Prime Minister Hun Sen lashed out yesterday at the Thai leadership over allegations that a Cambodian arrested in Thailand last week was a spy, saying their rhetoric had shown disregard for judicial procedure.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony of medical students in Phnom Penh, Hun Sen said Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and his foreign Minister, Kasit Piromya, had repeated the claims against Ung Kimthai – a Cambodian national arrested last week on suspicion of espionage.
“As long as the court has not proceeded with its work, the person remains innocent. The court has not yet worked on the case – why have you said my people are guilty?” Hun Sen argued. “You are stupid, don’t do it.”
Ung Kimthai, 46, was apprehended by Thai authorities on Tuesday last week in Sisaket province, along with nationals from Vietnam and Thailand, on allegations of espionage.
Allegations have also been raised against the Thai national for drunk driving and Ung Kimthai for drug use.
Hun Sen also claimed yesterday that Kasit had expressed desire for a prisoner exchange that could allow the return of two Thai activists who are currently serving time at Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh for spying, crossing illegally into Cambodia and entering into a military zone.
The premier dismissed talks of such a deal. “There is not any exchange,” Hun Sen said.
“Let the court do its work first – do you respect the independence of the court? You abused the court procedure.”
Thai Patriot Network coordinator Veera Somkwamkid and his secretary, Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, were sentenced to eight and six years, respectively, in February.
Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn said yesterday that any questions about a possible prisoner exchange “assume that the case reaches the court”.
He said Thai officials were concentrating on the preliminary stages of the legal process.
“After the case is concluded by the police, they will forward it to the state attorney and he will decide whether the case will be forwarded to the court,” Panitan said. “The legal process has to be done first.”
He mentioned, however, that there was a bilateral agreement in existance between Thailand and Cambodia governing prisoner exchanges in cases that are “similar”.
Panitan also said there had been an “ongoing process of exchanging some of the prisoners in the past year or two”, though he could not provide further detail.