Thai court sentences three agents to two-year imprisonment


SI SA KET,  Sept 6 — Kantharalak Court in Si Sa Ket province on Tuesday sentenced three men –Thai, Cambodian, and Vietnamese nationals — to two years in prison for spying on Thai military facilities along the Thai-Cambodian border, but the defendants’ lawyers said they would appeal the verdict.

Suchart Muhammad, a 32-year-old Thai, Ung Kimtai, a 43-year-old Cambodian and Nguyen Tengyang, 37, a Vietnamese, were apprehended June 7 at the Thai border village of Phum Srol in the northeastern province of Si Sa Ket for alleged spying on Thai military facilities and bunkers built to shelter Thai villagers in the event of cross-border attacks or shelling.

A fourth man, a Khmer believed to be working for the Cambodian army, escaped across the border during the arrest.

The court ruled that the trio were guilty of spying and sentenced them each to two years in jail.

Mr Suchart was also found guilty for using drugs while driving, and the court therefore sentenced him for an additional eight-month jail term which was commuted to four months due to his confession.

Ung Kimtai was also given an additional six-month sentence for drug abuse but it was commuted to three months for his confession.

Pham Minh Tuan, first secretary of the Vietnamese embassy in Thailand, attended the trial. He said he would report the verdict to the ministry and would seek to help his compatriot.

Weerawat Thongsut, the lawyer representing the three defendants, said he would file an appeal on their behalf within 30 days.

In a related development, Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra would visit Cambodia on Sept 15.

Mr Surapong said he was unable to confirm whether Ms Yingluck would meet with Cambodian authorities to help secure the release of two Thai activists of Thailand’s Patriot Network, Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, now detained in a Khmer jail for illegal entry and spying charges.

It depended on the opportunity, he said, adding that the Thai embassy staff provided good care for the pair.

A Cambodian court on Feb 1 ruled that Mr Veera, a key network activist and his secretary Ms Ratree 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 ($300) fine.