Sunday, September 11, 2011

PM will ask Phnom Penh to free activists


Sept 11, 2011
Bangkok Post

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will ask Phnom Penh to release two Thai activists who have been jailed in Cambodia since December.

She will make the request during her official visit to Cambodia on Thursday, Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said.

Mr Surapong, who will accompany Ms Yingluck to Phnom Penh, said the Cambodia visit will be considered a success if the Thai government can obtain the release of Veera Somkwamkid, a coordinator of the Thai Patriots Network, and Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, his secretary.

"When we have a chance, we have to help our fellow Thais," the minister said.

Veera and Ratree have been jailed in Cambodia since December on charges of spying and illegal entry.

A Cambodian court sentenced Veera to eight years in jail and Ratree to six years.

The yellow shirt People's Alliance for Democracy criticised the Democrat-led government for failing to push for their release.

Ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is a friend of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, will also visit Phnom Penh, a day after his sister's visit.

A Pheu Thai source said Thaksin would also talk to Cambodian officers about the two imprisoned Thais.

Thaksin's legal adviser Noppadon Pattama yesterday confirmed the former prime minister would would give a lecture on Asian and global economies to parliamentarians from several countries in Phnom Penh tomorrow.

He said Thaksin was invited by the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum and Cambodia Royal Institute to address the lawmakers on the topic.

"Thaksin's trip to Cambodia will be a brief one. He will not be in Phnom Penh on the same day as Ms Yingluck," Mr Noppadon said.

Ms Yingluck made her first official trip abroad yesterday with a one-day visit to Brunei.

The premier insisted she did not meet her brother during the trip, as reported by some media.

Thaksin has visited Brunei several times in recent years, as it is one of the two Asean countries which has allowed him entry since his 2008 corruption conviction.

The prime minister said her visit to Brunei would foster better relations between Thailand and Islamic countries since Brunei is a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, an international body consisting of 57 member states.

Ms Yingluck was welcomed by Hassanal Bolkiah, the sultan of Brunei, before the closed-door meeting, which was expected to touch on the insurgency in Thailand's South, where near-daily attacks have left over 4,700 people dead since 2004.

Ms Yingluck was accompanied by Foreign Minister Surapong, who is scheduled to travel to Indonesia, the Asean chair tomorrow.

After completing her trips to Asean member countries, the prime minister is scheduled to make stops in China and India.

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