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Yingluck urged to ask Hun Sen to free activist

Veera Somkwamkid, the former leader of the Thailand Patriot Network, in Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh
Veera Somkwamkid, the former leader of the Thailand Patriot Network, in Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh last year. HENG CHIVOAN

Yingluck urged to ask Hun Sen to free activist

The wife of a Thai political activist jailed for espionage in Cambodia has asked Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to personally ask Prime Minister Hun Sen to help release her husband, Thai media reported yesterday.

Yingluck said yesterday that she had received a letter from the wife of jailed Thai nationalist Veera Somkwamkid and promised to “take steps” to try to help him when a new Cambodian government is
officially formed, the Bangkok Post reported.

Veera, who is imprisoned in Prey Sar, was one of a group of seven Thai nationals arrested in December 2010 in Banteay Meanchey province while on an expedition to “investigate” the border demarcation process with Cambodia.

At the time, he was a leader of the Thailand Patriot Network, a group affiliated with the ultra-nationalist People’s Alliance for Democracy movement, known as the “yellow shirts”.

Five of the group were released on suspended sentences in January 2011, but Veera and his secretary Ratree Pipattanapaiboon were convicted on charges of illegal entry and espionage and sentenced to eight and six years, respectively.

Ratree was freed in February through a royal pardon on the sidelines of King Father Norodom Sihanouk’s funeral following a request from Hun Sen, while Veera’s sentence was reduced by six months.

Analysts say that Yingluck’s brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, maintains a close relationship with Hun Sen and pulls the strings in his sister’s government from exile.

Previous Thai attempts to secure a royal pardon or a prisoner swap for Veera have failed.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Koy Kuong declined to comment on the possibility of a new request yesterday as it was yet to be received.

“Personally I have no information about any request,” he said.

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