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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Families seek Thaksin's help

Families seek Thaksin's help

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Prime Minister Hun Sen speaks with fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra during a meeting at Hun Sen’s majestic home in Phnom Penh in December of 2009.

The families of two Thai nationalists convicted of espionage in Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this year are reportedly seeking assistance in securing their relatives’ release from fugitive former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thai “Yellow Shirt” leader Veera Somkwamkid was convicted along with an associate, Ratree Pipatanapaiboon, after they were arrested in Banteay Meanchey province last year along with five other Thais including parliamentarian Panich Vikitsreth. While Panich and four others were released on suspended sentences after being convicted of trespassing, Veera and Ratree were convicted of espionage and sentenced to eight- and six-year prison terms, respectively.

Veera’s mother reportedly said she had sought Thaksin’s help because her family “had waited for four months for the present government to help her son”, the Bangkok Post reported yesterday.

In a speech in February, Prime Minister Hun Sen rejected the possibility of pardons for Veera and Ratree.

“Don’t come to persuade me to ask for a Royal pardon, I will not do that and [the case] will be enforced under the law this time,” he said.

Under Cambodian law, prisoners are eligible for pardon after serving two-thirds of their jail sentences.

In 2009, however, the government released a Thai national sentenced to seven years in prison on espionage charges just days after his conviction.

The suspect, an airport engineer named Sivarak Chutipong, was arrested for allegedly passing the flight details of Thaksin Shinawatra to the Thai embassy during one of the fugitive former Thai premier’s
controversial visits to the Kingdom. Veera and Ratree’s families said they sought to contact Thaksin in part because they believed he had helped secure Sivarak’s release, the Bangkok Post said.

Thai officials could not be reached for comment yesterday, though Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva reportedly said he would not object to Thaksin’s assistance.

“I think anyone can help,” Abhisit said. “We feel sympathetic towards the families of Veera and Ratree who want them to be released as quickly as possible.”

Cambodian Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong declined to comment on whether the pardon requests would be granted, but said the government planned to send a diplomatic note on the issue to the Thai embassy by today.

“Our stance, I would like to stress, is that we abide by the law,” Koy Kuong said.

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