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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

No transfer for Veera, Ratree

Two Thai nationalists jailed in Cambodia for “spying” do not qualify for a transfer to serve their terms in Thailand as their charges are a security concern, Justice Minister Pracha Promnok said yesterday.

Pracha’s statement kills any chance of yellow-shirt activists Veera Somkwamkid and Ratree Pipattanapaiboon being released from prison in Cambodia soon. The pair were jailed on charges of espionage, receiving eight and six years respectively in December 2010.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen reportedly initiated an idea to exchange the pair for Cambodian nationals jailed in Thai prisons when he met Thai Defence Minister Yuthasak Sasiprapha last week.
Currently, there are 39 Thais detained in Cambodia, while more than 2,200 Cambodians are jailed in Thailand.

Thailand and Cambodia signed an agreement on the transfer of prisoners that came into force in 2009, but it was not an agreement to exchange prisoners, Pracha said.

Prisoners qualified for transfer under with the agreement must serve at least a third of their jail term first and their charges must not involve security matters, he said.
“Basically the cases of Veera and Ratree are not qualified for transfer and so far the Justice Ministry has not yet received a request from concerned parties,” Pracha said.

The prisoner transfer could only be conducted with the consent of three concerned parties; the prisoners themselves, their countries of origin and the host country where they were sentenced, Pracha said. Thailand has similar agreements with 31 countries around the world.

Since the agreement with Cambodia, Phnom Penh requested the transfer of four prisoners detained on charges of smuggling drugs and two had already been sent to Cambodia, he said.
Phnom Penh is now requesting the transfer of five more prisoners and all qualify, Pracha said, noting the five did not include any charged with spying.

Attempts to free Veera and Ratree failed several times during the previous government due to poor relations. The new government has sparked hopes as it was on good terms with leaders in Phnom Penh.

Hun Sen promised Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra when she visited Cambodia early this month he would seek ways to reduce the jail terms of the Thai activists as the chance of a royal pardon was slim. Officials said they would only qualify for a royal pardon once they have served two thirds of their jail term.

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