The government must help free the two Thais being detained in a Cambodian prison and bring them home within three days, or face more pressure from yellow-shirt protesters, People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) co-leader Chamlong Srimuang said on Wednesday.
“We will give the government until Feb 5 to comply with the demand.
PAD co-leader Chamlong Srimuang
"If it fails to do so, PAD will call a mass street rally of yellow-shirts to pressure the government to take responsibility for such a failure,” Maj Gen Chamlong said.
The retired army general denied reports that the yellow-shirt group is planning to set fire to the Cambodian embassy in Bangkok, in revenge for the jail sentences handed down by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.
“The PAD will not resort to any violence. If the Cambodian embassy is really burnt down, it will have nothing to do with the yellow-shirts,” he said.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday evening sentenced Thai Patriots Network (TPN) coordinator Veera Somkwamkid to eight years in jail and his secretary Ratree Pipatanapaibul to six years for espionage and illegal entry. They have the right to appeal within 30 days.
TPN core member Chaiwat Sinsuwong said his yellow-shirt splinter group and the PAD will hold a joint street rally this Saturday, Feb 5, and demand the government's resignation.
Mr Chaiwat said if the government was allowed to stay in office the conflict between Thailand and Cambodia would heighten.
On the jail sentences handed down by the Cambodian court on Mr Veera and Ms Ratree, he said the two had decided to appeal and seek release on bail.
Mr Veera and Ms Ratree would stand firm in their assertion they had been abducted from Thai territory and the Cambodian court did not have jurisdiction to consider the case against them.
They would also petition with the International Criminal Court to look into the ongoing dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, Mr Chaiwat said.
Mr Chaiwat dismissed as untrue a report that the TPN had planned to set fire to the Cambodian embassy after learning of the Cambodian court's sentencing of Mr Veera and Ms Ratree.
He said TPN protesters would instead march to the Foreign Ministry this afternoon to show support for ministry officials, but at the same time demand the removal of Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya for not responding to TPN's demand that he act to secure the release of the two yellow shirt activists.
Meanwhile, TPN members in Nakhon Ratchasima would march to the 2nd Army headquarters to thank soldiers for their role in defending the country's sovereignty. At the same time, they would condemn Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon, also for not accepting TPN's demands.
Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva called on the PAD to suggest just what he should do to help free the two Thais being held in Prey Sar prison, rather than just make demands.
All sides should work together to help the two detained Thais, rather than linking this issue with domestic politics, Mr Abhisit said.
The premier said Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya will fly to Cambodia tomorrow to meet Cambodian Foreign Minister Hor Namhong and talk over ways to help the pair.
"The government, however, must respect the decisions of Mr Veera and Ms Ratree, even if their views are different from ours," he said.
The case of Mr Veera and Ms Ratree was a sensitive one and had affected Thai-Cambodian relations, he said.
"Both countries will continue to work on solving the problem through peaceful means. The government and the army share the same stance on this matter," he said.
Democrat Party MP Panich Vikitsreth said the Cambodian court's sentencing of Mr Veera and Ms Ratree to jail was unfair.
Mr Panich, one of the seven Thais who were arrested by Cambodian soldiers on Dec 29 for illegal entry, said he felt for Mr Panich and Ms Ratree and was very disappointed with the verdict.
He said the additional charge of espionage against them was unjustified because they had no intention to steal anything from Cambodia.
"Mr Veera initially thought that the pinhole camera could not capture pictures, while Ms Ratree was only taking photos as souvenirs.
"I'll do my best to prove all seven Thais are innocent by working with the government to present the truth," the MP for Bangkok said.
Appeals would be filed as soon as possible and all charges would be denied, he added.
Mr Panich used the Thai phrase กล้องรูเข็ม (klong ru khem, or needle hole) for pinhole camera, but gave no other explanation.
Deputy Prime Minister overseeing security Suthep Thaugsuban took the same tone, saying the Cambodian court's sentence was harsh but all sides must accept it.
Mr Suthep said he did not want to criticise the ruling.
"The case is not yet over and they [Mr Veera and Ms Ratree] can still file an appeal.
"All sides have to respect the verdict and refrain from inciting conflict between the two countries," he said.
The pair and their families will decide whether they would seek a royal pardon when the case is final, he said.
The deputy premier said he believed Thai-Cambodian relations can still be amended despite Cambodia’s refusal to remove its national flag hoisted in the disputed border area near Preah Vihear temple.
He denied claims the government plans to disperse the protest rally by the PAD outside Government House. The government will prevent the protesters from inconveniencing other people.
The government will not allow protesters to set fires at state offices of Thailand or Cambodia, Mr Suthep said.