Cambodian embassy officials in Bangkok have found legal representation for a Cambodian man who was arrested on charges of espionage last week, an allegation the Foreign Ministry called a “deceitful fabrication”.
Ung Kimthai, 43, was apprehended by Thai officials on Tuesday in Thailand’s Sisaket province along with Wieng Terng Yang, a Vietnamese national, and Suchat Muhammad, a Thai national, Thai newspaper The Nation reported on Saturday.
In addition to charges of espionage, additional charges have been brought against Suchat for drunk driving and Ung Kimthai for drug abuse.
“This clearly shows Cambodia’s intent and disputes its claims that Thailand was the first to start using force and incursion. The arrests, on the other hand, show that Cambodia has been active militarily [against Thailand],” Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva was quoted as saying.
Koy Kuong, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said yesterday that Ung Kimthai, who is from Neak Loeung town in Kandal province, entered Thailand on June 2 as a tourist and was arrested on Tuesday.
Embassy officials, he added, had met with Ung Kimthai, who reportedly rejected the charges against him and said he had merely entered as a tourist, citing the recent visa exemption agreement between the two countries that allows tourists from both sides to visit without a visa.
“[Ung Kimthai] is being malignly accused,” said Koy Kuong, adding that Cambodian authorities would find a second legal representative for him when he is due to appear in court.
The... fabrication is only a pretext to justify future aggression
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has rejected the espionage allegations, saying they are meant to mislead the public.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia wishes to assert that the above fabrication is only a pretext to justify future aggression against Cambodia,” the ministry said in a statement released on Friday.
“Cambodia feels it is very regrettable that the Prime Ministry of a neighbouring country has resorted to lies as an approach for Thai foreign policy.”
Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya said on Saturday that legal action would be taken against all three men, Thai state news agency MCOT reported.
When asked whether the Thai government would seek a “prisoner exchange” for two Thai nationals now serving time in Cambodia for espionage, he said he would let the legal process run its course, adding that under Thai law prisoners must serve at least two-thirds of their sentence before such an exchange would be possible.
Veera Somkwamkid, coordinator for the Thai Patriot Network, and his secretary, Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, were sentenced in February to eight and six years, respectively, for espionage, illegal entry and trespassing into a military area last year.
Koy Kuong, however, said a prisoner exchange was “impossible”. “Thailand shows ill-will in making up such a story to exchange for their prisoners,” he said.
Thai foreign ministry spokesman Thani Thongphakdi could not be reached for comment yesterday.