Seven Thai nationals, including a member of parliament, will be tried on February 1 in a controversial trespassing case that has drawn keen attention from leaders in both countries, court officials said yesterday.
Sok Roeun, deputy prosecutor at Phnom Penh Municipal Court, confirmed yesterday that the high-profile case had been scheduled, declining to provide further details.
The seven Thais, including Yellow Shirt activist Veera Somkwamkid and parliamentarian Panich Vikitsreth of Thailand’s ruling Democrat Party, were arrested in Banteay Meanchey province last month while reportedly on an expedition to investigate the contentious border demarcation process between Thailand and Cambodia.
Panich and another member of the group were released on bail last week, while four others were released on Tuesday. Only Veera remains in prison ahead of the trial.
Ros Aun, a Cambodian lawyer hired to help represent the group, said yesterday that he had yet to receive official information from the court on the trial.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Hor Namhong told reporters yesterday that he had met this week with his Thai counterpart, Kasit Piromya, during the ASEAN foreign ministers’ retreat in Lombok, Indonesia to discuss the case.
“I have reaffirmed to him that Cambodia is handling the case based on court procedure,” Hor Namhong said. “There is no intention whatsoever to treat the Thais badly or attempt revenge. The case is proceeding in accordance with the immigration law of Cambodia.”
The foreign minister added that Kasit had thanked Cambodia for granting the release of the six Thais given bail so far.
All seven members of the group have been charged with illegal entry and unlawfully entering a military base, charges that carry a maximum combined sentence of 18 months in prison. In addition, Veera and a woman who is reportedly his secretary, Ratree Taiputana Taiboon, have been charged with espionage, which carries a maximum of ten years in prison.
Veera and the nationalist Yellow Shirts have staged repeated rallies along the border to protest against alleged Cambodian encroachment on Thai territory. The activist leader angrily vowed on Tuesday to appeal his bail rejection as he was led out of court.