BANGKOK, March 3 - Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva on Thursday defended his government's over an alleged negligence on the help of two Thailand Patriots Network activists jailed in a Cambodian prison on espionage charges, saying that it is now coordinating with the detainees and their families to decide the next move.
The Thai premier made his remarks attempting to clarify the matter to the House of Representatives after the government was blamed for being negligent or even purposely ignoring giving help to free Veera Somkwamkid, Thai Patriots Network coordinator, and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon.
A Cambodian court on Feb 1 ruled that the duo were guilty of espionage, illegal entry, and trespassing in a military zone. Mr Veera was sentenced to an eight-year jail term and a 1.8 million riel (US$450) fine while Ms Ratree was handed a six-year jail term and a 1.2 million riel (US$300) fine. An appeal could be filed within 30 days.
Mr Abhisit explained that there are only two solutions left; appealing the court verdict or asking for royal pardon, but the problem is , he said, that the two detainees have two legal teams which have different approaches to fighting the case.
The premier said his government has directly coordinated with the detainees and their families to determine their decision so that help from the government could proceed.
Mr Abhisit added there are also some difficulties in helping Mr Veera and Ms Ratree as they face three charges and more severe punishment than the five Thais who were already released and returned to Thailand as they faced only illegal entry and trespassing in a military zone.
The premier earlier admitted that renewed Thai-Cambodian border tension has affected the legal proceedings to help the two Thais jailed in Cambodia.
"We must be cautious in addressing the case because if we misjudge, the opportunity will not return," stated Mr Abhisit.
"Please be assured that the government will by all means get the two Thais freed and bring them back home," he said.
Permanent-Secretary for Foreign Affairs Theerakul Niyom on Wednesday confirmed Mr Veera and Ms Ratree are not appealing their sentences in the Cambodian court, adding that seeking royal pardon is individual decision.
Democrat MP Panich Vikitsreth, one of the five Thais convicted for illegal entry by the Cambodian court and returned to Thailand, said Mr Veera's health is now deteriorating and his family wants him to seek a royal pardon from the Cambodian king as they believed it was the way to bring him back to Thailand as soon as possible.
Mr Panich’s remark contrasts to that of the Thailand Patriots Network which earlier insisted that the pair appeal the verdict as they were arrested in Thai territory. (MCOT online news)