Thursday, 3 February 2011

Protestors set deadline for release of Thais in Cambodia (Roundup)


Feb 2, 2011

Bangkok - A nationalist protest movement on Wednesday gave the government a three-day deadline to secure the release of two Thais imprisoned in Cambodia for spying.

People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) leader Chamlong Srimuang threatened to intensify the group's street protests in Bangkok if the government failed to have Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipatanapaibul released by Friday.

The government announced that Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya would fly to Cambodia Thursday to discuss the cases and other bilateral problems.

'I am sure that both Thailand and Cambodia agree on the need to end the problems between us,' Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said.

The border issue has turned into a political problem for Abhisit.

The PAD, also known as the yellow shirts for their preferred protest garb, have been occupying a section of Ratchadamnoen Nok Road near the government's office compound since January 25, insisting they will continue to demonstrate until the cabinet takes a tougher stance on Cambodia.

PAD followers Veera and Ratree were sentenced Tuesday by a Cambodian court to eight and six years in prison, respectively.

The two were arrested December 29 along with five other Thais for trespassing on Cambodian soil.

Last month, a Cambodian court released the other five on bail but refused bail for Veera and Ratree because they faced the more serious charges of spying on which they were found guilty Tuesday.

Both are members of the Thai Patriots Network, an ultra-nationalist group pressuring the government to take a more aggressive stance toward Cambodia on a sovereignty dispute over the Preah Vihear temple.

The network and other Thai nationalists insist the 11th-century Hindu temple belongs to Thailand despite a ruling by the World Court in 1962 that the temple is on Cambodian territory.

Relations between Thailand and Cambodia have been tense for more than two years with sporadic clashes between troops over disputed territory near Preah Vihear.

The PAD held street protests in Bangkok for seven months in 2008 which culminated in its week-long seizure of the capital's two airports. It has vowed to hold demonstrations until Abhisit's government agrees to its conditions.

The PAD wants Abhisit to revoke a 2000 agreement between Cambodia and Thailand that set up up a joint border committee to solve the two countries' sovereignty disputes.

Abhisit has warned that revoking the agreement might lead to war.

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