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Thai nationalists seek PM’s pardon

Thai nationalists seek PM’s pardon

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Thai Yellow Shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid is led to Phnom Penh Municipal Court for sentencing last month. Veera is preparing to appeal to the Prime Minister for a pardon.

A pair of Thai nationalists convicted of espionage earlier this month in a highly charged case are preparing to appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen for their release, a defence lawyer said yesterday.

Veera Somkwamkid, a high-profile member of Thailand’s nationalist Yellow Shirt movement, was convicted of espionage, illegal entry and unlawfully entering a military base along with an associate, Ratree Pipatanapaiboon.

Veera, 53, was sentenced to eight years in jail and ordered to pay 1.8 million riel (about US$444) in fines, while Ratree received a six-year prison term.

“I am preparing all the documents to request a pardon and we will submit the letter to the Premier soon,” said Pich Vicheka, Veera’s Cambodian lawyer.

“I am not sure what the result will be, but I have to fulfil my professional obligation to help my client.”

Veera and Ratree were arrested in December in Banteay Meanchey province along with five other Thais, including parliamentarian Panich Vikitsreth, who were on an expedition to “investigate” the border demarcation process with Cambodia.

Panich and the other four Thais were found guilty of illegal entry last month but were released on suspended sentences.

In a speech earlier this month, Hun Sen rejected the possibility of pardons for Veera and Ratree.

“Don’t come to persuade me to ask for a royal pardon, I will not do that and [the case] will be enforced under the law this time,” he said.

Under Cambodian law, prisoners are eligible for pardon after serving two-thirds of their jail sentences.

In 2009, however, the government released a Thai national sentenced to seven years in prison on espionage charges just days after his conviction.

The suspect, an airport engineer named Sivarak Chutipong, was arrested for allegedly passing the flight details of Thaksin Shinawatra to the Thai Embassy during one of the fugitive former Thai prime minister’s controversial visits to the Kingdom.

Thai officials could not be reached for comment yesterday, though Thai state media reported that the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was working on the pardon request and that the Thai embassy in Cambodia had “negotiated a compromise with concerned authorities” in relation to the case.

Ros Aun, a defence lawyer for Ratree, said he was unaware of the pardon request but confirmed that his client had elected not to appeal her conviction.

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