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Hopes for Puea Thai help in spies’ release

Hopes for Puea Thai help in spies’ release

THE brother of a Thai nationalist convicted by Phnom Penh Municipal Court of espionage earlier this year has reportedly expressed hopes that the newly-elected Puea Thai party would help to secure his brother’s release.

Thai “Yellow Shirt” nationalists Veera Somkwamkid and his associate Ratree Pipatanapaiboon were arrested in Banteay Meanchey province last December along with five others. In February, the Municipal Court sentenced Veera and Ratree to eight and six years in jail respectively for espionage.

“Our family [believes] the new government would not have any problems with Cambodia and so would pave the way for the release of my brother,” Thailand’s The Nation newspaper quoted Preecha Somkwamkid as saying on Tuesday.

Puea Thai won a landslide victory at the Thai national election on July 3. The ruling Cambodian People’s Party has close ties to ousted former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra – whose sister Yingluck now heads Puea Thai.

“Many people I met there said my brother would be released soon,” Preecha told The Nation after a visit to Veera at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison last Friday. The Nation quoted an anonymous Puea Thai source as saying that the party was working with the Cambodian government to free the two activists.

Puea Thai spokeswoman Jarupan Kuladilok could not confirm the source’s statement yesterday, but said there was a greater chance Veera and Ratree could be released under a new Thai government.

“We cannot intervene in any judgment of the [Cambodian] court, but we can assure that our relationship [with Cambodia] will be better than the last government’s,” she said.

Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong said yesterday that he was not  aware if Veera’s case had been discussed with Puea Thai. “It is a legal issue,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said in February that Veera and Ratree would not be eligible for pardon until they had served at least two-thirds of their sentences.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MARY KOZLOVSKI

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