ranong’s Kra Buri district.

Gen Prayuth, who is now visiting the southern border region, said he will discuss the border problems with the Army Region 4 commander, with particular reference to Ranong province, where residents misunderstood about regulations and conditions for working  in Myanmar.

He said that the 49 detainees — 41 men and eight women — are safe and that the Thai military delegation which crossed the border to visit them provided them food and took care of them as fully as possible. There was no clash as had been earlier reported.

“This case should be a lesson that whatever we are in our neighbour’s territory, we must respect their rules,” said Gen Prayuth.

The army chief explained that thousands of Thais had intruded into Myanmar for a long time. Many had gradually returned to the kingdom, he said, but some were defrauded by brokers who claimed they could buy plots of land at cheap prices and they could provide them the rights to possess land.

Gen Prayuth noted, however, during the latest arrest of 49 Thais, the Myanmar authorities also discovered military weapons during the operation. so more talks were needed as Myanmar law carries severe penalties in such cases.

The army chief said he has asked Supreme Commander Gen Tanasak Patimapragorn to discuss the issue with his Myanmar counterpart when he visits the neighbour. He said he expects good results due to the current good ties between the two countries.

Gen Prayuth said that the Thai nationals are now being detained but have not been charged with any offence.  Thai officials are asking their Myanmar counterparts not to press charges as the helping process will become more complicated as the accused must then be sent for further legal action at the capital, Naypyidaw, quite distant from Ranong.