By The Nation, Agencies
Published on January 7, 2011
Drawn-out taking of testimony leaves lawyers no time to file requests; Panich claims unintentional crossing as Veera remains defiant over charges
Seven Thai nationals who faced trail in Cambodian court for trespassing were in critical situation yesterday as their prosecution would drag on with no time to submit bail request, resulting in longer stay in Prey Sar prison.
The seven Thais including the ruling Democrat Party's lawmaker Panich Vikitsreth and yellow shirted activist Veera Somkwamkid appeared in the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in blue prisoner dresses.
They testified in the closed door court room one by one, beginning with Panich who told the court that he crossed to the disputed border area by accident.
Panich told the court that he had "crossed into Cambodian territory unintentionally," his Cambodian attorney Ros Aun told AFP by telephone.
"He said he came (to the border area) because Thai people claimed it is their land. He said he was walking without knowing that he was entering Cambodian territory and was captured by the authorities."
Veera, who was previously arrested in the same location in August, told reporters briefly as leaving the court that "they are forcing us to accept the accusation."
Panich, Veera and other yellow shirted activists who claimed they are patriotic group were arrested last week in the border near Sa Kaeo's Ban Nong Chan while inspecting the disputed area. A leaked video clip indicated that Panich and the group were aware of entering into Cambodia side as he phoned to Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva's aide to convey his message.
The Royal Thai Survey Department indicated that the group went 55 meters deeper into the territory under sovereignty of Cambodia before the capture.
The Thai government failed to settle the case outside the court room since Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen reportedly was furious with Veera's second trespassing.
They were charge of illegal entry and unlawful entering to military areas, the charges with combined 18 month jail term.
The Thai foreign ministry said it would allow the Cambodian court to continue without intervention but urged Phnom Penh to speed up the process and hand them only lenient punishment.
The court spent the whole yesterday for the testimony of seven detainees and it set no time line when the entire trail would be completed.
Their lawyer had no time to submit bail request yesterday and would not until Monday as Friday is Cambodia's public holiday. The court has five days to consider the bail request, said Thai Foreign Ministry's spokesman Thani Thongpakdi. "We expect to know whether they would get free on bail by January 14," he said.
Prime Minister Abhisit called a meeting with many concern ministers and officials including Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, Justice Minister Pirapan Salirathavibhaga, Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya and Kasit's secretary Chavanond Intarakomalyasut to discuss the situation of the seven Thai people in Cambodian court.
Chavanond told reporters after the meeting that Prime Minister Abhisit did not have any more instruction but wrapped up the situation and expected the group would have to stay longer in the Cambodian prison.