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Thai MP to face court for questioning

A Thai lawmaker and six other Thai nationals arrested for trespassing in Banteay Meanchey province last week are set to be questioned in Phnom Penh Municipal Court tomorrow, a lawyer said.

Ros Aun, an attorney representing Thai MP Panich Vikitsreth and two other defendants, said that he was unsure of the start date for the trial, but that he hoped to secure his clients’ release in the interim.

“I will submit a bail request to the court after the investigating judge questions my clients,” he said.

Panich and the others, including Veera Somkwamkid, a former leader of Thailand’s “Yellow Shirt” People’s Alliance for Democracy, were charged last week with illegal entry and unlawfully entering a military base, offences that carry a combined maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.

The group were arrested near a military encampment in Banteay Meanchey’s O’Chrou district while attempting to “investigate” the contentious border demarcation process between Thailand and Cambodia.

Investigating Judge Chang Sinath said she was in the process of interviewing military officials stationed at the border.

A video of the expedition that surfaced yesterday in the Thai press shows Panich making a phone call to his secretary asking that the secretary inform Somkiat Krongwatanasuk, an aide of Thai Premier Abhisit Vejjajiva, that the group had made it to Cambodia, the Bangkok Post reported.

“Please tell Somkiat to inform the prime minister that we are already inside Cambodia. I planned to call the prime minister myself, but it is okay now,” Panich reportedly said.

“Call [Somkiat] so in case there are problems, we can coordinate, because we are already in a Cambodian area. And make sure that he does not tell anybody, because only the prime minister must know this.”

Abhisit admitted yesterday to sending Panich to investigate the border, the Bangkok Post said. Thai government spokesman Panitan Wattanayagorn reportedly later said Abhisit was unaware that the group had crossed into Cambodia.

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