Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Hopes soar for release of Veera, Ratree

Sept 28, 2011
Bangkok Post

Hopes that Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipattanapaibul will be granted a royal pardon have soared after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen signalled his intention to help the Thai detainees.

"Cambodia will try to shorten the jail terms for Mr Veera and Ms Ratree first. After the two have served at least two-thirds of their sentences, the Cambodian government will seek a royal pardon for them," Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said yesterday in New York, where he attended the UN General Assembly.

Surapong: Royal pardon being mooted

Phnom Penh Municipality Court in February jailed Veera, leader of the Thai Patriots Network, for eight years for spying, crossing the border and illegally entering a military base last December. Veera's secretary Ratree was sentenced to six years for the same offences.

Mr Surapong said it was unlikely to be too long before they were freed as Hun Sen had signalled his intention to help.

Regarding the prison exchange programme between Thailand and Cambodia, Mr Surapong said Thailand had to wait for the next move by Hun Sen as it was his proposal.

The Cambodian PM raised the exchange idea during informal talks with Defence Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa in Phnom Penh last week.

However, Justice Minister Pracha Promnok said on Monday that Thailand and Cambodia do not have a prisoner exchange pact, only a transfer programme that allows each country to transfer inmates to serve their remaining jail terms in their homeland.

Mr Surapong said many countries had acknowledged improving relations between Thailand and Cambodia since the new government took office.

The minister said he met officials from several countries during the UN General Assembly and all had asked about the latest situation relating to Thai-Cambodian relations.

"Many countries are glad that Thailand can now talk with Cambodia, so the Association of Southeast Asian Nations can now move towards becoming a single community in 2015," Mr Surapong said.

In another development, the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has decided to take former foreign minister Noppadon Pattama to court for signing a joint communique with Cambodia on the Preah Vihear temple.

The public prosecutor had ruled there was insufficient evidence to indict Mr Noppadon on a charge of abuse of authority.

NACC spokesman Klanarong Chanthik said the NACC would ask the Lawyers Council of Thailand to file the charge against Mr Noppadon, who is the legal adviser of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, on its behalf.

According to the NACC's findings, Mr Noppadon and former prime minister Samak Sundaravej were negligent in their duties under Article 157 of the Criminal Code for their support of the joint communique.

The agency found them in breach of Article 190 of the constitution that requires parliament to endorse all international treaties.

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