Jan 22, 2011
Bangkok - Five Thai nationals arrested last month for illegally entering Cambodia returned to Thailand Saturday after being set free by a Phnom Penh court.
The five, including member of parliament Panich Vikitsreth of the ruling Democrat Party, arrived at Suvarnabhumi Airport on Bangkok Airways flight PG 934.
They refused to speak to journalists at the airport before being rushed away in a van.
On Friday, Phnom Penh Municipal Court freed the five Thais on suspended sentences and fined them one million riel (250 dollars) each for illegally entering Cambodia on December 29.
'(The verdict) is a good sign for the ASEAN community and shows the Cambodian court has mercy,' Panich said after his release in Phnom Penh on Friday.
Thailand and Cambodia are both members of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), a grouping which is supposed to demonstrate regional solidarity.
Thailand and Cambodia ties have been poor since mid-2008, when a spat broke out between the two neighbouring countries over the sovereignty of land adjacent to the Pheah Vihear Temple, an 11th century Hindu temple.
The temple sits on the Dongrak mountain range that defines the Thai-Cambodian border, and has been the source of sovereignty dispute for more than five decades.
Although the World Court ruled the temple belonged to Cambodia in 1962, the Thais still claim a 4.2 square kilometre plot of land adjacent to the temple.
The dispute escalated after UNESCO declared the temple a World Heritage Site in July, 2008.
Although Cambodia on Friday released five of the Thais who trespassed on their territory on December 29, allegedly investigating another border dispute, it has kept another two under detention.
The two include Veera Somkwamkid and his assistant Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, members of an ultra nationalist Thai group, who face more serious charges of spying.