BANGKOK, Jan 22 - Five Thai nationals released by the Cambodian court arrived in their homeland Saturday evening, while the Thai foreign ministry expressed hope that similar good news will happen with the other two Thais who remain in the neighbouring kingdom.
The five Thais, including Democrat MP for Bangkok Panich Vikitsreth, Naruemol Chitwaratana, 2nd Lt Samdin Lertbutr, Tainae Mungmajon, and Kitchaponthorn Chusanasevi, arrived Suvarnabhumi Airport about 5pm amid a crowd of reporters seeking to interview them.
The five were accompanied by foreign ministry officials, led by Chavanond Intarakomalyasut, secretary to the minister of foreign affairs.
The returnees refused to answer persistent media questioning about the remaining two Thai detainees in Phnom Penh. Mr Panich said only that "everybody is in good spirits and strong."
After picking up the five, Mr Chavanond said that Cambodia has given good cooperation to the Thai authorities in the case, and said he hopes that similar decision will occur with Veera Somkwamkid, coordinator of the Thai Patriots Network, the sole Thai detainee still being held in Prey Sar Prison, and Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, Mr Veera's secretary.
The five were among seven Thai citizens who were arrested Dec 29 on charges of trespassing on Cambodian territory. The Phnom Penh court on Friday ruled them guilty of illegal entry and intentionally trespassing into Cambodian territory. They were sentenced to nine-month suspended jail terms and fine one million riel (US$250) each.
However, the remaining two Thais who did not attend the court session on Friday, Mr Veera and Ms Ratree, faced additional charges of espionage and the court is expected to hand down its on their cases verdict on Feb 1 as earlier scheduled.
"The foreign ministry reaffirmed that we have done our best to help the duo and we believe the issue will be clarified next week," said Mr Chavanond. He pledged the ministry will continue seeking bail for the two and urged Cambodian court to consider the case at its earliest.
"I have talked to everybody and they feel glad to return home," Mr Chavanond. "We have to say thank you to all concerned parties including the Thai embassy to Phnom Penh, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence for their successful negotiations which bring the first batch of the detained Thais back home."
When asked whether the five people will appeal the Cambodian court decision, Mr Chavanond said the issue has not yet been discussed, while asserting the Cambodian court verdict has no binding effect on the ongoing border dispute between the two kingdoms.
In related developments, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva convened a meeting of security related agencies at 4pm at Government House which was attended by Defence Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan, Army chief Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha, Permanent Secretary for Interior Ministry Wichian Chavalit, National Security Council (NSC) Secretary-General Tawin Pleansri and Sa Kaeo Governor Sanit Naksuksri.
It was expected that the meeting would discuss the escalating southern insurgency problem following the attack on a military camp in Narathiwat’s Rangae district on Thursday in which four soldiers were killed and many others were wounded.
Thai-Cambodian border problem was expected on the agenda as the governor of Sa Kaeo, bordering Cambodia, also attended the meeting.
Mr Abhisit told reporters before the meeting that the Thai government would ask Cambodia to send the official translation of the court verdict to see whether it may have any impact against Thailand.
However, he affirmed that it would have no affect against the kingdom's sovereignty, no loss of land to Cambodia, as the verdict involved only the litigants. If the verdict has impact, the government will have to clarify and find out the solution.
The premier said he would tell the public about the incident and the case on Sunday and would go ahead to help Mr Veera and Ms Ratree.
As for Mr Panich's parliamentary status, Mr Abhsit said the legality of the Cambodian court's decision must be considered when reviewing whether the MP will lose his status following the verdict.
That status was thrown into doubt after he was given a suspended jail term by a Cambodian court. The Thai Constitution stipulates that MPs lose their status when convicted and jailed, or convicted and given a suspended jail term.
Mr Abhisit said that Mr Panich still qualifies as an MP and has full rights to vote during the Constitution amendment deliberation during Jan 25-26 as nothing indicates that he has lost his qualification. (MCOT online news)