Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Defiant Veera in jail alone

via CAAI

Published on January 19, 2011

Four others get bail but activist is seen by Cambodia as threat to public order, govt says

Nationalist activist Veera Somkwamkid was left alone behind bars yesterday after the Cambodian Appeal Court agreed to grant bail for four other Thais detained in Prey Sar prison.

Foreign Ministry secretary Chavanond Intarakomalayasut said the provocative nationalist was seen by the Cambodians as a figure with the potential to hurt public order.

Veera has been charged with illegal entry into Cambodia, unlawfully entering a military zone, and espionage for trespassing and collecting information that could hurt Cambodian security.

"The Cambodian Appeal Court rejected the bail request, to keep him in prison and ensure public security and his own safety," Chavanond said.

However, Veera's aide Ratree Pipatanapaiboon - who faces the same charges- was granted bail yesterday after she gave her word to the court not to flee from Cambodia and to reappear in the court when she summoned.

Looking very serious when leaving the court after the decision yesterday morning, Veera shouted to waiting media: "I alone was not granted bail. I [will] keep fighting until the end."

Veera appeared to not cooperate with the court by refusing to testify through a Cambodian translator arranged by the court. He requested a new one from the Thai embassy.

His lawyers were now working on another appeal to the Cambodian Supreme Court to reverse the decision and have him freed on bail, Chavanond said. But it was unclear whether there would be a chance for a second appeal. The lawyer had 15 days to work out Veera's case, he said.

The Thai Embassy paid the bail for each of the freed accused and took them from Prey Sar prison to stay inside the embassy in Phnom Penh, Chavanond said.

They cannot return to Thailand but must stay until the end of the case, which Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva expected to be settled before the end of the month.

Veera, together with yellow-shirt activists and ruling Democrat Party lawmaker Panich Vikitsreth, were arrested near Sa Kaew province's Ban Nong Chan while inspecting the disputed border area on December 26.

They were charged with illegal entry and unlawfully entering a military zone - two charges that could result in up to 18 months in jail. Veera and Ratree face an additional charge of spying that could see them jailed for up to 10 years if convicted.

Panich and Narumol Chitwara-tana were granted bail last Thursday and are also at the Thai embassy, waiting for the trial.

Ratree told reporters she felt better after getting bail, better than being held in the prison, although she did not know about the future.

Samdin Lertbutr from the Buddhist group Santi Asok said he told the Cambodian court he crossed the border unintentionally and had cooperated with the court during the trial. "I don't know when the verdict will be handed down. I miss my family so much now," he said.

Prime Minister Abhisit said he phoned Samdin in Phnom Penh to ask about the well-being of the group and assured him the government would continue to support their colleague Veera.

Samdin is a member of the Thai Patriots Network, which, backed by Santi Asok, plans to stage a rally against Abhisit's government over the dispute and the detained Thais.

The group wants the government to put more pressure on Phnom Penh to have the seven freed without prosecution. They insist the group was arrested on territory belonging to Thailand. They have called for Abhisit and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya step down for "failing" to help their "patriotic" fellows.

The government, however, says the group did cross the border.

Abhisit said he would allow the Cambodian court to function and hoped only for a speedy verdict with lenient treatment for the Thais. The Thai government would take action only after the court's decision, he said but declined to say what it would do.

Veera was briefly held once before, when he entered the same disputed border location in August last year.

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