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Hor Namhong to meet Kasit

FOREIGN Minister Hor Namhong is set to meet today with his Thai counterpart, Kasit Piromya, as tensions over the arrest of a Thai parliamentarian in Cambodia last month continue to loom over the two countries’ relations.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Kuong said the two were set to meet on the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Lombok, Indonesia. Kasit and Hor Namhong last met in December following the arrest of Panich Vikitsreth, a lawmaker from Thailand’s ruling Democrat Party.

Panish and six other Thais were arrested in Banteay Meanchey province during an expedition to “investigate” the border demarcation project and were later charged with illegal entry and unlawfully entering a military base.

Koy Kuong characterised today’s meeting as a normal talk, declining to comment on the subject of the discussion.

“There is nothing strange about this meeting. We are neighbouring countries and members of ASEAN,” Koy Kuong said.

Thai premier Abhisit Vejjajiva dispatched Kasit to Phnom Penh following the arrest of Panich and the other six Thais in a bid to secure their release that ultimately proved unsuccessful.

Kasit said following his meeting with Hor Namhong that Thai officials “respect” the Cambodian judiciary and “have proposed to the [Cambodian] government that they complete this case as soon as possible”.

Panich and another member of the group, Naruemol Chitwaratana, were granted bail last week on health grounds, but must remain in Cambodia in the run-up to their trial.

The other five remain at Prey Sar prison, awaiting a trial for which a date has yet to be set. Two in that group have also been charged with collecting information that may damage national defence, an offence that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

In a statement issued on Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the court is “proceeding on this case in accordance with Cambodia’s immigration law, taking consideration of the current good relations between Cambodia and Thailand without any animosity towards the Thai people”.

Officials in Thailand could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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