Cambodia officials yesterday said they would “consider” proposals reportedly advanced by their Thai counterparts involving the exchange of high-profile prisoners Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipattanapaiboon, who are now serving time at Prey Sar prison.
The Bangkok Post reported on Thursday that Thai Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul had said he would discuss with Cambodian officials a possible exchange between the two countries that would release the convicted spies.
Veera, a leader of the People’s Alliance for Democracy, also known as the “Yellow Shirts”, and his secretary Ratree were arrested in December 2010, along with five others after crossing the border into Banteay Meanchey province.
The pair are serving sentences of eight and six years, respectively, after being convicted of illegal entry, entering a restricted military base and espionage.
The Thai Foreign Minister reportedly conceded that given their high profile, Cambodia may request more prisoners be released in the deal.
“Such an exchange might not be on an equal basis,” Surapong was quoted as saying.
“Thailand might offer to hand over four Cambodian prisoners…in exchange for the two Thai activists.”
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Koy Koung told the Post yesterday that an exchange would only occur if Veera and Ratree were part of a larger “package”.
“If Thailand requests to exchange the prisoners in a package, then Cambodia will consider that,” Koy Kuong said, adding: “I don’t want to focus about the case of Mr Veera”.
Koy Kuong also said that any exchange agreed to by Cambodia would have to include all Cambodian prisoners currently serving time in Thai prisons.
The idea for a prisoner exchange was first floated in September during a visit to Cambodia by Thai Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha.
A few months later, in December, Foreign Minister Hor Namong broached the subject as an alternative to a Royal pardon.